There are plenty of reasons why the Caribbean islands are one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world.
The beautiful beaches and warm weather are just the beginning of what makes that area of the world a gem. Those in the know understand how valuable the rich culture of the Caribbean is and how much its spirit pervades and influences the Harlem community.
If you can get away to St. Lucia, Jamaica, or the Bahamas for some R+R, good on you! If not, consider bringing your blood pressure down and de-stressing with some Caribbean vibes in your heart and mind, right in your own neighborhood. After all, they say vacation is a state of mind.
You know what we’re talking about. We’ve all had a meal that warms us up and makes us feel loved. From johnny cakes from Lolo’s Seafood Shack, to jerk oxtail from Freda’s Caribbean and Soul Cuisine, to callaloo and curry chicken at Sisters Caribbean Cuisine, Harlem offers the best selection of authentic and perfectly delicious food from the islands north of where these foods were invented.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good meal. Excellent food, eaten with people we love is transformative to our spirits and our well-being. There’s a reason the matriarch in your life made you sit down to dinner, right? It’s a mini-vacation in and of itself.
A little Toots and the Maytals can go a long way to brightening a gray commute. Go ahead. Try listening to “54-46 Was My Number” without swinging your hips just a little. No one has ever had a more evocative voice than the one and only Bob Marley, who brings you right down to Kingston with him to hear the stories he and his friends stay up late sharing. So, get on board. Close your eyes and be transported by the phenomenal talent the Caribbean music scene produced. If you have the space, move your body to the rhythm. Exercise, catharsis, and an all-around good feeling for zero cost is nothing to turn your nose up at.
The right outfit perks up your day and even makes folks around you smile with appreciation. Get into the relaxed, easy, lovely style of sun-loving culture with the right pieces. A splashy floral print can put a spring in your step. Cute espadrilles add comfortable, classic beachy elegance to any look. Great sunglasses and a big floppy hat are practical and fun for any outdoor time, whether walking Riverside Park or soaking up the afternoon on your best friend’s stoop.
It’s not just the heat of the sun that makes Bermuda, Antigua, and their neighbors’ legendary winter escapes. It’s the whole package. Yes, the air is warm, but it’s a green, lush warmth. New York City, being one of the most diverse places on earth, offers up some sultry substitutes for you to borrow on your staycation. Check out the New York Botanic Garden greenhouses for that same luxe warmth on a cold day. Soak in a tropical scented tub any time of year. When Harlem temperatures heat up, check out our own Harlem Rose Garden, Covent Garden, and other community gardens.
The Writing and Art
From romantic comedies to thought-provoking social commentaries, our Caribbean brethren have inspired enough literature and art to enrich a lifetime. Consider Port-Au-Prince native Jamaica Kincaid’s “Annie John” for a glimpse into Antiguan life. Explore Derek Walcott’s paintings and poetry, and experience his time in St. Lucia.
Escape to a happy ending through Terry McMillan’s “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” set in gorgeous Jamaica. Do a Google image search Puerto Rico’s Daniel Lind-Ramos or Cuba’s María Magdalena Campos Pons for some art to feast your eyes on. Better yet, do some quick searching for artists from the island closest to your heart. They all have something wonderful to offer.
Most of all, the point of carrying the Caribbean around with you, any day, any place, is to breathe and smile. There is so much to be grateful for out here. Life is complex, tough, challenging in the best and worst ways. So, remember to insert some of that indomitable island joy into how you think and move through the City.