“The days when students used the library to do research and complete their assignments are virtually gone with the advent of the internet and other ICTs.”
DOMINICA - The Commonwealth Youth Programme Caribbean Centre (CYPCC) and the Youth Department of the Government of Dominica have collaborated to present computers and other Information Communication Technology (ICT) to the Young Achievers Group of Atkinson Community.
At a presentation ceremony on June 28 at the Carib Territory, CYPCC Director Mr Charles challenged the Young Achievers to look towards the development of a Youth Information Centre that would help assist artists and other skilled young people to further develop their talent.
"Computers and ICT have become a very important aspect of the development of the community. There are communities among our Commonwealth countries where ICT has made a significant difference between people living in poverty and an improved standard of living," Mr. Charles said.
"This is the first phase; set up the computers and then you can get ready for the second phase but give us a development plan towards that quest and I can assure you that we will assist in making available additional ICT equipment to establish the Youth Information Centre," he urged.
Chief Youth Development Officer at the Division of Youth, Mr. Jules Pascal noted that the days when students used the library to do research and complete their assignments are virtually gone with the advent of the internet and other ICTs.
However, a proper computer facility was lacking in the Carib Territory and especially in Atkinson, he noted.
Pascal said the Youth Division will ensure that the computers are networked and assured that the Division will also service the equipment free of cost.
Chairman of the Atkinson Village Council, Mr Kitchener Laville said he was elated that the community's youth will finally have access to the internet which will ease the difficulties encountered doing school assignments.
Laville noted that the computers will be placed at the community centre and students should be able to begin using them shortly.
Minister within the Ministry of Education Dr. Desrey Fox opened the session and panelists Claudia Augustat, Head of the South American Collection, Museum of Ethnology in Vienna, Austria and Henk Tjon, Theatre and Artistic Director with the Surinamese Delegation to Guyana made presentations.
According to GINA, Minister Fox stated that indigenous performance tradition is probably the most misunderstood since it is not what people are accustomed to as it focuses on birds and animals with specific characteristics which the Amerindians find impressive.
This, she said, impacts on the very lives of Amerindians and helps them to survive in very harsh environments.
“We are in a country with a diversity of cultures and I don’t think we are able to utilize each other’s resources,” Minister Fox is quoted as saying. She noted also that this will “lead to understanding each other and to have a sense of deep identity which we are still grappling with.”
Meanwhile, Augusta said that according to records in the archives of the Austrian Museum, Natterer made his journey in 1831 by travelling up the Rio Branco River to the Brazilian border, then on the Takutu, Ireng and Pirara Rivers before reaching British Guiana.
The collection pieces featured body ornaments, weapons, basketry and musical instruments created and used by the indigenous peoples.
These include objects made from feathers, beads, seeds and animal teeth, GINA added.
Source: Stabroek News
This year, Iliana Baums, assistant professor of biology at Penn State, is there to collect the coral spawn as part of a research and education project to grow the newborn juvenile corals for distribution to aquaria and to the wild. "It looks like it's snowing," she said, "except that the egg and sperm packets rise underwater to the surface rather than fall to the ground."
Baums's reason for collecting the spawn is twofold: she hopes to acquire important information about how corals will respond to global warming, and she also is teaching a group of 28 aquarium professionals, as part of an international workshop, how they can participate in the protection of corals. Baums will hunt for and collect coral spawn on the nights of 21 and 22 August. For seven days thereafter, she will remain at the site, working to grow the newborn juvenile corals for distribution to aquaria and to the wild.
According to Baums, corals are extremely sensitive to changes in water temperature. "An increase in water temperature of just a couple degrees Celsius results in visible damage to adult corals and their offspring," she said. Referring to a paper published in a July 2008 issue of the journal Science in which the authors report that one-third of all reef-building corals face an elevated risk of extinction from climate change and other factors, Baums said it is imperative that scientists and marine-resource managers begin to think about how to rescue these important animals.
That's why Baums is searching for particular populations of coral that produce offspring that are better able to withstand high water temperatures. Because most coral species are triggered by moonlight to release their egg-sperm packets, Baums will begin her experiment with a nighttime trip to a designated reef off the coast of Puerto Rico. There, she will collect spawn from elkhorn corals, which are protected as a threatened species by the United States Endangered Species Act. In small rearing chambers, she will place eggs from certain populations with sperm from certain other populations.
Over the next seven days, she will raise the newly formed juvenile corals in saltwater tanks on land. She then will ship half of them to several aquaria around the world and will return the other half to the reef. "Corals are most vulnerable when they are very small, and our protected nursery will help them to get through the first critical days," said Baums.
