byWif-, Ad =f Ub god Mm. Nothing but fi.ti
,I 4-,~a Il
QUARTERLY OF THE INSTITUTE OF JAMAICA
DECEMBER '69 VOL. 8 NO. 4
lamaica Journal is published Quarterly
by the Institute of Jamaica, 12-16 East
Street, Kingston, Jamaica, WestIndies.
Frank Hill, Chairman.
C. Bernard Lewis, Director.
Design and Production
Lithographed in Jamaica
Litho Press Limited
Jamaica 50 U.K. & Europe 7/6
U.S. & Canada $1.00
West Indies $1.50 (B.W.I.)
1 year $2.00
3 years- $5.00
5 years- $9.00 Post Paid.
U.S. & Canada
1 year $3.50 plus 504 postage
3 years- $10.00 plus $1.50 postage
5 years-$16.00 plus $2.50 postage
in West Indies currency
I year $5.00 plus $1.00 postage
3 years-$14.00 plus $3.00 postage
5 years-$18.00 plus $5.00 postage
The above arranged through
The Institute of Jamaica
U.K. & Europe
I year 1. 8.0. plus 5/- postage
3 years- 4. 0.0. plus 15/- postage
5 years- 6.10.0. plus 25/- postage
Africa, Asia and Australia all double
The above arranged through
DARLINGTON (M & R) LIMITED
Grove House, 83 Grove Lane,
Handsworth, Birmingham 21,
Tribute to Manley . ... ... . .... .Sylvia Wynter
. . . . . .Karl Parboosingh
HISTORY and the Institute .. . . ... ...
Early Jamaican Printing . . .... .. Glory Robertson
Ethiopia ............... Reginald Murray
Bernardo de Balbuena . . . . .. .Sylvia Wynter
SCIENCE for the Layman .. . . ... .......
Sugar . . . . . . . . ... Carol Reckord
ART LITERATURE MUSIC . . . . . .
Antonio & Morales . . . ... ..... Vic Reid
Rum Lullaby (Poetry). . . . . . Anthony McNeil
To an Expatriat Friend (Poetry) ........ .Mervyn Morris
Fable (Poetry) . . . . . . .. .. Mervyn Morris
Residue (Poetry) . . . . .. .. Anthony McNeil
The Sunday Coronation (Poetry). ... . Dennis Scott
What is Art? . . . . . .. . Alex Gradussov
Aborigines . . . . . . ..Kenneth Ramchand
Professional Photography . .... . .John S. Lopez
NEXT ISSUE will include: James Carnegie "Jazz"
Nelly Ammar "Lebanese"
Jean D'Costa "W.I. Poets"
Cover Photo:University of the West Indies
chappel at Mona.
by Errol Harvey.
Inside cover design by Colin Garland.
A Lost Leader
I did not go to take my place
In your death procession,
The Mardi Gras of mourning
Must fill my empty space
With words that try, yet fail to say,
Why, hearing you were dead
I wept for yesterday.
Through hills dressed in drought and bronze
You played your piper's song,
Cdme to our tawdrySamarkand
ying wares for our pain
Selling a step or two of a dance.
Your melody was rare.
The hills are avenues that lead
Into sky and air,
The trees are circuses that move
From fair to fair.
Death like a monkey doing tricks -
For peanuts, nothing to it -
Turns somersaults on the bridle track
Where the moon's up.
In some drowned Atlantis where the sun
Filters shadows on the floor
We shall tell your legend when the sea
Sings against the bone.
On the mound of a hill, Ulysses sits
And stares into the dark
A juke box in a Church of God
Decorates a temporary halt.
The words you used as instruments
Long lost their cutting edge,
Words are the mess of pottage:
They've tricked us in the end.
Yet words must be your monument
For how you used them!
Beyond a politician's promise
Into the poetry of a prophet.
The fire died down
The ashes grew cold
The dogs lay among them and gnawed
The dead bones.
The Word became not bread, but a stone.
Yet once the words were wings that took us up
To where the earth was small to Icarus:
What mattered, fat
Town Councillors with the power of their purses?
Their pomp and circumstance and glory?
What mattered if the wings were wax, and we flew
Too near the sun?
What if the slogans we spat
At the sky fell back to blind our eye?
What if we woke up to find we'd come
To the disenchanted end of the story?
What mattered if the dream was circum-
Scribed by facts?
The flight to the impossible was enough.
All went down
With the flood,
Yet our dance traces the sun on the sea-floor
And, in the still palace of the drowned
The clock in the dragon's den strikes one p.m.
Death fields a catch at silly mid-on:
Death goes in to bat, hits a six, cracks
The stained glass window of the sun.
You played the piper's song but fat
Town Councillors still called the tune:
You could not reach up for the moon, they said.
You bowed your arrogant head, compelled,
Got things done and well, slowed down
To the compass of their circumstance.
Worms ate our innocence
We mocked to show our loss.
Was this the end of Eden then?
Was this the promised Zion?
We cried aloud, we wailed upon the water:
The seeds are brown, the taste is sour
The communion wafer
In our mouths hints of gall and vinegar
Where is yesterday?
What rutted side-tracked turning did it take?
We who took up the bed of ourselves
Into what cul-de-sac did we dance
To find ourselves
High walled in Babylon?
Death fields a catch at silly mid-on
The stained glass window of the sun.
Photo: Jamaica Tourist Board
Courtesy Contemporary Artists Gallery.
Norman Washington Manley
Oil Painting by
Come let us mock at the great
That had such burdens on the mind
And toiled so hard and late
To leave some monument behind.
Come then, let us take stock
Credit the profit, debit the loss
Of this good merchant who sold us
A step or two of a dance, and
Exchanging charity for power
Which he wore like a flower in his lapel,
Lead us along, piped us a song
In our tawdry Samarkand.
One worshipped, or reviled, your shrine:
Not for you the hail-fellow smile,
Back-slapping joke, alert male pride:
The intelligence of the scribe lit
The sea water of your eyes.
Virtue came easy but you found it
Difficult to cross the great divide
To where the publican cotched outside:
Charity took you by surprise.
A gaulin, your wings
Hovered over the salt grass
Over the bemused cattle straying
In the scrub and alien country
Of the wretched of the earth.
You stooped to alight, and came
To know what failure is, to taste its ashes;
Learnt to come to terms with
The intricacy of grief
The broken ones for whom you were a crutch
To lean upon,
Shall guard your memory; the angry ones
For whom you played your role as scapegoat
Someone to fix the blame upon:
Satan in their asphalt slums
Men have need of Satan,
Where God has taken flight
Or, al least, does not advertise.
I am that which I advertise I am.
Before we go down to the dark
Before all language is lost
All meaning is gone, and men speak in neon signs:
Before all the aches of the heart
Are dulled by aspirin, and the tears of things
Catered for by pep-up pills,
Before all grief is institutionalized,
Passion shunted aside, come then:
Let us celebrate this man
Who, in our tawdry Samarkand
Sold us a dream and a song
And a step or two of a dance!
And so, o lost leader, we sing your funeral rites
Words must be your monument, lyrical as light
No Trojan Hector, No tamer of horses
In a dim Mycenian myth
No Alafin of Oyo's vanished kingdom.
In Africa, that gold land of night
The pyre burns bright.
The sons of Priam are gathered as one
They put out the fire with their tears
They wrap the clean bones in cloth
They put the bones in a casket
And the casket in the earth:
The words you spoke print echoes on the air.
0 Trojan Hector, how compare
Your remembrance in the hearts of men?
0 Alafin of Oyo your shadow cast on water
In a patterned bowl all that remains of a man
Which is his soul where is it now?
Your mourning song where has it gone?
Which spirit mouth now chants the words,
Which spirit flute, the tune?
Under the seagirt earth
In the core of the bronze hills
A man goes there to find not what he said or seemed or did
But the dream that he dreamed of himself which was him.
Politician, statesman, lawyer, patriot:
The last time I saw you, you 'd shrugged
Those skins aside:
Arrogance's interregnum and all pride:
Now, the rare smile, poet, old man, child.
We thanked you for the care you'd had for us:
But as we spoke, I knew you'd slipped away from us
Gone to find your crown, o great Prince,
In Death's doomed Kingdom:
The river stopped for a while to give a drink
To death so that without hurrying
You could catch him up.
The hills humped their backs.
Down in the town a bar door swings
Open, closes on brown lips laughing:
The glass jar has spilt its flowers
The feather in the lady's hat is bent.
Two golden birds drowse in your eyes:
Death walks with you, conversing
Along the bridle track.
The moon rises over a staccato of rock:
Death comes alive
In the illuminated wonder of your mind.
The moon weaves a processional of light.
Early Jamaican Printing
by Glory Robertson
A selection from the exhibition mounted
by the Institute of Jamaica at the
National Arena for National Heritage
of a Press
In October 1717, before he left England to take office as Governor of Jamaica, Sir
Nicholas Lawes wrote to the Coincil of Trade proposing the establishment of a printing
press in Jamaica.
"I am of the opinion if a printing press were set up in Jamaica it would
be of great use, and benefit for public intelligence, advertisements, and many
other things. But to prevent abuses, that might attend such a liberty, there
should be but one, and that to be licenced to the Governor for the time
Robert Baldwin was Jamaica's first printer. It is possible that he may have come to
Jamaica on Sir Nicholas Lawes' invitation and started his press shortly after the
Governor's arrival in April 1718. The first thing he printed was "A Pindarique Ode on
the arrival of His Excellency Sir Nicholas Lawes." A facsimile copy of this is exhibited.
Arrival of his Excellency
Sir Nicholas Lawes,
0o4 cfmran vT, aren.
Lratt la~yr: Hor.
71e Second Edition.
HA R K how the Voice of Joy breaks through the Air,
In plealng Srins that captivate the Ear!
Hark, is Great LA WES they loud!
Eccho bern the Name around.
And with Great LAWES the vaulted Hill rebound
What other Cade jull Maiter could afford
For Joy full? W.I lefCi Appdlafloud Fame
M t fing ome Prie's Birs, or Heroa' Name
Thn the Azival of our Ifand's Lord.
And cant 'll h then 0 Mie
Alone land flem by
Amidi the general Harmonl
Thy tribuary Mise nefie ?
A Pindarique Ode on the arrival of His
Excellency Sir Nicholas Lawes, 1718.
Printed by Baldwin.
The hapleCf injured Orphan now
Shall find his juaf RKleif from You
HisGuardian, Father, andhisFriend,
His Old Anccfrial Title to defend,
And Crown his long invaded Right with happy End.
The Widow lays her Weedl afide,
Again apa a bloomingBride,
llonfaure no more,
Though gone her Lord, her better Lord's come o're,
No longer now fhe doubts her Righteons Caufe,
Whilftultice felffits Prdidentin LAWES.
Under thy Aulpicious fway
Diftinguih'd Worth hall point the Way,
To Honour and Keward,
Th' exalted Soul in Virtues Race,
That jnufly claims the forcmoft Place
Shallmeer thy Chief Kegard:
Warm'dby thy influencing Beam
LAWES faull become Fame's pleasing Theam,
And then Per's Our Ifelfllllboaft a Richer Mine:
With more exalted Thought and brighter Fire
The Som of Phrabus their Meccenau ng,
My humbleMue too fond would fain aire
Some Incanfe worthyher High Lord ro ring
Andake her Fighwithbolder Wing
But dazled Drop her Lyre.
FIN I S.
JAM AIC A:
Printed by R. Baldwin in Church-Street in King-
HIS OR I
of The Early
Jamaica's first newspaper was The Weekly Jamaica Courant. No copy of the first
issue which appeared on 28th May, 1718 exists. A photocopy of the earliest issue
known to exist, that of 30th July 1718, is exhibited here. Printed by R. Baldwin, it
sold for one Bit, which was worth 7d then
Between 1718 and 1758 a period of forty years fifteen books are known to have
been printed, in addition to newspapers, broadsheets, bills and Acts of Legislature and
almanacks. A selection of these are exhibited.
It was not, however, until the 1780's and 90's that magazines made their appearance
in Jamaica. This was the period when literary magazines and miscellany were becoming
popular in England. The Jamaican counterparts were The Jamaica Magazine, published
1781, of which no copy now exists, and The Bon E'spirit Magazine; or Abstract of the
Times which is on display. This appeared in 1793, but like many magazines of its type,
before and since, it seems to have got into financial waters. Its publisher, William Smart,
was, however, undaunted and published another magazine in 1796, The Columbian
Magazine which had a somewhat longer life.
Wit NIiw Foris amd Dmt faUt.
Fublafl'd by Aull,'o .
ledtwfdal, Jul 30. 1718.
I MPR M ATU
T'o i P.R T.
G- 7. 3 I 'Tis f. th. Mr. .c a ,
leAST T ido- In iS- to ''d. b .
hel riS T dl O a 4 ; G ;i. t
G ... h. u a ,o w-41
r*^13U o s"bl~n R ~li-Fi B.I T
.in m-o S -i M.t L- k . = .G u w --
SL Aud i, d.. n,. T C ,ln .oC 1,
ID trl u.1 dr. i ... tno -Yh -. a U..
L--ir by .1 lu d uc l h la K--4 ha tibtc &t tad s.o Y.W-
Luoio T~ot", ^ th. Cu.. a ,n. pne
Utc Ilua Tamer) rr.o t,
Ti fottie Ih Ibd ",d k. t* <>. 111 M, Lti o; l(to. W
kJ -X k h so, d C h-4 ibe . A, t.. !.
.! =0. =i. I-,* t i *'.1; t 1k.S. r ing
.- endIIU UttiiL to Ki i U I ElTlfud iA Ewh
The Speech of His Excellency
olas Lawes ... on Wednesday,
22nd, 1718. Kingston, R.
This broadsheet is thought to
win's third piece of printing.
olas Lawes was the first know
to propose the establishment o
ing press in Jamaica.
