On Friday, November 7, after a full day of class, we had the great opportunity to meet Michael Aubertin the author of Neg Moran: Freedom Fighters, one of the assigned texts for the course – Exploring Cultural Imperialism & Hegemony in the Caribbean: Past and Present.
During class that day, we generated multiple questions pertaining to the themes Aubertin covered in his book, such as: the suppressed aggression of the male slaves; the historical and cultural significance of the Neg Moran; and the subjugation of women. He was more than happy to teach us about the historical context of the Neg Moran. The Neg Moron which is a historical term used in Creole for black escapee, and is now viewed as a pejorative term referring to the illiterate people who live in the hills of Saint Lucia. Historically though, they were freedom fighters who fought for their freedom from the British or the French, or whoever was in power at the time. He also pushed us to think about how the themes in his book are still present in modern day St. Lucia, from his view of the endemic use of swearing that stems back to the days of slavery to, the view and treatment of women as sexual objects. Even before Aubertin was a successful author, he was well known around the island as ‘Mighty Mike’ for creating protest songs against the people making money at the expense of the oppressed. He obtained the nickname for the lyrics of his songs that gave a voice to the voiceless, and those who felt otherwise powerless. Despite the fact that St. Lucia gained it’s independence from Britain in 1979, one might question if all are truly free, as oppression still certainly exists today in modern St. Lucian culture.
We rose with the sun on Monday the 10th, blissfully unaware of the long and grueling day ahead of us. After a tedious, twisting van ride along the Caribbean side of the island we finally arrived to Soufriere where we picked up Father Will, an eccentric, energetic local priest who guided us on our journey to conquer the Petite Piton. As we began our ascent, we realized that it wasn’t going to be a pleasant walk in the park, rather, it was more like a gauntlet.
We had to maneuver our way through some tight crevices and scaled up various vertical rock faces with only the help of previously placed ropes. The journey to the peak took us slightly under two hours and by the time we arrived we were covered with sweat and mud. Upon reaching the summit, we admired the gorgeous views of the ocean and Soufriere and took a few minutes to catch our breath. To the south was the larger of the Pitons — a hike that we would have to save for another day. The descent was not much easier than the climb up. It was hard on our joints as we eased down the steep, slippery slope, grasping tree roots and rocks to help gain better purchase on the challenging trail.
When we reached the bottom, we went for a swim in a nearby waterfall to cool off. Ending the day, we stopped at a local bread shop to sample Cassava bread, a traditional treat here in St. Lucia. Cassava is one of the favored root vegetables — otherwise known as ground provisions — that is first dried and then ground up into flour and made into bread or porridge. The flavored Cassava bread was a flavorful end to an exhausting and adventurous day.