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“Where de Lizard?” Why the Caribbean is Fascinated with Them

These little creatures have different meanings in other cultures. Ancient Romans believed that the lizard symbolized death and resurrection, because it sleeps during winter and reawakens in Spring.

For the Greeks and Egyptians, the lizard represented divine wisdom and good fortune.

In the Caribbean, lizards have special significance as well. Jamaican blogger Nadine Tomlinson examines the many ways in which lizards feature prominently in local folklore and old wives’ tales:

In Jamaica, old-time people say, ‘If a lizard jump on a woman, it mean she pregnant, or soon pregnant. […]

Old-time people say, ‘If you dream ’bout lizard, it mean you have an enemy.’

She likens the fascination with lizards to the region's African heritage, noting that “throughout the entire continent of Africa, the lizard recurs again and again as a motif in popular culture.” She cites the carving of the lizard icon on doors in West Africa, saying that in some tribes, it represents household tranquility; in Cameroon, it represents fertility.

Interestingly, one of Trinidad and Tobago's most beloved calypsonians, The Mighty Sparrow, sang a popular song called “The Lizard”, which humourously deals with aspects of sexuality:

Playing in class with a lizard in a glass
The lizard get away from Ruth and run by the teacher foot!
Oh Lord, the children frightened hmmm…wonder what gon’ happen,
But the teacher laughing out ‘kee kee kee’, only watching everybody.

The lizard run up she foot and it disappear…
Everybody still searching everywhere.
Where mih lizard, teacher Mildred?
Under she dress, taking a rest.
The way she jolly and happy, I swear the lizard must be tickling she!

While Tomlinson, like most Caribbean dwellers, take the presence of lizards as a given and feels a certain affinity to them, for her, there are a couple of exceptions to the rule: the Jamaican croaking lizard and ground lizard, both of which “creep [her] out”:

Normally, the former tends to be pale, although I’ve seen some in darker hues, and one with spots a couple of times. Yes, they croak, yes, they’ve kept me up at night, and yes, they can be brazen. […] Once, one fell off the ceiling, and almost dropped on my head. Never mind that it didn’t. Just the thought of it stuck in my hair, and the sound of its sticky plop! on the floor was enough for me to start hollering.

As for the latter, as its name suggests, you would be hard-pressed to find it in a tree. This kind is large and long, with an even longer tail, and slithers. They’re fast, too. One chased me when I was a little girl, so I’m convinced they bite. […]

I wonder what old-time people have to say about those two.

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