THE QUEEN AS INTERMEDIARY

In secular terms, the Queen historically functioned as the intermediary between the Carib community and the wider society.

Queens are selected, in part, for their ability to deal with the public, and maintain a high standard of protocol on public occasions. Queens have hosted many visitors, both foreign and local, including other Caribbean Amerindians, archaeologists, filmmakers, prelates, mayors, Prime Ministers, Presidents, and past Governors

In religious terms, the Queen was also the intermediary between the Carib community and Saint Rose. As Justa Werges explained, she saw herself as Saint Rose’s special earthly ambassador, charged with preparing the annual Feast in honour of the Saint.

 

THE QUEEN AND THE SANTA ROSA FESTIVAL

In the past, all the Carib Meetings and festivities of Santa Rosa were held at her home. The statue of Santa Rosa was often kept there. While she was Carib Queen it was customary for the first Station of the Cross to be said at her home.

Previously, as in the period dominated by Maria Werges and Edith Martinez (1930s-1970s), the Queen was the sole authority figure, with authority largely limited to preparations for the Festival period.

The Queen was responsible for overseeing all cleaning and decorations of the Church for the Festival, as well as cooking and providing food for those who worked for the Festival, and in leading prayers and the procession on the Festival Day. The Queen prepared the statue of Santa Rosa for the celebration. The Queen also received and controlled whatever funds or donations were forthcoming for the preparations for the Festival.

THE QUEEN AS THE KEEPER AND TEACHER OF TRADITIONS

The modern Carib Queen is seen by the Community as someone with a significant knowledge of tradition or a keeper of traditional knowledge. She is also selected for her piety.

Areas of traditional knowledge includes cassava processing, basketry and weaving and the medicinal use of indigenous flora

THE AUTHORITY OF THE QUEEN

The Queen is not normally a “ruler” of the secular sort. However, some Queens sometimes spoke of their “sovereignty” and of “ruling” their “subjects”, part of their “right” stemming from their “divine accession to the throne”

There is little to suggest that the Queen of the Caribs had little authority over the Caribs outside of the Santa Rosa Festival, which was her main focus of activity as the Queen.

WHAT AUTHORITY AND RESPONSIBILITIES DO THE QUEENS OF THE CARIBS HAVE?

This is actually a contentious issue, and one whose answers will vary depending on the time period one is considering when answering this question. Today, the Queen is little more than a titular figure, appearing for public occasions of the Santa Rosa Carib Community, and having little or no say in the running of the Carib Community. The President is the prime decision-maker, controls funds, and has the greatest input in selecting the Queen though she is ostensibly elected by members of the Carib Community.

Previously, as in the period dominated by Maria Werges and Edith Martinez (1930s-1970s), the Queen was the sole authority figure, with authority limited to preparations for the Festival period. She was responsible for all cleaning and decorations of the Church for the Festival, as well as cooking and providing food for those who worked for the Festival, and in leading prayers and the procession on the Festival Day. The Queen also received and controlled whatever funds or donations were forthcoming for the preparations for the Festival.

In the contemporary Carib Community, I was told by key spokespersons that the Queen was elected for her knowledge of Carib traditions, her ability to pass on that knowledge and offer training in weaving skills amongst other things, and for her ability to deal with the public, receive visitors, and maintain a high standard of protocol on public occasions.

 

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