The Social Impact of Slavery on the Caribbean Society
In order for us to understand the Caribbean, we must acknowledge the tremendous social impact slavery placed upon the islands. We must not only consider the practice of slavery dating back to the indigenous peoples, but from what the introduction of the African slave trade did to the islands economically as well as culturally. In this paper let me reflect on slavery in the Caribbean not from an economical standpoint but, from the racial or what Knight calls ‘complextional mutations’ its social impact on society.
Let us discuss historian Benitez-Rojo’s approach to the Caribbean, he tends to reject a single cultural definition of the Caribbean, believing that all the islands have a differing cultural structure referring to its original colonizer. However, he subliminally states in his book The Repeating Island that all the islands hold more in common than the plantation system. He says ..."the multiplication of the Plantation-each case a different one-brought to the Caribbean was such that the Caribbean peoples themselves, in referring to the ethnological process that derived from the extraordinary collision of the races and cultures, produced, speak of syncretism, acculturation, transculturation, assimilation, deculturation, indigenization, creolization, cultural mestizaje, cultural cimarronaje, cultural miscegenation, cultural resistance etc." This idea falls in line with Knight; Knight introduces the Spanish to the history of the Caribbean, as the Caribbean being their conquest. The Spanish, in the name of Christianity, under Queen Isabella and King Ferninad attempt to colonize the Caribbean. They force assimilation trying to re-create the social and political patterns of Iberia. "The new Spanish colonies were designed to be orthodox and unified in religion and Castilian and Spanish in both culture and nationality." Under ‘unrestrained barbarity’ the natives were subdued, the Spanish were determined to settle and the influx of Spaniards was rapid and heavy. The settlers represented a cross section of the Spanish society, and as the Spanish imposed themselves on the local communities two things happened. 1) the emergence of the mestizo: a racial mixture of Spanish and Indian and 2) the extermination of the native due to famine and disease. Later through the slave trade and the emergence of the plantation society the African became present creating the Creole.
What follows then- is the Caribbean people- who’s many ancestors were brought from Africa as slaves, they share in common: the experience of ‘extraordinary collision of race’ which in turn developed what we today call the West Indian, Puerto Rican, Jamaican, in short the people of the Caribbean.
Thus, Benitez-Rojo and Knight explain to us the Africanization of the island, or to what is called the Creole. The Creole, a person who has been separated from the center of colonial power, within all the islands, share to a...