When in Rome…

April 1st, 2008
by Alfonso Ebanks

[private] v6-4-Our IslandsOn a bright sunny morning not too long ago I found myself on the main street on the Cay in Bonacco. My attention was drawn to the lovely roll of a piano playing a very familiar tone. As I drew nearer I realized that it was Saturday morning and the music was coming from the large cement building that dominates that part of the cay-the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

I noticed that even though the music was very familiar, the lyrical component was in another language. As one of the few original Bonaccains left and an avid churchgoer in my youth, I found the singing of the Old Rugged Cross in Spanish quite strange.

I had never given it a thought before, but on that day I wondered if Jesus could speak Spanish and my train of thought went back to the fact that I had never questioned his ability to understand and speak the English language.

I guess this stems from the fact that as a kid I always had the idea that Jesus was an English-speaking Caucasian. The locals call the building the “Spanish Church” and, though it bears no resemblance at all to what most of us imagine a church should look like, the Spanish-speaking followers of the Seventh Day Adventist religion gather there to have their worship and other meetings.

It has been a while now since the Seventh Day Adventists on the island of Bonacco have been split into two groups-English-speaking and Spanish-speaking. The original English-speaking church took the back seat in attendance.

It has been about a hundred and twenty years since a great grand aunt of mine brought the Seventh Day Adventist message to these islands from the United States. For all these hundred odd years the church in Bonacco has prevailed through all kinds of troubles and tribulations. With this new arrangement pulling the younger members of the religion towards another gathering place, I don’t see much of a future for the Original Church.

The little white church house in the middle of the Cay was once the focal point of this town, and all the hard-working people of the Cay would gather on Saturday morning to sing praises, commune with their God and greet their neighbors. The original building of that little white church house has long since been replaced with a more modern structure, but there is hope that the traditions will continue.

This division of the Seventh Day Adventist Church is just one of the symptoms of a great change that is taking place on Bonacco. The old catch-phrase, “When in Rome do as the Romans do,” does not apply to our situation because the Spanish people came among us bringing their customs and their language. They came in such numbers that we were the ones who had to adapt. Instead of the newcomers learning English, we as the largest minority on the island had to learn Spanish.

They came to Rome and changed the Romans. Pitiful, but it brings to mind the words of a native who predicted that in a period of fifty years the English language on Bonacco would be a thing of the past. That native has been dead for about twenty five years, so we don’t have long to go. Adios Amigos. [/private]

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