Jamaica's first newspaper was The
Weekly Jamaica Courant No copy of
the first issue which appeared on 28th
May, 1718 exists. A photocopy of the
earliest issue known to exist, that of
30th July 1718 is exhibited here. Printed
by R. Baldwin, it sold for one Bit,
which was worth 72d then.
The SPEECH of His
Excellejy Sir Nicholas Lawes Kr. Cap.
taiii-Grtral adGmwrnor in Chief in and
Over thi I&t Mjefiy, lflad of Jo
maica, &'. On Wednefday Odob. zz.
Qaf1 if tk acMen. asa&ss.aIdGatiloe.4f
G Asa.L.m.* "
AND ht I w .as I aW.Id t o~h mr
hie Hwoumety of yi orfo~aaodgd iSoi
AND thbrtlUhddom iIn hvybo.,mi ifb ,n=Miv
cduboip ao AnimtI. 1I &i ld In mny e6p, of.I_
it, BeaL~tad Dhaib SL h bJIb lIo grntwd MooR nhSr
o ahe pinfo of e PNoblick, Oo. Frindy Sodlthsad
-m Nriabokd1; a .faod of. UmioofMind.adArSaiin,
I ainot hat with QGridfibf their e are ome fiew iamono Us .
who with lt brdy adoum, ad kta in lom. Meaf.ep r-
2iid, not o* oix hinma Aahafitta, n b ut t it Sthe stc
Old (li.. ,m r l )tp a
.ad Tem~pl Pa1fi cuan rel Us to Ha St and itoo.
raitng Cbl Whch I .IQ*y remvaonto you Cote
Thoughletithae sAse d wter Grievais ym our iClr
Sir Nich- d A"'= * o *"* b" yoof oS
October i S w- I" N i" c iCtwl. o to .B. R..k i ,-.
Baldwin, A .OW ia cmoFI eaiil toa il aioSU DiM.
Pde at'Lacu-=Ww Jr4W, fa Jw bwi|ltlhe Gimma
d Your own S.o.. .Ad .daily pra dIth e .te loaw ofr t
County, wId thatu Dty d L..ky toth X0. Tha 1 mny be
bl,, with inari PIafea, a he HiWoet Mya A-ooo,
be Bald- Hs ., e GIotleoi tiof Col Afmbly, Wve I.-
Sir Nich- THd E NI toti a hau mtLe h Frind
Person hk N eighbnuon promote Relig Veiw ad then d& ,RI.
n person Hit red,,,a, wo ",
fa print- I -
jAMEI D (IEI, Cbro
AMA ICA: Prited by A BALDWIN inKtingtan,
MDCCXVIII. IPrce One Bit.
m w2 PRO CE EDINGS ofp
aaI Dernnis's Evpeditlds to .the Gowrtor of
anna urns Mewmt *ia/, a. -
", ,ef .6ht Oceatr;ceie happened during his
^ .2 sr ,_f
.. .. ay. .. am 1fa J t 178.
T ,H rS DsyKat Si in the Mero. arrived ia the Havana, at Eight
': went mh oar attended bya Solr and the Lieuenantofthe Sea,
,; : to he Governor, with te Letters from the Governor oflamaicas
*..,. : As foonas I bad dAlive'd the Governor's Letter, this Goveror
aetd i and wear into.an adjacent Room, ianging down the Cover of the
tidacmr, and then remarj,.m'z :orderd me todeliver all the other Paper
Ibid-about me which I *fuf dto do at irfl, but he, reiterating hi Con-
mands,l was obliged to deliver them all to him, as well thofe for the Fado-
4W thb'others for the Prilomers, and opened them, or moft of them in my
etet." Then I was dei d to retire to another Room with an Adjudiat
andSejetim whkiid;ani md, iftd wkieg about Three Hours, the Gover-
"oot fete m'at "Word, That. I tua gq boardd Ay.Veffel, and Jo lent down
-s Lieot* namnoftt e Sea with me. When I fit came into the Harbour there
was feit on Board Twelve Soldiers and a Lieutenant of Horfe, it order to
AtkepAe- and my People i Prifoners on IBoard.
' e'sda l". Fi-ndinagI was detained a-board, and not having fully given
nmy Mefage to the-Goveimne; this Afternoon. wrote a Letter totheiGover-
,nor'..Chlalain (who is arrIrih ManL. and interpreter t9.sa Cth 'crT.o r) id
Stet a Copy of the faid Letter.
Friday tr. The Governor ent mn Word that I might cor.ea BhoarwKtz n
I Louldr firft fending the Lieutenant of the Sea Word ot my Defign, wlo
would receive me at the Water-fide and brig me to hisP.clnce..I thtn
wetit a-floar, and made him acquainted (b4y a Meniorando'm fartt p4i-
pofe ofthe maly Pyradies and Deprodations d4ily Comminritte by tii, lop.e
of Trinidado, under itis Government i and patrdic .ary accudul one L.tgets
who lid fbrmiLly taken me coming fioom Carolina, and was now ip th.s
Town, fitting out a Ship at Trinidido, wlich he had t.l n geinty finmi a-
m:tica to New-York ; I represented to the Governor how barb.roully they
had uled the Mate of the faid Ship, by burning M.:chel.bctween ini Fin-
Dw- Bias dr e 'i
. .- *
CART TEA 4&1E
Faithtully Trinflated bf Malaidgr
Faihnllly Ti ltd byigft ( '*.
Pdind-bty fold g, "for Pag. d
.* * .
Fifth Book Printed In Jamaica.
The Letter sent from Don Thomas
Geraldino, in answer to Don Bias de
Lezo's at Cathagene. Faithfully trans-
lated by Britannicus. Jamaica, printed
by John Letts, for Peter and Robert
First Book Printed In Jamaica.
The whole proceeds of Captain Dennis's
Expedition to the Governor of the
Havana; being a Memorial, or Journal of
what occurences happen 'd during his stay
there. Wednesday January 14, 1718.
Jamaica, printed by R. Baldwin in
Church Street, Kingston, 1718.
The earliest book of which a copy exists
is this eight page journal of Captain
Dennis, which has been photocopied
from the original in the Public Record
.1 O .."
AL E E7 M As
i F, yet, Cni'd ihin thy Wdhl.0 O .a. L'._
The Want of Sccours be thy SYWI-kt Grdd -
If with Rarenge thy birtial Bo&" 0lo`,1
And mourns, In vain, the Triumph of oor Fcesi
Blaine not the wary Conufeflors of Sp is,
But cu.fe, ohl curfi, thofe Tynte &f iW Mftb "-..'
Oer all Superior spread their Calvua Wing.
The Prop of Natioos, or the Fal olEiJg.
Yet hope, my Friends-though Forme awhle ple; :
Deep Fraud is all our own, and feldom fllli
What mighty Things have not by Fraud been done? i
Fair Virte's Sell hath futk by that alone
By that Religion hath received new Formns
And mighty Empires have been Ihook with St .or s
A Perfia Driver, and. TryA Clown,
By that have fitch'd the Gitis o f a Cmwp!
Yet hope our Treachery may fall agai
' On Heaven's firl Fav'rites, and thq befl of Me
Then all their Va i*s ofa long, glorious W r,
Shall, Meteor-like, expend thcmfelveg iQ ;
OR, AN '
jLMANC I )
For the Ytar af Lo
,,.75J, , --- "
Being tsh Third E B/e Wk,lor L
SFitted to thisMeridian.
The different Quiarte eflians
Common Plras, P ort-Ryal jd
Kintflo throughout the Year, tlte laft.
of Summonin for ditioand'GandCCourt.
The JEws Hjidy's throughout the Year.
A Lift of fucl .s reliable to pay
Duty in the Receivei Ge l'sGic,. and
the Sums that are to be paid. A complete
Lit of the Countil and 4Affm of this lI-
land, The public Offices a'd.Oficers.
Names of the Cuftos's, Judges of.the Gr.
Court, Chancery Office and Oficers, Ad-
miraly Office and Officers, King'a Offi-
cers, tPovodt Marhil an ki,.Dputies.
Dayfor chiwifn Ve ymen, .c.
TO. WHICH IS ADDED,
A PIscOURSE upon METEO.S.
4.4-44 *+,4444 4 44rH + 44.
Printed by WIs.LIAM DAIE*l. it King,
Jfrat, aet the Court-Hom/,
First Book Almanack Printed in Jamaica.
S this ALMANACK is thefirft
of the Kind, ever attempt-
A to be introduced in this
Ifland, and therefore re-
quired agreat dealof time
and Pains, I hope the can-
did Readers will be fo good as to overlpk
any mall Errors which may arife from the
hurry it was printed in, and I affure him
my beft Endeavours hall be exerted to
make my next a more complete and corre&
one. Whatever errors in this, or ufeful
Additions for the next, as may occur to
the Public, the communicating them to
me hall be thankfully received, as the one
hall be corrected and the other infected,
:vith greatfull acknowledgments, by their
The Merchant's Pocket Companion, or,
an Almanack for the year of our Lord
1751... to which is added A Discourse
upon Meteors. Kingston, printed by
William Daniell, in King Street, near the
Court House, 1751.
In the preface Daniell says that "this
Almanack is the first of the kind, ever
attempted to be introduced in this
island' This is the first of a series
which ended in 1880 when the last
Almanack was issued, being succeeded
in 1881 by the Handbook of Jamaica.
A T S,
PASSED IN THE
ISLAND OF JAMAICA;
First Laws of Jamaica Printed in Jamaica.
Acts of the Assembly passed in the
Island ofJamaica from the year 1681 to
the year 1768, inclusive. In two volumes
Saint Jago de la Vega, Jamaica, printed
by Lowry and Sherlock, 1769. (The
Library has Vol. 1 only).
This is' the earliest collection of the
Laws of Jamaica which is known to have
been printed in Jamaica. Previously
they were printed in England.
From the YEAR 01i to the YEAR 1768, iictufivc.
IN T%%. VOLUMES
BAINT J)AO DE LA %lEGA JAMAICA.
&M.1 WW LOWRY ad SHERLOCY. PdM4a. .Iokfjk,. E ud-.
; asr ncr\ D .VLXIX. r
To w ki a ddml
The NY MPH of T
OMNI A yVIC It
Persian Love Elegies. To which is added
theNymph of Tauris. By John Wolcot,
Jamaica, from the Press of Joseph
Thompson & Co., in Kingston, 1773.
This is the first poetical work published
in Jamaica, and probably also the earliest
work of a literary character as opposed
to pamphlets and propaganda work pre-
xROM THR PIlIaIOr jOrSEP TOMPIOW AWS'
I N ll rOasII.N DCCLXZXIII
The Bon E'Spirit Magazine; or Abstract
of the Times. Vol. 1, No. IlI for March
1794. Printed by William Smart.
There are no existant issues of the first
three numbers of this magazine. Accord-
ing to the title page of the March 1794
issue, it is embellished with a plate. This
plate is an engraving of "The Fortunate
BA s "*
A "sr*' gr i
I ,..Po V .a t i
.'3" or d .4 I
pnpbAcl &'*ih d *ruT. Saa*i.r c' '+a
i l the I' o. kse Peop rph :n Ydas,. lau w
'I "r.lI, . . . ... .. I,
i foq ,an-PlaptyreEpiles a6 TrdTwny . . -- i id
M dn, : .. . . da C n ti -al D ,ne I
mar e ..nod . O. *1 -s---- JOuna. XMI h .:
t ..er Eliph. r. .. D ~e i..l i .rl, 6,ra.. I .
IHBatl dtfc.pzt. of lii JdlItBtd o the Fr< i lBin 's"
nilDaht *r plt l PI> E.llc. n6', Trnl..ny dum
eark l *ailr ro ee 'i l Ior .t c D.p tureas | af
EIaphu r aiV.441 Depalnrtell r.
- Printb.. IL*VIAM SMART- ----
Prinited bi *ILLIAM SMART,'T
G A LLA
Those who know something of the
land of Prester John are fond of drawing
special attention to a number of remark-
able features of the country its being
the oldest independent state of Africa; its
three hundred years of history during
which it was almost totally isolated from
the rest of the world by mountain barriers;
its feudal society and government (there
are no political parties); its ancient accep-
tance of the Christian religion dating from
the 4th century A.D.; its anarchic mixture
of the primitive and the modern, its bitter
colonial experience under the Italians; the
shrewd genius of Emperor Haile Selassie
(his power is absolute) whose earnest
desire is to hasten modernization. All
these features are real.
The capital Addis Abbaba is no forest
of buildings; indeed the building up pro-
cess as it is known in Western cities has
only begun in earnest now and from a
window in the five-storied Ministry of
Education or in the magnificent Ghion
Hotel or in the impressive edifice named
Africa Hall (which has housed the United
Nations offices and which is the scene of
numerous international conferences) one
could look out upon living styles the like
of which might have existed many cen-
turies ago. Africa Hall itself was the
Emperor's personal gift to the peoples of
Africa. As in developing countries and
some developed ones,city streets extend at
a rate faster than the asphalt that will
cover them; and markets often take on the
aspects of a bustling favela.
A native "Tukul"
From a soaring aircraft one may look
down upon tiny groups of tukuls (round
huts) by a river side in the lonesome heart-
land, the next tiny group being many miles
away. The living standards of such people
are easier imagined than described; they
have no access to any of the amenities of
I have heard Ethiopians speak with
astonishing equanimity of their loss of
almost a whole generation of their fellow
men in the Italian invasion Mussolini's
"civilizing" mission. The Ethiopians
fought with incredible courage and forti-
tude. An ever-present sense of history
mitigates feelings of recrimination: had
the Italians not come, the propulsion of
the country into modern times might well
have been delayed. A Christian disposi-
tion to forgiveness is consistent with this
Modern education is at its beginnings.
