Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
The epidemic of Tessanne Chin euphoria that has gripped Jamaica over the past two months also took hold of the Eastern Caribbean late last week.
Hours after Jamaica's songbird was crowned 'The Voice' in the United States, Jamaica's High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) Sharon Saunders used the celebrations on the two islands to highlight one major difference between the outlook of Trinidadians and Jamaicans.
Despite basic historical similarities, Saunders pointed to Jamaica's celebration of Chin's success in highlighting stark cultural differences that mark Caribbean states.
"In Jamaica, we have a different racial-cultural mix and we are first and foremost Jamaicans before anything else," Saunders told The Gleaner.
"Tessanne Chin doesn't describe herself as being anything but Jamaican, yet she appears to be of oriental extract ... but she is Jamaican," said Saunders as she noted that Jamaica bears out its national motto 'Out of Many One People'.
"Our motto is so very apt; we live our motto. Where we have differences it is because of economic challenges."
Race is often an issue
That, she argued, is the reverse of the situation in T&T, where Saunders is based and where race is often an issue.
"I wouldn't want to say that it's race that influences (every decision), and this is why we need to understand the Trinidadian culture better.
"There is a twinning, but it's more beginning with religion and culture and cultural filters that are used and it's because of people's race-religion which are interlinked that you have differences."
For her, it's been an "extremely interesting experience" since February 2009 when she stepped on to the soil of the twin-island republic.
"Professionally and socially, T&T has many similarities to Jamaica," said Saunders. "Obviously, we are Caribbean people, but even so, it is a very different cultural mix than Jamaica."
She added: "There are different religions and races that try to coexist. It makes for a pot-pourri of cultures that sometimes don't always blend easily together."
According to Saunders, the different blends in T&T invariably produce interesting work.
"There is never a dull moment," she declared. "Sometimes, I wish that my day would be less interesting, but the most basic duties and tasks, to the more complex ones, keep us busy," she said with a chuckle.
Saunders said she has a rather small but extremely dedicated staff complement that keeps the work going, not only in T&T, but 14 other regional states.
Questioned as to why Jamaica was so different from its Caribbean neighbours, given the historical similarities, Saunders said: "It has to do with the different cultures that were introduced. They didn't completely assimilate to make one."