Easter masses in Tobago were not only religious services, but also the huge influx of local visitors ("the Trinis") to the sister isle. In my eight-going-on-nine years of living here I have never seen that much traffic –vehicular or pedestrian – on roads, in groceries, at gas stations, on beaches, at establishments...everywhere.
With closed borders ruling out other travel options, Trinidadians descended upon Tobago’s shores in full vacation mode. The hordes were eagerly welcomed by tourism-dependent commercial enterprises – from crafts and fruit stalls to villas, hotels, bars, restaurants et al.
When asked what the Easter mass of Trinis did for her business, one entrepreneur (most likely voicing the sentiments of many other Tobagonian businesspeople) answered without hesitation: “They saved it! They saved the economy of Tobago, and for that we are very grateful.”
One businessman admitted that sales were good.
“But,” he said, shaking his head, “those Trinis! Blasting music in the nearby guesthouse at 11 in the night!”
“How about at 4 am?” his fellow businesswoman interjected.
(As I write this, at 7.48 pm on April 6, from the sounds of it, some kind of fete – perhaps an alcohol-fuelled Easter las’ lap – is in progress somewhere. Within the past hour, the following lyrics have blasted their way over to our street: “All man wine up on a woman, all woman wine on a man...” “Over hills and valleys too, don’t let them fool you,,,” “It’s a pity you already have a wife, and me done have a man inna my life...” “Murder she wrote, murder she wrote...” “Telephone love, you sound so sweet on the line...”
The media reported 10,000 local visitors to Tobago – a quick-fix Easter "resurrection" for what has become a comatose economy since the onset of "the virus."
For some Tobago-dwellers, the thousands of extra bodies on the island were not necessarily viewed in a favourable light, especially with news that Covid cases were on the rise, seemingly from the vacation "population explosion."
Returning home after teaching yoga at Kariwak on Good Friday evening, I aborted plans to stop on the Crown Point strip for something to eat (take-away) upon seeing legions of limers. In Carnivalesque spirit they thronged the sidewalks and road – many maskless, or with masks slung under chins to allow talking, laughing, eating, drinking, smoking. Imposing-looking police officers stood on the sidelines, some armed with what appeared to be large automatic rifles, observing the revellers, but doing nothing (at least when I drove by) to insist upon "protocols."
“...When the Trinis leave” was a mantra that I heard on several occasions from several Tobago-dwellers who, understandably, decided to shelve beach plans, shopping excursions and other public outings over Easter in order to avoid encountering the masses and the possibility of contracting covid19. A form of self-imposed lockdown was a choice made by many.
Covid or no covid, I am no lover of crowds, so apart from early-morning bike rides, a few jaunts to the grocery, attendance at a fundraising book and thrift sale and teaching my Friday evening yoga class, I remained at home, relaxing and savouring the peace – far from the "maddening" crowd.
Some Trinidadians, also keen on avoiding the masses, chose to book flights and villas for a belated, post-multitude Easter vacation in Tobago.
One such Trinidadian, initially excited about enjoying her sister-isle getaway, shared her concerns with me via telephone:
“I thought I was doing the smart thing to put distance between our Tobago vacation and Easter. But even though we are booked and have paid in full (non-refundable) I’m having regrets...because of what I’m reading in the news about all the people who went over to Tobago. I’m scared of a Covid surge and possible lockdown. While it sounds nice to be ‘stuck in Tobago,’ the practicality is not so good.
“And now the Prime Minister has covid too!
"I was surprised they didn’t do a lockdown or curfew. A lot of countries around the world did that, particularly for Easter. I’m keeping myself away from people. I have my bubble, but they have their own lives,,,and you can never be sure who has it.”
A plane drones overhead, most likely shuttling sun-kissed vacationers back to the Trini grind.
“See you next long weekend, Tobago,” they must be whispering behind their masks.