Darcus Howe finds violence in Tobago

In Scarborough, the capital of Tobago, I attend a sad ritual some 400 years old

I am at present in Tobago, a small island and a rural society that has changed little from the African villages of the past. And every now and then, such societies receive a short, sharp shock from our globalised world. Tobago has just had such a shock.

Tobago is the birthplace of Dwight Yorke, now the shining star of Blackburn Rovers. He has kept his innocence, along with a handful of fellow professional footballers from this island and from the sister isle of Trinidad, where oil pumps and natural gas have lifted the economy straight into line with global society.

The young Dwight Yorkes are plucked out to play in Europe, Brazil and China. They are handsomely paid and given elegant living quarters. They return to simple village life at the end of the season.

I was last here in March and my friend Roachie, who runs a local bar, came to pick me up at a mutual friend's on my way to the airport.

Roachie is a kind man. We chatted of the talent now pouring out of this island of 50,000 people. He told of his son Rawlston, a childhood friend of Yorke's, who attended the same school and is also a talented footballer.

I landed here a few days ago for a winter holiday, and contacted Roachie at once. His son was dead. He had returned from China to his well-appointed flat in the east of Trinidad before heading to Tobago for his birthday and the Christmas holiday.

But news of his riches had spread and attracted jealous eyes. Voices called at his door: "Rawlston! Rawlston!" And the young man appeared.

His last words were: "Take everything." The bandits blasted him through the chest.

The young of Tobago bore Rawlston's lifeless body through the capital, Scarborough, in a ritual some 400 years old. African drums of war and chants of revenge commanded silence. Then he was driven out to the village where he was born, to the football pitch where he kicked his first ball, then through every single street where he walked as a child, past every house where he had lived, and the drums insisted that a life was lost worthlessly. I could not, would not, take my eyes off Roachie.

The clash between the old world and the new had captured the life of its first victim in Tobago. I was there.

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