Fitzroy 'Bingo' Léon: I did not anticipate moving to Doinca
By Andrea Louis
Known in Dominica's Calypso arena for his masterful lyrics and captivating stage presence is Fitzroy 'Bingo' Léon of St. Lucia, who has called the Nature Island home for the past eight years.
Léon, an engineer by profession, worked all over the Caribbean yet first visited Dominica through his passion for Calypso.
"I was the leader for the Ambassadors Calypso Tent in St. Lucia, and Val' Young Bull' Cuffy was the Manager for Stardom Tent," he said. "We had these exchanges where Ambassadors Tent would visit for the Easter weekend, and Stardom Tent would come over for the Emancipation weekend. That ran every year from 1983 to 1985."
Fitzroy most appreciated the country's impressive natural attributes during the initial trip to Dominica.
"It was a beautiful country to relax. Stardom would arrange to do river lymes, hiking the trails, exploring Dominica, etc., at the time," he said.
Léon's interest in construction was well-developed in the 80s, which led him to be intrigued by the building styles in the city.
"I thought Roseau was one of the places in the Caribbean where we still have a lot of timber architecture/construction, and I have not found another area like that," Léon said.
Léon's move to Dominica resulted from a job opportunity, and he admitted to The Sun that he did not envision himself residing here.
"I came back to Dominica in 2014 with a St. Lucian company contracted to do a job with the European Union on the feeder roads," he said. "I started coming to Dominica ever so often, for a few days, during the initial setting up of the job. I eventually moved here in June 2015."
Fitzroy's involvement in the construction industry led him to use his skillset after Hurricane Maria and eventually establish his own company.
"I never anticipated moving to Dominica because, in 2014, I was travelling between St. Kitts and Trinidad for work," Léon said. "The EU project halted after Hurricane Maria, and I was employed by New India Assurance as an Assessor. I eventually formed my own engineering, construction, and architecture company, Léon and Associates."
Though Dominica and St. Lucia are described as sister islands, Léon says he had to adjust to some elements of Dominica.
"When I first came, I had road rage because of how the bus drivers operated, just stopping in the middle of the road, no indication, etc. But I have learned to deal with it," he said. "Also, the pace of life here is much slower than in St. Kitts or St. Lucia. And I am still growing accustomed to the dialect; imagine, after eight years here, I still don't sound Dominican," he laughed.
Food is well-loved by Caribbean people, and the connected history means similar dishes around the region. Léon had to acquaint himself with the names of various foods in Dominica.
"For example, what Dominicans call soup, St. Lucians call broth. Another version of soup in Dominica, St. Lucians, call bouillon. It is the same food, just different names in different countries," Léon said, "Regarding music, Dominicans love Cadence, Calypso, and Bouyon, whereas St. Lucians love Calypso and Zouk."
Another notable difference between the two islands is the cost of living.
"I have seen Dominica move forward over time, but from an economic standpoint, I can say the cost of living here is very high compared to St. Kitts and St. Lucia," he said.
Over the past several years, Fitzroy has been sure to integrate himself into Dominican society, giving back through his profession and passion.
"In my fully registered company, I hire both Dominicans and St. Lucians. From the Calypso standpoint, I have brought in a different style of Calypso and helped the Dominica Calypso Association where I can," Léon said. "I am also in the Cadet Corps, seconded from the St. Lucia Cadet Corps as Deputy Commandant Adjutant."
Content with his choice to live in Dominica, Fitzroy anticipates using his talents to continue contributing to Dominica by working and creating a life on the island he now calls home.