The Cayman Carnival Batabano Committee (CCBC), the Cayman Islands Mas Band Association (CIMBA), and the Braccanal Committee, stand unified in full agreement with the public's call for the return to one carnival on Grand Cayman, like it had been since Batabano’s inception in 1983 until 2016 when a local group of private investors broke away and started their own separate carnival, CayMas, on Braccanal’s long-established dates.
In the spirit of unity, members of the non-profit Committees of Batabano and Braccanal agreed to meet with the private owner and board of CayMas to explore any possibility of a return to a unified carnival experience on Grand Cayman, in solidarity with Braccanal on Cayman Brac.
An initial meeting was held on June 6, 2018, at which the organisers of all three stakeholder carnivals presented their position on CayMas’ request for carnival on Grand Cayman to take place on the Discovery Day holiday weekend. A follow-up meeting took place on June 20, 2018 for final decisions to be made.
In the first meeting, the CayMas Chairman argued that a long weekend was needed to grow Cayman carnival from a tourism standpoint, despite the fact, as noted by the Batabano organisers, that it’s not a holiday for tourists and that visitors have always come for Batabano on the first weekend in May, often making a long weekend of it anyway. CayMas also noted having difficulties in the past with getting affordable and available hotel rates on the first weekend, but Batabano organisers and the CIMBA Chairman said they have not experienced such challenges. CayMas also noted concerns about the Bahamas now encroaching on Batabano’s dates with their new carnival, although it has been plagued with instability and lack of community and government support, particularly as of this year. They also argued that it’s difficult to find hotel rooms in Cayman Brac for Braccanal due to the island also hosting a major fishing tournament the same weekend, and suggested that Braccanal move their date to the Queen’s Birthday holiday weekend in June or another long weekend in the year. No other date but the Discovery Day weekend was proposed for carnival on Grand Cayman by the CayMas Chairman and board members.
The Braccanal Committee representatives reiterated their position from five years ago when some of the same members of the current CayMas board approached them about moving their date - the Discovery Day weekend has been a tremendously successful date for the Brac’s carnival, as well as the fact that the Discovery Day holiday date holds significant meaning for Cayman Brac as the first of the three Cayman Islands to be “discovered” by Christopher Columbus. Also, moving to the Queen’s Birthday weekend in June isn’t possible due to the RCIPS’ commitments to official government celebrations on those dates.
The Batabano Chairperson stressed that Batabano has been supporting Braccanal for many years, and that Batabano’s longstanding date on the first weekend in May has always worked well for the national carnival on Grand Cayman. The date is also symbolic for the Cayman Islands because the first weekend in May is the start of the turtle nesting season on May 1st each year, and the word “Batabano” is the Caymanian term for the tracks left in the sand when turtles go ashore to nest. Nevertheless, in the spirit of compromise, at the second meeting with the CayMas Chairman and board, the Batabano Chairperson offered to move Batabano to the second weekend in May as of the year 2020 onward, since Batabano’s 2019 dates had already been promoted this year. In 2020 and beyond, Junior Batabano would launch the turtle nesting season celebrations on the first weekend in May, Batabano would be on the second weekend, and there would be no conflict with Braccanal’s dates on Discovery Day weekend. This proposal was subsequently endorsed by the mas band leaders of CIMBA, who have also long rejected any proposals for carnival on Grand Cayman to compete with Braccanal’s dates.
However, after presenting a video outlining their uncompromising vision for “carnival unity” being to still force Braccanal to move to the second weekend in May, and for both CayMas and Batabano to do a combined Grand Cayman parade on Discovery Day weekend, the owner and board of CayMas refused Batabano’s and CIMBA’s date proposal, disregarded Braccanal’s position, and issued an ultimatum to the Braccanal Committee to change their dates by June 26th or they would launch their promotional campaign for the Discovery Day weekend anyway.
Sadly, the owner and board of CayMas did announce and launch their 2019 carnival dates for Braccanal’s published Discovery Day weekend dates, choosing to remain separate and in conflict with the Batabano Committee, the Braccanal Committee, and the Cayman Islands Mas Band Association. They also published their personal video proposal on social media without the consent or approval of the respective committees of Batabano and Braccanal, which has caused much public confusion.
Batabano Chairperson, Donna Myrie-Stephen, subsequently confirmed that with the endorsement and support of the majority of local masquerade bands on Grand Cayman, for 2019 Batabano will remain on the first weekend in May (May 1-5, 2019), with Junior Batabano being on the second weekend (May 10-11, 2019) due to the late-April Easter school holidays that year. Then in 2020 (and beyond), Cayman Carnival will launch with Junior Batabano on the first weekend, May 1-2, 2020, followed by the main carnival on the second weekend, May 6-10, 2020.
The Grand Cayman masquerade bands that support this unified decision include: Tribal Carnival (Batabano Band of the year 2018); Fresh Carnival (Batabano Band of the Year 2016 & 2017); A Reba Dilbert Creation (Batabano costume designer and band leader for 35 years); Party Animals; Carnival Nationz Cayman, Revel Unit, Illusions Cayman Mas Band; Shilpa Tagalpallewar (Indian Mas Band); and Kaotic Mas Band. More mas bands have indicated support as the community continues to join in the rally around Cayman’s national nonprofit carnivals, Batabano and Braccanal.
“We are deeply disappointed that the private group that caused this division were unwilling to compromise on their position and imposition on our two long-established carnivals in the Cayman Islands - Batabano and Braccanal," Mrs. Myrie-Stephen said. "But the Batabano Committee stands unified with the mas bands of CIMBA and with our country’s sister carnival on Cayman Brac, and we remain confident and excited about the bright future of Batabano as the tourism attraction and national tradition that it has been for 35 years.”
Echoing those sentiments, CIMBA Chairman, Olujimi LaPierre, stated: “We are eagerly anticipating Batabano 2019 on the first weekend in May and we, CIMBA, give our full support to the Cayman Carnival Batabano Committee as well as to Braccanal. Carnival is about unity and we aim to promote, cultivate and encourage such in the Cayman Islands.”
Lolita Bodden of the Braccanal Committee said: “Over the years, we have experienced continuous growth and support from our revelers and supporters, which has fueled the passion and desire of the Committee to work towards a bigger and better Braccanal. It is this commitment that has produced a Carnival almost solely Local Reveler supported, and also what encouraged the Rotary Club, Delia Hydes and now the Braccanal Committee to provide a quality event in Cayman Brac for everyone to enjoy. We are therefore confident in stating that Braccanal will continue to be in Cayman Brac on the Discovery Day Long Weekend with events starting from the Thursday evening through Monday Afternoon. We look forward to welcoming all of our new and seasoned Braccanalists in 2019 to discover the magic of Braccanal.”