The Caribbean According to Three Writings
The Caribbean is made up of many islands that were inhabited by many peoples speaking different languages and believing in different things. With the beginning of colonization, many more peoples speaking different languages and believing in different things claimed ownership over certain islands (in many cases nowhere near each other geographically). Under new "ownerships", the islands became involved in slave-trading. Each different colonizer of the islands chose to take slaves from different areas of western Africa, depending on where their "mother country’s" other colonies were located in Africa. This resulted in the arrival and mixing of new groups of different peoples speaking different languages and believing in different things. Consequently, the Caribbean is an extremely diverse region of the world. To study either its history or what it is today, is not an easy task, and to try and define its people is nearly impossible.
Introduction of the Authors
The three authors on the Caribbean; Sidney Mintz, Antonio Benitez-Rojo, and Michelle Cliff, all took drastically different approaches in trying to tackle the common issue of how the Caribbean’s history has shaped it into what it is today. Sidney Mintz wrote as an anthropologist in the 60’s, focusing on the taxonomy (a classification of organisms into groups based on similarities of structure or origin) and natural science view of the Caribbean. Benitez-Rojo, a Cuban, wrote his piece twenty years later, and as a literary critic instead of asocial scientist. Due to his different literary background and the different time period in which he was writing, Benitez-Rojo chose to look at the Caribbean using the Chaos Theory as his guide –that is to say, he tried to think of the interconnections that lie between all aspects of the Caribbean in embracing the fact that the Caribbean is heterogeneous and chaotic. Lastly, Cliff, a native of Jamaica, used a much broader and more artistic means of explaining the Caribbean through her multilayered fiction and her personal accounts of growing up in and out of Jamaica. Her writing is full of imagery, history, and culture, all at the same time.
One thing that the three authors come to an accord on is the heterogeniality of the Caribbean. Mintz states over and again that the societies of the Caribbean do not form an undifferentiated group. According to Mintz, "It is inaccurate to refer to the Caribbean as a ‘cultural area’, if by ‘culture’ is meant a common body of historical tradition . . . It would probably be more accurate to refer to the Caribbean as a ‘societal area’, since its component societies probably share many more social-structure features than they do cultural features (Mintz, 1971, 19-20)." Benitez-Rojo agrees that the cultural realm is not the right one to look for Caribbeanness in. He discusses the pluralism in many contexts that he sees in the...