Letters & Opinion

Grenada, Guyana and Friday the 13th

Image of NRC Chairman Earl Bousquet
Image of Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

My Brewer’s describes ‘Friday the Thirteenth’ as: ‘A particularly unlucky Friday’ and adds that ‘One falling in February in a non-Leap Year will also fall in March and November.’

This being a Leap Year, as I started penning this piece before sunrise yesterday, I couldn’t tell whether Friday 13th 2020 would be less ‘particularly unlucky’ or not.

Fridays have been named differently over time for different reasons, called everything from Good Friday to Bad Friday, Bloody Friday to Red Friday, Man Friday to The Nine First Fridays.

But Fridays were not always only about bad luck.

Northern Europeans associated it with Venus (Goddess of Love); and the Norsemen regarded it as the luckiest day of the week, when weddings took place.

Instead, the conflict over Friday being a bad day has many religious bases.

Christian fundamentalists largely view it as the worst day of the week, as the day of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Fridays were therefore set aside as a day of compulsory abstinence for Roman Catholics, who were urged to set it apart ‘for some voluntary act of self-denial.’

Friday is also held unlucky among Buddhists and Brahmans.

But it is the Sabbath and Day of Prayer for Muslims, who hold that Adam was created on a Friday, he and Eve ate the ‘Forbidden Fruit’ on a Friday — and both died on a Friday.

In England, since ‘Friday’s child is loving and giving’, pregnant mothers still tend to pray their child is born on that day.

Friday was also Hanging Day in England, when criminals were executed.

But there are also several historical Caribbean connections to Friday.

Robinson Crusoe named his Tobago guy ‘Man Friday’.

But Christopher Columbus also set sail from Europe on a Friday in 1492, to seek new worlds to conquer for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain – and it was on a Friday that he first sighted land.

When Columbus sighted Hispaniola that Friday, he was actually lost at sea and had no idea where he was.

He mistakenly thought he was all the way in India, which led to the naming of the island chain he and later Europeans conquered through mass extermination by native genocide to establish slavery as ‘The West Indies’.

Number 13 was also regarded as unlucky by the Romans, who held it as a sign of death and destruction.

Christians forever remember that Christ’s Last Supper was with 13 disciples; and in the Middle Ages witches’ covens were believed to always have 13 members.

As a result of all the above, the 13th of any month is still widely regarded by many as an inauspicious day on which to undertake any new enterprise – and it was traditionally held among mariners (back in time) that the 13th day of any month is a bad one for ships to set sail on, especially if it’s a Friday.

The superstition attached to Number 13 is such that today, Friday the 13th is a franchised theme for popular box-office-busting thriller (horror) movies by that very name being replayed every time that date visits the calendar, featuring the worst and most gripping tales of extreme and inescapable bad luck visiting innocent people.

This level of superstition around Number 13 has become so consciously accepted that it haunts the hotel industry in even the most unseen ways.

For example: Have you taken an elevator to a hotel’s 13th floor? Not that there aren’t 13th floors in those ‘skyscraper’ hotels worldwide, but when last were you booked on one?

Superstition aside, the 13th day of any month is like any other – just another normal day when things happen – and in Grenada’s case the March 13, 1979 Revolution started on a Tuesday morning.

The time had come to move while the nation slept, to save lives and liberate a people and country — and the last thing on the minds of the revolutionaries that morning was the day or the month.

Forty-one years later, the revolution’s anniversary fell on a Friday the 13th and while some may find reasons to ruse, most will rather muse over a historical calendar coincidence that does nothing to change anything about the fact that it happened when it did.

The time had come and it was simply time to move.

Guyanese Christians today may have reason to consider themselves unlucky, even doomed, to have been visited with their future being decided by a controversial ballot count on a Friday the 13th in 2020 – and waking-up that morning with no sign that any end result, by whatever method counted, will be accepted by the losing party.

But Grenadians at home and abroad, Caribbean people and the whole wide world have for the past four decades been able to first see and feel the Grenada Revolution for four-and-a-half years — and then miss it for 35.

Never mind acts of confession or contrition and genuine apologies after each serving longer than a legal lifetime in Hellish conditions paying the time for their crime, surviving revolutionaries, including those who traded guns for Bibles, repented and become men and women of The Cloth, are still pilloried from near and far for costly mistakes that led to the revolution’s suicide and trampling of its corpse by invading forces six days later.

Forty-one years later, the revolution’s history has revealed truths hitherto sealed tight and hidden deep about what really happened, not only during the revolution, but also before and after.

Books have been written and thousands of articles continue to be penned, poems are still being recited and plays staged, a Caribbean movie has been made, analyses are still being made by historians and academics of the Left, Right and Center – and everywhere something is being done, however small, to keep the memory of CARICOM and the English-speaking Caribbean’s first genuine Revolution alive in 2020, for the rest of the 21st Century – and beyond.

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