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Celebrating Dominican Independence with Vibrant Festivities in St. Croix

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A joyous celebration of Dominican heritage, a woman showcases her national pride with the Dominican Republic flag painted across her pregnant belly. Photo by ERNICE GILBERT, V.I. CONSORTIUM.

The vibrant celebration of the Dominican Republic’s 180th independence anniversary, traditionally marked on February 27, found a jubilant expression in St. Croix this Sunday, February 26. This year’s event, the 15th of its kind on the island, was a colorful testament to the rich cultural heritage of the Dominican Republic, featuring traditional attire, music, and an array of significant traditions from the DR, alongside a demonstration of the community’s increasing economic influence.

Kicking off at the historic Basin Triangle in Christiansted, the parade made its way to Canegata Ballpark. The event culminated in a festive ceremony attended by dignitaries and community members alike, with local vendors offering a taste of Dominican cuisine and culture. The parade showcased an array of cultural expressions, from traditional masquerade costumes and local majorette performances to bikers and bands, drawing together a wide spectrum of the community.

The Dominican community’s presence in St. Croix is not just a cultural showcase but a burgeoning economic force. Dominicans have been instrumental in diversifying the business landscape of the USVI, making significant contributions to sectors such as construction, food and beverage, and beauty, and holding influential positions within the government.

Senator Samuel Carrion, proud of his Puerto Rican and Dominican heritage, highlighted the Dominican community’s integral role in the economic and cultural fabric of the Virgin Islands. “The Virgin Islands is a melting pot, and St. Croix, in particular, is enriched by the diversity of Caribbean cultures and beyond,” he observed. The senator eloquently traced the historical ties and migrations between the Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic, underscoring the interconnectedness and shared heritage that bind these communities together.

“The celebration of Dominican Independence Day here is a vibrant affirmation of our shared Caribbean identity, showcasing the ways in which Dominican traditions and contributions have become woven into the fabric of Virgin Islander society,” Carrion added, acknowledging the hardworking Dominican entrepreneurs and community members who enrich the islands’ social and economic landscape.

Bion Lorenzo, President of the DR Independence Celebration Committee, spoke to the growing influence of the Dominican community, not only in business but also in the fabric of family and societal integration within the USVI. He projected a future where the voices of Virgin Islanders with Dominican ancestry will increasingly resonate in the territory’s democratic processes.

Senator Kenneth Gittens expressed his admiration and support for the Dominican community, noting their vital contribution to the cultural and economic vitality of the Virgin Islands. “As we celebrate the rich tapestry of cultures that make up our community, the Dominican Republic’s independence anniversary is a joyous occasion that underscores our collective heritage and the bonds of friendship and unity that we cherish,” Gittens remarked, looking forward to celebrating VI-PR Friendship Day later in the year with the same spirit of inclusivity and community.

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Traditions and Customs of the Virgin Islands: How They Are Preserved

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The U.S. Virgin Islands, comprising St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, boast a rich tapestry of traditions and customs that reflect the islands’ diverse history and cultural influences. The preservation of these traditions is essential to maintaining the unique identity of the islands and is achieved through various cultural practices, festivals, culinary arts, and historical conservation efforts.

Vibrant Festivals and Cultural Celebrations

One of the most vibrant ways the Virgin Islands preserve their traditions is through annual festivals such as Carnival. Carnival is celebrated on each of the main islands at different times of the year: April in St. Thomas, June-July in St. John, and December-January in St. Croix. This grand event fuses African, European, and Caribbean customs, featuring colorful parades, elaborate costumes, calypso music, and traditional dances such as the quadrille and the bamboula. These festivities not only celebrate the islands’ heritage but also educate younger generations about their cultural roots​.

Culinary Traditions

Food plays a pivotal role in the cultural preservation of the Virgin Islands. Traditional dishes like kallaloo (a stew made from leafy greens, okra, and various meats or seafood) and fungi (a cornmeal-based dish) are staples in local cuisine. These recipes have been passed down through generations, often prepared during special occasions and festivals. Additionally, local markets and family-run restaurants serve these traditional foods, ensuring that both locals and visitors can experience the authentic flavors of the islands​.

Storytelling and Oral Traditions

The art of storytelling remains a vital part of the cultural landscape in the Virgin Islands. This tradition, rooted in African heritage, involves narrating tales that incorporate historical events, folklore, and superstitions. Storytelling sessions often feature “jumbies” (spirits of the deceased) and are used to impart moral lessons and keep the oral history alive. During Carnival, for instance, performers dressed as “Mocko Jumbies” on stilts engage the audience with their vibrant costumes and stories​.

Music and Dance

Music and dance are integral to the Virgin Islands’ cultural expression. Quelbe, also known as Fungi music, is a traditional genre that combines African rhythms with Caribbean melodies. This music style is performed using instruments made from everyday objects, reflecting the resourcefulness of the islanders. Dance forms like the quadrille, which originated in Europe, have been adapted to include local elements, making them unique to the Virgin Islands. Cultural performances by local dance companies and music groups are common, showcasing these traditional art forms​.

Historical Preservation

Efforts to preserve the physical heritage of the Virgin Islands are evident in the conservation of historical sites and buildings. Forts such as Fort Christian on St. Thomas and Fort Christiansvaern on St. Croix serve as museums that narrate the islands’ colonial history. Additionally, plantation museums and the ruins of sugar mills on estates like Estate Whim on St. Croix and Annaberg on St. John offer insights into the agricultural past of the islands. These sites are meticulously maintained to educate the public about the historical and cultural significance of the Virgin Islands​​.

