Caribbean Beat Magazine

Caribbean datebook (January/February 2014)

Your guide to Caribbean events in January and February — from Carnival celebrations to literature festivals

  • Photograph by Aaron Richards
  • Jo Ann Snover/
  • Photograph courtesy Forge Business Imagery
  • Photograph courtesy Tim Wright
  • Photograph by Alberto Loyo/


Pace yourself

The shifting dates of Carnival — ultimately, it’s all timed to the phases of the moon — mean that every few years the festival falls “late,” in the month of March. 2014 is one of those years. For Carnival lovers, it’s a mixed blessing. On the one hand, a long season means more time for fetes, concerts, and pre-festival merriment. On the other, it means greater feats of physical stamina, to keep energy levels high all the way to Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

The Carnival season begins the moment Christmas is out of the way. Most mas bands will have started working on their designs long before, and mas camps welcome visitors to look at the year’s costumes and sign up to join in — though the most popular bands may already be sold out. The various music competitions — Calypso Monarch, Soca Monarch, and many more — go through preliminary and semi-final rounds before the culminating contests in the days just before the festival. Steelbands rehearse at their panyards most nights of the week as Panorama approaches, and both diehard followers and casual listeners fall in to hear this year’s musical arrangements. And meanwhile the event-packed fete calendar offers parties of all sizes, prices, and degrees of bacchanal at which to practice your moves, in preparation for the two big days on the street.

When: Carnival Monday and Tuesday fall on 3 and 4 March in 2014, but Carnival events run all through January and February
Where: Venues around Trinidad and Tobago
For more info: visit

Trinidad and Tobago International Marathon

When: 25 and 26 January
Where: Venues around Trinidad
What: This racing weekend starts with a 5K run and walk at the Queen’s Park Savannah, followed by a half-marathon from Frederick Settlement, Caroni, and the pièce de résistance: the marathon beginning at St Mary’s Junction, Freeport
For more info: visit



Follow the rainbow

“Think of a colour wheel,” says Marcia Muttoo of the Cayman National Cultural Foundation, “with all its nuance, brilliance, contrast and harmony. These are the qualities our national festival Cayfest uncovers and celebrates.” Launched in 1995, Cayfest is an annual showcase of Caymanian art, music, theatre, film, fashion, and more. Beginning with the National Arts and Culture Awards — recognising stalwarts of the Cayman arts scene — the programme includes a Dress for Culture Day, when ordinary citizens are encouraged to show off the traditional dress of their various cultural backgrounds. The climax is the Red Sky at Night Festival, when the grounds of the F.J. Harquail Cultural Centre on Grand Cayman are transformed into a nighttime wonderland of performances, exhibitions, and more, in a grove of illuminated trees — the whole spectrum of the islands’ cultural heritage captured in one place.

When: 27 February to 1 March
Where: F.J. Harquail Cultural Centre and other venues
For more info: visit

Cayman Cookout
When: 16 to 19 January
Where: The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Island
What: French chef Eric Ripert hosts other gastronomic titans at this four-day event. Foodies can sample fare from José Andrés, Anthony Bourdain, and others
For more info: visit



Mount Gay Rum Round Barbados Race Series
When: 15 to 24 January
Where: Barbados Cruising Club
What: Since January 1936, sailboats have competed in an annual race around the island of Barbados. Today this is just the centrepiece of ten days of regatta events, including a three-hundred-mile Barbados-to-Antigua ocean race, ending in English Harbour
For more info: visit



Port-au-Prince Jazz Festival
When: 18 to 25 January
Where: Venues around Port-au-Prince
What: A week-long celebration of international jazz in Haiti’s capital, drawing on Haiti’s incredible musical traditions and training a new generation of performers through a series of workshops and masterclasses. 2014’s line-up includes Martinique’s Bwakoré, Soul Rebels of New Orleans, the Chilean Angel Parra Trio — and that’s just the start
For more info: visit



Fi Wi Sinting
When: 16 February
Where: Somerset Falls, Hope Bay, Portland
What: At this day-long celebration of Jamaican culture, visitors get to sample sweet potato pudding, fried fish, and bammy, while listening to traditional mento and storyteller Amina Blackwood Meeks’s tales of the mischievous spider Anansi
For more info: visit



Havana International Book Fair
When: 13 to 23 February
Where: Fortaleza de San Carlos, Havana, and other venues around Cuba
What: By far the biggest literary event in the Caribbean, if you go by attendance — over two million Cubans come to hear authors read and debate, and to look at book displays by many dozens of international publishers



Get mashed

In most countries, patriotic holidays are commemorated with parades, flag ceremonies, maybe fireworks. To mark Republic Day every February, Guyanese throw a gigantic Carnival-like festival instead, and call it Mashramani. As with Carnival in other Caribbean territories, Mash is preceded by weeks of fetes, concerts, and cultural competitions. On the day itself, costumed revellers “wine up” through the streets of Georgetown to a soundtrack of soca and chutney music, while decorated floats sponsored by community groups, businesses, and government agencies convey a host of messages, from advertising slogans to nation-building mottos.

When: 23 February
Where: Venues around Georgetown
For more info: visit



Grenada Sailing Week
When: 30 January to 4 February
Where: Port Louis Marina
What: Who can turn down the opportunity to experience a pirate party, a dinghy concert, plus first-class yacht racing? That’s what organisers have in store for you at Grenada Sailing Week
For more info: visiti



Book your way

Founded in 1533, Cartagena de Indias on Colombia’s Caribbean coast is famous for its beautiful walled colonial city, its history as a long-ago target for pirates, and its connections with the famed writer Gabriel García Márquez. The latter’s the reason that the Hay Festival, based in Wales, has established one of its growing number of global offshoots here, and Hay Cartagena, now a regular January fixture, is certainly one of the most glamorous literary events in the Caribbean region. Cartagena takes its writers seriously, and at Hay — with its mix of readings, performances, and discussions on topics literary and otherwise — Colombian and Latin American authors rub elbows and trade banter with their peers from around the world, in both Spanish and English (with simultaneous translation). Just don’t let the gorgeous views of the old city distract you from the heady debates.

When: 30 January to 2 February
Where: Venues around Cartagena de Indias
For more info: visit