It is true that from the earliest Christian
times the Church with the support and
encouragement of the Crown maintained a
wide system of elementary schools, but
these were attended by a tiny fraction of
the population. The centre of all studies
were the Scriptures written largely in
Ge'ez, the language from which Amharic
derived (the latter is the official first
language of the country, English being the
second). Traditionally, the teachers were
largely priests. Sylvia Pankhurst, in her
monumental work on Ethiopia quotes
a writer who at the beginning of the pre-
sent century remarked upon the great
respect of the students for their teacher.
When the pupils rise to go home, she says,
they bless the teacher: "May God cause
thy word to be heard and make thee ...
to be evergreen like the cibaha. May He
broaden thee as the sycamore, and cause
thee to shine as the moon!"
by Reginald Murray
Higher learning in the Church was
available to apt youths who had com-
pleted the courses in the traditional schools.
They might be trained in a Lay Order of
musicians, poets and teachers. A wealth
of history, poetry, ecclesiastical law, and
church ritual exists in Ge'ez. For mastery
of this lore some scholars spent their
Apart from the problem of keeping
the country united, education is today
perhaps Ethiopia's most pressing task. Like
other countries, New Guinea for example,
endeavouring for the first time to face up
to the problem, Ethiopia did not delay
The author's daughter mounted on a
Galla horse. Note the attendant's
jodhpur and shamma. Galla tribesmen
are famous. horse lovers.
the establishment of a university until the
country could possess an impressive infra-
structure of modern primary and secondary
schools. Today,therefore, we find, among
other institutions of higher education, the
Haile Selassie University (founded 1961),
with which are associated the University
College of Addis Abbaba (founded 1950),
the Imperial Ethiopian College of Agri-
culture and Mechanical Arts at Alemaya,
Diredawa (founded in 1952), the Imperial
College of Engineering at Addis Abbaba
(founded 1953), the Haile Selassie I Public
Health College and Training Centre at
Gondar (established in 1954), the Institute
of Building Technology established since
1954, the Imperial Ethiopian Institute of
Public Administration at Addis Abbaba
and the Imperial Ethiopian College also in
the capital. There are also a number of
teacher training colleges. The development
of Education is proceeding, but the major
task must remain in the future. I gained
the impression that there was a hunger for
learning, and as in most parts of Africa,
pupils take their work seriously. I saw
primary schools where the age range was
between seven and perhaps thirty. In one,
the average of ninth graders was reported
to be twenty-five. In some provinces,
Gojjam for example, community initiative
in school building was a notable feature.
Often in the eagerness to get a school
started even elementary criteria, such as a
new Ministry of Education might impose,
were ignored. For a Jamaican parallel to
the value attached to schooling and the
willingness to contribute to its develop-
ment, one has to go back to our early
Internationally respected and admired,
the Emperor is proffered aid from diverse
sources and nowhere is this diversity better
illustrated than in the field of education
where private institutions conducted by
various sects and nationalities as well as
technical aid on a bilateral basis are much
in evidence. The Cold War and the Iron
Curtain are apparently suspended. Prom-
inence of the American presence did not
deter the USSR, and one of the most im-
pressive institutions I have seen was the
Technicum built by the Soviets at Bahr
Dar. U.N. agencies are also active in
many fields. Prior to the establishment of
modern institutions of higher education,
the elite of Ethiopia, mostly Amharas of
course, were educated in universities of
Europe and America. Proud, intelligent,
urbane, these formed the Ethiopian van-
guard in the learned professions.
Much has been written about Ethiopia's
problem of unity, comments are prompted
by the diversity of tribes, each with its
own loyalties, its own language, its own
customs. The separatist tendency is now
critical in Eritrea, the province that was
most fully colonized. The capital of this
province is Asmara, an Italian city (minus
the romantic statues) transferred to Africa.
This province was federated with Ethiopia
in 1952 and fully annexed by the Emperor
ten years later. A community predomin-
antly Moslem, then became a self-conscious
minority under a Christian hegemony. The
result is familiar. Eritrean tribesmen have
result is familiar. Eritrean tribesmen have
been waging a guerilla war of indepen-
dence for years. My one opportunity to
visit Massawa an Eritrean port on the
Red Sea was frustrated when my
Ethiopian colleague who was to have
taken me there in his motorcar, failed to
turn up at my hotel at the appointed time.
When it was too late to set out at all, it was
confidentially explained to me by some-
one more talkative than my colleague that
the road to Massawa was threatened by
armed tribesmen, who, had we attempted
the journey, might well have given us an
Educated Ethiopian youth, such as
army personnel and university students,
have manifested impatience with the rate
at which social and political innovation is
leavening the general character of the
society. An attempted coup d'etat about
ten years ago was defeated by the personal
influence and the bold, decisive action of
the Emperor. It would be my guess that
internal tranquillity in the immediate
future could well depend upon the mood
of the army (with the navy and air-force)
which appears to contain a very high pro-
portion of the most self-confident ele-
ments of educated Ethiopian manhood.
Ethiopia has been called a land of
ethnic confusion and indeed its racial heri-
tage is multifarious. I have been told that
formerly the Amharas, who are the domi-
nant tribe, did not readily acknowledge
their African identity. Modern research
about their origins seems to give some
credence to the distinction they were
making. "Far to the East, Caucasian
people, speaking a Semitic language had
long been infiltrating into Africa. From
the land of the Sabeans(Sheba) in southern
Arabia, traders and migrants repeatedly
crossed the Red Sea to the Abyssinian
Highlands, in the first millennium B.C.
Finally, the Sabean government also
moved, and became, by the fourth cen-
tury A.D., the Kingdom of Axum, or
Ethiopia".l Another authority claims that
"while the Emperor Haile Selassie might
almost pass for a south European, his pre-
decessor was in feature distinctly negroid".2
I tried once at a cocktail party, when I
imagined that my friends had imbibed
enough to sweeten their mood to find out
from two yellow-skinned Amharas what
were the visible ethnic marks of their
tribe, since they seemed to me to be no
different from what I knew as "Negroes"
and many looked exactly like Jamaicans
black or brown. The reply was unequi-
vocal: there are no ethnic marks; anyone
whose natural speech is Amharic is an
Of Semitic origin the Amharic lan-
guage bears certain resemblances to Arabic,
but the script is entirely different. The
written language is syllabic; each character
of the alphabet represents a syllable (not a
A young water carrier
1. Donald L. Wiedner: A History of Africa
South of the Sahara. Vihtage 1964. p.30.
2. Seligman: The Races of Africa. Oxford 1930.
-i Jc Yve occuuatur. i cr mrren ujLur wter uounpurs. ine wnlie nome-spun cotton
shawl, known as a shamma is worn by both men and women.
letter as in English). There are 276
characters, a sample of which is repro-
Tradition holds that the Ethiopian
royal dynasty derived from their Queen
Makeda and King Solomon. Makeda was
the Queen of Sheba, a woman of splendid
beauty, who undertook the long and
perilous journey to Jerusalem to hear the
wisdom of Solomon. The story goes that
the king persuaded Makeda to accept the
condition that if she would forego the
taste of water for a certain time she would
be free of his insistence on possessing her.
The wily monarch instructed his slaves
who waited upon her to load her food
with salt and keep watch. When, soon
THE QUEEN OF SHEBA 'S VIS
enough, she attempted to obtain a drink,
she was caught red-handed. The story is a
popular subject of Ethiopian traditional
painting. So is that of St. George slaying
The visitor marvels at the architecture
of this incredible country which may be
seen at its most impressive at ancient
Axum, a main characteristic of which are
the remains of granite columns resembling
obelisks and known as stelae. Hardly any
of these now remain standing. Modem
archaeological discoveries at Axum and
elsewhere include temples, statues and
bronze objects, some of which were con-
temporary with the Pharaohs of Egypt.
The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela are a
source of never ending amazement. The
largest of these is Medhane Alem. Its
dimensions are 110 x 75 x 36 feet, and its
gabled roof, barrel-vaulted nave and aisles
are supported by rectangular pillars, all
part of the one huge block of stone which
forms the church. Another of the famous
rock churches is Debra Damo, where a
monastery stands on the flat summit of a
very high hill which can only be reached
by means of a rope let down from above!
This church is said to be the oldest build-
ing in Ethiopia, and to have been in un-
broken use for longer than any other
church in the Christian world.
Art survives in Ethiopia not only in its
ancient monuments and its traditional and
folk culture, but in the work of sophisti-
cated painters and sculptors now known
throughout the world. Art courses of a
high standard are available at the Univer-
sity of Addis Abbaba, and exhibitions of
work in various media are held, Menghestu
A country woman, her baby secured to
KING SOLOMON Traditional Ethiopian Painting
on the plateau, but to the northwest side
there is considerable erosion in the region
of Lake Tana and the Blue Nile. to which
THE AMHARIC ALPHABET videe pp. I and 2)
lat fm 2nd form 3rd form 4th1 form 5th form 6th form 7th form
a aShor it a i Loj i. ILoug Lo a in Log ii Lotg in V ort. owel- 0 au" Remarks as to pronunciation
"Cona" "rtlc" "marne" "11 in "let," Ica. terminal, in "Paul"
"gun butmoreopenrt or tiasin
tl h, or hi
95h It. or hi
9 or si
Sr, or chri
f or i
n it, or ahi
5f. oh orchi
3 n, or i
fl kh,orkl i
y ., or yi
Il' oh. or o1ti
IV .or ti
SL ch, or chi
* p. or pi
Sto, or tai
. f,or i
T P. or pi
As in English.
Called the ig aod
Iao"Trinity" "kiOg" etc.
At oxpluive k. made from the back
of the roof of the moth.
A in Engih.
The l as in Spanish, or French g
As in English.
Guttural, as i loch.
An in Englinh; but sao p. 2 of text.
As in English.
As "a in Eng. pleasure."
As in English.
An explosive T.
An explosive CH.
An explosive P.
An explosive TS. often replaced ill Sheo
by ts (m), etc.
An explosive TS, rarely uud.
As in English.
Ethiopia is a country of the future. It
is true that inaccessible mountains and
arid deserts form much of its territory,
but there are arable plateaux, stretches of
rolling country and lovely plains waiting
to be exploited. There is a high rainfall
this lake gives rise. Grains, coffee (sup-
posed by many to have originated in Kaffa
province), honey, beeswax, hides, and
gold are exported. Sugar growing and
refining have been introduced by the
Dutch, machine manufacture of cotton and
Lemma, Agegnu Engeda, and above all,
Afewerk Tekle, are, among others, artists
of material for bags, ropes and other goods
by the Indians. There is also vegetable oil
extraction, improved tobacco manufacture,
cement manufacture, the making of pipes
and blocks, machine corn milling, the can-
ning of meat and tomatoes, the bottling of
carbonated and mineral beverages, soap
and dairy products, and the growing of
grapes, oranges, bananas and other fruit.
There are lakes of great beauty; hot
springs whose commercial value as a
mineral drinking water supply and as the
centre of holiday resorts is being developed.
Internal road or rail communication is
limited, and much use is made of aero-
planes. There is a single railroad linking
Addis Abbaba to the port of Djibouti in
the Gulf of Aden.
The opening up process is indispen-
sable to more rapid progress, and the con-
version, were this desirable, of a mainly
pastoral economy to a more diversified
modern one is possible.
With its 400,000 square miles, and its
20 million inhabitants, most of whom are
strangers to the technics of the 20th cen-
tury, Ethiopia has need for pioneering
skills of every conceivable type. It is not
a place to go in search of a job. The coun-
try has no lack of jobless folk. Anyone,
Rastafarians included, who wishes to emi-
grate should bear this in mind. Know-how,
initiative and hardihood such as the Pil-
grim Fathers displayed, would be essential
to the would-be peasant settler.
No visitor to Ethiopia can forget the
hospitality of the people, their gentleness
of manner, and the disciplined character of
their social relationships. Their greeting
sometimes takes the form of a protracted
catechism in which the health of every
member of the family is enquired after.
This completed, ordinary conversation
The national dish is injera and wat.
'Injera' is a large flat cake of slightly sour
taste made from tef, a kind of wheat. 'Wat'
is the meat sauce (beef or chicken mostly)
well flavoured with pepper and other in-
gredients. The preparation of injera is a
laborious process occupying women much
of their time. 'Tef, a kind of honey wine
and 'talla' the local beer, go well with
injera and wat. Traditionally, one does
not use a fork in eating. The food would
be brought in upon baskets shaped like two
cones joined at the peaks. Lower than
normal table height, the baskets have con-
cave tops, and thick layers of injera serve
as receptacle for the sauce and meat. If
you are a male, and fortunate, you may
still be able to find a native restuarant
where these old dining customs may be
demonstrated for you by some angel-faced
Ethiopian damsel and you may partake of
this feast. She will roll a piece of injera
around some flesh, half immerse it in wat,
and feed it into your gaping mouth.
Ethiopian is a land of wonders and
For the sake of good pronunciation, it should be observed that thereis always a slight "w sound before an o.
e.. tankol, dereit, soun dalmo tankwol.
gomman, caiae .. .. gwomman
t It will be r .that the H's and A's are exception..
THE FOLLOWING ARE DIPHTHONGS
+9 kwa . . ea. k'i 9 ka e '" +- t **" L a -
hls . . hi h It hwI hwwi .
11. kI w . . kw i 1% iU kwi It kwi . .
1-. gw . . 1h gtl '. ge" I3 gw gwi . .
Na.--Spelling i entity phonetic anld t is thcrrlore sometimes possible to spell a given word in several different way. In geest. does,
not matter in hih of these way the word is shelled. but cam ourld be taken in the se of the different kinds of S ". ". and "A "
sinos them have a definite signlitahe assigned to them by custom.
n-IiwA: 00: niM'r: njc%%..: oT-wn : -or i::
At ford water as it abounded on us by bridge road we eame.
or (it abounded on us and)
Comparing the above letter by letter, the letters will be easily reognsed to be-
B it firt form. mounded hb (short a).
U *,-lint ,, B ( q.ort a).
L ,. sixth I termlnaL
K.. fourth .. ki.
