Frequently Asked Questions
1) Why does ICA focus on "Indo-Caribbeans" and not the broader West Indian community?
We chose to highlight our unique history of making profound social, economic and political contributions to the countries of the Caribbean, the United States and in other parts of the world. We seek to further advance, enrich and share this proud history and culture with other communities as we work to build broad based partnerships.
Indo-Caribbean peoples are a minority population in the Caribbean and in New York City. Like other ethnic groups, Indo-Caribbeans share a unique history and culture that makes us distinct. Our culture is largely a combination of elements retained from Indians who migrated to the Caribbean and those we adopted from other ethnic groups in the Caribbean and the United States. This fusion is visible in our language, names, foods, music, religious practices, festivals, clothing and more. This is why we take pride in an Indo-Caribbean identity which is a distinct element of the broader West Indian community.
2) Why use the term "Indo-Caribbean"?
In our American contemporary society, we see ethnicity as directly related to ancestral origin. In a broader context, we categorize Indo-Caribbean people as a diaspora of South Asia and India. To more precisely identity our community and standardize references to our identity, we encourage using the term "Indo-Caribbean" or "Indo-Caribbean American". We encourage the use of "Indo" as a reference to "Indian" and "Indo-Caribbean American" to standardize the terminology and to maintain our unique culture.
Identity has a long history of racial overtones and politicization in the Caribbean, like the rest of the world. Although the term "Indo-Caribbean" finds broad acceptance it continues to be a heavily debated and subjective issue. Many continue to identify themselves using the more general term, "West Indian". Some use the terms "Coolie" which is considered to be derogatory. Others use the term "East Indian" which was more commonly used during the British colonial period in the 20th century.
3) Why are Guyanese and Surinamese people also considered Caribbean?
The basis for this reference goes back to British control of the region and the present political arrangements. Under the British, the Caribbean (or the British West Indies) included Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados and the other islands. After independence, these countries remained closely aligned because of similarities in language, a creolized and multi-ethnic population and parliamentary governance structures. Today, these countries are socially and economically organized into a regional grouping called the Caribbean Community ("CARICOM"). Eventually, Suriname joined the CARICOM regional grouping due to their closer affiliation with the countries of the former British West Indies. Although Suriname was ruled by the Dutch, their ethnic demographic is similar to the West Indian countries and has similarly joined CARICOM.