Need to know | Events calendar (Nov/Dec 2018)

Essential info to help you make the most of November and December across the Caribbean

  • The celebration of Las Parrandas de Remedios nears its dramatic climax. Photo by Stephen Smith/Alamy Stock Photo
  • Preparing the  garland of firecrackers at Paramaribo’s Owru Yari. Photo by Jason Rothe/Alamy Stock Photo
  • In the heat of Nassau’s Junkanoo rush. Photo courtesy Bahamas Ministry of Tourism
  • Makatau Petroglyph Trail. Photo courtesy Esther Sam
  • Karasabai. Photo ponsulak/
  • Dadanawa Ranch. Photo by Nicholas Laughlin
  • Photo by Splingis/
  • What We Carry II (2018, charcoal, graphite, pastel, and acrylic on paper, 9 x 5 feet), by Heino Schmid. Image courtesy the artist
  • Maurice and Barracuda (2018, digital photography), by Melissa Alcena. Image courtesy the artist
  • Power Girl (Queen Versus Queen) (2018, “African” Chinese wax fabric, hand sewn into laser canvas prints with hanging counterfeit Chinese pearls and Asante/Ashanti handmade beads from Kumasi, Ghana), by April Bey. Image courtesy the artist
  • Merissa Aguilleira on the field. Photo by Mark Nolan —CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images
  • The victorious West Indies team at the 2016 ICC Women’s World Twenty20 tournament. Photo by Indranal Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images
  • From left to right: Kevinia Francis, Samara Emmanuel, Christal Clashing, Junella King, and Elvira Bell — the Team Antigua Island Girls. Photo courtesy Team Antigua Island Girls
  • Photo by Amanda Richards
  • Photo courtesy Green Screen Film Festival
  • Photo courtesy Cayman Pirates Week Festival Office

Don’t Miss: Las Parrandas de Remedios

Across the Caribbean, Christmas is celebrated with lights, music, food, and family. In the Cuban city of Remedios, a hundred miles east of Havana, it’s also celebrated with noise — lots of noise. The seasonal festival of Las Parrandas de Remedios, running from 16 to 26 December, supposedly began when the local priest asked a bunch of children to make as much noise as possible to wake parishioners for mass. What started then as a clamour of pots, pans, and tins full of pebbles has evolved over the centuries into a massive display of fireworks, accompanied by conga bands and illuminated floats, and ending in a blazing competition between two neighbourhoods.

How to get there? Caribbean Airlines operates two flights each week to Havana’s José Martí International Airport from Trinidad, with connections to other Caribbean destinations

Must Try: New Year celebrations

In New York City, the iconic ball drop over Times Square welcomes the New Year. Over in Hong Kong, the transition is marked by a dazzling display of fireworks. Popping Champagne, counting down, or reflecting and giving thanks at church services are other popular traditions around the world. As 2018 comes to a close, and the ink on your resolution list begins to dry, here are three exciting ways to see in 2019 across the Caribbean.

Owru Yari

Paramaribo, Suriname
31 December

On the morning of the last day of the year, downtown Paramaribo is closed off to traffic. Bleachers and platforms line the streets, drink and food vendors fit into even the smallest crevice, and live bands and sound systems fill the air with music. In the midst of it all, small red firecrackers woven into a huge garland run for almost a mile through the main streets. As noon approaches, police officers clear the way and people automatically reach for their earplugs. The loudest pyrotechnic display in the Caribbean ignites. Confetti fills the air, music pumps, and the jubilant crowds cheer. The spectacle finally winds down as midnight approaches.

Foxy’s Old Year’s Party

Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
31 December

There’s hardly any standing room. Great Harbour is packed with boats and dinghies. The catalyst is one little beach bar on the island known for throwing the Caribbean’s best Old Year’s party. Musicians from around the Caribbean perform while guests dine and dance barefoot in the sand. Foxy himself mingles with the crowd, many of whom are return visitors. He quickly learns and remembers your name, and sometimes weaves you into the lyrics of a song, making you the centre of attention. Libations of Pain Killers, Dread Foxes, and Sly Foxes — his legendary cocktails — are highly recommended as you usher in the New Year with friends and fireworks. 