Religious and Social Customs

Religious celebrations, such as Three Kings’ Day, are public holidays in the Virgin Islands, reflecting the islands’ Christian heritage. This day commemorates the visit of the three wise men to the infant Jesus and is celebrated with family feasts and gift-giving traditions. Such religious and social customs are integral to community life and help preserve the cultural identity of the islands​ ​.

In conclusion, the U.S. Virgin Islands maintain their rich traditions and customs through a combination of vibrant festivals, culinary arts, storytelling, music, dance, historical preservation, and religious observances. These efforts ensure that the cultural heritage of the islands is not only remembered but also actively celebrated and passed on to future generations.

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Virgin Islands Paté Festival: A Celebration of Culture, Community, and Cuisine

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The Virgin Islands Paté Festival, now in its second year, has quickly become a cherished event in St. Croix, celebrating the rich culinary traditions and vibrant culture of the region. Held at the Agricultural Fairgrounds, this year’s festival promises a day filled with family-friendly activities, live music, and, of course, a variety of delicious patés.

The festival, which runs from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on June 22, is organized by SMT Enterprise and Laced Legacy. It aims to provide a fun and safe environment for attendees of all ages. Admission fees are modest, with children aged 6-12 and seniors 65 and up paying $5, adults aged 13-64 paying $10, and children under 5 entering for free​​.

Patés, a beloved local delicacy, take center stage at this festival. These savory pastries are known for their crispy, crunchy dough filled with a variety of delicious fillings such as beef, chicken, saltfish, conch, or vegetables. The festival offers attendees the opportunity to sample different paté creations from various vendors, ensuring a unique culinary experience​.

In addition to food, the festival will feature live performances by local bands such as No Problemo, The TSK (Ten Sleepless Knights), and R&B artist Deri. Soca artist PUMPA and DJ Lips International will also be performing, creating a lively atmosphere throughout the day. The Guardians of Culture Moko Jumbies, known for their stilt-walking performances, will entertain the crowd with their skills​.

One of the festival highlights is the Best Paté Competition, where judges will sample and evaluate patés in categories like meat, seafood, and veggie. Winners will receive trophies, prizes, and bragging rights. There will also be a People’s Choice award for the best paté, in honor of the late Rosalia Ayala, a celebrated local chef known for her exceptional patés. This award allows festival-goers to vote for their favorite vendor, adding an interactive element to the event​.

Craft vendors will also be present, offering a range of local goods, and there will be numerous attractions for children. The festival aims to support the local community and businesses, with sponsors including Viya, Neighborhood Pharmacy, and the Department of Tourism, among others​​.

The Virgin Islands Paté Festival not only celebrates a beloved culinary tradition but also fosters community spirit and cultural pride. With its diverse offerings and inclusive environment, the festival is poised to become a staple event in the Virgin Islands, eagerly anticipated by locals and visitors alike.

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2nd Annual Virgin Islands Paté Festival Set to Delight with Food, Fun, and Culture

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SMT Enterprise and Laced Legacy warmly invite the community to the 2nd annual Virgin Islands Paté Festival, a celebration of the cherished cultural delicacy, Paté. The family-friendly event, scheduled for June 22 from 1:00 pm to 9:00 pm, promises a safe and entertaining atmosphere for vendors and attendees of all ages.

Admission and Activities

The festival offers affordable admission: $5 for children aged 6-12 and seniors 65 and up, and $10 for adults aged 13-64. Children under 5 can attend for free. This fee provides access to a day packed with activities and culinary delights.

Culinary Highlights

A highlight of the event is the array of Paté-making demonstrations by skilled vendors, offering attendees the chance to sample diverse Paté varieties. Alongside Patés, food vendors will serve a range of cultural dishes to enhance the culinary experience.

Entertainment Lineup

Festival-goers can enjoy performances by live bands such as No Problemo, The TSK (Ten Sleepless Knights), R&B artist Deri, and Caribbean Soca star PUMPA. DJ Lips International, Deh Brand, Bootlegacy, and MC Bogle will keep the energy high with a blend of contemporary and classic tunes. The Guardians of Culture Moko Jumbies will also entertain with their impressive stilt-dancing skills.

Competitions and Awards

The festival will host a Best Paté Competition, where judges will evaluate Patés in categories including meat, seafood, and veggie, with winners receiving trophies, prizes, and bragging rights. Additionally, the People’s Choice award will honor the best Paté, commemorating the late Rosalia Ayala, affectionately known as Rosa, who was a beloved figure in the Whim neighborhood. Attendees can vote for their favorite Paté vendor, and the winner will be decided by popular vote.

Acknowledgments

Special thanks go to the festival sponsors: Viya, Neighborhood Pharmacy, Twin City Dental & Dr. Chase Greep, Department of Tourism, Cruzan Rum, Virgin Islands National Guard, West Gyul, Doc’s Pepper Tonic, IB Designs, Virgin Islands Energy Office, Blue Mountain Water, East Gyul, Epok Signs & Banners, Island Thyme Charters, Hooked On Life Charters, FoodTown, Department of Agriculture, Plaza Extra East, Jelani Ritter, Das Ya Car Rental, WSTX Radio AM 970/FM 100.3, Crucian Gold, and Titan Gas Station.

Join in the festivities and experience a day filled with food, fun, and cultural enrichment at the 2nd annual Virgin Islands Paté Festival.

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