As a 40-year veteran tour guide of St. Croix, Nina York writes her bi-monthly column for St. Croix This Week magazine in a manner that underlines the relaxed atmosphere and emphasizes the friendliness of the people of the island of St. Croix.
The column, Our Danish Connection, seeks to bring the reader to an understanding of aspects of the island through York’s characteristically warm reflections and insightful perceptions. The underpinning of her writing these pieces is the theme of the shared legacy and heritage of both Denmark and the islands. Now, those reflections have been compiled in a book, which has been produced by York in a joint collaboration with the Danish West Indian Society of Copenhagen and the St. Croix Friends of Denmark.
The book’s title retains the name of the column, Our Danish Connection. It is a a 76-page, letter-size volume with each of the 60 articles written in English as it originally had appeared in St. Croix This Week between February and November 2019. Each article in the magazine presents a topic in a nutshell, comprised of a half-page of text in English, in five to six paragraphs. Each piece’s brevity leads to a special understanding of that topic and is encapsulated in a satisfying manner.
With the newly published book, the articles formerly in English are now joined with their Danish translations. The columns retain the same chronological order as in the magazine, thus, seasonal articles appear at the appropriate months.
The tone of the articles is light and uplifting, supplying pertinent information of interest for visitors as well as local residents. The written atmosphere is much like “hygge,” a unique sense of Danish coziness, which York explains in the Oct.-Nov. 2017 edition. Her articles inform in a gentle, encouraging manner about the social and cultural aspects of life in the island without straying into conflict.
“My tone reflects the positive aspect of my nature. I will not deny there are conflicts and problems in Crucian life, but the primary purpose of the articles was to inform and entice readers to gain a deeper interest in this special place that they were visiting.”
York admits that aspects of colonialism had an undeniable prolonged negative influence upon the people living on St. Croix. There are, however, numerous benefits of the island’s association with Denmark that make a marked characteristic between these islands and those of other former European colonies. Noting these benefits demonstrates her affection for the shared heritage between Denmark and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“I have felt no criticism toward me as a Dane and personally have felt so little resentment against my espousing Danish connections,” she said.
While today we talk of friendship between the two political entities, this was not always the case. In her piece on the Transfer Centennial 2017, which was a full page, close-up of the benchmark date, participation in the event provided an overview and reflection of all that had occurred in the 300 years of Danish rule. York enumerates the many hardships brought about by the vagaries of climate, adherence to unprofitable sugar production, blindness to needed social, health, civil and political reforms of the people and a paternalistic attitude.
The acknowledgment of the detrimental feelings rising out of the selling of the land and a people brought forth with a renewed understanding of the serious dimensions of enslavement, colonialism and disenfranchisement. With this renewed examination, “Denmark came to realize that they had played a role not to be proud of and recognized the errors of the past. As a result, official attitudes were changed through the publication of new books, exhibitions of art and public speeches.”
Recognition of a legacy of responsibility for such injustice has only recently come to the forefront of Danish awareness, to a great extent due to the major coverage given by the Danish media to the islands’ history.
“These were the first manifestations of a new era, a catharsis in a way,” York states. “I feel comforted that there is a new understanding and a new handling of the facts. In a few of my articles, I express my concern and encourage the need for finding a balance.”
The collection of articles, “Our Danish Connections,” is available for sale at Undercover Books, Caribbean Museum Center, and members of both the St. Croix and St. Thomas Friends of Denmark societies.