Lizette Llanos is a proud 7th generation Crucian- the progeny of Benjamin and Carolina from the Anna’s Hope Plantation, and a 2nd generation Puerto-Crucian as a member of the 1927 Encarnación Family who migrated from Vieques to St. Croix in 1927. She is the daughter of the blood, sweat, and tears that built these Virgin Islands. She is an educator, mentor, activist, and mom of three children; Israel, Caleb, and Ta’Liyah. Lizette currently teaches AP English to 11th and 12th grade students and serves as the English Department Chair and Moot Court Co-Chair at St. Croix Central High School. She has worked collaboratively with mentors, including Sonia Jacobs Dow of St. Croix Landmarks Society, Dr. Chenzira Davis Kahina of Per Ankh (House of Life)©, and Alscess Lewis-Brown, author, educator, and Editor-in-Chief at The Caribbean Writer, to ensure inclusion of Caribbean and Virgin Islands history, texts, and authors.
We Are the Shards: A fragmented journey of reflection, repurposing, and repositioning of Chaney
My mother served our meals on blue and white China, the less formal of the two complete sets she owned. It never occurred to me that my fascination with navy and white, separately or in patterns, started with the love served on those plates so many years ago. From the Sunday meal of stewed goat, rice, and vegetables to the Friday night treat of steak and baked potatoes, fragments of those memories are a constant in my life.
While those images are seared into my rememberings, my first encounter with Chaney is not. I do know, however, that I developed a disdain for it, as I did most things tied to our colonial past because of the romantic, softened narratives of the horrific legacy of slavery. Some versions invite visitors to hunt for Chaney, “unique treasures” that are broken shards of imported ceramic, while others reference a Danish New Year’s custom – smashing plates against the doors of neighbors for prosperity. The narrative I clung to in my youth was one of deliberate destruction by Danish colonists who preferred to destroy their ceramics than opt to gift them to the people and their descendants who helped them generate an abundance of wealth. Chaney – not the shards, nor the jewelry – was not for me.
In time, I gave myself permission to reimagine the parts of us that have been obscured by the weight of our heavy past. When I touch the surface of a sugar mill, I lock onto the sacred strength of our ancestors who built these enduring structures. I wear my sugar mill pendant, not to romanticize its dominance or colonial purpose, but as a reflection of gratitude for their enduring spirit.
For some, Chaney has evolved from worthless trash to beauty and connection, as many of us wrestle with what it means to be part of our lived, ancestral experience on St. Croix and beyond. There is a connectedness in symbols which bind us to each other, be it the Crucian hook, the feel-good vibes of the Infinity line, the revolutionary Machete collection, or the repurposed Chaney. The intersectionality of our lives is paved with beautiful fragments. We are constantly unearthing and piecing together the shards of our shared history and making a beautiful mosaic while doing so.
As I reflect on all I have endured in the last 50 years of my life, I see the divine order of things. God used all my broken pieces - experiences, love, people, pain, laughter, death, and life – to create something new, something better, something beautiful. The museum exhibit, Chaney-Stories from Migrant Fragments which included concepts and original paintings by La Vaughn Belle, suggests that “We claim the fragments, wear the fragments, find the fragments, and live in the fragments”. My Chaney jewelry reminds me that We ARE the Fragments, molded together in community, strength, and beauty.