An appropriate acronym for Guyanese

Stabroek News
August 22, 2001

Dear Editor,

Following up on your editorial (SN 07-04-0) and many letters (Umar Saied, SN 8-17-2001; Ryhaan Shah, letter SN 8-17-2001, [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] among others) on the subject of how Guyanese refer to themselves with various prefixes such as Afro and Indo Guyanese, permit me to introduce the appropriate acronym that is truly representative of Guyana: PACAWI (pronounced, pack-ka-wee).

PACAWI, of course, means Guyanese of Portuguese, Amerindian, Chinese, African, White, and East Indian descent, who by inheritance share or exclude themselves from a culture, a tradition and genetic relationships in or out of Guyana.

If someone calls you a PACAWI, this is because you can trace your family tree to all the six ethnic groups in Guyana. There are a few such Guyanese families with this type of genetic connection, coming from large families that can construct a family tree, perhaps as far back as the early 19th century. I know of families that can genetically identify themselves as PACAWI, among others. But most Guyanese only know of a few ethnic pairs, such as dugla (IA), santantone (PA), buffianda (AA), mulatto (AW) and CA for which I don't know the name.

These are all African based pairs, with each of the other five ethnic groups. But all other ethnic pairs, or persons with three, four and five different ethnic backgrounds have no known Guyanese names, because of the difficult social and political history of our past. In fact, all such persons, including the African based pairs were referred to as "mixed", which is the fastest growing group in Guyana as revealed in the last poverty survey or census.

Race is by inheritance and not by personal choice. In Guyana, the toothpaste is already out of the tube and cannot be returned to its original place. A personal choice to be a PACAWI may perhaps save Guyana from mayhem, but inheritance by itself may be insufficient. So for my CXC friends, here is a math problem for you: Could you work out all the other possibilities you can derive from taking six things two, three, four and five at a time? This will give you some knowledge of the genotypes in Guyana and some practice in a special branch of mathematics.

Meanwhile, attending a Guyanese family reunion, a big thing for many families in North America, may bring together a mix of phenotypes that do not look anything like each other, but genetically these persons share grandparents and a common ancestry. So cousins removed on either side of two parents could be different by what you see (phenotype), but have more in common genetically, something you do not see casually. In other words, when names do not match faces and ethnicity, as already observed in Guyana, then beliefs not updated by current facts could land you in hot water. Ask a staff member in the human resource office in any large business or government department in Guyana and listen to their response. The toothpaste is already out of the tube, so we either brush for a bright smile, celebrating our collective uniqueness or keep the expanding cavities (ouch!!).

While I empathize with some Guyanese for wanting to make a connection to their genetic heritage, such as Indo Guyanese, or Afro Guyanese, it might be more appropriate for them to write, I am Guyanese and follow this with the chosen set of letters from the acronym PACAWI, such as PAAI, PAW, CI, I, W, etc, etc.

Finding out who your relatives are before the old generation passes-on might be a meaningful exercise, for "truth-telling" must not only come at "visa-time" or at "death-announcements", but it should be part of the current discourse as we discuss relationships, in order to find common ground and enlightenment.

Finally, nothing more will be said by me on this subject, so it is back in my next letter to the important issue of the day: the economy, jobs, electricity and how to make the dwindling economic pie bigger so that every PACAWI can be made better off.

Yours faithfully,
Dr. C. Kenrick Hunte
A PACAWI by choice