Next, the juvenile corals in captivity will be subjected to a variety of higher-than-normal and lower-than-normal water temperatures in order to pinpoint those offspring whose parents can tolerate abnormal water conditions. Once Baums identifies these individuals, she will search their genomes for variants of genes that are responsible for resistance to abnormal water temperatures. With this knowledge, she then can develop genetic markers that will enable her to identify wild elkhorn-coral populations throughout the Caribbean that contain such gene variants.
Water from the ocean is pumped into tubs where juvenile corals will be raised for a period of seven days after scientists harvest them from the wild.
In collaboration with SECORE (SExual COral REproduction), an international organization of professional aquarists and scientists that is concerned about coral conservation, Baums will hold a workshop during the annual coral-spawning event in Puerto Rico. Through the workshop, she and other researchers will teach a group of 28 aquarium professionals from around the world how to collect coral spawn, do fertilization experiments, raise larvae, and care for larvae once they are shipped back to the participants' home institutions. The workshop, which is now in its third year, already has been given to over 60 aquarium professionals. Baums and other members of SECORE plan to continue to the workshop in future years to reach as many aquarium professionals as possible.
"Poachers often collect wild corals to satisfy the demand for aquariums, but aquarium professionals are looking for alternative, less destructive sources of these animals. SECORE's goal is to develop methods to eventually breed corals in captivity, thereby reducing some of the pressure to collect corals from the wild," she said. "We are starting by raising juveniles from wild-caught eggs and sperm, which enables us to provide aquariums with the corals they desire without damaging wild adult colonies.
In return, the aquarium operators help us to perform the experiments and give us tips on how to raise adult corals in captivity, which is something they are very good at." Baums added that the establishment of good aquarium populations is a safeguard against the extinction of elkhorn corals.
The corals that Baums ships to aquaria will undergo one of two treatments: half of them will be exposed to species of the zooxanthellae -- algae that live inside the cells of corals and provide them with necessary nutrients and energy -- that naturally occur with elkhorn corals, and half of them will be exposed to zooxanthellae from other regions of the world, where elkhorn corals are not present.
In past years, elkhorn corals in captivity readily took up foreign zooxanthellae and coped better than those that took up only native species of zooxanthellae. These observations will be tested in a controlled experiment as part of this year's workshop. While Baums said she would not release foreign strains of zooxanthellae into the wild, she does think such measures could be beneficial to corals that are maintained in aquaria.
Baums is partnering with Margaret Miller, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who will do the same experiment using corals from Florida, where annual minimum water temperatures are lower. The team will compare corals in the two locations to learn if there are any differences in their abilities to withstand high and low water temperatures. A goal of the research is to find out if current temperature differences between Florida and Puerto Rico will influence the abilities of corals to tolerate future warm-water conditions associated with global warming.
This research and the workshop are funded by the NOAA and the National Science Foundation.
Photo: Scientists capture coral spawn using a special net. (Credit: Ramon Villaverde, Columbus Zoo)
After years of sitting in pieces in a Cataño park the 2.4 million dollar statue is said to be moving to Mayaguez where it will be installed at a port run by management company, the Holland Group. According to the Mayor of Cataño, the company plans to install the bronze and steel statue in time for the city’s hosting of the Central American and Caribbean Games in July 2010.
Local Taíno community members were dismayed by the announcement.
Roger Guayakan Hernandez, a representative of the United Confederation of Taíno People (UCTP) in Borikén notes “this is just another example of the misinformation that continues to be promoted concerning Columbus and his presence in the Caribbean. Columbus is no hero. This is an insult to indigenous peoples everywhere”.
Hernandez reports that calls to the company to discuss local community objections to the proposal have not been returned. The UCTP plans to work with local groups and individuals in a follow-up to the 1998 campaign to call for an end to the project.
Charles Williams’ visit was prompted by a series of activities in the international indigenous community that have resulted in the passing of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and a corresponding protocol that the Organization of American States (OAS) has issued in draft form providing for significant rights, protections and privileges to indigenous peoples world wide. These declarations have important implications for our indigenous peoples in the Caribbean, and his trip to SVG was to re- familiarise himself with local conditions in the Carib community, north of the Rabbaca River, and particularly to link up with descendants of the Kalinago people -- the first people of St Vincent.
On August 4, the Dominican Carib Chief visited the all-important Carib Community in Sandy Bay (population 2,699), on the Windward coast of the island and the home of more that 50% of all people of Carib descent (3, 818), according to the 2001 Population and Housing Census Report. Williams was interviewed there by Winston Baptiste, the host of the local Garifuna Radio Station (a UNESCO gift) before exchanging information and views with several members of the community. Williams expressed his delight in visiting St Vincent, a trip that allowed him the opportunity to meet with his people -- the Kalinagos.
