Dr Carrie Gibson is a historian, journalist, and author of Empire’s Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day and has completed a manuscript on the Hispanic past of the United States, which will be published by Grove Atlantic in 2018. Dr Gibson will be joining Aegean Odyssey on three of her sailings this winter: A Passage to the Caribbean, Eastern Caribbean and the Grenadines and The Cuba Experience, so to allow you to get to know her a little better, we sat down and enjoyed a short Q&A session.
You have a PhD in History from the University of Cambridge, what attracted you to study History and in particular, focus on the Caribbean?
Before I became a historian, I worked for almost twenty years as a journalist. As exciting as it was to see up close the ‘first draft of history’ – as the saying goes – I had the urge to dig deeper. The Caribbean really called out to me in part because it is such a diverse region. The British, Spanish, Dutch, French, and even Danish and Swedish had colonies here, and the legacy from that time is that each island has a unique history and culture. Plus, I had studied Spanish and found I could put it to good use researching Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.
Your book ‘Empire’s Crossroads’ has been a huge inspiration for Voyages to Antiquity and our cruises to Cuba and the Caribbean. What was your inspiration to write this book?
Precisely because the Caribbean is so diverse, much of the academic scholarship is forced to be quite specific. So people who work in English sources tend to write about the English speaking-islands, likewise with French or Spanish. Yet, as everyone who sails around it will see, these islands are so intimately linked, and they have been so for hundreds of years. I wanted Empire’s Crossroads to reflect those connections. In addition to the islands’ relationship to each other, I also wanted to illustrate the Caribbean’s importance to the wider world as well. It continues to be a global crossroads.
You are well traveled, are there any interesting stories you wish to share?
Any time spent in Cuba is always an adventure! For me, one highlight is just strolling around Havana at dusk, when the fading tropical sunlight hits the colorful buildings. It’s like being in a photograph.
You are joining us on three cruises during 2017-18, what destination are you looking forward to visiting the most and why?
I’m very excited about revisiting Cape Verde on the Atlantic crossing. These islands may seem a long way from the Caribbean, but they too are connected to the larger West Indian story. The pace is relaxed, plus there is the mournful but entrancing morna music that Cesária Évora made famous around the world. Martinique is another place I’m also looking forward to seeing again. It is unique mix of French and Caribbean culture, and two of the most striking buildings in the region are in Fort-de-France: the glorious St Louis Cathedral and the Bibliothèque Schoelcher, which, with its ornate interior, book-lined walls, and large windows, is a readers’ dream library (well, this reader anyway). Finally, it’s always a joy to go to Cuba and I can’t wait to see Santiago once more. It’s a whole different side of the island.
Are you able to give us a sneak preview of what topics you will speak about on board?
Cuban history will certainly be on the agenda, as there is just so much to discuss, especially as the island is entering a new era. I’ll also be discussing the colonial past of the Eastern Caribbean, which involved a lot of competition and overlap between the British and French, as well as some key moments from more recent times too.
What is your next project that we can look forward to?
My next book tells the history of Hispanic people in the United States, and while it took me at times all the way to Pacific Ocean, I was never too far from the Caribbean. After all, people from Central America, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic have long formed important immigrant communities within the United States.