Words by Tishanna Williams—
Greetings from Tobago!
Along with breakfast came the best news—It’s unofficially a holiday on the island! Easter weekend on Tobago culminates on Tuesday, not Monday like most other Caribbean islands. And as if the island isn’t already in hyperdrive with one of the Caribbean’s biggest music festivals, Tobago Jazz Experience, right around the corner, today sees a festival of another kind happening in the seaside village of Buccoo.
Buccoo is legendary for its weekly Sunday party, aptly called Sunday School ,which goes ’til the sun comes up (and we literally did dance ’til the sun came up yesterday). But on the Tuesday after Easter, a different type of tradition takes over, luring tourists as well as locals and weekenders from across the water in Trinidad to the village.
This event was started in 1925 by Barbadian Samuel Callender, as entertainment for the lower classes. Why Tuesday? So as not to coincide with the horse racing of Easter Monday, reserved for local gentry. Today, the races, now organized by the Buccoo Goat Race Festival Committee, are a staple. No joke thing, the jockeys—young men who run along with the goats, urging them forward to the finish line— train along with their charges for up to two months prior to the event. Jockeys need to be as fit as their animals as a goat is disqualified for outrunning their jockey.
‘Crab and Dumplin’ is Tobago’s national food but today those delicious blue crabs will be serving another purpose. Crabs are attached to string held by the jockeys and urged forward with thin bamboo rods. Some races involve a straight course. In others, a large circle is drawn around jockeys and their race crabs. First crab out wins with their owner pocketing the prize and the losing crabs getting curried down for pride of place on a bed of dumplings. Yum!
And when the sun goes down we feting in Buccoo all night. We promise to take a wine for you. And if you in Tobago, check out our rules for wining before you hit the fete.