It was a midweek delight to stop by Heritage Day events in West Bay on a Wednesday in 2015 as ‘Bayers’ put on their proud displays for their guests to see.
As with every district day, there was food, which sold quickly. But even before you could get to the food, including tasty heavy cakes, you had to pass by the old-time Caymanian house, black coral jewellery displays and thatch products and talent on display.
Among those demonstrating the art and showcasing her products was Marlena Anglin.
“I’ve been making my hats and my thatch products from [the] time I was nine years old. My mother taught me because we made rope – that was the biggest industry of the island back then,” said the 82 year-old artisan.
That was in the days when the Silver Thatch Palm played an important role in the lives of Caymanians, including its use for making durable rope for shipping and fishing. Exporting rope was Cayman’s largest source of revenue back then.
“Sometimes you had to travel from West Bay to South Sound to get them but we did it all on foot. Today, I can still remember and I’m proud we did it,” said Ms Anglin, who recalled buying her first pair of shoes at age 14 from money earned making thatch baskets.
“I am still doing that thatch [but] I don’t have to travel that far to get the thatch because I [have] got over 200 plants in my yard,” she said with a smile.
Other than Heritage Day, Miss Marlena, a proud “born and bred West Bayer” has found time to pass on her knowledge to the youth.
“I went to the schools to teach the children, I had them at the house teaching…and I would show them how it is dried, how it is cut and make the rope, make the anything else that I knew to show them,” she said, adding that she has yet to see the products of the talent she has passed on.
Maybe those children were not on hand but others were. Committee chairperson Eziethamae Bodden said the Church of God afterschool programme (which was running during the day because of the mid-term break) brought some children by the heritage site. Also, three busloads of students from Cayman Prep stopped by.
“It’s been great,” she said. “They were all excited and the children were asking a lot of questions and had their notebooks.”
Over the years, more schools would bring their students by but that was not possible with the break coinciding with Pirates Week this year. However, Ms Bodden was pleased with the children who came. “I applaud any school that take their children out to teach them about Caymanian culture and heritage because I think it is becoming lost,” she said.