So the word will be BANALKA Each succeeding word being treated in this way, the whole entonce an be put into English characters, ad
will read -
wal ~ Bamalkii wihl bazibbininn& badildl mangad matana.
and can then be translated with the aid of the votab slary, or through the tra slater's Mollqni lunowldgf a
Ai tIn savr was Se high for as at the ford, wa cme by k bridge-rt d. or The water swa io s or n at the a t s we ty
VARTnauig ationtinHfaniolamportwiaituprobiiitwu Columbut
'Bombaddla, lamascam inflam tenuit. bi Francfcus Porefiuvnius
E D Carauell Prstor cum fiatre &maxima milttum part feditionem in
cum commoet,a rcontradir aliquot Indorm lintribut in Hif:aniolam
profugereconatur. Sedquumtam exiguirlntribs impetum maridfupe-
rarefruflratentafJet,regrefumeH. Audit eiu aduentu,Columbu cumfratrefiosm
aciem educit: ventumeft admanus: caduntnonnulli :multi vtringJ~ucj:
Franciufc Porefim cumfratre capitur.
Bernardo De Balbuena
Epic Poet and Abbot
of Jamaica 1562-1627 by Sylvia Wynter
Cervantes', creator of Spain's immortal
hero of failure, Don Quixote, knew in his
own lifetime, little of favour and less of
luck. As a soldier, he had his left hand
maimed from the wars, had been captured
by pirates and imprisoned in Algiers. Ran-
somed at last, he had to return home to
Spain, and to the struggle of managing to
make both ends meet. He shifted and
scuffled from one job to the next, trying
to get a safe post in the administrative
bureaucracy of the Crown. He applied
for, and hoped to get a substantial post in
the Indies. But the competition and
scramble for these places was fierce. He
was turned down in 1590. This refusal
may have added a certain acidity to his
comment in one of his shorter novels that,
"' .. the passage to the Indies is the
refuge and protection of all the desperate
men in Spain, the safe hiding place of
those in revolt ... the will of the wisp of
the many and the private hope of the
Bernardo de Balbuena was determined
to be one of the favoured few. Born in
1. In El celoso extremeno, i.e. The Jealous
Extremenian. ". que es el de pasarse a las
Indias, refugios y amparo de los desesperados de
Espana, Iglesia de los alzados .. engano comun
de muchos, y remedio particular de pocos.
"A man studies and studies, and then,
with favour and good luck, he'll find him-
self with a staff in his hand or a mitre on
his head when he least expects it... "
Cervantes, Don Quixote, Part II. Ch. 67.
"He (i.e. Balbuena) was elected Abbot
of Jamaica, on 29th April, in the year
Gonzalez Davila, Ecclesiastical Theatre of
The Primitive Church of the West Indies,
Coat of Arms of Bernardo de Balbuena
Spain, in 1562, taken as a child to Mexico,
educated there, ordained as a priest and
crowned as a poet in several literary
festivals, held in Mexico City, Balbuena
was returning home, to the centre of the
imperial administration with the intention
of obtaining an ecclesiastical post some-
where in the New World. 2 He had enough
of what he himself had termed 'the small
and narrow world' of provincial Mexico,
where he had worked out his service as a
priest for some ten years. He had now
set his sights on a position in the impor-
tant Churches of Mexico City or Tlascala;
2. See Part 1 of this article in Jamaica Journal
Volume 3., Number 3, 1969.
or, failing that, in the other New World
centre, in Lima, in the Vice royalty of
And of course, as a writer, he had also
come to the most important cultural
centre Spain in search of greater fame
and recognition. For one thing, such
fame and recognition could be set to work
for him in the more tangible down to
earth search for a job. He carried with him
in his luggage, one published book of
poetry-THE GRANDEUR OFMEXICO3
and the manuscript of his heroic poem,
THE BERNARD in Spanish, EL BER-
NARDO. The poem was eventually to be
published in 1624. A copy of this princeps
edition can be seen at the Institute of
Jamaica where it is labelled as 'the earliest
book published by a resident in Jamaica.'
And the poem whilst still in manuscript
was to be instrumental in obtaining him
his first important post as Abbot of
Balbuena brought with him to Spain,
as his servant, a nine-year old boy and free
mulatto, calledChristopher4. Black men,
Negroes, free and enslaved, had accom-
3. Published in Mexico in two editions, both
dated 1604 on the title page, although the
second may have been released as late as 1606.
4. Van Horne points out that the records of
disembarking passengers at Seville, in this case
wrongly, describes him as being an esclavo. i.e.
panied Cortes in his conquest of Mexico,
and the African presence had early begun
its at once agonized and formidable in-
filtration of the New World reality.
On 16th October, 1606, Balbuena and
Christopher disembarked at Seville, that
port that was the hub of and gateway to,
the Indies. Balbuena at once set about the
business of being a 'pretendiente, that is,
a man on the make for a job. Unlike Cer-
vantes, Balbuena belonged to the educated
elite, the letrados, a kind of intel-
lectual aristocracy who had studied at the
University, and who, with the customary
arrogance of academics, tended to despise
the lay genius the ingenio lego of
writers like Cervantes. But Balbuena,
besides being a poet as well as 'letrado',
held as yet, only the licentiate degree from
the University of Mexico. And he knew
that a doctorate was an essential part of
the equipment of survival and success.
In much the same way as today, a
doctorate was not so much the mark of a
scholar, as the bureaucratic rung of a
ladder. He applied himself with diligence.
One year after his arrival, in 1607, he
obtained the doctorate in theology from
the University of Siguenza; and acquired,
among other fringe benefits, the right to
wear the borla blanca, the white tassel
which proved that he had made it.
FAME NOW PROMISES THE HOUSE OF
The Count of Lemos, a powerful
ELl. BfRN 1OY. -nft,
OVICTORL\ DE MNCES 'LLEg
Dvi, D' CTOP DJ(N BF.RN RD 3BAJI3 VE)PBAD MMJOR
31. 1y -( o fl.. laO La- -
S- I nc -" ," .- c s
naf Cdidaihe lDuv iu(2n
VdelDot or Dom Bernards de Balieais .
P R fig(e Mal gefiu viagenioflrAndo tcdas lJas Iagunes y Sigeos
e / Cotel. Ernro difolc dee V(w llado del Parunao rontemltcp lA va
tiednA lie Monflr*is quefalen al smunso por i ipucrta idel Cnaiio. Acsi
IRCten ls lines del mcfn deA la Forimrat,i fagqueer cl Parnafo: defied
defelo el Leoiesshaztido e n dies gran mortandad 4Apole,y las MUas
xn Lhonra def watsoria,le ilcuav at 7 T rpl dte I ismortalidad. tbra
Av;i DosztIla de i, I ecm y del lrefgSle wnogs CanlleroS,y
vafe con n ella ALe firfs Ade Mile,,cdend haze nm fpelt-
grofos baladi. c vtin causes ler no cosxucd.
e pe from te P ep ii of T
Title page from the Princeps Edition of THE BERNARD
SVa elvarcotanalto,qie pudiera
aferrar con elancora ein la Luna,
y tomar puzrro en all fi quificra
verclitlmdable Ryno dc For:unai
y noallifolo,cn Iola aquella lEsfra,
m s cn tolaspud.cra c vna en vna,
quc como Iflas doradas a pofi.a
qu, nacian vnas de otras parccia.
Afsi a los que huyendo las riberas
toman,,tcxando el P6to y fus laderas
a vr d- Chio el regliadovino;
lasCvclt i's le's van naciendo enteras
por -: golf a 1i cf(recho mas vezino
aqui Scirno,alli L-sbor,alla Amato,
y clNaxo puerto de vi amice ingrato
Y por cl Cielo afsi al cubrirfe eldia
Nils fe fuerondefcubriendo de oro, 3
la lihmei a Luna,la montafi fria
de Saturno,y dc \enus el teforo:
fu zeroo amafado de alegria
de Mar:e el roaco eftrepito fonoro,
y la mayor fortunaqiie en fu cumbre
jouiales rayos di de alegre lumbre.
El fabio que en los angulos del Ciclo
tan cerca viola celeftial Milicia, 4
de oyr cl fon de fi compuefto bielo,
y ver fus Globos de oro fc acadicia:
y va perdiendo de la vilia cl fuelo
del mundo superior dio alFi noticia
a aquellos que primero de la tierra
las pobrezas conmb q fu orbe encierra
First page of the PrincepsEdition of THE BERNARD from the WIRL
grandee, was President of the Council
which governed the Indies. As such he was
the source and fount of all patronage. In
his campaign to tap this source for a post,
Balbuena, whilst still in Mexico, had
dedicated his second edition of the GRAN-
DEUR OF MEXICO to the Count. Whilst
still in Mexico, too, he had sent on for
publication in Spain, the manuscript of a
pastoral novel called THE GOLDENAGE
IN THE FORESTS OF ERIFILE5. In
the same year in which he got his doc-
torate 1607 Balbuena had this pas-
toral novel published in Madrid. And this
book too, was dedicated to the Count.
Already, in the long poem of praise, which
Balbuena had inserted in the second
edition of the GRANDEUR OFMEXICO,
the poet had promised the Count to cele-
brate his name and lineage in his forth-
coming heroic poem, THE BERNARD.
This poem, like all epic poems, long in
preparation, is again heralded at the end of
Balbuena's pastoral novel as a new song to
be sung to trumpets, one that would
startle the world and its peoples from 'the
Indian to theMoor' Now, the poem itself,
still in manuscript, began to play its part;
and to win, not only fame for its author
but that 'favour' and 'good luck' which
would ensure him bread and a place at the
table. From Balbuena himself, we learn
that the Count of Lemos, in recognition
of the two books already dedicated to
him, took time off to read the manuscript
of THE BERNARD.6 On reading it, the
Count of Lemos, even in an age in which
adulation was common, could hardly have
failed to have-been flattered.
At the beginning of the heroic poem in
the second stanza7, the Count of Lemos is
made central to the poem. He is pro-
claimed the lineal descendant of the legen-
dary hero of the poem, and not only any
descendant, but one whose own heroic
deeds and acts have brought it about that,
Fame now promises the House of Castro
Laminas of gold, statues of alabaster.
More to the meat of the matter, the
Count is praised in his role as President of
the Council of the Indies, and Governor,
so to speak, of the New World:
The New World, unworthy of your
Adores you with the voice and livery
5. "El Siglo de oro en las selvas de Erifile."
6. The Count of Lemos died in 1622. Bal-
buena, in 1624, re-wrote the dedication of THE
BERNARD to the Count's heir and brother, Don
Francisco Fernandez de Castro etc. Balbuena
told the new Count that his predecessor 'with
the agreeable kindliness of his most noble con-
dition did not disdain to pass his eyes over it."
Biblioteca de Autores Espanoles poemasEpicos:
Volume I, p. 139.
7. The poem is written in 'octaves', a stanza
consisting of eight lines, each of 11 syllables,
with a regular rhyme scheme. Adopted from
Italian into Spanish poetry the octave form was
used for formal, solemn and serious poetry.
Your noble blood, descended from a
Sends just laws and honours to that
(Bk. 1 St. 3)
The Count is praised in the epic dimen-
sions of a hero his wisdom is compared
to that of Nestor in Homer's epic, the
Iliad; his prudence to that of Homer's
epic hero, Ulysses. His magnanimity and
generosity is compared to that of the
Roman Emperor Augustus who was the
real life patron of Vergil, the Roman epic
poet of the Aeneid. The implied corres-
pondence is clear. Augustus had been
Vergil's patron; so also had been Maecenas,
Augustus' adviser, whose name has become
a synonym for patron. Their financial
bounty made it possible for writers to live
for their art. In exchange the writer,
Vergil, glorified the Emperor as the lineal
descendant of his epic hero Aeneas, whom
he makes the founder of Rome; and
glorifies too, the Empire over which Augus-
tus rules. In a literal as well as in a poetic
sense, Vergil saw his patron-Augustus-as
the source of inspiration, the begetter, the
muse of his poetry. So, too, Balbuena
praises the Count as equal to the gods
Apollo and Bacchus, as the fountain and
source of his song. The Count will smooth
the rough path to Mount Parnassus, at the
top of which the poet will achieve excel-
lence and fame since the Muses have
their dwelling place there. The Count will
honour Balbuena's work with spiritual and
practical help, since as Balbuena reminds
him in the poem, he is,
".. a new Augustus who showers
Honours on men of letters... "
(Bk.XXI. St. 84)
In return, as quid pro quo, Balbuena's
poem will record the Count's fame, and
eternalize his name.
What might seem to us today like out-
rageous flattery was commonplace in those
ages when writers had to depend on the
personal patronage of the rich in order to
live. The rich too, came to need the poets.
They wanted to survive their mortal
bodies, through the survival of their name
in the permanence of the printed page.
Some did it through elaborate tombs with
suitable epitaphs, and who could write
these better than a poet.? And where too
would it live as long on stone, as on the
printed page? In his defence of poetry,
Balbuena's near contemporary, Sir Philip
Sidney warned rich and powerful men who
did not patronize poets with their money
that their memory would 'die from the
earth for want of an epitaph.' Edmund
Spenser, too, warned patrons that they
should provide poets with the wherewith-
all while they lived, since the poet's verses
'steel in strength and time and durance shall
outwear'; and the rich and the great who
could not sing for themselves would be
sure, except they paid a poet to sing for
them, to 'die in obscure oblivion'.
The Count of Lemos and his kind were
the antecedents of Foundations like Ford
and Guggenheim and others. Henry Ford
may have called history 'bunk', but he
would not have been averse to his own
role in it, being recorded. Balbuena, like
any modern aspirant for a foundation
grant, made his application in the pre-
scribed manner according to the pre-
scribed formula. His poetry was good
enough for its purpose. Lemos saw that
his name would live as long as Balbuena's
poem about Spain's legendary, but myth-
ical national hero Bernardo del Carpio -
survived. He would not gamble with his
own immortality by ignoring the poet who
could ensure it. So this time, Balbuena
hit the bull's eye. When the Council of
the Indies met to consider the applicant
for the vacant post of Abbot to the
Church of Jamaica, Balbuena's name was
not even on the short list of eight that
came up for consideration. But the Count
exerted his influence, and the official
Chronicler and historian of Spain, Gon-
zalez Davila records that:
"He (i.e. Bemardo de Balbuena) was
elected Abbot of Jamaica on 29th April,
in the year 1608."
