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Colonialism In The Caribbean Essay

1548 words - 6 pages

Colonialism in the Caribbean

Although Michelle Cliff, Antonio Benitez- Rojo, and Sidney Mintz all discuss the Caribbean in their writings they all have very distinct perspectives. In his writing, The Caribbean as a Socio-cultural Area, Sidney Mintz discusses the Caribbean from a historical standpoint in which he characterizes it as a socially united, rather than a culturally united one. Antonio Benitez- Rojo tries to explain the distinct cultures of the Caribbean with a combination of historical and personal knowledge , in his writing of The Repeating Island. While in her novel Abeng, Michelle Cliff uses an entirely different means of discussing the Caribbean because she does it through the eyes of a child. Despite having different outlooks in explaining the Caribbean they all record the theme of colonialism and their effects on people and society.

Mintz's Perspective

The Caribbean as a Socio-Cultural Area addresses the current cultural Caribbean with an eye on the past. For example, when discussing the emergence of creole culture Mintz specifically points out that this was almost exclusive to the islands colonized by the Spanish. According to Mintz, the Hispanic Caribbean was "settled by Europeans who had come to stay and to become "creoles"; nowhere and at no time in the Hispanic islands did African slaves ever outnumber freeman of European origin" (Mintz 28). Therefore, contemporary Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and Cuba are all very culturally diverse places who all have distinctive combinations of African, Native American, and European influences. For historical reasons, different regions of these islands have developed their own local cultures and social atmospheres by virtue of the types of people who lived there. It must be understood that almost all of the Caribbean’s population was introduced for industrial reasons; therefore the combinations of people inhabiting the islands are a direct result of colonialism. For this reason, we did not have the emergence of the same creole culture on islands colonized by the British, French or Dutch.

Mintz points out that the British and Dutch "lacked strong overseas control over local decisions affecting the slaves, hence enabling local holders of power to exercise harsher and more arbitrary domination of slave populations, which also slowed acculturation" (Mintz 35). Although there was a development of a Jamaican culture it more homogeneous than a Puerto Rican one being that the influences were almost entirely British and African. Still the African cultural influence is not as apparent in Jamaica as the British. Mintz explains this by saying that cultural variance among slaves was enforced on plantations so as to prevent unity and potential uprisings. This inevitably curbed the amount of a single African cultural influence on the island.


Rojo, seems to be more specific about the effects of colonialism than Mintz and this is more helpful in truly understanding what it did to...

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