In 31 days Trinidad and Tobago will be the host of the 5th Summit of the Americas. 34 democratically elected leaders of the Western Hemisphere will gather here in Port of Spain, home of 1 highway and the 12 minute cappuccino, to discuss and exchange ideas about the Americas, the problems, the solutions and to gossip about who is the most handsome leader of the Western world. 5000 people from 33 countries will gather here, and according to the T&T organizing committee, will have a chance to see Trinidad in another light. Hmmmm. The big question, of course is why did Trinidad get this honour and what benefit will there be to this small island through the hosting of this mammoth event?
Of course, Trinidad is pulling out all the stops. They are dredging the harbour to accommodate both the large cruise ships coming in as well as Obama’s battleship,his home during the event. They are updating the airport, lining the windows of the Hyatt with bomb proof sticky stuff, pulling people from the military reserves out of their jobs (one of our maintenance men at school is going), training people to march and patrol in boots, hold guns and look scary. The other day, streets were closed and the daily traffic jam brought to a halt for a rehearsal. This country is getting ready. They are closing the port and the airport for the entirety of the event, which means no one ( me!) can return from Tobago on the ferry in time for school. The whole country is getting ready to turn into a peacock and show off their best colours to the world. They will tuck away the unsightly feathers, the crime, the poverty, the massive corruption, and showcase them selves as a country worthy of respect and investment. Apparently there is some assurance that at no point will any VIPs see anything ugly at all. Routes have been laid out so that no cars will pass by the boarded up facades of the formally magnificent homes around the Savannah.
This is a huge undertaking for Trinidad. It takes over 3 years to build an over pass over the highway and here they are dredging the harbour 31 days before the Summit begins. There is much cynicism over the fact that Trinidad is rushing to show off to the world ( and to future investors) long before it fixes its own domestic troubles. Comparing the money spent on this summit to the health care spent on the poor of Trinidad is one bone of contention. The papers are full of criticism for the government and Patrick “Business Man” Manning but I suspect that when the streets are swept and everything is shiny and ready and Obama is actually here, a certain pride will take over this little island and the words of one famous leader will echo through the land.
“Yes We Can.”