One cannot help thinking, that, relatively
speaking, the Count of Lemos, ensured his
immortality, at cut-price.
THE DOCTOR IS THE NATURAL SON,
Cut-rate or not, a post was still a post.
And, as Abbot, Balbuena would be quite
some way up in the hierarchy of the
Church, even if his rung on the ladder was
in Jamaica, and somewhat remote. Yet it
was to be some two and a half years or
more before the abbot would arrive to
pursue his vocation in Villa de la Vega,
today's Spanish Town. Balbuena ran into
trouble when he tried to obtain the cus-
tomary Bulls from the Pope, confirming
his appointment. This trouble had to do
withhis illegitimate birth. In a letter
the Spanish emissary in Rome wrote to the
authorities in Spain, pointing out not only
that Balbuena was illegitimate:
'" ... by the papers that have come it
is clear that the afore-mentioned Doctor is
the natural son of his parents, not legiti-
mate nor legitimized by subsequent mat-
but that he seemed to have tried to evade
the implications of his illegitimacy:
"He says that he has no obstacle in
this Abbacy, whereas being illegitimate,
he needs dispensation which His Holiness
will grant. But please advise if he needs it
as is certain, unless he has already had it
for such offices, which I doubt."
It is possible that in Mexico, Balbuena
through the influence of his family con-
nections had been able to hold his priestly
office without papal dispensation. In the
New World, as Eric Williams comments
about Spanish Trinidad, illegality, was the
rule that proved the exception of metro-
politan law. But even in Mexico, his
illegitimacy may well have been the bar to
his advancement. This was his buried hurt,
his secret wound which gave an added
quality of ferocity to his ambition both
for a high Church position and for success
as an epic poet. As we shall see later,
Bernardo de Carpio, the national hero of
his poem, was himself of illegitimate birth.
The choice of his subject was an attempt
to auto-create himself, through the cele-
bration of this hero. Meanwhile, he had to
live. Depending on the Count of Lemos'
influence he had evidently evaded any
reference to the problem of his illegitimacy
in applying for the Bulls from Rome. This
evasion can be understood when we realise
the extent to which birth, lineage, the
mania for rank and titles of nobility, and
the peculiar and all pervasive obsession of
Spaniards of the time with the problem of
timpieza de sangre' purity of blood -
formed and dominated the very structure
of Spanish society in which Balbuena
lived. The need to be well born, to be of
Christian descent, unmixed with Jewish or
Moorish blood, to be the legitimate son of
verifiable descent, of 'someone'(hijo d'algo
i.e. hidalgo) was part of a psychological
compulsion comparable in terms of our
own society to the need to be as 'white'
as possible; and to deny 'black' blood as
the original taint. We shall see how Bal-
buena used his heroic poem in this con-
text as a literary and psychological justi-
fication of his illegitimacy; how he used
his epic poem to make legitimate his out-
sidership in relation to the structure of a
society to which he was devoted, and to
whose values he paid full allegiance.
I ADVANCED MONEY TO MY COUSIN,
DON BERNARDO DE BALBUENA:
For the moment, however, Balbuena
concerned himself with the strictly prac-
tical issue of survival. Survival had to do
with money, or rather, Balbuena's lack of
it. His stay in Spain, getting his doctorate;
his time in Madrid, the capital, as a
'pretendiente' in search of a post, greasing
the necessary palms, and paying living ex-
penses for himself and his servants, seemed
to have eaten into the money which he had
taken with him from Mexico. The obtain-
ing of the Bulls also cost money. And,
whilst the Pope in Rome was prepared to
grant the needed dispensation, he could
not make the slow and rusty wheels of
the papal bureaucracy move any faster.
Also, in addition to the dispensation pro-
cedure, there was another holdup. For
purely technical reasons, the papal bureau-
crats had to search in the Papal Archives
for the Bulls that had been issued to Bal-
buena's predecessor as Abbot of Jamaica -
Marquez de Villalobos before they
could issue the new Bulls to Balbuena.
The latter, in Madrid, waited and waited,
His money began to run out. One year
after his appointment in 1609, he sent in
a petition to the Council of the Indies, In
this he asked that the income accruing
from the Abbacy of Jamaica should be
given to him, until the matter of his
appointment was confirmed. Because of
the delay in this, he wrote,
. he has been delayed here for a
year, so impoverished that he can no
longer support himself in the capital."
He got no answer to this petition. He
fired off another, requesting that he be
allowed to go to Jamaica and to act there
in his post until the Bulls were issued. In
May, 1609, this second petition was
granted, but Balbuena did not leave. He
may have been reluctant to do so without
the official bulls, knowing what difficul-
ties the ecclesiastical appointees could have
with the civil authorities, in places like
Jamaica, if their appointments offered a
loophole for attack, through not being
He may have been waiting too, on the
publication of his poem, THE BERNARD.
In February, 1609, through the influence of
the Count of Lemos, Balbuena had obtained
for his poem the necessary ecclesiastical
approbation, and by June he had also
managed to obtain the license to print and
publish his book. The printing press, and
the power of its influence similar to
television today had been early recog-
nized by the Church. The Inquisition,
among its other manifold duties, kept a
watchful eye to see that literature re-
mained orthodox in matters of faith; and
fulfilled a social and moral responsibility
within the limits laid down by the Cath-
olic faith. Control was strict, as for exam-
ple, in Soviet Russia today. Yet, in Spain,
literature flourished rather than otherwise.
But the author had to go through quite a
process in order to get his book published.
He had to obtain the license or 'privilegio'
a kind of copyright which he could sell
outright to the printer-dealer; and of
course the eccelesiastical approval which
testified that the work deserved to be
printed for its excellence and above all,
because, as the censorlO said of 'THE
"there is nothing in it against the
Catholic Faith and good morals.. "11
Yet, for some reason or the other his
poem was not published; nor was it to be
for many a long year. Whilst he waited
for the Bulls to arrive from Rome he
seems to have survived by borrowing
money. On coming to Spain he had
returned to Valdepenas where he was born
and to Viso del Marques from where his
father had originated. A cousin of his in
Valdepenas, a certain Martinez Castellanos
recorded in his will that,
"Likewise I declared that I advanced
10.The ecclesiastical censor was in this case
MIRA DE AMESCUA also priest and writer, a
well-known playwright of Spain's Golden Age.
Like Balbuena, he was of illegitimate birth, and
his illegitimacy also influenced his choice of
career, and his attitudes.
11.". no ay en el cosa contra la Fe Catolica, y
money to my cousin Don Bernardo de Bal-
buena, Bishop of Puerto Rico, and accord-
ing to his letters, he offers me very good
expectations; especially now that he has
taken possession of that office, he writes
to me and offers me good payment with
This of course, was written when Bal-
buena, after his long stay in Jamaica as
Abbot, had at last received promotion
(1619) and taken up the bishopric of
Puerto Rico (1623).
Balbuena may have managed to survive,
too, through the help and charity of
Spain's Shakespeare the prolific drama-
tist, poet, lover and priest, Lope de Vega
Carpio. Although about this time he was
usually impecunious, Lope was known for
his generosity. He and Balbuena struck up
a friendship, not least of all, because of
their common obsession with the theme
of the mythical Spanish hero, Bernardo
del Carpio, and the manner in which, one
in his plays and the other in his epic poem,
both used it for similar psychological
ends the auto-creation of themselves,
transforming their lowly births through
the magic wand of fiction. In 1625, Lope
de Vega was to praise Balbuena among
other Spanish poets, and in 1627, the year
of Balbuena's death, Lope de Vega testi-
fies in a letter to the fact that Balbuena,
then Bishop of Puerto Rico, had sent him
eight hundred realesl2 through his agent
in Seville. Was Balbuena sending this
money as a gift in recognition of past
favours Lope de Vega, had earlier on
been valet Secretary to the young Count
of Lemos and might have been instru-
mental in helping Balbuena to win the
Count's favour or was he repaying
money he had borrowed from the great
poet and playwright during his time of
ALLOW TO PASS TO THE ISLAND OF
JAMAICA, DOCTOR BERNARDO DE
By February, 1610, the Bulls had
arrived from Rome. Although Balbuena
had received his clearance papers for him-
self and his party to proceed to Jamaica by
May 1609, another decree was made out
in February 1610, to allow them to 'pass
to the island of Jamaica' His party con-
sisted of, according to the records which
were kept as a.corollary of the strict watch
and control exercised over those travelling
to the Indies his servantsChristopher,
now about thirteen or fourteen years old
and described in the clearance papers as
'free mulatto, native of Mexico'; a married
couple and a single man, both from Bal-
buena's native Valdepenas; one other single
man also from Madrid, who listed himself
as ahidalgo i.e. gentleman, although he was
going out as Balbuena's servant. Van
Home conjectures that they went out as
intending emigrants as well as servants.
12.An eighth part of the well known silver
piece of eight. One real was worth 34 maravedis
which were the basic Spanish money denomina-
They all had to swear except Christopher
of course that they were of old Christian
blood, untainted with the intermixture of
Jew or Moorish blood, and therefore un-
likely to be heretics and therefore subver-
sive to the State which was based on the
One other cleric went with him, Father
Gonzalo Sanabria. And, in the permission
which had been granted him in 1609,
sandwiched between the servants and the
goods that he was allowed to carry with
him,'three Negro slaves were listed. Like the
goods 'to the amount of 1,000 ducats,
jewels worth 500 ducats and books con-
nected with his studies, worth 200 ducats, ''3
the Negro slaves, considered but another
and more profitable kind of goods, were to
be admitted into Jamaica, free from the
usual tax, which the King and the State
collected as their cut of the profitable
African slave-trade. Although, according
to Catholic practice the slaves would have
been baptized, and would be theoretically
classed as men they were supposed to
have, like everyone else, immortal souls -
but, they came within the Aristotelian de-
finition, accepted by some theologians, as
inferior men with implicitly 'inferior souls'
who occupied the status of a 'living tool.
In the final clearance papers, they were
not listed among the passengers; their re-
cords remain mute among the goods.
The actual date on which Balbuena and
his party sailed from Seville is not known.
But we know that, as very few ships of
the 'flota'-or regular sailing fleet which
went to the Indies under heavy escort -
went directly to unimportant outposts
like Jamaica, they sailed to Santo Domingo.
From there they arranged the trip across
to Jamaica. Their final permits were dated
in June 1610, and they may have sailed
soon after. They then stayed in Santo
Domingo some three months, while Bal-
buena met the important dignitaries, with
an eye to future promotion in the far more
important centre of Santo Domingo; and
tried to hire a small vessel in which to
cross over to Jamaica. He found a ship
jointly owned by its Captain and co-pilot,
Francisco Coldera and Manuel Luis, and
rented it from them for the excessive
price of 400 silver pesos each one to the
value of eight reales The price was
high because of the riskiness of the venture.
Armed contraband traders of other nations
who broke the prohibition that no one
but Spaniards should trade in the Indies,
were thick in Caribbean waters; and es-
pecially frequented the deserted ports of
Jamaica. Even worse, fortune-seeking
pirates of all nations had established their
dominion over the Caribbean seas. The
passage, also, could be stormy and rough.
On top of all this the inflated prices,
which is part of the unhappy fate of all
colonies, came into play here. In addition
to the money he paid for the hiring of the
vessel, Balbuena, as was customary, had to
find food and drink for his party on the
13.See Van Horne, Bernardo de Balbuena in
Jamaica', in The Daily Gleaner, 1934.
crossing. They could not have eaten very
well if they ate at all. Balbuena himself
later wrote that he had difficulty scraping
up the money to pay his passage on the
ship to Jamaica.
Somewhere towards the end of 1610,
they arrived at Port Caguaya today's
Passage Fort. The Abbot and his party
were met by the dignitaries of the town of
Villa de La Vega. They proceeded in a
stately manner by road to the town which
was some seven miles from the disembarka-
tion point. When he arrived, the Abbot,
to borrow a nice phrase of the historian
of Spanish Jamaical4 in regard to another
incumbent 15 looked at Villa de la Vega,
and Villa de la Vega looked at the Abbot.
"When Your Majesty bestowed this
Abbacy on me, and while preparing to
come out to serve my Church, the Count
of Lemos, at that time, President of Your
Royal Council of the Indies, directed me
to observe carefully the things that in this
island appeared to me to be worthy there-
of, and in a faithful and brief report to
give the same to Your Majesty and to
your Royal Council."
Balbuena in a letter from Jamaica, July
We are left in no doubt as to what the
Abbot saw as he looked at Villa de la
Vega towards the end of the first decade
of the seventeenth century. In a letter
written to the King, about a year and a
half after his arrival, he gives a picture of
Spanish Jamaica, of its religious, social and
economic life. In his epic poem, too,
Spanish Jamaica makes its appearance in a
more idealized form. The two descrip-
tions illustrate two kinds of truth the
truth of history and historical facts, and
that of poetic or universal truth. In the
Prologue to the Epic poem, a prologue
which Balbuena wrote in Jamaica in 1615,
he discusses the relative validity of these
two kinds of truth. There, as first and
foremost a poet, Balbuena comes down
with vehemence on the side of universal
and poetic truth. As Abbot, however, as
an ecclesiastical administrator, he had to
deal with historical facts, as he encountered
and contended with them, in his task of
ministering to the immortal souls of the
people of Jamaica.
