What is the Caribbean?

What is the Caribbean?

Many ask themselves, What is the Caribbean? What makes up the Caribbean? and How has each island created their identity due to their history? Sidney Mintz in the article, "The Caribbean as a Social-cultural Area" approaches a more social interpretation, Antonio Benítez-Rojo in the article "From the plantation to the Plantation" approaches a more humanistic interpretation while Michelle Cliff in her novel Abeng and her article "If I could write this in fire" takes on a more personal view. While both Mintz and Benitez try to interpret for the whole Caribbean, Cliff uses her homeland of Jamaica to help point out or disagree with some of the important issue of the Caribbean. Benitez discusses the Caribbean according to the role of the plantations. Mintz follows a guideline of nine major features and Cliff's use of personal struggle to better understand her identity and use of Jamaica's history help to better understand Jamaica as part of the Caribbean.

The first similarity of the Caribbean which Mintz points out is how the historical conditions are well known. He writes, "They consist in the expansion of Europe to the New World, the common historical patterns of conquest. colonization, peonage or slavery, and the development of multi-racial and multi-cultural societies throughout this area" (19). Benitez-Rojo goes on to be more precise, he writes, "So if it's clear that there are certain regular and common features, held in place by experiences more or less shared- European conquest, the native people's disappearance or retreat, African slavery, plantation economies, Asian immigration, rigid and prolonged colonial domination..." (34). Even though both Benitez and Mintz can make these claims because it is proven in history, Cliff writes on behalf of Jamaica's history due to Spain's discovery and conquest. Cliff challenges the readers to think more about the identity of Columbus, she mentions that Columbus may have been a Jew, "He came from Genoa- perhaps entering Spain as a Marano, that group of Sephardic Jews forced to hide their religion and their identity behind a pretense of Christian worship... was he in search of a safe place for Jews, a place out of the Diaspora" (67). Cliff has made readers think twice on the purposes of why these sailors discovered new colonies. She writes, "For what purposes did these men find themselves on their expedition. So many intertwining to be unraveled" (67). She implies that the history is not as straightforward as Mintz and Benitez mentioned.

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