May 20, 2022

Cayman Carnival Batabano Chairman’s statement

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Cayman Carnival, Grand Cayman’s National Carnival was established since 1983, by the Rotary Club of the Cayman Islands. The word Batabano refers to the tracks that are left in the sand when the turtles come onto the beach to nest in May. The tracks are reason to celebrate because they signify that the turtle population is replenishing itself. The carnival date of Cayman Carnival Batabano is significant to the culture and people of The Cayman Islands, as each year at the beginning of May, the carnival pays tribute, celebrates and heralds in Turtle Nesting season.

As the chairperson of the Volunteer Board of Cayman Carnival Batabano, we have been tasked with the duties of organizing, planning, soliciting sponsorship and executing the carnival for the last 22 years.  To its credit the Carnival is in its 39th staging and is the mother of all Carnivals here in the Cayman Islands.

The staging of this year’s 2022 Carnival was particularly challenging as the world and indeed the Cayman Islands tried its best to maneuvered their way through the disruption that Covid-19 caused to the world to include the Entertainment Industry and revenue streams of many entities and individuals.

 It was not an easy feat to plan and faithfully pull off a parade and a carnival which had several pre-event activities with a limited timeframe, when so many protocol uncertainties loomed over our heads. The lift on road parade ban was only granted 7 days prior to the date of the actual staging of the road parade, whilst the advisory re numbers pertaining to gathering in one location came two weeks prior to the carnival date.

 Not daunted by the task at hand, through hard work and sheer determination, the 5-member committee was determined to honour the May celebratory tradition after three years of no Batabano. As a responsible entity we were also cognizant that the staging of this Carnival brings essential economically and social relief to Micro/Small Businesses, Patrons and Tourists.

Leading up to the date, the Batabano organizers were only planning a mini carnival release at Festival Green, in the event that the Government mandated ban on parades and carnivals remained in place, as well as the crowd restriction.

Uncertainty breeds lack of action. Mas band leaders in particular were reluctant to invest in mas costume production and band launches due to the uncertainty of us the organizers getting the green light to host a parade and full-blown carnival. Revelers were hesitant to buy costumes not knowing if there would be an authentic road parade. We have witnessed many carnivals and events that had to be cancelled around the world and in the Caribbean region, which resulted in many mas bands, promoters, costume designers, revelers being out of pocket and in a worst financial position than before.

Being proactive, the committee wrote to many bodies seeking clarity and answers to issues pertaining to staging, restrictions, and protocols.  To date we have so many unanswered correspondences that was sent seeking to the relevant authorities seeking clarity, so that we would be able to communicate to our public effectively and offer pertinent information which would have alleviated much uncertainly and ultimately offered comfort for further buy in and investor confidence all around. The non-communication and non-responses to our queries only resulted in more hesitation in costume and other investments overall.

With 2022 being the first year that the entertainment landscape in Cayman is returning slowly to a sense of normalcy the decision was made to relax the rules governing carnival wear – Pomp and Pageantry. As a committee one has to take into consideration the many limitations that were facing band leaders. Time, Financial Resources, Uncertainty etc. This year’s presentation was relaxed- it was a stress reliever for many, offering no band competition, no registration fees and no trophy awards.

With the short time frame to execute and the tight fiscal period many Corporations are facing – sponsorship commitment was not where it would normally be. Corporate funds were hard pressed to secure. Many thanks to Diamond Properties, CUC, Virtue Construction who saw our vision and believed in the product and financially supported Batabano, Government allotted funds although grateful, we received the week of Batabano.

 Our energies and expectations remained high and we continued to plan in hope and faith. 

On behalf of the Cayman Carnival Board, I wish to take this opportunity to thank the supportive public who came out and watched us on the road and came in their numbers to the first ever Carnival Village, the Mas bands for their tireless support, words of encouragement and participation with their limited resources, the sponsors who made it happen, the Government and the ever-faithful Masqueraders for being a part of Batabano 2022. 

I especially would like to thank the Minister of Tourism the Hon Kenneth Bryan for officially declaring the opening of Batabano 2022 Season at our Friday Night Fete – Mind Yuh Business held at Sandbar and for his promise and kind words to give more support to Cayman Carnival Batabano. We also want to acknowledge the contribution of The Director of Tourism, Ms Rosa Harris and her team for their support of Batabano 2022.

Although we went down the road this year without the usual glam, glitter and pageantry of the many costume groups, we went down the road in high spirits and being thankful for life.  Our people yearned for the much-needed release that Batabano parade afforded. 

Despite all of the challenges, lack of sponsorship, uncertainty of the ban being lifted on parades and carnivals, uncertainty of mas bands committing to putting bands on the road, silence and non-responses from government agencies to advise on acceptable protocols, or to simply make and announce decisions to enable ease of travel restrictions, Batabano was still able to actually occur and be able to introduced many “firsts” for 2022.

A first for the new route

A first for such an ending venue

A first for masqueraders to cross an actual stage where band could meet band

A first for so many various nationals to be on the road with us

A first carnival village in the Cayman Islands.

We certainly appreciate government taking their time to do checks and balances; however, we were caught in the middle awaiting decisions on a carnival, which came on April 30th

We are proud to continue to celebrate “All Nations One Celebration” with a potpourri of people living here in the Cayman Islands, coming together at Festival Green, which we renamed “Carnival Village” for the day.

 Much Appreciation to the Dart group for allowing Batabano this venue where band could meet band for the first time altogether in one space, where we had several live performers – dancing, fire breathing and limbo acts, steel pan to entertain the patrons. Food vendors and arts and crafts artisans as well as a kid’s area was offered. Many thanks to Travel Cayman who organized the sanitization stations at the site.

Respect is due to the Batabano week-end, it has been a calendar event for 39 years, even the tourists know Batabano is during the first weekend in May, they just call to confirm the exact dates. 

Batabano will always continue to endorse, promote and support carnival events leading up to the main Batabano weekend.

In closing I would like to extend an open invitation to all for volunteers to come on board to contribute in making the 40th year of celebrating Cayman Carnival Batabano a massive unified success for all.

Yours Sincerely,

Donna Myrie (Signed)

Chair – Cayman Carnival Batabano

IMAGES: BATABANO CARNIVAL FACEBOOK

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