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The Identity And History Of The Caribbean

2174 words - 9 pages

The Identity and History of the Caribbean

The Caribbean is a vastly diverse area representing the effects of colonialism, slavery, and the combination of many cultures.

Since the arrival of Europeans the Caribbean islands have been going through constant change. The loss of native peoples and the introduction of the plantation system had immediate and permanent reprocussions on the islands. The Plantation system set up a society which consisted of a large, captive lower class and a powerful, wealthy upper class. As the plantation systems became successful labor was needed in order to progress. Slavery became the answer to the problem. Slavery played an important role in the how the economy changed the islands because there was a shift on the main economic ingredient, Sugar.

Section 2 of Caribbean Slave Society and Economy shows how the economy shifted during this expansion. Before sugar became the main export in 1643, tobacco, sugar, indigo and ginger were the main exports in the English and French Antilles. Tobacco and cotton became important in "pre-sugar era because it was easy to cultivate and did not need as much labor as the sugar plantations. Robert Carlylebatie in the essay "Why sugar? Economic Cycles and the Changing of Staples on the English and French Antilles, 1624-54" writes, "the mastery of the art of making sugar required time, skill and money. It is no wonder, then, that colonists waited until tobacco values reached very near their long-run levels before seriously committing themselves to learning how to produce muscovado, the common brown sugar later exported from the islands" (44). As sugar became difficult to cultivate with little labor more labor were needed. The sugar production lead to the core of the importation of African slaves.

Both the Mintz the author of the article "The Caribbean as a Socio-Cultural Area" and Benitez-Rojo author of the article "From the plantation to the Plantation" contribute to the discussion on how the plantations and slavery have made the Caribbean what it is today, diverse and complicated.

One big difference between the articles is that Mintz includes the plantations as part of one of the nine major factors which falls under capitalism of the Caribbean but Benitez-Rojo writes, "I think that one must agree with Mintz that the plantation seems indispensable to studying the societies of the area. In my opinion, nonetheless, the plantation could turn out to be an even more useful parameter; it could serve as a telescope for obswerving the changes and the continuities of the Caribbean galaxy through the lenses of multifold disciplines…" (38). Benitez-Rojo includes the history of the plantations and how the history affected the culture of the islands. For example, one of the subtitles is Hispaniola: the first plantations where he explains how the first plantations were started up, he writes, "Those who, for one reason or another, decided not to leave the colony began to think up...

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