TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The one-day Culture Uma Fest, held on Saturday (April 17) at Taipei's Maji Square, was a resounding success that drew a large crowd eager to learn more about Caribbean and Latin American culture.
The inaugural event was organized by Flvcko Events, founded by Vincentian student Ari Shaw, with assistance from the Taiwan Digital Diplomacy Association (TDAA), founded by Chiayo Kuo (郭家佑). The festival showcased Caribbean and Latin American culture through performing arts and food, with more than 100 Caribbean students in Taiwan sharing a taste of their home country.
According to Shaw, the word “Uma” comes from the Garifuna language, meaning "path" or "way." Garifuna is spoken by the Garinagu people who were exiled from St. Vincent and the Grenadines to Central American countries in the 18th century as a result of British colonial wars.
In an event press release, Shaw stated that both Caribbean and Latin American cultures are beautifully blended with European, African, and Indigenous cultures to form independent yet fluid cultural identities, which the festival intends to put on display.
In addition to local residents, a number of representatives from Taiwan’s diplomatic allies attended, including Ambassador Andrea Bowman of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Ambassador Edwin Laurent of St. Lucia; and Ambassador Jasmine E. Huggins of St. Christopher and Nevis. A total of nine embassies and two representative offices in Taiwan had presences at the festival.
Ambassador Bowman stated, “This type of cross-cultural exchange with this fusion of Caribbean and Latin rhythms, sights, tastes, and songs, in a Taiwanese setting satisfies one of the principal purposes of the diplomatic missions in the ROC.” She added that the Saint Vincentian embassy in Taipei legitimizes Taiwan’s sovereignty and solidifies the country’s place in the global context.
She continued by saying, “This year, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines celebrates 40 years of its diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Despite this length of time, the cultural highlights of our country and other Caribbean and Latin American countries for that matter, are still struggling for recognition on the Taiwanese stage.” However, she pointed out that she was glad the event had come to fruition and that she hoped it would become an annual event.
Additionally, Bowman stressed the severity of the aftermath of the La Soufriere volcano eruption. She said, “The situation in St. Vincent is quite bleak because the volcano is erupting intermittently, about every 13 hours, so the ash is piling up one layer after another. At this time, we really need the help of the international community.”
In light of the natural disaster that led to the forced evacuation of more than 20,000 residents on April 9, the ambassador has launched a fundraising campaign in Taiwan, hoping to pool the efforts of Taiwanese to help her home country.
Commenting on the huge turnout for the event, Ambassador Laurent stated, “This for me was quite a surprise and an eye-opener… I never expected anything like this.” He said that meeting other Caribbean people and feeling the warmth and friendship of Taiwanese made him feel like Taiwan is a home away from home.
In regard to the La Soufriere eruption, Laurent stated, “When one of us is in pain, all of us are suffering. But more importantly, not just the neighbors, but those from all over must come to support those who are in need.” He also urged the crowd to donate whatever they could to help the Vincentians.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Huggins also expressed concern for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and was surprised by the magnitude of the Culture Uma Fest.
Kuo stated that "[TDAA] aims to help connect the different foreign communities in Taiwan with the local Taiwanese community. If Taiwan wants to raise its visibility on the international stage, we must first have a deeper understanding of different countries and regions.” She continued by saying, “We will continue our efforts to help more foreign friends to promote their cultures to Taiwanese, and we hope that through collaboration, Taiwanese and foreigners can build deeper and more solid friendships.”
The festival featured upbeat performances from multiple dancers and musicians including the Honduran Cultural Troupe in Taiwan, dancers from the Belize Taiwan Association, Saint Lucian singer Rankings, Kittitian steel drummer Stephen Richards, Haitian musician Tooly, and a folkloric dance team of Paraguayan students in Taiwan.
There were a total of 18 businesses and organizations there promoting Caribbean culture, including Sweet Tooth by Martha, Yuca Taipei, Sabor Venezolano, Jenny Nails Bar, Bakeology, Hair by Josuan, Sun Brazil, Las Adelitas, the Belize-Taiwan Association, the Saint Lucia Embassy, and the Embassy of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Man cooking El Salvadorean pupusas. (Taiwan News photo)
Saint Lucian embassy cultural booth (Taiwan News photo)
Paraguayan dancers (Taiwan News photo)