Tuesday, May 26, 2015


One of the Leeward Islands, and one of the best places in the world to witness volcanic eruptions, the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” is a self-governing British territory whose capital city, Plymouth, disappeared under volcanic ash in 1997, and flecks are still floating around to this day. Roughly half the population took the opportunity to leave, mostly for New York and Antigua; those who stayed had no choice but to relocate to the northern part of the island; those who were given refuge in the US have now had their temporary Green Cards revoked, on the somewhat absurd grounds that the volcanic activity is unlikely to cease, and so the word “temporary” cannot be applied. We can assume they will be relabelled as “wetbacks” very soon, and relocated to Mexico. In situations like this, I always like to look at the CIA World Factbook to see what is being said there. A brief history of the island is given, with mention of the volcano, but the main item is Montserrat’s status as “a trans-shipment point for South American narcotics destined for the US and Europe”. Do they serious believe that all the ash floating around the island is the residue of smoking marijuana? Maybe they should relocate their no-longer-temporary-workers to Colorado, where it is now medically legal.

Montserrat, which incidentally is in that part of the Caribbean known as the Lesser Antilles, was named by Christopher Columbus in honour of Santa María de Montserrat, la Moreneta ("the little dark-skinned one" or "the little dark one"; a variation, of course, on Lucy Negro, which adds both an odd coincidence and a further layer of justification to my writing about the lady in the previous chapter) as she is known by the Catelans - her statue can be found at the monastery that bears her name in the mountains above Barcelona. Why "the little dark-skinned one"? Because she belongs to a great tradition of Black Madonnas that goes back to the 12th century, and of which there are several hundred, mostly in the Byzantine parts of the Catholic world. Or so the Catholic world likes to believe. Actually the tradition of Black Madonnas goes back way further, even beyond the time of the Catholic Black Madonna herself, to statues of Venus and Astarte and Ishtar and Isis which often portrayed the mother-goddess as Nubian, though whether because they regarded her as Nubian (which is to say negroid), or simply because the wood they used for the carving was extremely dark, is something no one has yet bothered to study.

And why am I telling all this? Because of an oddity that may be a racism. The island is named for a Black Madonna, and yet what appears on the flag of Montserrat is not only not Nubian, not even Anglo-Saxon despite the British connection, but most decidedly, most Celtically, red-headed white, and the harp belongs to Venus' wooer, who at different times has been both Orpheus and King David, but not to herself.

Marks For: 2

Marks Against: 1997

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