I’m a born and raised Curaçaoan, a Yu di Kòrsou (YdK), but when I returned to my island after nearly 15 years in the US, Chad, and Nicaragua, I was seen as a ‘local foreigner’ with ‘strange views’ on some issues compared to those who mostly never left the island. Did I change? Absolutely. Did I have (still have) ideas that were conceived by what I’d call best practices abroad that could be implemented or discussed here? Yes. Wait, hasn’t it been proven that a balanced influx of new people and ideas contributes to growth, dynamism, and progress?
It’s mind-boggling how our young minds who every year embark on their studies abroad are told “to soon return” yet we don’t exactly roll out the red carpet when they do. The same politicians who waved them away lambast them for having earned a title, for having acquired a different take on life, music, eating habits, and whatnot. How are we going to convince them to return? Remember, we’re in a population crisis with rampant depopulation and aging. (I haven’t even talked about the financial and housing issues that hamper our diaspora from returning).
We need a strategic policy on immigration and diaspora. As part of this strategy, we have to have a conversation about how much we expect the (returning) immigrants to give up in order to fit in. Can they keep their heritage, culture, language, (acquired) eating habits, and taste in music and sports? Who has the recipe, and who decides? Do we want assimilation, integration, or a common set of values (unconditional love for this island) that unite us?
It’s obvious that we can’t afford to hold on to antiquated ideas and definitions of the YdK regarding skin color, origin, or whether he can dance tambú or not. History has taught us that those who blindly cling to tradition, unwilling to change or open up to the world, eventually perish. George Lichtveld nailed it when he said that we can’t go on practicing small-town syndrome. We need to celebrate our diversity, open up to new things, and have a global focus.