When the Europeans first entered the so-called 'New World' they met two peoples, the Tainos -- located mainly in the Greater Antilles, and the Island Caribs/Kalinagos in the Lesser Antilles. Both groups exited from the northern shores of South America in and around the Orinoco and Amazon River basins. While the older Taino migrations found their way to Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica and the Bahamas, the later migrations of the Kalinago ensconced themselves mainly in the smaller islands -the Leewards to a smaller degree but much more in the Windward Islands, including the Carib strongholds of Dominica and StVincent.
The Kalinagos were a farming people who cultivated manioc, sweet potatoes and other root crops. They fished and hunted. Their houses were made of natural fibers from the surrounding environment and designed in the shape of round huts for women and large rectangular ones for men’s residences.
Fiercely individualistic, they lived in an egalitarian society that was ruled by a village head/chief, but as a people they eschewed rigid class or military distinctions except when a special person was selected to lead combined communities against the marauding Europeans. Skilled in warfare and in agriculture, they also had a world view, significant features of a religious system, including medicine men (shamans), though this system was not as well developed as their Taino cousins. They were skilled craftsmen and pottery makers, though not as refined the Tainos. The Kalinagos are considered by many researches to be a sub-group of the Taino family. There are so many cultural intersections between the Taino and Kalinago that for all practical purposes they could be considered one people -- the Neo-Indians of the Caribbean.
The Kalinagos began their trek to the Caribbean between 900-1000 AD and were still on the move when Columbus in his quest for God, Gold and Glory stumbled upon the Caribbean Sea. The Kalinagos were the current occupiers of the Lesser Antilles, including the islands of St Vincent and Dominica. They are the first peoples of this land.
Sensitising the community to the importance of the Kalinago story in the history of St Vincent was one of the defining points to Williams’ visit. This feature emerged during a press conference at the Open Campus, University of the West Indies, Kingstown, on Tuesday morning when Williams stressed the need for not only letting indigenous peoples in the region more aware of their rights, but to bring a positive message to those in SVG, especially to the Kalinago who, in his view, appeared to have been left out of the indigenous picture. His intervention comes during the Second Decade of the Rights of the Indigenous People that was proclaimed by the United Nations. Williams noted that through his concern for his indigenous brothers and sisters in the region, especially when today the survival of indigenous cultures were threatened by the forces of globalisation, he felt the need to come to SVG to see for himself under what conditions the indigenous people were living, and in what ways he might be able to assist in their development.
One of Williams’ initiatives was to consult with Professor Hilary Beckles, Principal of the Cave Hill Campus, UWI to secure scholarships for indigenous students. He took this initiative, he said, during a period when Cuba was offering many scholarships to the region and he wanted to know what the university could do to help its own people. The result, according to Williams, was the establishment of an Indigenous Scholarship Programme for the region with early awards going to students in Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines, and now to Belize.
Williams received a warm reception from Sandy Bay residents but was taken aback by what he described as ‘serious integration problems’ that was eroding the strength of the Kalinago population. Williams called for efforts to help protect the Kalinago people in the region since it was the Kalinagos who had laid the groundwork for the early preservation of territorial sovereignty in the face of the imperialists’ thrust into the region, a movement that eventually led to the development of the modern state system. However this same state system, now dominated by the afro-Caribbean population, was in turn marginalising the Kalinago people to the point of ‘extinction’. The threat to the survival of the Kalinago was serious, Williams said, and the matter must be arrested before they are erased from the pages of history.
Land is a fundamental issue in Carib-State relations. It is the issue which brought Europeans to these shores in the first place, not gold. Williams noted that the Carib Territory in Dominica which has 3,782.2 acres of land is inadequate for the needs of its 3,500 residents. He was more surprised though to discover that only 29 acres of land have been allotted to the Caribs in the area that he visited. Williams suggested that the Carib community should have more access to land for farming purposes, something they should be given by right. But Williams was not advocating confiscation of private lands but rather the transfer of some unused crown lands to the Carib Community.
Land has always been a ticklish problem for the Caribs in St Vincent. Paul Twinn, in his article, “Land Ownership and the Construction of Carib Identity in St.Vincent,”in Indigenous Resurgence in the Contemporary Caribbean (2006) has noted that “land was the principal element in the creation of Caribs as Caribs.” Not only was it the principal reason for the two Carib Wars, according to Twinn, land was an integral part of the carib psyche that made possession of it essential to the physical and spiritual landscape of the Carib community . The Carib community’s ties to land are unshakeable.
