In another time in my life, when I was domiciled in Grand Cayman, I wrote a musical about the early beginnings of development in that country (the 1950s) when the first major tourism hotel, financed by UK money, was going up on the island’s now famous Seven Mile Beach. One of the songs in that show dealt with the concern among some Caymanians back then for what changes lay ahead. For a variety of reasons outside of me, the musical was never staged in Cayman, but going through it in recent days, it struck me, with oil revenue looming here, that the concerns being expressed by Guyanese now are eerily similar to the ones being raised in another time, in another place, by another people; the parallels are so vivid.
As Guyana is now, the Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman) was a poor country at the time. With no sugar estates, or major agricultural potential, most of the country’s male population became seamen working on the high seas for international companies. The money they sent home went to maintain households, and to gradually build homes, in a time when the Cayman was a dependency of Jamaica, under the domain of the English Governor ruling Jamaica. Apart from some thatch rope used in the fishing industry in the Caribbean, Cayman had no exports, and times were very hard. With no drainage, and a swampy interior, the place was a mosquito haven. Bonfires had to be kept going all night in the rainy season to control the insects which were a menace to the country’s cows and other animals, and even in the daytime schoolchildren sometimes went to school carrying a home-made smoke-pot. The burden of this lean and very difficult period in the country’s history only began to lift in the 1950s with the stirrings of tourism, drawing on the islands’ astonishingly clear seawater and alluring beaches, plus its location only 500 miles away from the USA with that market of eager affluent travellers. ….