Carib Indians of Dominica
Hard conditions help the Caribs retain their physical heritage
Visiting the Reserve, you'll immediately note that today's Caribs, like those of old, are a hearty-looking group characterized by narrow shoulders and short legs.
In the 15th and 16th centuries the Caribs were renowned for their strength; the tradition endures.
Many small children start their conditioning early by carrying buckets of water up and down the steep Reserve roads several times daily. While some households do have tap water, they're the exception.
After outgrowing their water brigade years, the Caribs continue their strenuous exercise by working on the banana plantations. You can regularly see both women and men carrying huge stalks of bananas in the fields or beside the roads.
Back in the 1970s and even into the 80s, bananas were toted to the processing plant by foot alone because the only motorized vehicles on the Reserve were the buses and vans that transported workers to and from the capital city of Roseau.
The Carib's favorite mode of travel today is the pickup truck, the most practical vehicle for hauling large cargoes of fruit.
Entering the Reserve from the north, the traditional great house or “Carbet” located near Salybia shows the type of dwelling that once housed the extended Carib families.
The building, usually closed, is sometimes used by the Karifuna Cultural Group that stages dances and plays all over Dominica and abroad.
Employing traditional costumes, these performances are expected to be the highlight of the new model village. (Karifuna, sometimes spelled Garifuna, is the Carib word for “Carib.”)
Near the Carbet you'll usually find several Carib women with tables of handicrafts patiently waiting at the side of the road.
One of the regulars is Aphine Darroux, an elderly woman who specializes in basket making, the most traditional of Carib handicrafts. Using vines from the rainforest to create her black, brown and wheat-colored basket designs, Aphine spends about two days weaving just a single large container.
Yet she ends up earning considerably less than most burger flippers in fast food restaurants. Her biggest watermelon-size baskets sell for just $35.