Most people in the community derive their income from the land. But after the dismantling of the Orange Hill Estate, and with the land redistribution scheme of the NDP Administration many Caribs were upset at having to purchase land that they ‘rightfully owned.’ These are sentiments that found much resonance in statements made by Charles Williams in reference to events in Dominica. Paul Twinn noted too that after the 1979 Soufriere eruption and the dismantling of Orange Hill Estate there emerged a new discourse on Carib Rights. However, such this new assertion of Carib rights and indigenous consciousness was short-lived. What is significant though, as Twinn rightly has pointed out, was that these events combined with the 18th century take over of St.Vincent by the British had provided the extra -historical dimension, apart from land as family property, that has made the Carib approach to land different from that held by other Vincentians.
Williams agreed with residents in the area that the Caribs had experienced much hardship due to historical reasons, and continue to suffer today because of the absence of some basic infrastructural needs. High unemployment, very bad roads that hinder movement of goods and people to market; and grossly inadequate telecommunications system, especially in this information have hampered the progress of the community.
But more importantly there was no organization to deal with Carib issues. The Carib Community has always been very insolated from the rest of the island and has suffered as a result, and the 1987 report by Projects Promotion “Still On the Fringes : A Survey of the Conditions of Living in the Carib Community, ” is still valid in its main findings
The Projects Promotion Study attempted to determine the economic and social conditions existing in the community, and to measure the level of social interaction and cultural identity in the area. It concluded that 95.8% of all respondents expressed feelings of not living well, and 73.9% attributed the dissatisfaction to a lack of work, while another 14.2% noted socal problems. Low wages was a big issue then as it still is today. Agriculture is the main economic activity in the area, but today bananas and arrowroot have fallen on very bad times that have impacted negatively on the community. Moreover, the major problems listed in the report such as unemployment, bad roads and government neglect of the areas are still the major issues- though in recent times some corrective measures have been made such as construction of schools, a multi-purpose centre, and Japanese Fishing Complex (unfinished) in Owia. But the major problems persist, and the fact of historic neglect of the Carib area is still valid thesis.
Williams in discussing the Model Carib Cultural Village in the Carib Territory, Dominica, which is a Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and Government of Dominica Project that showcases the history and culture of his people, suggested that a similar project can be done in the Carib community in SVG. This project would help to uplift the spirit and raise confidence in the people, Williams believed. Moreover, it would instill pride in the history and culture of the Kalinago people and provide employment and revenue to the community.
Williams revealed that while attending international meetings he realised that Indigenous people world wide were the most marginalised of all groups and because of this, the UN has seen it fit to galvanise the international community to put measures in place that would end discrimination against indigenous peoples, and that would assist in protecting their rights to survival and self determination. Kalinago people too must protect their cultural identity as indigenous peoples, especially in this globalised world that threatens to erode the cultural distinctiveness and authenticity of indigenous societies It is question of survival that we must develop defensive mechanisms to protect our people, noted Williams.
Williams’s concern for the mainstay of the Kalinago community within the indigenous discourse found is well founded. The Garifuna story is heavily played out in SVG and rightly so, but to the exclusion of the Kalinago story which is also patently unfair. There is a cultural divide in the Indigenous community between adherents to the Garifuna legacy and those who maintain that they are of Kalinago stock.
The Kalinago believe that they were here long before the creation of the hybrid group- the Garinagu. The accepted beginnings of the Garinagu with the event of the shipwrecked slave ship in 1635, and the subsequent additions of Africans from Carib raids on plantations up the islands and escaped slaves from Barbados, are no justification for omitting the role of the Kalinagos from activities of our early history, according to some residents. Moreover, Ivan Van Sertima claims of Africans being in the region before the indigenous people have been rejected are just ‘theory’ by many in the Kalinago community. For the Kalinago people this 600-700 years difference between their arrival from South America and the emergence of the Garinagu gives them a better claim to indigenous status.
The point is that local Kalinagos resent the extraordinary air time given to the Garifuna to the exclusion of their group. This is a mistake and historically dishonest to exclude the Kalinago from the indigenous discourse. Moreover, rejection of the Kalinago fact does do not auger well for good community relations.
Some residents express alarm that many indigenous radio programmes and celebratory activities for example, are slanted in favour of the Garifuna story. One resident asked quite poignantly: “What has happened to us?” Another noted that “we are getting mixed up with the Garifuna. All of us are classified as Garifuna, which is wrong!” A third suggested: “I am not Garifuna. I am a Vincentian Amerindian!” Such denials of Garifuna identity and assertion of Kalinago allegiance must be acknowledged and recognized by the community and cultural aficionados if we are not to politicize culture and pit one group against another. The question of Carib identity is an unresolved issue, especially today when “everybody wants to be a Carib,” lamented one Sandy Bay resident.
