From Grand Case to New London, Connecticut
In the early 20th century, Saint-Martinois people came to the coastal city of New London as it was an epicenter of fishing and manufacturing. After establishing a tight-knit community in the heart of the city, Saint-Martinois spread around New London, breaking the cultural and social barriers that existed when they first arrived in the city. Their experience as migrants was shaped by discrimination and racism in New London. Moving forward, the Saint-Martinois people have assimilated into New England society while maintaining their cultural heritage as they hold annual family gatherings.
The Saint-Martinois identified themselves as West Indian and did not accept the racial system of the United States that called them black; they were not “colored” but rather “West Indian.” Racial discrimination was part of daily life upon emigrating from Saint Martin. This discrimination came in the form of low-pay, menial labor, as well as a struggle in school due to their accents, which were perceived as ‘broken English,’ even though they were native English speakers.
In New London, St. Martin identity is expressed through food, dance, and social gatherings. Johnnycakes and their importance were noted throughout the interviews, as well as the significance of seafood. Although recipes were not always written down, which has caused some level of difficulty to recreate traditional meals, the community cooks dishes that remind them of their childhood and their heritage.
In addition to raising thousands of dollars, this committee also reinforced the sense of community in New London, giving people a reason to come together through a common desire to help.
Facebook page for the relief committee
Students in the History of Anthropological Theory course in fall 2018 conducted interviews with members of the St. Martinois community living in New London, Connecticut.