Faye Parker is a rising junior majoring in Environmental Science. She grew up in a seaside town and the ocean is definitely her greatest muse as a result.
During my senior year of high school, I attended a research trip focused on coral reef restoration in the Bahamas on the Island of San Salvador. Whilst there, I was extremely captivated by San Salvador’s beauty and took hundreds of videos to capture it. Two years later, working on this project, I decided to make a home-video-esque film with this footage to share the beauty of the people and the place. Focused on the surface level aesthetics of the Island, I began my project with questions such as “How can I use film to draw a connection between the people and the marine life of the island? How can I use the Bahamian celebration of and love for this marine life to further communicate their relationship?”
However, as my research took me deeper into the history of the Island, the questions I wanted to center my project on changed quite dramatically. The history of the Bahamas involves two distinct peoples. First off, there are the original inhabitants, the Lucayans, an indigenous group wiped out entirely by the Spanish and Portuguese through slavery and genocide in the 1500s. They actually called San Salvador “Guanahani,” while the name San Salvador came from their colonizer, Christopher Colombus, as it is where he first made landfall in the New World. Secondly, there are the Bahamains who are almost entirely of African descent, 85% of the population today. Their ancestors were African slaves brought to San Salvador by European settlers almost 130 years after the last of the Lucayans were taken away by the previous Europeans. With these two parallel histories of settler colonialism in mind and my videos being from the perspective of an outsider ignorant to these histories, I began to ask and attempt to answer very different questions than before: is there a connection between two groups of people that share the same home but never overlapped in time? How can I use film taken from the perspective of a visitor to make a commentary on settler colonialism? Using my perspective as an outsider, how can I make a narrative about San Salvador and it’s people’s history without forcing my own opinions and perceptions onto the reality of the Island?
Keywords: Film; poetry; autobiographical; travel; colonialism; global
Sweet and Gentle We came to the Bahamas to do what we Westerners do best Occupy, observe, leave a little change and head on out We came for a week To rebuild coral reefs through coral trees Only to leave for a year Hoping all of the coral tree roots Stayed in the sand In my mind, The Island of San Salvador Could well have been Calypso’s island If you overlook the slight detour From Greece to the Bahamas The island, like the goddess, Charming, beautiful, sensual The first inhabitors, the Lucayans, Calling it Guanahani Meaning “sweet and gentle” I wonder if the Lucayans were still here They’d recognize their Island So, so many years later Now a different type of “sweet and gentle” Guanahani is where Christopher Columbus first made landfall Where the New World was first found On top of an ancient seamount inhabited by an ancient people The New World was found “The beauty of these islands,” Columbus wrote, “surpasses that of any other and as much as the day surpasses the night in splendour.” He named Guanahani San Salvador, “Holy Savior” As if “sweet and gentle” no longer did it justice In the past year We learned about invasive species in bio Things that shouldn’t be here That overstayed their welcome The lionfish, for instance, Beautiful and intriguing Should not be in these waters Not in these reefs It should have never been here It should have never stayed I wonder if that's how the Lucayans looked at them The settlers White skinned and intriguing But maybe just for a visit They shouldn’t have stayed They were never meant to stay Their white skin not meant for the equator sun An invasive species of white bodies And black gun powder Overrunning their waters And here I am, A white body On these white sands Looking at a beach Marked by a white cross To memorialize the colonization Done by a white man We came to recolonize the reefs That climate change brought Ruin to today That surround the Island The white man brought Ruin to yesterday Maybe if Columbus had Taken a different course The New World would still be The “sweet and gentle” The Lucayans recalled Not a sacrifice, Sacrificed to be the “Holy Savior,” The San Salvador, For foreign ships As I am pretty sure the Lucayans were not the ones that needed saving Nor did they volunteer to be the martyrs Yet Columbus wrote Their harbor was “large enough for the ships of Christendom. ” But maybe the harbor wasn’t Maybe he just made room Guanahani was empty for 130 years After the last of the Lucayans were taken No Empty is the wrong word Just without humans, native and foreign, Humanless for 130 years And when the Europeans returned, They brought African bodies with them And when they left They left alone Leaving displaced people to replace displaced peoples I wonder if the Lucayans would recognize them, If they’d see today’s Bahamians As grown from similar soils Similar sands Washed ashore or washed away By similar hands I wonder if they’d recognize their reefs, The now fossilized reefs, The ones I transversed, Showing the past, A past of coral branches the size of cars And a grand diversity of organisms in their waters Today we search the reefs For coral branches the size of my hand To rebuild a home lost To too many category fives To temperatures too high I wonder if the Lucayans looked at the corals through my eyes It’d be like seeing houseplants Where there should be redwood forests And ghost towns Where there should be cities If they’d see the history of invasive species And invasive peoples, And see San Salvador, The “Holy Savior” I wonder then If they’d hear the beat of the goombay drums And the taste of the goombay punch As the Bahamians celebrate their island Differently than the Lucayans ever did…. And recognize Guanahani If they’d feel the rhythm of the waves And witness the celebration of Junkanoo And feel the love for their Island Held in different hearts and by different hands Roughened by similar hardships to their own….. And recognize their Guanahani Just as sweet and just as gentle