How we deal with the question of Carib identity will be a tricky issue. It cannot be based solely on political or legal grounds for social, cultural and other criteria must be applied to resolve the issue. But the National community can do much to help the Carib community to validate their identity by including them in the general cultural debate. Such an approach must include the teaching of indigenous history and culture in the schools, the establishment of a museum and cultural centre in the community, and the establishment on a broad- based, and politically neural Carib Community Organization. Williams suggestion that the government might assist in helping to fund Carib representatives to attend meetings and regional festivals received some positive vibes from Hon. Rene Baptiste, Minister of Culture, when he paid a courtesy call on her earlier on Tuesday morning. However, the sources for such assistance were unclear.
Another concern of some residents was the lack of representation at overseas events. There was the general complaint that those who represented the Carib community at meetings and conferences never meet with them before or after the meetings .The community is never informed of events in the wider indigenous world and residents are unhappy about that. They feel that such individuals have no mandate to represent them.
Finally, Caribs feel some disconnect with remnants of the pre-Carib past -- the petroglyphs of St Vincent and the Grenadines. These scattered relics of their culture do not exist within the Carib communities yet they are intimately associated with their prehistory. The Caribs naturally feel alienated from the sites since the relics are not part of their physical landscape. Researcher Timm noted that the Caribs feel doubly slighted because they have not benefited spiritually or materially from the presentation of the sites to visitors and locals alike. And though they have not disassociated themselves from them, they have been physically constrained from appreciating the connections and meanings of those artifacts. The creation of a pre-Amerindian museum within the Carib Community would help to bridge the spiritual and material gaps in the lives of those people, add to the economic growth of the community, and instill pride in their rich heritage.
The visit of Charles Williams has helped to stimulate some degree of Carib consciousness within the community. But idle chatter by talk show hosts Cecil Ryan and P. John on WE FM Radio in trying to put a political spin on Charles’ use of words such as ‘race’ and ‘cultural identity, was reprehensible. They attempted to associate some of Charles’ remarks on intermarriage with “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing”. This is counter productive to the indigenous dialogue. Both men seem to have lost the meanings of those words and have applied them in a particular context that makes them look extremely foolish and petty. The fact that Williams stressed his belief in observing the traditional law -- the wife follows the husband -- a law that indigenous groups in North American communities and elsewhere follow -- appeared to have eluded those talk show hosts.
The Caribs of St Vincent are divided in their connection to either the Garifuna or Kalinago groupings. This fact has remained unrecognised for a long time. It is an uncomfortable fact within the Carib conversation that must be addressed urgently.
By Luis “Kacián” Calderón
In my personal journey toward reaffirmation of my Taíno heritage, I have often wondered what our ancestors would have been doing if they lived right now and in today’s Boriken (Puerto Rico) in the 21st century. The answer doesn’t need a lot of speculation because they would be doing the same thing our native brothers and sisters in the southwest of the United States have been doing. That is that if you are an indigenous artisan, you would be doing artisan work just as your ancestors or family had been doing, most likely that’s what you also would be doing, especially if it would be a means of attaining economic independence. We as Taíno’s of today need to reclaim our arts, music, language, mythology, spirituality and philosophy as a continuing people. For me, I have decided to restore my people's heritage in the art of ceramics and working with clay. Our ancestors were Neolithic people. This means that they developed their culture through agriculture. People, who reach this level of development, also develop the use of clay and form functional clay pottery.
Living here in Boriken has allowed me the privilege of studying under a great teacher and artisan. Her name is Alice Chéverez. Alice is the youngest daughter of Don Pablo y Doña Varin. In the mountains of Morovis, Alice practices the ceramic arts of our Taíno ancestors, from acquiring clay here in Boriken to preparation and forming the piece fundamentally using the coil system. The drying and final firing of the pot is done in an open fire. Alice uses the same exact traditional method that our ancestors used to create pottery 500 years ago. She specializes in functional and ceremonial Taíno pottery and museums reproductions and uses traditional tools as higüera scrappers and wooden sticks to form the Taíno designs in the pottery. Alice doesn’t work with industrialized clay that can be bought in conventional ceramic stores, where is prepared and processed. She also does not work with the pottery wheel, which origins are from the Middle East and Europe. When firing the piece, she does not use an electric kiln oven, gas or wood kilns. Alice fires her pieces in an open fire using wood.
