682. Bòmbòshi: One Awesome Word, Many Meanings

The first “Keep Calm and Carry On” appeared on a World War II-era British public safety poster, commissioned by the temporary Ministry of Information of England in 1939. The slogan was tucked away for many years then experienced a major viral surge during the 2009 global economic crisis: the Keep Calm-o matic image generator allowed users all over the world to make their own “Keep Calm and X” posters. Collections of these images have been featured on Inspiration Feed, BuzzFeed and Apartment Therapy. Online marketplace Etsy lists more than 10,000  items featuring the original phrase as well as derivatives: Keep Calm and Write On, Change Words and Be Hilarious, Keep Calm and Call Batman, Keep Calm and Consolidate All of Your Debt into One Easy Monthly Payment, etc etc It was just a matter of time before Curaçao [Jokes] would hop on the “Keep Calm” wagon…

Source: Curacao Joke Facebook page.

Source: Curacao Joke Facebook page.

The clever slogan made its Facebook debut earlier this week to loud chuckles.

Why didn’t I think of that?! I wondered.

I mean, “Bòmbòshi”  (pronounced Bombosheeee) is one of my top 5 favorite words (out of the 4 languages I speak). An irreverent party in your mouth, to me, the word represents Curaçao’s playful, passionate — and sometimes chaotic — temperament. So without giving it too much thought, I shared it on 1000 Awesome Things about Curacao’s Facebook page and saw the Likes and Shares come flooding in [3 days in, the original post has received 900+ Likes and 500+ shares]

Granted, a few hours later, I received this private message from a dear fan and past contributor:

“I praise your effort to educate our people — and everyone around the world interested in our rich culture. But today I have to say I’m very very disappointed in your post about “I’m from Curacao and we never keep calm, We love bòmbòshi!” Are you serious? Is this how you want to portray our awesome curacao? (…) I sincerely hope you pay more attention to what you post in the future for it may affect the good image you are working so hard to achieve and maintain. It is very difficult as it is to educate our youth about the good manners we Curaçaoans are known for — our respect for one another and our elders. (…) Just keep in sight your primary goal which (I think) is to promote the POSITIVE things we have on our AWESOME Curacao!”

Aye. Scratched my head. She has a valid point.

I had shared daring, tongue-in-cheek Facebook posts before, but this particular one seemed to have struck an emotional chord. And not just with this thoughtful person. Public comments such as “speak for yourself…” and “only the civilized kind of bòmbòshi!” and the pointed: “is loving bòmbòshi awesome?”

Well, is it? I wasn’t so sure anymore. So I decided to share the constructive feedback with my Facebook friends in the hopes of getting more insight into the sensitive matter.

The resulting thread is nothing short of awesome and, therefore, most worthy of sharing.

Tatiana: Everyone has their own concept of what bòmbòshi means… this is a learning experience…

Desi: In the post’s case, bòmbòshi means ‘masha dushi messss’ [=most enjoyable / hedonistic], like Cache Deluxe’s song “bòmbòshi, alegria den pueblo, bochincha den fiesta…” (below)

Juan-Carlos: Like many words in Papiamentu, bòmbòshi can be inverted. Bòmbòshi is the idea of being disorganized, chaotic, conflicting, but it could also be the expression of ambiente, confidence, self-assurance and collective enjoyment. This is a long-standing discussion on our island. It’s about what it means to have ‘desensia’. What is desensia? Is it the adopted European etiquette of being reserved, rational and poised? Can you be desente and also love bòmbòshi? I personally like the fact that bòmbòshi is ambiguous and that you played with it. And it is only beautiful that people raise this question. That is exactly what makes us Caribbean and awesome! There is no one right position.

Jairo: I was just about to write a whole epistle about personal interpretations and positivism, when I saw that Juan-Carlos beat me to it.There is beauty in every aspect of our earthly existence and thus also in every aspect of our Caribbean being. Also in the things some of us are ashamed of and would rather people not find out about us. The power of growth and maturing lies in having the courage to show your whole self. Izaline Calister does this beautifully in her song Mi Pais. I for one do love a good bòmbòshi from time to time!

Louis Philippe: All of you beat me to it. The concept of ‘bòmbòshi has for some been the opposite of European notions of respectability, ‘desensia’ and being ‘hende nèchi’ (well-mannered) — and perhaps even the fact that we refer to moments of abuntant collective enjoyment as bòmbòshi or bochincha signals a legacy of colonial times when our cultural habits (our music, festivals) would have been negatively judged. Things have changed. I can see we are far too paranoid to show our whole selves as a culture and people because we fear that we will be judged. We forget that people from other places do not have the same hang-ups that we do–that in fact they come to us looking for cultural experiences of ambiente, and yes, even bòmbòshi.

Patricia: I think this [referring to the above thread] is what makes us awesome! Juan-Carlos, Jairo — so well-articulated. Folks should stop whining and see the beauty and positivism in our affinity for bòmbòshi.

But, yes, like everything else in life, there are degrees of bòmbòshi. So I revise my initial gut reaction: moderate bòmbòshi is awesome — more bòmbòshi beyond that is excessive.

[By the way, I fully recognize the irony in this post]

About 1000awesomethingsaboutcuracao

I'm Carolina Gomes-Casseres, the creator of 1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao. I live in and love Manhattan, but sometimes miss my first Awesome island...

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