As one of his first acts as Abbot, Bal-
buena wrote in his letter, he had ordered
confessions to be taken throughout the
island with particular care'. From these
confessions, he fixes the total number of
inhabitants at 1,510. Of these he lists 523
as Spaniards, including men and women.
Children number 173. There are 75
'foreigners' these most likely refer to
Portuguese settlers, among them Portu-
guese Jews, some of them merchants. Of
the original inhabitants, the Arawak In-
dians, 'natives of the island' as Balbuena
14. Morales Padron, "Jamayca Espanola"
15.Marques de Villalobos, the predecessor of
lists them, there are only 74. The class of
the free Blacks was fairly heavily repre-
sented. There were some 107 'free
Negroes' And the number of slaves of
African origin was relatively large 558,
in Balbuena's confessional census.
The number given for the European
inhabitants must have been nearly accurate.
There most likely were more Arawak In-
dians, and African ex-slaves in the island,
however, refugees in the fastness of the
mountains. The Maroon tradition in
Jamaica sprang from both an Arawak and
an African resistance to forced labour.
With the first settlement of Spaniards in
the island, during the early decades of the
XVI century, 'the sharing out of the In-
dians to settlers in the system which later
became standardized as the 'encomienda'
systeml6, the resistance to forced labour,
and to the whole work-money-Christian
God ethos of the Spaniards had led to mass
suicides with cassava poison; or to escape
into the inaccessible regions of the Blue
Mountains. The escape of African slaves
too, to these regions, began almost at once
and at the same time. Arawaks and
Africans would have joined forces.
The present day Maroon memory and
legend that they are descended from. the
Arawaks as well as from the Africans, has
recently been denied, in a controversy in
the Pressl7, by someone who claims to
deal with historical facts. But his histori-
cal facts are based on insufficient informa-
tion in this case, on English records alone.
The earlier Spanish records show that as
late as 1601, the Spanish Governor of
Jamaica, Melgarejo, sent an expedition to
attack and subdue and bring in a settle-
ment of Indians, entrenched in the Blue
Mountains; and at the same time, to search
for gold. The expedition does not seem to
have succeeded in either venture. It is
clear though, from the records that the
tradition of a guerilla defence in the
mountains, was in its early stage, a fusion
of Arawak and African actions. The
Maroon myth belongs then, to that species
of truth, of universal truth, in this case,
the resistance of men to being reduced
from manhood to slavery, which lives on
in what Balbuena terms 'the common
tradition' in the prologue which he wrote
in Jamaica. It is this kind of truth which,
like Sir Philip Sidney, in his 'Apology for
Poetry' Balbuena defends in his prologue,
exalting it against historical truth based on
facts. The historian, hampered by what
Sidney terms 'the cloudy knowledge of
mankind' can never be in possession of all
the facts; therefore his so-called factual
dogma is always open to error. The myth
or the legend on the other hand, does not
claim that its facts are true; only that its
underlying essence could have been true.
The Maroon legend, which lays claim
to both African and Arawak antecedents
16.See Part I,Jamaica Journal Vol. 3, No. 3.
17. Daily Gleaner, Barker & Harris controversy.
is true not in its detailed and fallible fact;
but in its core. The question as to how
much of racial fusion there really was, is
irrelevant; what is important is that the
myth itself, which embodies 'the self-
consciousness and memory of mankind'l18
has sprung from the deeds of both peoples;
a myth that pays tribute to the invinci-
bility of the human aspiration to be free.
The Maroons are factually, the mythic
descendants of Arawaks and Africans. As
Balbuena in his epic poem would make
the mythical Spanish hero Bernardo del
Carpio, the ancestor of his patron, the
Count of Lemos; of the glory and heroism
of Spain and the patriotism of the Span-
iards; and of the moral choice needed in
the search for the true and ideal destiny
THERE IS ONLY ONE SETTLED TOWN
CALLED VILLA DE LA VEGA: 19
A considerable nucleus of the total
population lived in the town of Villa de la
Vega. In his letter to the King, Balbuena
does not describe the town in detail. He
tells us, that 'a river of good water' passes
through the town this was of course,
today's Rio Cobre. From his account of
the main buildings and principal function-
aries, it is clear that the town itself was
laid out on the typical plan which the
Spaniards translated from Spain to all
areas of the New World, The life of the
town was centred around the main square-
the Plaza Mayor with the principal
Church and the Town Hall as the focus of
community life. The streets had been laid
out in an orderly manner by Alonso de
Miranda, the Governor who welcomed
Balbuena when he arrived. The same
Governor had also repaired the Town Hall
or Cabildo. Although Balbuena does not
tell us this, we know from a later record
that there were some two hundred houses
in the town itself. These were built low,
without lofts, as a protection against
earthquakes and hurricanes. The roofs
were covered with tiles, the walls were
made of mud, although some were of
wood, and a few of the principal ones
made of brick.
There were common lands in and near
the town for the benefit of all the citizens.
But in 1604, the citizens of Villa de la
Vega had complained that the then Gover-
nor Melgarejo de Cordoba had
allowed many of the free Negroes to build
their huts on a part of this common land.
Balbuena himself tells us of the 'many
hunting grounds' outside the town, these
occupied by horned stock,
'in which the colonists have their
shares similar to the ranches they formerly
had stocked with tame cattle from which
have sprung those that are now wild in
18. George Lukacs
19.In later document see Morales Padron -
referred to as Santiago de la Vega; hence the
English referred to it as St. Jago later as Spanish
... .. '.. -- / -g *; .....
Map of Jamaica executed in the XVIIth. CenturyArchives of the Indies,Seville.
Spanish House under construction
: 1 t ,|
of the IndiesSeville.
these grounds. "
The economic life of the town and the
island then centred to a large extent on the
export of hides and tallow, as Balbuena
tells the King, on the 'killing of cows and
bulls, leaving the meat wasted. In addi-
tion lard which was obtained from 'the
large herds of swine raised in the moun-
tains, which are common to who may
wish to hunt them' was another export
commodity. Jerked pork, in the manner
of the Carib Indians, was plentiful that
method has been handed down to us
today, mainly through the Maroons.
Farms growing cassava, maize and
vegetables, and sugar mills, cocoa walks
'and cowpens surrounded the town, accord-
ing to a later description. Balbuena him-
self tells us that the 'land is abundant and
suitable for growing all the seeds and
grains that are cultivated in Spain' Cas-
sava, the Arawak food par excellence, was
planted in fairly large quantities. Bal-
buena writes that the 'bread eaten here'is
made from cassava and can be 'preserved
for many months'. He tells the king, too,
of the groves of cedars, basil trees, mahog-
any and other woods. As we shall see
later, the woods of the island feature
among the measures that he suggests to
the King for the island's benefit and im-
provement. For what appalls the goodly
Abbot above all else, is, in spite of the
great natural advantages that the island
possesses, the state of neglect and the
general misery; a misery which affects the
state of the Church and of religion as
much as everything else, and is almost
There was a root cause for the neglec-
ted condition, the condition which would
cause him to look back from Puerto Rico,
and regard Jamaica as the 'soledades' in
which he had been as one bewitched
(encantado). The root cause of the
neglect of Jamaica had to do with the fact
that, as Balbuena says early, in his letter,
the island of Jamaica 'now belongs to the
estate of the Admirals of the Indies, the
Dukes of Veragua'. The Admirals of the
Indies and the Dukes of Veragua were the
heirs and descendants of the great Dis-
coverer, Christopher Columbus. Jamaica,
in between bouts of litigation, belonged to
them. It was their island estate; to bor-
row an English phrase it was their 'Planta-
tion'. How had this come about and what
effect did this have on Jamaica, on Bal-
buena and on his epic?
MARQUIS OF THE CONCEALED
The magnificent titles, powers, lands
that had been granted to Christopher
Columbus as part of the package deal that
was his reward for discovering the New
World had been, through the intrigue of
his enemies, and the ingratitude of kings,
gradually diminished. He died in Spain, in
relative obscurity in 1506. His son Diego,
who had married into a powerful grandee
Spanish family, contested these rights of
his father with the Crown. After his
death in 1526, his wife Dona Maria de
Toledo returned from Espanola to Spain
to fight for these rights on behalf of her
son Luis, who was still a child. Her son,
she claimed, should be Admiral and Vice-
roy of all the Islands and the Mainland; he
should obtain among other perquisites,
ten per cent of all treasure found in the
Indies. After years of stubborn litigation
a settlement was reached in 1536. Colum-
bus' grandson was to have a relatively
small part of what was claimed for him:
land on the mainland for a Dukedom
which would entitle him to be called Duke
of Veragua; and as his entailed estate
(mayorazgo) 'the island of Jamaica'. At
the time of the award, the President of
the Indies' Council21 had argued with harsh
commonsense that Jamaica should be
given to the Columbus heir,
'. .. because it is small, and up till
now has been of no advantage whatsoever,
seeing that it possesses neither gold nor
silver nor pearls nor anything else, besides
cattle pens. "
The President went on to recommend,
"This should be given to him as his
with the title of Duke or Marquis, the
King remaining the Supreme Authority. "
Jamaica then was to be at one and the
same time, the private property of the
heir of Columbus; and part of the Spanish
empire overseas. From this divided role,
and because of the dual authority, much
of the neglect which the island suffered
was to ensue. Much of the factionalism
in Church and State politics was to spring
from this cause. One was either a Colum-
bus-family man; or a King and Crown man.
Balbuena was appointed by the Count of
Lemos22 acting for the King at a time
when the Columbus family was busily
litigating among themselves. After the
death of one of the heirs of Columbus -
Don Cristobal de Cardona y Colon two
branches of the family went to law to
settle which branch should succeed to the
title and estates.
The right to appoint both Abbots and
Governors belonged to the Columbus heir.
During the litigation, however, the King
and the Crown temporarily took over this
right, until the issue of the rightful heir
was concluded. And so, an abbot like Bal-
buena's predecessor Marquis de Villa-
lobos was a King's appointee; so was the
Governor, whom Balbuena met when he
arrived in Spanish Town. That Governor
21 Fray Garcia de Loaysa, Bishop of Siguenza
and President of the Council of the Indies.
22 The fact that Balbuena, in writing to the
King, his descriptive letter of July 1611, states
that the Count of Lemos asked him to write
such a letter, makes it almost certain that Bal-
buena had been appointed through Lemos'
23 Alonso de Miranda, who was Governor be-
tween 1607-1611. During Balbuena's stay in
the island, some three other Governors were
appointed Espejo Barranco, Gonzalez de Vera,
left shortly after. This may have been due
to the fact that in the year 1608, the in-
heritance lawsuit had finally been settled
in favour of Don Nuno Colon. This was
also the very year in which Balbuena had
been appointed as Abbot by the King.
Our Abbot must have been placed in a
precarious position. Would Don Nuno
Colon insist on his right to appoint his
own Abbot? Was this one of the reasons
why Balbuena had to delay his departure
from Spain? Certainly, we know that
Don Nuno insisted on appointing in 1610,
his own man to be Governor of Jamaica -
Espejo Barranco and that, after Bal-
buena was promoted, to the bishopric of
Puerto Rico, (1619) Don Nuno Colon in-
sisted to the King on his right to appoint
the next Abbot.
What exactly took place we do not
know. Perhaps Balbuena, with that suave
tact and prudence which was to mark his
performance both as Abbot and Bishop,
met the agent of Don Nuno, or Don Nuno
himself in Madrid, and made it easier for
them to accept his appointment to the
Abbacy of Jamaica as a fait accompli.
And, either in Madrid, or in Jamaica, Bal-
buena wrote Don Nuno Colon into his
epic poem, praising him along with his
great ancestor the Discoverer. In prais-
ing Don Nuno, he praised the island which
was the marquisate, the estate of the Col-
umbus family. There is no doubt that in
this case, as in others, Balbuena used his
pen to good effect, to assure his survival
in a sea of uncertainty. The island of
Jamaica may have entered epic poetry in
a somewhat tortuous manner. Be that as
it may, Balbuena was left undisturbed in
His epic description of Jamaica is con-
densed into a single stanza in the XIXth
Bk. of THE BERNARD. But his praise of
Don Nuno, and the prophecy about him-
self as Abbot of Jamaica, expands the
Jamaica reference into three stanzas. The
action of the heroic poem, The Bernard is
imagined to take place in the 9th century
so the praise of Columbus' discovery of
the New World, of Don Nuno and Jamaica,
is praise which is given as a prophecy, by
the great magician, a Tlascalan Indian who
is visited in Mexico by the French magi-
cian Malgesi and two other characters in a
The Tlascalan magician first foretells
to them the discovery of the New World
by Columbus, and the consequence which
it will bring in its train. Columbus, trans-
forming men into dolphins will reach the
shores of the unknown world; he will
meet with people, concealed and hidden
from the eyes of his world until then, and
take some of them back to Spain. The
Golden Age will then be reborn again, as
the rich earth of the New World yields up
its treasures which will load the ships for
Spain. The Christian faith which Colum-
bus brings almost one feels, as a quid
pro quo will transform the Indian gods,
graven idols without souls, back into the
stone from whence they came. Columbus
will give to Castile and Leon a New World
He will give to them vast new peoples
still hidden in the shadows of the West.
In exchange, the Colon family would
be given the right to use the following
heraldic shield. In his poem Balbuena
describes the heraldic device of Columbus
and his family, which will bear testimony
to the ducal Crown which he and his suc-
cessors will wear.
