Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Obama heads to the Caribbean

President Obama, and Secretary of State Clinton will be heading to Trinidad for the Summit of the Americas.

Davidow previews Summit of the Americas

Amb. Jeffrey Davidow, President Barack Obama’s special advisor on the upcoming Summit of the Americas, briefed the State Department press today on plans for the summit, which is scheduled to take place April 17 to 19 in Trinidad and Tobago. Leading the U.S. delegation will be Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he said.

On the U.S. agenda for the 34-nation summit, Davidow said, are the economy, the issues of inequity and social development, the environment, clean energy, and public safety.

Obama “is going to Trinidad with the intention of listening, discussing, and dealing with his colleagues as partners,” Davidow said. “One of his concerns, and indeed the concerns of everyone at the summit, but particularly of the President and the Secretary of State, is the question of equity.”

The State Department has its own web page on the upcoming Summit, as well as a Facebook page which includes a recent video of a Telemundo interview with Obama (English and Spanish versions).

I have assigned the students in my Caribbean Studies class to pay attention to the press coverage of the event, and to discuss the issues facing the Caribbean (specifically) and Latin America (in general).

AP had this article:

Obama travels aimed at re-engaging hemisphere

Obama will spend Friday through Sunday in the twin-island Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago for the Summit of the Americas, a gathering of 34 Western Hemisphere nations. The leaders are eager for their own photo-opportunity moments with Obama, but they also want assurances that the U.S. is going to fix its economy and help them recover too.

“The perception coming up from the south (is) that in recent years the United States has turned its attention elsewhere, has neglected its relationships in this part of the world,” Jeffrey Davidow, Obama’s principal adviser for the summit, told reporters Monday night.

“Whether one agrees with that perception or not, it certainly is a very strongly felt perception,” he said. “And I think this summit will give him the opportunity to meet with all the heads of state, listen to them, exchange views and come away with new ideas.”

Each semester, I open my class handing out blank maps of the Caribbean Basin, asking students to put names to each country.


I have never had a student who could identify more than 5. Even students whose parents are from Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic fail to identify more than the islands of their own ancestry.

The average is 2 or 3 – and some students cannot identify any of the island or mainland basin countries or areas.

When asked to identify Caribbean heads of State, the only name the students can come up with is Fidel Castro.

Sadly, the Caribbean is an area that gets news coverage only when a hurricane is passing over on the way to Miami.  Rarely is much (or anything) taught about the Caribbean in high schools, and there is still very little at the college level.

Yet much of the history of the rise of modern industrial capitalism is rooted in the wealth provided by the Triangle Slave Trade and New World sugar production.

For those of you who’d like to take the test see if you can correctly place:


Antigua and Barbuda




British Virgin Islands

Cayman Islands




Dominican Republic








Netherlands Antilles


Panama/Panama Canal Zone

Puerto Rico

Saint Barthélemy

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Lucia

Saint Martin (France)

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

USVI- St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John

Answers found here .

I will be following the news coverage of the event, from Caribbean as well as mainland news sources  and hope to have more diaries about it, and issues affecting the region in the days ahead.

So how well did you do?

(cross posted at Daily Kos)


  1. DeniseVelez

    A commenter to my DKos diary posted this and one other:

    Coco Tea – Barack Obama

    Thought you all might enjoy.

  2. sricki

    but only because of a class I took in 2003 for an International Communications minor (which I never bothered to fully pursue) in undergrad. We had to memorize the 192 member states of the UN (I seem to remember beating myself up over misspelling “Kyrgyzstan” on the test). Those are the only ones I can place on the map. That’s a good exercise to do with your students. I really don’t know near as much about the region as I should, and I honestly can’t recall studying most of those places at any time during grade school.

    Thanks for the info, I’ll be keeping an eye on the Summit.

  3. I got 13 out of 28. Do I get a gold star? I’m ashamed to admit that I’d forgotten which one was Grenada and that I didn’t know the small island to the northeast of Trinidad was Tobago. I couldn’t identify any of the small nations among the Leeward Islands, but do I get credit for knowing they were the Leewards? I also lumped the Virgin Islands together, since I couldn’t identify which were US and which British.

  4. …and some others in the wrong place. But I should have done better with my cultural advantage – my (adopted) brother’s father was from Barbados, and given the number of Brits whose grandparents came from the Caribbean, you don’t get far without learning the difference between between Bajians and Trinidadians, or Jamaicans and Antiguans.

    So fail for me. Back in the dunce’s corner.

    Nice diary Denise. Keep us posted on the summit

  5. HappyinVT

    about the Cuban policy changes in Spanish at the presser Friday (?).  First time that has ever happened.

    Also, Al over at The Field has an interesting idea for who could be the new Envoy for the Americas.

    I’m off to take the test now.  Shh, no talking.

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