Alice learned the Taíno form of pottery from her mother while helping her create Taíno pottery. She has more than twenty years of learning this craft. Her mother learned from the Taíno artisan Daniel Silva, who today lives in the island of Vieques and continues the tradition, but using a new medium, higüera instead of clay.
Alice has sold her Taíno pieces in all the artisan fairs on the island, and in the past has traveled to the United States to exhibit her work. Due to the birth of her son, she hasn’t had the chance to travel around the island. Also due to her mother’s health, Alice has been given the responsibility of continuing the Taíno tradition of pottery making. Though her mother is in good health and spirit, she has decided to retire from pottery and giving the privilege to Alice as master potter.
As an educator, I would like to take the time to inform the Taíno community through the forum of the internet that Alice Chéverez of Taller Cabachuela is taking on new students. She would like to have serious students who can make a commitment to the serious study of learning our Taíno ancestors’ traditional way of creating pottery. The price is economical and all you need is your time and dedication. Alice is very serious about her work. Though her studio is very humble, what counts is the knowledge she will pass on. In today’s modern world, we have all suffered economically the recession that has been going on for the past few years. Many feel forced to go back to the university to study a profession that will give them the means economically to better themselves. Why not become an artisan promoting your ancestors’ tradition? At the same time, you will be helping yourself toward economic independence. I can attest that there is no satisfaction like creating a Taíno piece with your own hands and seeing it finally fired in an open fire. Alice Chévere as a teacher is excellent; she never makes fun of the student or his piece and is more than willing to help. She is open minded to all questions about the craft. If you live on the island or are visiting the island and would like to take a few classes, you can contact Alice at:
Torrecillas, Buzón 5986
Morovis, PR 00687
You can also write an e-mail to email@example.com, call me at (787)260-7248 or (787)813-9379 for any questions regarding to Alice Chévere and Taíno pottery.
Author's note: I would like to thank the photographer and fellow student Roger “Guayakan” Hernández (see photo above) and Roberto “Múkaro” Borrero for the space offered in the UCTP website for this article.About the author: Luis “Kacián” Calderón has been an active member within the taíno community since the late 80’s., in New York City and has been living in Boriken from 1996 to the present. He received a B.A. in secondary education in history and a minor in music from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico in San Germán. Kacián has studied taíno pottery with Alice Chéverre for the past two years an also studied contemporary ceramics at Centro Sor Isolina Ferrer. He also studied the pottery wheel with his teacher Eduardo Martínez. The author lives with his wife Ana and boxer dog Chaco in Juana Díaz, Boriken (Puerto Rico).
By DAVID McFADDEN, Associated Press Writer
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - A maroon-striped marauder with venomous spikes is rapidly multiplying in the Caribbean's warm waters, swallowing native species, stinging divers and generally wreaking havoc on an ecologically delicate region.
The red lionfish, a tropical native of the Indian and Pacific oceans that probably escaped from a Florida fish tank, is showing up everywhere — from the coasts of Cuba and Hispaniola to Little Cayman's pristine Bloody Bay Wall, one of the region's prime destinations for divers.
Wherever it appears, the adaptable predator corners fish and crustaceans up to half its size with its billowy fins and sucks them down in one violent gulp.
Research teams observed one lionfish eating 20 small fish in less than 30 minutes.
"This may very well become the most devastating marine invasion in history," said Mark Hixon, an Oregon State University marine ecology expert who compared lionfish to a plague of locusts. "There is probably no way to stop the invasion completely."
A white creature with maroon stripes, the red lionfish has the face of an alien and the ribbony look of something that survived a paper shredder — with poisonous spikes along its spine to ward off enemies.
The invasion is similar to that of other aquarium escapees such as walking catfish and caulerpa, a fast-growing form of algae known as "killer seaweed" for its ability to crowd out native plants. The catfish are now common in South Florida, where they threaten smaller fish in wetlands and.
In Africa, the Nile Perch rendered more than 200 fish species extinct when it was introduced into The World Conservation Union calls it one of the 100 worst alien species invasions..
"Those kinds of things happen repeatedly in fresh water," Hixon said. "But we've not seen such a large predatory invasion in the ocean before."
The lionfish so far has been concentrated in the Bahamas, where marine biologists are seeing it in every habitat: in shallow and deep reefs, off piers and beaches, and perhaps most worrisome, in mangrove thickets that are vital habitats for baby fish.
Some spots in the Bahamian archipelago between New Providence and theare reporting a tenfold increase in lionfish just during the last year.
Northern Caribbean islands have sounded the alarm, encouraging fishermen to capture lionfish and divers to report them for eradication.
