Right off the bat, I want to say that I agree with all of the criticism that has been pointed towards the Miss Grand International competition this year and the decision to allow a Venezuelan national to not only compete but ultimately be victorious. I have nothing against the contestant herself, but I simply do not believe that she has absorbed enough of our culture to be able to effectively portray it on an international stage while representing our country. And at the end of the day, that is what these global pageants have always been, which is a showcase of the culture of the various nations who compete within them. So while I do not doubt that the local organizing committee will be able to dress her up and parade her about as our national representative, I do not believe for one second that she will be able to portray a Trini convincingly, or at least not have the authenticity of a native.
However, while listening to the clip of her interview on i95.5 FM, where the host was quizzing her on her knowledge of our national watchwords, it dawned on me that the matter might be more tricky for other questions asked about our national identity which is still linked to our past. While most people are focussing on her Venezuelan roots, I think looking at her Spanish heritage might change your perception of her ability to represent Trinidad in this worldwide pageant. And for those who think that might not be relevant given how long her ancestry might be in Venezuela, just remember as Trinis that we still cling to our ancestral roots as well.
I bring this up because no one considered the chances that before she became Miss T&T Grand International, someone of our Spanish heritage was representing the district of Diego Martin, a Borough Corporation named after Don Diego Martin Garraway, a Spanish explorer. I mean, if any region were to have a Spanish representative, it might as well be the one named after a Spaniard right? Other than that she could have probably vied for a nomination in either San Juan or San Fernando but I don’t think the demographics of either of those districts would have been kind to her. Of course, the only other alternative for a Spanish contender might have been the obvious, Port-of-SPAIN, the capital city of this country that has somehow been able to keep the name despite the British ruling the nation for over a century. And it goes beyond just the names of towns and cities because if the i95.5 host had asked her what was our national flower, she might have known it was the Chaconia, named after Don Maria Jose Chacon.
The reason I’m bringing all of this up has little to do with the Miss Grand International competition and more to do with the recent campaign by Narendra Modi to disown the name of his country given to them by the British colonizers. The renaming of India to Bharat is just one more step by the Indian government to reclaim their national identity and remove the negative connotations associated with the naming conventions of the British, similar to the renaming of Bombay and Delhi.
So as we look to celebrate our sovereignty on Republic Day 2023, maybe there ought to be more conversation about what it means to truly be free of the bonds left behind by those European Monarchies. Because while we may all have our perception of what a Trini might mean to us, there might be a completely differing opinion by outsiders who do not have any context for why our island is still named La Trinidad. And maybe they might think that for the first time in our history, we have a representative who accurately reflects that identity.
Ravi Balgobin Maharaj
Mob: +1 868 476-6181