Coat of Arms of the Columbus family
But, the Tlascalan Magician addressing
Columbus, still to be born, prophesies that
avaricious ingratitude will diminish the
honours and titles which he would leave
to his descendants24In spite of this, how-
ever, his memory will be preserved in the
eternal flow of time, and among his suc-
cessors one, in particular, and that Don
Nuno Colon who else? will add lustre
to that memory. From stanzas 83-85,
Balbuena sings with dignity for his Abbot-
ship and his supper. In the first stanza
of these three, the Tlascalan magician tells
Columbus that Time will repay the great
debts owed to his solicitude, and,
In Don Nuno Colon, reborn again
The grandeur which your heroic spirit
Will become in him the fiery forge of
Great Lord Admiral and Duke of
In the next stanza Jamaica comes into its
epic own: Don Nuno is the,
Marquis of the hidden Jamaica
Abounding in precious woods
Green pastures, rich metals,
If cursed with a careless and an idle
24 In 1556, the privileges of the Columbus
heirs were whittled away even more. They lost
all rights to Veragua, kept only the ducal title;
kept their title of Admiral, but only honorary,
without pay. Only an income of 17,000 ducats,
and Jamaica were left. After Jamaica was cap-
tured by the English, only the income, and the
nominal title of Marquis of Jamaica, remained as
the legacy of the Discoverer.
In whose spacious earth the gleaming
Multiplies for tomorrow's world;
Which now, with glittering rays, spreads
Haloes of light along the Rio Cobre's
Jamaica is of course, 'hidden' because
the Tlascalan magician is prophesying of
the New World long before it became
'revealed' through Columbus to Europe.
The myth of the presence of gold in
Jamaica had begun with Columbus him-
self and had been often repeated. In fact,
Balbuena's predecessor as Abbot, Marquez
de Villalobos, had written to the King in
November, 1582, urging him to take over
the island from the Columbus family, who,
he implied, mismanaged it. Worse than
that, since in the terms of the agreement
made with the Crown, the Columbus
family were not permitted to put up
fortifications on the island the Crown
was not anxious for the Columbus family
to fortify themselves on the island and set
up an independent Kingdom as many of
the early conquistadores had been tempted
to do the coasts of Jamaica were in-
fested with corsairs, contraband smugglers
and buccaneers. In fact the settlers com-
plained that they lived a 'frontier'life. To
encourage the King to take over the
island Villalobos stated categorically that
there were mines of gold and copper; and
there were seabeds with oysters which had
yielded pearls to a few fortunate inhabi-
The more cautious Balbuena does not
mention the existence of gold as a fact in
his letter. Only in his epic poem, does he
insist on the gold which lay buried in the
earth, signs of which were to be found in
shining grains on the Rio Cobre's shores.
His letter goes into details instead about
the 'precious woods' He uses these woods
as the bait with which he tactfully implies
to the King that he should take over the
island. He does not openly state this.
Mail and letters were opened by the State
authorities who were the Columbus family
partisans; and if necessary, intercepted.
Villalobos had complained to the King
about this fact. But Balbuena walked
more carefully. He points out the pos-
sible usefulness of Jamaica to the Spanish
Navy. The island is 'surrounded with
25 The belief that Jamaica had deposits of gold
caused King Ferdinand to appoint an official,
Juan Lopez de Torr-alba, to supervise the gold
mines etc, The latter went to Barcelona around
1519, carrying samples of Jamaican gold which
Morales Padron guesses might have been gold
washed down by rivers. Clinton Black in his his-
torical guide to Spanish Town, surmises that the
Rio Cobre may have got its name from deposits
of copper found on the river bank. But the belief
in gold, as expressed by Balbuena, might have
lead to quote Black "to the myth of the Golden
Table which, legend says, lies hidden somewhere
in the Rio Cobre's depths". Before the river
diverted to irrigation, it is believed, that if one
stood on the riverbank at a certain spot, at noon,
a Golden Table rose out of the river, and hung
glowing on the air for twelve seconds. Bal-
buena would have loved this myth which could
have come straight out of the enchanted land-
scape of 'THE BERNARD.
ports with very secure harbours and rivers
of fresh water that flow from the moun-
tain ridges' From the abundance of
woods, among them, one called red ebony,
granadillo which is 'incorruptible and
not quite as black as ebony'; another
called thorn espino 'of variegated
colours: and, in addition, cedar, mahogany
and brasil wood. Balbuena points out
that the island would be most suitable for
".. and so convenient for this that if
Your Majesty should desire some ships or
galleons to be built there, any such works
would from the natural fitness of the
country, the great abundance of woods and
cheap provisions .. prove much cheaper
and more profitable than those that have
been done, and are going on in other
parts of the world. .. "
Had his advice been followed and Jamaica
become a naval centre for the Spaniards,
the essentially sea-borne power of England
some forty years later, would have found
it impossible or at least more difficult to
The cheapness of food was partly due
to the historical role that Jamaica had
played in the early part of the sixteenth
century. The island had provided pro-
visions and horses for conquistadores like
Ojeda, Nicuesa, Davila on their expedi-
tions to the Mainland. The island had
even provisioned Balboa, discoverer of
the Pacific, who, incidentally, forgot to
pay for the provisions sent him26 But at
the same time she emptied herself of her
settlers, since all the more enterprising
got out to search for the rich El Dorado
on the mainland. Meanwhile the island
had been well stocked with cattle and
pigs as a provisioning base; and soon,
many were running wild. But, denuded of
its men, the island slipped into a remote
backwater -a soledad, as Balbuena would
call it and became even more so as the
'historical axis' of discovery and settle-
ment shifted entirely to the mainland.
THE PEOPLE ARE LAZY, INDOLENT,
OPPOSED TO WORK:
The island, and Villa de la Vega fell
into a drowsy inertia. With all the advan-
tages that the island possesses-- 'all these
good possession' yet, Balbuena writes,
'because of their natural laziness,' the
settlers are so poverty-stricken, that 'they
can hardly manage to feed themselves
with cassava and beef which are the cheap-
est commodities here' In an earlier part
of his letter he was even more trenchant.
In spite of the fertile soil and good cli-
mate, 'the people are so lazy and indolent
and opposed to work that through this
fault it (i.e. the island) generally suffers
Not even in the epic vision and ideal-
ized language of THE BERNARD does
26 Vasco Nunez de Balboa. He died on the
gallows, accused of being a traitor, before he
Balbuena retract the charge of laziness on
the part of the inhabitants. In his epic
poem Jamaica is 'cursed with a careless
and an idle people'. The Abbot seems to
have tried to encourage some show of
activity on the part of the settlers. In his
letter he tells of a new venture that has
been made in brasil wood. Cargoes had
been sent to Spain for the first time that
year, that is, the year in which he was
writing. The wood has been sent to be
used to make dyes, and, the Abbot adds,
'Here, experiments have been made
with it, and it gives three different dyes,
all very fine, both for wool or silk".
If the venture turns out well, Balbuena
hopes, it could mean great wealth for an
island, rich in woods and oppressed by
THE CHURCH POOR AND RUINED
The poverty of the people and the
island was reflected in the state of the
Church. Balbuena must have been rather
dazed, that first morning after his arrival
when he went through the prescribed
ceremonial, with which a prelate was
greeted. The ceremony for the arrival of
a high ranking churchman paralleled that
of the Governor. The latter on first
arriving, presented his credentials then
walked through the Town Hall, and its
several rooms, opening and closing the
doors as he did so. Similarly Balbuena
had to go to the Church in the Plaza
Mayor in Spanish Town, pray, open and
close the doors, ring the bells, and walk
through the Church, taking possession in
the Lord's Name. Balbuena performing
this ceremony, could hardly have avoided
feeling that if this was what he had come
to be Abbot over, then the Abbacy of
Jamaica was not much.
In his letter to the King, after sketch-
ing something of the religious organiza-
tion in general -
'There are some clergy born in the
island with a lot of chaplaincies but these
are poor like the people in general. There
are two monasteries, one of Saint Dominic
and one of Saint Francis, and at present,
three monks in each and among them two
preachers". He describes the state of the
principal church itself, the Church dedi-
cated to Our Lady of Expectation. He
found the church, Balbuena reports, 'so
poor, ruined and roofless, that when it
rains it cannot be entered to say mass".
The Church is 'bare and despoiled of
vestments by incursion of enemies who
have sacked it three times". These enemies
pirates and privateers of Spain's enemies
attacked Jamaica with impunity because
of its undefended state. They grabbed all
they could get; and as rich ornaments
were to be found in the Church in 1604
for example, the King had given 2,000
ducats to the Church to repair it and to
buy ornaments they always made sack-
ing the Church a priority. They also came
either to plunder the settlers of provisions
for their ships; or, more ordinarily, to
trade manufactured goods in exchange
for dried pork, meat, bread. One of the
attacks to which Balbuena referred, had
been lead by Sir Anthony Shirley called
by the English a 'gentleman'- adventurer,
and by the Spaniards, a pirate who in
1596 landed with his men, attacked the
town. and demanded a large ransom, inclu-
ding provisions from the inhabitants, as a
ransom not to set fire to their houses.
Villalobos, who had retreated to the Cayo
de la Legua in company with the other
priests, whilst the bulk of the people hid
in the mountains, was surprised by Shirley
in his hiding place, and forced to flee in
his nightshirt. Shirley and his men seized
on the Abbot's jewels, ornaments taken
from the Church for safekeeping, his
books, clothes, linen etc. Church and
Abbot remained poorer than ever. And
Villalobos may well have died out of a
feeling of futility and sheer despair.
In the four year interval between the
death of Villalobos and the coming of
Balbuena, things went from bad to worse.
Balbuena, like his energetic predecessor,
set about at once to try and mend matters.
He and the Governor, he tells us, 'went
from door to door to beg for such an
urgent need' but that 'it had not been
possible to get anything worthwhile' As
the people of the island 'were incapable of
repairing it with their alms'he himself had
tried to improve the Church as best as he
could 'making among other things a neat
frontal.. Unlike Villalobos, Balbuena
did not find the Baptismal Book with
'leaves torn out' but he found all other
Church matters 'confused and out of
order' He undertook at once his visita-
tion and inspection of the Abbacy and its
Church. At the time of writing the letter
he was in the process of holding a synod
which, it seemed to him, did not appear
to have ever been held before. All in all,
he writes, he is busy attending to the
necessities of the Church, spending his
own money with 'what my necessities
We know earlier on from Villalobos,
that the tithes which supported the Church
were not much, amounting only to 600
ducats a year. Balbuena develops this
theme. It was the practice for the collec-
tion of tithes to be leased out to one
individual who paid an estimated lump
sum and then collected it back
with some profit to himself. Balbuena
points out that only some 710 pesos27
had been paid for the year and a half
after Villalobos' death 1606-1607. For
1609-1610, Balbuena insists that the
amount has been less. This means that
with the share of the tithes that fell to
the Abbot, he did not have much money
to play around with to repair the Church
and even to repay his expenses. With
acumen he now suggests two ways in
which the Church can be repaired and
properly kept up.
27 Treasure from America was expressed in
pesos which means 450 maravedis worth of
gold and silver. It was equal to 1.2 ducats.
The more routine suggestion for the
benefit of the Church had to do with the
fact that Villalobos on arriving in Jamaica,
had collected all the tithes that had
accrued, during the interim vacancy and
at his death, had ordered this sum 1,100
pesos to be restored to the Church, or
to the 'person to whom they might be-
long' For five years now this money had
been lodged with a private person. Bal-
buena asked that the matter might be
examined and, if just, that the money
'Might be applied to assisting the neces-
sities of the Church which are so great."
His second suggestion gives an interesting
insight into the way the country was run
or rather, misrun, in the interests of the
Columbus family by Governors who only
came out to the island to make a quick
killing before they sighed with relief and
THE QUARTOS BEING MARKED HERE
WITH AN 'S'
The island was the private fief of the
Dukes of Veragua and the Marquises of
Jamaica. In fact, as far as Spanish law is
concerned it has never ceased being so.
Morales Padron, the historian of Spanish
Jamaica, comments with a certain grim
"The Marquisate of Jamaica, existed
and still exists, nominally, in the person
of Don Cristobal Colon de Carvajal y
As such it existed only to contribute to
the upkeep of the feudal and aristocratic
splendour of a Spanish noble house. The
Governors, and the Abbots, appointed by
the Columbus family acted in fact as
major-domos, or stewards for the absentee
owner. Like the later attorneys of Eng-
lish Jamaica, they enriched themselves as
quickly as possible at the expense of the
the citizens; and of the owners. One of
the ways in which the fleecing of the
citizens was done, is exposed by the Abbot
Marquez de Villalobos, in an angry letter
to the King. As a King's Abbot he had
been appointed by the conscientious Phil-
lip II of Spain-Villalobos clashed fiercely
with the Columbus faction. They were not
accustomed to Abbots gainsaying their
will; but this time they had met their
match in the intelligent wellborn prelate
who took his duty seriously.
In urging the King to take over the
island he revealed that a Governor sent
out by the Columbus heir, a certain Lucas
del Valle28, had, after clearing out all
the money that he could from taxes etc.,
left Jamaica, leaving in charge a Creole-
Jamaican settler, one Pedro Lopez,
who had paid the Governor a sum of
money for leaving him to act in his place 29.
Pedro Lopez had at once set out to make
his authority work for him. Soon he had
28 Lucas del Valle Alvarado, appointed as
Governor in 1583.
29 Villalobos' opinion of Pedro Lopez was low.
By appointing him to act as Governor he
charged that the real Governor had made the
'feet become the head'.
a very good piece of speculation going. He
brought in from Santo Domingo the
centre of Spanish Government in the
Caribbean, some 500 pesos worth of cop-
per coins called quartos. Each peso was
the equivalent more or less of 13 silver
reales. In 1582 when Villabos was
writing, each silver real was worth in
Santo Domingo, and could be bought there
for, twenty-five quartos. Pedro Lopez had
all the quartos brought from Santo Dom-
ingo marked with an "S". He then used
his authority to legally decree that the
silver real in Jamaica could be bought for
only eleven stamped quartos. He and his
cronies, then bought up all the silver
reales in Jamaica, sent them to Santo
Domingo, changed them into quartos, had
them stamped and repeated the process all
over again. It meant that Pedro Lopez
had bought a position which was in effect
a license for making money at the expense
of the citizens who had to sell their pro-
ducts for the devalued real, or for quartos
which only had value inside the island. By
the time Balbuena arrived, the situation
was such that he complains in his letter to
the King that:
'What little silver it has had the foreign
merchants have been bleeding it off little
by little, so that now there is not a real in
By the time he came to the island too,
the position had become legitimized, in
that, the quartos are now brought to the
island through the special permission of
the Royal Audiencia in Santo Domingo,
and are still stamped in Jamaica. But by
now the discrepancy has widened. The
silver real which in Santo Domingo, is
bought for fifty-one quartos, is now bought
in Jamaica for only seven-31 Whereas
Villalobos had clashed openly with the
Columbus faction over the issue to the
point where he had even threatened ex-
communication, only to be told by the
authorities that his appointment by the
King was not valid, since he had not
brought his Bulls of confirmation by the
Pope, or to see the priests insulted by
Pedro Lopez, a creole of Villa de la Vega,
and a 'choleric man, Balbuena's ap-
proach is much more subtle and effective.