The invasion would be "devastating" to fisheries and recreational diving if it reached Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to Eugenio Pineiro-Soler of the Caribbean Fishery Management Council.
"I think at the best they will have a huge impact on reef fish, and at the worst will result in the disappearance of most reef fish," said Bruce Purdy, a veteran dive operator who has helped the marine conservation group REEF with expeditions tracking the invasion.
Purdy said he has been stung several times while rounding up lionfish — once badly.
"It was so painful, it made me want to cut my own hand off," he said.
Researchers believe lionfish were introduced into the Atlantic in 1992, when Hurricane Andrew shattered a private aquarium and six of them spilled into Miami's Biscayne Bay, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Biologists think the fish released floating sacs of eggs that rode the Gulf Stream north along the U.S. coast, leading to colonization of deep reefs off North Carolina and Bermuda. have even been spotted as far north as Rhode Island in summer months, NOAA said.
They are not aggressive toward humans, and their sting is not fatal. There are no estimates so far of tourists who have been stung. But marine officials say swimmers will be more at risk as the venomous species overtakes tropical waters along popular Caribbean beaches.
The slow-moving fish, which measures about 18 inches, is easy to snare, though lionfish swim too deep for divers to catch in nets — a common method of dealing with invasive species.
So researchers are scrambling to figure out what will eat the menacing beauties in their new Caribbean home, experimenting with predators such as sharks, moray eels — and even humans.
Adventurous eaters describe the taste of lionfish fillets as resembling halibut. But so far, they are a tough sell. Hungry sharks typically veer abruptly when researchers try to hand-feed them a lionfish.
"We have gotten (sharks) to successfully eat a lionfish, but it has been a lot of work. Most of our attempts with thehave been unsuccessful," said Andy Dehart of the National Aquarium in Washington, who is working with REEF in the Bahamas.
One predator that will eat lionfish is grouper, which are rare in the lionfish's natural Southeast-Asian habitat. Scientists are pinning long-range hopes on the establishment of new ocean reserves to protect grouper and other lionfish predators from.
Hixon said there is some evidence that lionfish have not invaded reefs of the fully protected Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, a 176-square-mile reserve southeast of Nassau. But unprotected locations in the vast archipelago are more vulnerable.
Containing the spread of the lionfish is an uphill fight. As lionfish colonize more territory in the Caribbean, they feed on grazing fish that keep seaweed from overwhelming coral reefs already buffeted by climate change, pollution and other environmental pressures.
Dehart said: "If we start losing these smaller reef fish as food to the lionfish ... we could be in a whirlwind for bad things coming to the reef ecosystem."
Associated Press Television News reporter Tracy Brown in Washington contributed to this report.
“This is as an exciting new chapter in our focus on communications, education, and Nation building” stated Roberto Borrero, the President of the UCTP’s Office of International Relations and Regional Coordination. The portal, launched as a part of the Confederation’s 10 year anniversary initiatives, was designed by UCTP Director of Technology, Ericc Ausubonex Diaz.
“We are very grateful to Ausubonex for the incredible work he has put into the design of this web portal. It responds directly to years of community suggestions, requests, and comments” continued Borrero. “We had compiled quite a bit of information at our web site over the years and with this more-user friendly design we have increased the opportunities for community members to see and more importantly respond to the precedent-setting work that the Confederation has and continues to do at the local, national, and international levels.”
“The portal will assist us in knowing what our people are interested in as we will be able to see what stories, documents, and issues are getting visited most often” stated Diaz. “We consider the website an on-going work in progress but even at this stage there is really nothing like it available for our community on the internet that is fully owned and operated by Caribbean Indigenous Peoples”.
The new version of UCTP portal will also provide a welcome resource for researchers and students who will not only be able to study documents from historical sources but they will be able to review contemporary Taíno history from over 10 years of collective activism in the international area. Presentations made at the United Nations as well as reports from archeologists and ethnologists will all be archived and available online as well as for download. Various photo galleries are now available or being developed for inclusion.
“The portal will also help us continue to strengthen our community and advocacy efforts as we have updated the documents related to the UCTP’s Taíno Population Census and Inter-Tribal Registration Project” stated Mildred Karaira Gandia, the Director of the program. “Our enrollment documents can now be filled out online and printed out directly from the site.”
The UCTP web portal received over 170,057 “hits” last month as it was “soft launched” in July so select users could test services and offer suggestions. The portal has recorded traffic from all over the world with persons from Puerto Rico among the top four country visitors to the site.
Miss Junor was "excited and honored" to have won the pageant that took place May 25th 2008. Proud parents - Lolita and Raymond Junor - recalled that her Grandmother Etheldreda Simon remarked when Christella was born that she would be "Beauty Queen of Pakuri one day". The Junor’s have 4 other children - Maradonna 21, Fidel 12, Cassandra 10 and Ray jr. 5.