Nassau, the Bahamas
1 January

Vibrant handmade costumes and floats prepared with thousands of strips of colourful crêpe paper, cardboard, feathers, and glitter come alive on Bay Street for Nassau’s New Year’s Day Junkanoo parade. The sweet sounds of brass bands invite cheerful onlookers to move to their melodies. Beginning just after midnight, the parade is in full swing for hours. Bells, cow horns, and whistles accompany the masqueraders as they “rush” along the parade route, breaking out in choreographed dances. What better way to start a thrilling 2019?

Shelly-Ann Inniss

Top Three: Rupununi adventures

Guyana’s Rupununi Savannah is a five-thousand-square-mile region of vast rolling vistas, packed with flora, fauna, wetlands, and forest. It’s the Wild West, but the Guyanese version. Here are three places to experience the Rupununi’s remote grandeur.

Dadanawa Ranch

Once the world’s largest cattle ranch, still home to traditional vaqueiros, and now also a base for intrepid eco-tourists, who can join the action in parting the herds, or shepherding the cattle into the corral. On your safari, look out for jaguars, anacondas, and giant anteaters. At night, the clear sky yields to the Milky Way, providing tranquillity and an ideal opportunity for photographers.

Makatau Petroglyph Trail

Three kilometres outside the Wapishana village of Aishalton, Makatau is one of Guyana’s best archaeological sites for petroglyphs (ancient rock carvings) — or timehri, as they’re locally known. This rock art is estimated to date back to 3,000 to 5,000 BC, with over six hundred representations of humans, animals, geometric arrangements, and plants etched in stone around the site (above right).


The Rupununi is a birders’ paradise: harpy eagles, storks, ibises, herons, and dozens more are eager to show off their beauty in your binocular viewfinder. Almost any location in the savannahs will offer new species for your life list, but the village of Karasabai is special: here is one of the most accessible remaining populations of the endangered and brilliantly plumed Sun Parakeet (at right).

Camping in the open, grappling with rough terrain, and toiling up undulating hills are part of the Guyana savannah experience. From 20 to 25 November, the South Rupununi Safari will take adventurers on a trek through the region and across the border to Boa Vista, the capital of the Brazilian state of Roraima. The safari passes through several indigenous villages, encouraging participants to explore different cultures in new environments. Prepare to explore little-known places within the Rupununi while meeting the indigenous peoples who’ve lived here for generations.


How You Say: Talk like a local at parang time

Trinidad’s distinctive Christmas music, parang, is derived from the folk music of Venezuela, across the Gulf of Paria — complete with Spanish lyrics. And during parang season, with fiestas and competitions in full swing, you’ll hear many Spanish words and phrases flying fast and furious. Here’s some basic parang terminology to get you started.

Parranderos: The singers and musicians who go from house to house, singing in an old Spanish dialect, sometimes with English sprinkled in

Parranda: The act of spreading musical cheer 

Cuatro: A small four-stringed instrument in the guitar family, a parang staple

Maracas (or shak-shak): A pair of rattles, usually made from calabash gourds

Güiro (or scratcher): A hollow open-ended instrument with a serrated surface played by rubbing a stick along the notches to produce a rasping sound

Guarapo: An upbeat song on any topic

Estribillo: A lively number involving calls and responses from the audience

Despedida: The final tune, giving thanks for sharing good times with the host

On View: NE9

Fifteen years ago, the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas’ first National Exhibition was a landmark for contemporary Bahamian art, launching a biennial series that serves as a sometimes controversial, always vivid cross-section of visual developments in the northern Caribbean’s archipelago nation. The ninth National Exhibition, NE9, opens on 17 December, 2018, and runs through March 2019. Showcasing the work of over thirty Bahamian artists — practising across mediums as diverse as photography, video, performance, painting, installation, digital art, drawing, discursive conversation, and poetry — NE9 takes for its theme “The Fruit and The Seed,” looking for works that answer to social practice and engagement, inviting thought about communities and the larger world.

NAGB chief curator Holly Bynoe shares some highlights to look out for. “Heino Schmid has been doing provocative work for years,” she says. “He keeps a rigorous studio practice and continues to have surprises up his sleeve. There are also several emerging artists whose ideas and experimentations give us chills, including Melissa Alcena, Averia Wright, Edrin Symonette, April Bey, and Gabrielle Banks. Tiffany Smith, whose work has been making waves across the US, will be showcased for the first time at the NAGB.” Another new face to Bahamian art-lovers is Jenna Chaplin — “someone who, to my knowledge, hasn’t participated in the field,” says Bynoe.

