Differing Perspectives of the Caribbean

Differing Perspectives of the Caribbean

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Differing Perspectives of the Caribbean


The Caribbean has been an unexplained region throughout the test of time because there are many different depictions of what actually is happening. The ranging cultures in the Caribbean bring about many different points of view. A perfect example is how Cliff, Mintz, and Benitez-Rojo describe their version of the Caribbean. They discuss affairs in the Caribbean from the days of slave trading to present day issues. In analyzing their anecdotes and books, one can find not only similarities between them, but discrepancies as well. All three authors express their thoughts vividly, unleashing ideas about the Caribbean. Among the most important themes of these ideas were that of the plantation, identity, and social hierarchy.

The role of the plantation was a prominent issue brought up by all the authors. The plantation played an imperative role in Caribbean society from colonialism to contemporary society. Mintz and Benitez-Rojo gave a number of positive aspects of how plantations were positive in helping the economy whereas Cliff despised the whole plantation system. All authors bring out valid issues on their analysis of plantations.

According to Mintz, the emergence of the plantation occurred when there became a decline in miners. This decline brought a new economy and an alternate plan to their mining careers. In addition, it was a new source of production for goods like sugar, rum, coffee and tobacco. Production of goods meant more money to the Caribbean’s economy as well as new materials to give to their colonial powers. Mintz argues that the Caribbean flourished because of the system of plantations. He goes as far as saying, "the plantation system was not only an agricultural device; it also became the basis for an entire societal design" (Mintz, 27).

Benitez-Rojo also gives praise to the plantation in his article entitled the Repeating Island. He said how the "modest sugar boom in the Spanish Antilles left an indelible mark on the island’s society" (Benitez-Rojo, 42). The plantations created an economy in the Caribbean when there was previously nothing. It changes the whole course of Caribbean history and this can be incorporated with his Chaos Theory. Benitez-Rojo believes in the physics theory that things in one place certainly have a great effect on something else. However, Cliff significantly differs on her view of the plantation.

In Cliff’s Abeng, there is much discussion about the plantation. However, Cliff argues how the sugar plantation actually hurt the economy and made little profits.

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One slave was required for every two acres whereas on cotton plantations the same slave could cover five to ten acres. Because of this fact, more slaves were needed and overworked. In addition, sugar only profited the wealthy merchants in England who put the sugar in their tea. Providing little nutritional value, Caribbean plantations existed only to serve the wealthy merchants fancies. Slaves were also significantly persecuted on these plantations as they were viewed as disposable. This brings about issues of morality as well as the identity of the peoples of the Caribbean.

Identity and social structure in the Caribbean has been plagued with many different theories. Whether there is a clear cut identity for the Caribbean is a well debated issue yet all of the authors agree about the social hierarchy of the Caribbean people. Mintz contests that the Caribbean has a lack of cohesion and nationalism. While there certainly are divisions and boundaries amongst the Caribbean nations, Cliff suggests how their people join forces against the common enemy.

According to Mintz, the Caribbean is so diverse that not one culture is prevalent. He suggests that the countries lack unity and are selfless with little national pride. Because culture refers to a common body of people, Mintz argues that the Caribbean is a "societal area." He points out nine features of the Caribbean and attributes most of them to colonial ancestry. In addition, Mintz can’t see any social hierarchy on the islands. It is a bipolar relationship where the aristocracy rules and the proletariats are quite poor. Although Cliff agrees with Mintz on the topic of social hierarchy, she vehemently disagrees with her thoughts on identity.

Cliff tells her story from the Jamaican perspective. She vividly describes the education system, the rastas, and the rhythm of the Caribbean. In discussing all of these issues, Cliff correlates the three to having a national identity. All of the rastas of the land walk around freely, causing no harm to anybody. The educational system remains rigid and most importantly everyone in the Caribbean has a certain rhythm. Because they share these same values, the Caribbean has an identity. Although not necessarily the conventional identity, the Caribbean nonetheless has one.

All three authors present very valid statements about the Caribbean. Coming from different parts of the Caribbean has shaped the patterns of their thinking. All present tremendous historical analysis in their writing, and do so in an effective manner. Mintz, an anthropologist, takes a social science approach to analyze the Caribbean. Benitez-Rojo, a literary critique and a distinguished Cuban scholar, takes a humanist approach. Finally, is Cliff, who is a fictional writer with tremendous historical accuracy. After assimilating all of their writings, one can gain a better grasp on the Caribbean. Through the eyes of three different authors, knowledge is bound to be acquired and history has to be learned.
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