Global Politics

Cuba's British West Indian Enclave

In the Caribbean is a little corner of England.

Player utilities

On a green near an episcopal church, there's a distinctively English game taking place: cricket.

And if they're not playing cricket, the locals here continue the English rural tradition of dancing around a maypole.

But while many of the locals have anglo names, Spanish is the language heard most often in the streets.

And the government is run by communists, long the bitter enemies of the United States.

So where are we?

The answer, of course, is Cuba.

But who knew that some of Cuba's people identify themselves first and foremost as British West Indians?

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford went to Baragua, in central Cuba, to find out more.

Baragua looks like a typical town in rural Cuba. Its streets are lined with once brightly colored low-rise houses and crowded not with cars but with bicycles, horses and carts.

But listen closely to the locals and you notice the difference. Here, in the heart of Cuba, you hear English as well as Spanish spoken.

It is almost a century since hundreds of British West Indians headed for the island looking for work in the sugar industry. In those days many firms, like the Baragua Sugar Company, were run by Americans.

"They came expecting to earn a salary then go back to their country," says 86-year-old Ethelbert Scantleberry, whose parents traveled to Baragua from Barbados in 1920.

For many other West Indian immigrants, their route to Cuba was via Central America where they had worked on building the Panama Canal.

"They came looking for a better life," says Ethelbert whose parents, like many, ended up settling here and raising a large family.

Today their descendants are battling to keep old traditions alive. …

But there is one English custom that younger generation has inherited a passion for.

Baragua's cricket team practice on the edge of town where the grass is long and the ground bumpy. The enthusiastic players do not seem to notice though, as they smash balls into the distance.

Still, it is not easy with limited resources. Cricket is classed as a hobby in Cuba not a sport, so there is no state funding for equipment.

  • cuba-cricket.jpg

    Cricket is hugely popular with the British West Indians who call central Cuba home. (Photo: Sarah Rainsford)
  • Cricket_Square.jpg

    Cricket is hugely popular with the British West Indians who call central Cuba home. (Photo: Sarah Rainsford)

Comments