Word of Mouth: “When other teams play against the West Indies, they come hard”

Laura Dowrich finds out how the West Indies women’s cricket team is preparing for the 2018 ICC Women’s T20 Cricket Championship, running for two weeks across the region in November

This isn’t the first time the West Indies have hosted the ICC Women’s T20 Cricket Championship, but in 2018 the tournament is being held as a standalone — that is, not alongside the men’s championship, but as the main event. As expected, the West Indies women are excited, not only to play before their countrypeople, but also to keep the trophy in the region. Batswoman, wicketkeeper, former team captain, and overall motivator Merissa Aguilleira tells us how the team has been preparing, and why fans’ support is so crucial.

How do you feel about the West Indies hosting the T20 tournament again?

I am pretty excited. It’s always a good experience to play in front of your home crowd, it is more motivational. I truly believe the preparation over the past four months will pay off. 

You are the reigning champs — what would winning the trophy again mean to you and the other players?

It would mean that 2016 was not a fluke. A lot of people were leaning towards Australia, and we came out there with one mission, to bring it home. Winning a second time, in front of our home crowd, history would be created. Just thinking about everything we have been through as a team — to do it on home soil, in a standalone tournament, we want to be able to accomplish it.

Tell us about the preparations for the tournament so far.

We have been in camps in Antigua, three so far — first one was a month, second one was two weeks, and the third one three weeks, so we have been working hard. We are dealing with our skills, mental preparation, fitness, dealing with the media — it has been an all-round camp, very informative.

Has the camp experience brought you all closer together?

Right now, we are in a series against South Africa, and a lot of people are talking about the team looking well on the field, and you can see the comradery. We are like a family now — once you are a family off the field, it is easy to transfer that onto the field. 

Do you think that, as reigning champs, the WI women’s team will have an advantage with the game being held here in the region?

Yeah, we will definitely have a home advantage. Some of the countries are trying to come to the West Indies earlier to get used to the climate, the pitches, and the environment. We have lived it, we know how our pitches play, and we have to stay a step ahead of the rest.

Do you think there is much excitement around women’s cricket right now? And what can we do to improve that?

From where I started off to now, it has grown tremendously. We have to be ambassadors for the game — we need to market ourselves, we need to go out there and play exciting cricket, because that is what people want. The popularity of the game has been moving to a different level, but we need it to move faster.

This tournament will see the use of an Umpire Review Decision System. How do you feel about that?

It is pretty exciting, because on many occasions the players have been trying to get that going, and people would say it’s about time the women’s game has this — so we are moving up to the men’s’ level. It’s about time we break this stereotype.

Are there any particular teams you are excited to play against?

I am excited to play against all, even though there are top teams in the competition, such as Australia and England — they really dominate. I know all the teams, when they play against the West Indies, they come hard.

Any last words to Caribbean cricket fans?

Come out and support us. I am talking on behalf of the team, I know we can go out there and produce good cricket. All we can ask for is the support, and we cannot do it without the fans.


From November 9 to 24, the top women cricketers from around the world will come to the Caribbean for the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2018. The ten-team tournament — featuring three-time champions Australia, reigning ICC Women’s World Cup winners England, plus India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, defending champions the Windies, and two other qualifiers — will be played across three venues in the Caribbean.

The November tournament will be the first-ever standalone ICC Women’s World Twenty20 event. All twenty-three matches will be broadcast live for the first time, while the Decision Review System (DRS) will be used for the first time in any ICC World Twenty20 event.

Defending champions the West Indies are in Group A, along with England, South Africa, Sri Lanka and and one more qualifier, while Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, and the final qualifier will be in Group B.

The tournament will open at the Guyana National Stadium, continuing at the Darren Sammy Cricket Ground in St Lucia. The Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in Antigua will host both semi-finals on 22 November and the final on 24 November.

The Windies team is led by all-rounder Stafanie Taylor of Jamaica, rated as one of the best women’s players of all time. She has alongside her Denadra Dottin, who became the first woman to score a century in a T20 when the West Indies hosted the tournament back in 2010, and Hayley Matthews, who was Player-of-the-Match in the final when the West Indies won back in 2016.

The West Indies have an excellent track record in the event. They won in 2016, and reached the semi-finals in 2010 in the Caribbean, 2012 in Sri Lanka, and 2014 in Bangladesh.