Christella Junor is a niece of Shirling Normellia Corrie (Simon) - wife of UCTP member and Pantribal Confederacy of Indigenous Tribal Nations founder/President Damon Gerard Corrie.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A small snake has sparked a big debate in Barbados. Residents of the wealthy Caribbean nation have been heating up blogs and clogging radio airwaves to vent their anger at a U.S. scientist, who earlier this week announced his "discovery" of the world's smallest snake and named it "Leptotyphlops carlae," after his wife Carla.
"If he needs to blow his own trumpet ... well, fine," said 43-year-old Barbadian Charles Atkins. "But my mother, who was a simple housewife, she showed me the snake when I was a child."
One writer to the Barbados Free Press blog took an even tougher tone, questioning how someone could "discover" a snake long known to locals, who called it the thread snake.
"How dare this man come in here and name a snake after his wife?" said the writer who identified themselves as Margaret Knight.
The man she refers to is Penn State University evolutionary biologist S. Blair Hedges, whose research teams also have discovered the world's tiniest lizard in the Dominican Republic and the smallest frog in Cuba.
Hedges recently became the first to describe the snake - which is so small it can curl up on a U.S. quarter - when he published his observations and genetic test results in the journal "Zootaxa." Full-grown adults typically are less than 4 inches long.
Hedges told The Associated Press on Friday that he understands Barbadians' angry reactions, but under established scientific practice, the first person to do a full description of a species is said to have discovered it and gives it a scientific name.
He said most newly "discovered" species are already well known to locals, and the term refers to the work done in a laboratory to establish a genetic profile. In the study, he reported that two specimens he analyzed were found in 1889 and 1963.
"There are no false claims here, believe me," Hedges said.
Damon Corrie, president of the Caribbean Herpetological Society, acknowledged that Hedges is the first to scientifically examine and describe the snake, but the so-called discovery makes locals seem ignorant.
"It gives the impression that people here ... depend on people from abroad to come and show us things in our own backyard," Corrie said.
Karl Watson, a historian and ornithologist at the University of the West Indies in Barbados, said it's common for people to get excited over very tiny or very large animals.
"Probably people have overreacted. ... It's nationalism going a bit awry," Watson said.
Hedges agreed: "I think they're carrying it a bit too far."
"Snakes are really apolitical," he said.
(AP Photo/Penn State University, S. Blair Hedges)
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - A U.S. scientist said Sunday he has discovered the globe's tiniest species of snake in the easternmost Caribbean island of Barbados, with full-grown adults typically stretching less than 4 inches (10 centimeters) long.
S. Blair Hedges, an evolutionary biologist at Penn State University whose research teams also have discovered the world's tiniest lizard in the Dominican Republic and the smallest frog in Cuba, said the snake was found slithering beneath a rock near a patch of Barbadian forest.
Hedges said the tiny-title-holding snake, which is so diminutive it can curl up on a U.S. quarter, is the smallest of the roughly 3,100 known snake species. It will be introduced to the scientific world in the journal "Zootaxa" on Monday.
"New and interesting species are still being discovered on Caribbean islands, despite the very small amount of natural forests remaining," said Hedges, who christened the miniature brown snake "Leptotyphlops carlae" after his herpetologist wife, Carla Ann Hass.
The Barbadian snake apparently eats termites and insect larvae, but nothing is yet known of its ecology and behavior. Genetic tests identified the snake as a new species, according to Hedges. It is not venomous.
Zoologist Roy McDiarmid, curator of amphibians and reptiles at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, said he has seen a specimen of the diminutive creature. He saw no reason to argue with the assertion that it is the world's smallest snake.
McDiarmid said the Barbados creature is a type of thread snake, also called worm snake, which are mostly found in the tropics. "We really know very little about these things," he said in a Sunday telephone interview from his Virginia home.
Finding the globe's tiniest snake demonstrates the remarkable diversity of the ecologically delicate Caribbean. It also illustrates a fundamental ecological principle: Since Darwin's days, scientists have noticed that islands often are home to both oversized and miniaturized beasts.
Hedges said the world's smallest bird species, the bee hummingbird, can be found in Cuba. The globe's second-smallest snake lives in Martinique. At the other end of the scale, one of the largest swallowtail butterflies lives in Jamaica.
Scientists say islands often host odd-sized creatures because they're usually inhabited by a less diverse set of species than continents. So island beasts and insects often grow or shrink to fill ecological roles that otherwise would be filled by entirely different species.