The following is commentary by Dr. Charles H. Wheatley.
The racial and ethnic imbalance, the exploitation of the Territory’s resources both marine and terrestrial by unauthorized persons, along with other cultural intrusions have forced B. V. Islanders to develop a sub-culture of resistance. This sub-culture occupied a central place through the period of the plantation economy and has continued to today. It was manifested in the spiritual quest for freedom, which preoccupied the slaves on the plantations, even as they endured the physical torture inflicted by their white masters. The physical body was submerged by the pressure and demands of the economic system of the plantation economy, but their spirit did not bend and was only immersed in those activities, and could soar above the pain and anguish of the flesh. They looked forward to a permanent liberation of the spirit from Eurocentric domination, as well as physical liberation of the body from the yoke of plantation life. Today, B. V. Islanders apply the same strategy-physical submersion but spiritual immersion-when dealing with other cultural heritages.
Sometimes the foreign cultural elements are stronger than corresponding indigenous elements and may over shadow the local elements. A typical element can be found in the August festival, which is an annual celebration in remembrance of emancipation from slavery. Before the mass immigration which began in the late nineteen sixties the celebration was a festival celebrating the spirituality of freedom as manifested in various aspects of B. V. I society. Immigration from other Caribbean countries where the emphasis is carnival-merriment and economics of the celebration-have forced their styles of celebration on BVI indigenous style and changed the nature of the August festival. As a group, B. V. Islanders have yielded and allowed their own creation to be submerged by foreign impositions. As individuals, they refuse to internalize the outside influence and struggle to highlight their indigenous celebrations. They are immersed in the newer forms of the festival but their spirits reject foreign intrusion.
This resistance also emerges in politics. Most B. V. Islanders are aware that various national immigrants have been showing interest in greater representation in the local legislature. The ‘natural’ B. V. Islanders oppose this and even develop strategies to support their views. B. V. Islanders refuse to be politically submerged by foreign influence even though they acknowledge to be immersed in it. The resistance seems more justified because the control of the economy operates from outside the Territory. The Off-shore Financial services and Tourism-twin pillars of the economy- are locally dependent on outside resources. B. V. Islanders, therefore, strive for political power and control as a balance to external control. This resistance has threatened the friendly relations between the BVI and the USVI on many occasions. The political border between the two groups are not strong enough to override the socio-cultural and economic ties that unite the peoples on both sides of the political boundaries. Seated in these ties are seeds for exploitation of each other resources and concomitant employment of resistant strategies.
This sub-culture of resistance is manifested against the exploitation of marine and terrestrial resources and the obliteration of various elements of B. V. I, culture.