Great Outdoors: Rowing for a cause

Since 1997, the annual Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge has begun in the Canary Islands and finished in Antigua. Yet until 2015 there had never been a Caribbean team attempting the row, considered one of the toughest races in the world, in which individuals or teams of up to five people row across the Atlantic in a tiny boat. It sounds crazy, but it raises thousands of dollars for charity each year (each team competes for their favourite).

In late 2015 and early 2016, the entire country of Antigua and Barbuda watched in amazement as pioneering Team Wadadli made their way across the Atlantic. Inspired by these dauntless men, two years later another Antiguan team came a close second to the fastest finishers in race history, completing the race in only thirty days on 13 January, 2018. The next challenge? An all-female team, currently training for this year’s race (which begins in early December).

Team Antigua Island Girls includes Elvira Bell, Christal Clashing, Samara Emmanuel, Kevinia Francis, and Junella King. Four of them will actually compete. They’ve set their sights on being the top female contenders, and are planning to be among the top five finishers overall. 

Elvira Bell has been a natural athlete all her life. The thirty-six-year-old is a keen swimmer, martial artist, and certified health coach. By day she’s a flight dispatcher, and at first she wasn’t specially keen on taking up this particular challenge, but no became yes after her best friend Kevinia Francis insisted they join.

Francis, for her part, has been imagining an all-female crew since the original Team Wadadli competed. “This challenge epitomises all that I live for in one go: sports, travel, competition, country, charity, new experiences, and creating memories,” says the forty-year-old.

Meanwhile, Samara Emmanuel was the first Antiguan woman to become an RYA-certified yacht captain, and at thirty-two, she has more than a dozen years’ seafaring experience. Emmanuel has a passion for the water — as does Christal Clashing, who made history in 2004 as the first female swimmer to represent Antigua and Barbuda at the Olympics. Now twenty-eight, and a travel writer, she was excited to join the women’s team after being inspired years ago by the journey of the canoe Gli-Gli through the Caribbean.

And the youngest member of the team, Junella King, is only seventeen. A keen sailor, she juggles sports and schoolwork, and her interest in the race was inspired when Team Wadadli, post-race, visited her school. 

The team are rowing for the charity Cottage of Hope, a home where girls from newborn to age eighteen can find a safe, secure, and stable place to live when their family lives are unsuitable. It’s as good a reason as any for these intrepid young women to undertake the adventure of a lifetime.

Bridget van Dongen

To support the Team Antigua Island Girls in their journey, visit


More highlights of November and December across the Caribbean

Green Screen Film Festival, Trinidad

31 October to 3 November
If our islands become uninhabitable because of climate change, where will we go? Green Screen 2018 opens with the “compelling and visually sumptuous” documentary Anote’s Ark, set in Kiribati. The Pacific island nation is one of the most remote places on the planet, confronted with the prospect of imminent obliteration from sea level rise.

Pirates Week Festival, Cayman Islands

2 to 18 November
The party begins in Cayman Brac from 2 to 4 November with a bonfire, heritage displays, parade, and fireworks. The festivities then move to Grand Cayman (8 to 12 November), with fun-filled days of food festivals and a “Pirate Pooch Parade.” On 10 November, pirates will “invade” the islands, “attacking” from the sea at Hog Sty Bay in George Town Harbour. Traditionally, the governor is “captured” and the pirates “run amok” before being cast off again for another year.

New York City Marathon

4 November
Adrenaline pumps through first-time and seasoned runners aiming to complete the 26.2-mile journey at one of the world’s most celebrated marathon events, making its way through all five boroughs of the Big Apple.


6 and 7 November 
Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Suriname
Houses are adorned with lanterns and deyas as the festival of light is celebrated by Hindu communities. Divali symbolises light over darkness, and good over evil, as believers venerate Lakshmi, deity of prosperity and good fortune.

St Kitts Sugar Mas 

15 November to 5 January
St Kitts celebrates Christmas in Carnival style. The lead-up to the Grand Parade includes spectacular parties, infectious calypso music, and performances of all kinds — a season of sweetness. 

Cavalcade of Lights, Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto

24 November
Over 525,000 glistening LED lights illuminate Toronto’s giant Christmas tree, bringing festive cheer to onlookers. Live musical performances, a spectacular fireworks show, and skating parties mark the start of Toronto’s holiday season.

Nine Mornings Festival, St Vincent and the Grenadines

In the wee hours of the nine mornings leading up to Christmas, fetes, street concerts, and steelband jump-ups bring joy to all around SVG.