Balbuena does not confront openly either
the speculators or speculation. Instead he
suggests that the speculation should be
used for the good of the Church and the
island in general; rather than for the ad-
vantage of the unscrupulous and ruthless
few. Speculation could be made to im-
30 The draining away of the silver reales re-
mained a constant feature until the capture of
the island in 1655. Clinton Black, in his histori-
cal guide to Spanish Town, quotes Edward Long
in his 'History of Jamaica' (1774) "... large
quantities of (copper coins) have been dug up
in Spanish Town, the hills adjacent to it and
other parts; but no gold or silver coin was ever
found, that I have heard of."
31 There seems to be a discrepancy in Bal-
buena's letter: earlier on in the letter he seems
to suggest that the real is worth thirteen quartos.
This is from the translation made by Pietersz
ahd Cundall, the translation used throughout
prove -the general well-being, spiritual and
material, rather than creating a paradise
He approaches the matter in a crab-
wise manner. Insisting on the ruined con-
dition of the Church, he tells the King
'I am grieved to see the so noticeable
need of this Church, and I have no
money, or strength to remedy it. I am so
anxious about it and my soul is so full of
these cares, that a means had occurred to
This means, he explains to the King, it
would not cost the Royal Treasury a
single quarto. All he asks is that the King
should give to the Church the license to
bring from Santo Domingo a thousand
ducats worth of quartos. Whatever profit
was made from the deal would then be
used for the repair and adornment of the
Church, 'which the heretics (i.e. pirates
and 'gentlemen-adventurers) had left so
ruined' The majordomo of the Church
would handle and account for the money.
The speculation would benefit the country
too, seeing that 'the chief cause of its
poverty is lack of money, and a way of
bringing it in' He goes on to explain
that the island does its main trade in pro-
ducts with the Mainland and with Spain,
but the products of the island are paid for
in merchandise and not in money. Silver
reales have disappeared. The introduction
of a substantial amount of new quartos,
stamped and therefore usable only in the
island would 'help to open up the trade of
the country' It seems clear from what
Balbuena says, that the so-called idleness
of the people had much to do with the
fact that with the scarcity of money, the
economy was mainly a barter one, where
people were adjusted to little more than a
mere sufficiency of their basic needs. 32
Balbuena knew that such a licence
granted to the Church, would outlaw the
speculation of the Marquis' henchmen,
who shared the profits with the Marquis
himself. He hints delicately, begging the
King to grant the license to the Church
seeing that, although the island,
'is the territory of a private owner, in
the end Your Majesty is the sovereign
prince on whom it is more fully incum-
bent to see to the welfare and conserva-
tion of your subjects".
But it was not to be as simple as all that.
The Marquis had powerful strings to pull
at Court, to block any suggestions that
might cut against his interests. One year
and a half after he had written, the Abbot
had still not received a reply to his letter
32 The fact that ships of the Flota, the regular
Spanish fleet, did not call regularly meant that
there was no established traffic. Trade was
carried on with the Spanish Mainland territories,
occasionally with Seville and very often with
foreign contraband traders. But the lack of any
set trading arrangements had something to do
with the backwardness of the island.
and to his suggestions. In December,
1612, he wrote off to Spain again, asking
this time that the Church be granted the
license to import 2,000 ducats' worth of
From a document that Van Home has
found in the Spanish Archives, he suggests
that the petition was either granted, or
was on the verge of being granted, when it
seems to have been stopped by representa-
tives of the Marquis. Balbuena was never
allowed to put his scheme into operation.
It is rare in the history of Jamaica that
the private interests of the greedy few
have been subordinated to the interests of
the needy many.
It was not only the civil authorities
who saw the island, primarily as a place
for making a quick profit with little
effort. Nor was it only the Governors
who represented the Marquis. Two of the
most energetic and intelligent Governors
appointed by the Crown Melgarejo de
Cordoba and Alonso de Miranda also,
whilst doing some good for the island did
even more for themselves. But in an age
in which salaries were paid irregularly,
and in which gifts and perquisites were an
accepted form of rewarding the new
bureaucracy called into being by the
sudden extension of the Spanish Empire,
these attitudes, and a certain amount of
chicanery, was understandable. Especially
when they were accompanied by a mea-
sure of competence on the part of the
Governor and his officials. This was
rarely the case. All too often, the ability
to be corrupt was the only criterion of
office. All too often the Governorship of
the island was seen as a pair of shears with
which to shear the island sheep. Nor was
this attitude restricted to the State bureau-
crats. From the earliest days, the bureau-
cracy of the Church too, had tended to
regard the Abbacy of Jamaica as a finan-
cial perquisite rather than a religious
t ,,, ... ..
',-.' ,,. ,i
Portrait of Balbuenanow in the Bishop's
Palace,San Juan,Puerto Rico
To be continued
Jamaica's Sugar Industry
by Carol Reckord
To people who live outside of the sugar
industry, there is very little either of gla-
mour or of beauty in the growing and
processing of sugar cane. These people
see little more than monotonously green
cane fields and factories which are gener-
ally huddles of ugly buildings. Indeed to
many people who have sharp memories of
ancient wrongs, the sugar industry repre-
sents a history of the degrading of thou-
sands of human beings and the enrichment
of foreigners who used the profits from
the industry to build mansions in England
while neglecting their duty as landowners
in these countries of the Caribbean.
To the cane farmer and the sugar
manufacturer, sugar is a favourite crop -
one with few pests and fewer diseases,
with the ability to recover quickly from
hurricanes, droughts or periods of neglect,
a crop that is a valuable item of interna-
The sugar cane plant provides from an
acre of land three to five tons of high-
energy food; this food material is easily-
stored and easily transported in bulk; as
nations and people grow wealthier and
more sophisticated, they use more of this
food. Sugar cane is easy to grow under a
wide range of soil and climatic conditions.
These are some of the facts that make
sugar a subject of much international bar-
gaining and the source of great wealth.
When the October rains have passed
and waving 'arrows' in the cane fields mark
the coming of cool weather and the ap-
proaching cane crop, farmers start seeing
to their property roads, repairing damage
done by the rains. Also they see to their
trucks, tractors and trailer-carts those
who own such equipment and those
who don't own transport, begin to con-
tact truck owners; all need cane cutters
and loaders for the coming harvest. A
considerable amount of the cane farmer's
time is taken up with the business of get-
ting the cane from his field to the factory;
this is unlike many crops where the head-
ache lies in persuading the seed to grow
and in nursing the growing plant through
the hazards of insect pests and fungus
diseases and in worrying about surplusses
and haggling over prices. Another feature
that distinguishes the cane crop is the fact
that seed time and harvest occupy the
same season; as fast as a field that is to be
renewed is reaped, preparations begin for
its re-planting. This is so because the
planting materials for the next crop are
the tops cut from the cane stalks of this
year's reaping. On many estates, there
are fields that are replanted during the
autumn of the year many months after
the crop has ended; these fields are plant-
ed with material grown in nurseries for the
Generally, the fields that are re-planted
- whether during the crop or in the
autumn are fields that have grown four
or five or more successive crops from a
planting done many years before. This
system of growing several crops from one
planting is shared by many crops grown
in tropical countries; in cane it is called
'ratooning' the first crop reaped after
the planting is known as 'plant cane' and
its successor crops are the first ratoon,
A Mill Yard
second ratoon, and so on. Here and
there where soils are particularly good -
and notably in Cuba there are fields
which have never been replanted in twenty
years and which still yield a high enough
tonnage of cane each year to make re-
planting unnecessary. As a rule, after four
or five ratoons, yields are so low and the
stand of cane plants in the field so thin
that replanting is advisable. Yields tend
to go down somewhat after the second
and each succeeding ratoon crop.
Sugar cane is grown on just about every
soil type in Jamaica although very
light sandy soils make for poor yields
because they cannot hold moisture long
and they are generally poor in plant nutri-
ents; on the other hand extremely heavy
clays often present physical problems that
lead to root decay and also they may bog
down vehicles that have to go into fields
to remove the crop. Another factor that
helps decide where cane may be grown is
naturally the nearness of a sugar factory;
as a rule it is uneconomical to transport
sugar cane more than twelve to fifteen
miles from field to factory.
But the chief factor deciding where
cane can be grown and how much it will
yield is rainfall or the availability of water
for irrigation. Under most conditions of
soil and climate, cane requires for best
performance about sixty-five to seventy-
five inches of rain per year or its equi-
valent in rainfall plus irrigation. Ideally,
this should begin with just enough water
to make the cane-tops sprout and grow
during the spring and after that increasing
as the summer warmth fills out the tissues
of the growing plant. Too much rain in
late summer and autumn will reduce the
sucrose content of the cane and with it
the unit price which the factory pays for
the farmer's cane.
Yields of cane in Jamaica range from
fifty or even sixty tons to the acre in
exceptionally good years on the best soils
under expert management down to eight
or ten tons on many peasant holdings on
poor land, without fertilizer and with less
than adequate rainfall. Average yields are
said to be about twenty-four tons per
PRODUCTION COSTS AND RETURNS
With a price of J$6 to $6.50 a ton for
cane delivered to the factory, the crop
represents a gross revenue of J$75 (for an
average farm) to $150 (on a first-class
crop) per acre under cane. A farmer who
grows ten acres of cane on good land (and
this is twice as much as the average acreage
grown by the 27,000 cane farmers in
Jamaica) might with a little luck sell his
crop for J$ 1,000. Out of this he probably
pays one-third for cutting, loading and
hauling his cane. to the factory. Only a
small percentage of our cane farmers are
young enough to do their own cutting and
loading and most of the elderly farmers
complain that they cannot offer their
children any inducement which will lead
Cutting the Sugar Cane
them to help with the cane harvesting.
Their other expenses are for weeding and
cultivating the crop and for fertilizer. Not
many farmers are prepared to invest more
than J$6 to J$10 an acre for fertilizer -
although fields show profitable returns on
much larger applications of chemicals.
Sugar cane, like all grasses, shows response
to applications of nitrogen, and farmers
are finding that potash applications are
helping to increase yields on sucrose con-
Weed control has always been a major
operation in sugar cane farming. Many
members of the droves of slaves, who
were the work force of seventeenth and
eighteenth century West Indies farms,
were occupied in weeding with hoes be-
tween the rows of cane to keep down the
grasses and broad-leaved plants which
threatened to rob the crop of water and
nutrients in the soil. In those days, of
course, the regular introduction of pen
manure into the fields served to renew the
supply of weed-seeds. Nowadays, where-
ever farms are on level or gently sloping
land, tractor-mounted implements are used
for cultivating the cane field. Chemical
weed-killers are being more widely used-
and are contributing to offset the in-
creasing cost of manual labour in the
The out-of-crop maintenance of the
cane farm occupies few people compared
to the numbers required for the cane har-
vest. On most farms the out-of-crop force
comprises a few women spreading fertili-
ser and two or three men weeding fields.
In the early days and, for that matter,
up to three or four years ago the ap-
proach of harvest was a signal for many
thousands of small hill-farmers and their
sons and younger brothers to leave home
just after Christmas for the sugar estates;
with their drays and mules, others with
their cane 'bills' or cutlasses, to spend
several weeks cutting and loading cane un-
til it was time to leave again for home.
This would be very often before the Easter
holidays ana the season for spring plant-
ing of their yams and other food crops.
Today the estates find it impossible to
persuade these men to spend the whole of
six or seven months at the cane harvest.
No wonder the men are away from their
homes and women-folk and children! No
sugar belt has been able to provide any-
thing like adequate accommodation for
thousands of workers during crop time.
Maybe most important of all, absence from
home during the spring and early summer
would mean no crop grown on the home
farm. And somehow the promise of a
good take-home income from the cane
crop has never been able to seduce the
hill-man into spending six whole months
in the cane field.
The problem is more acute as the years
go by. There are many country districts
with no greater population today than
they had thirty years ago; migration to
the United Kingdom, the United States
and Canada has taken many thousands,
the bauxite industry and the tourist in-
dustry have taken some and growth of
some country towns has taken others. Of
course there are the thousands that have
swarmed into Kingston, Montego Bay and
Spanish Town, some to well-paid jobs and
others to study or look for work. This
movement from agricultural occupation
has meant that farmer-parents left back
home do not have to depend as much as
they used to on cane and other farm crops;
many families now have a significant in-
come from non-agricultural sources; and
men who in a former generation would
have to follow the cane crop, can now af-
ford to stay at home without loss.
Meanwhile, sugar estates are anxiously
awaiting the development of mechanical
harvesters while they try to persuade work-
ers to stay with the crop. They seem to
be fighting a losing battle. During the past
two or three years Barnett, Caymanas and
Richmond-Landovery estates have had to
close their factories in each case short-
age of field workers was at some stage re-
sponsible for the closure. The island of
Puerto Rico, which used to grow cane for
a million tons of sugar, has not been able
to maintain anything near this production
even after introducing mechanical harvest-
ers and other mechanical devices in their
sugar industry. Although here in Jamaica
many estates offer good pay for field work-
ers and although working conditions have
improved during the past few years, there
are indications that the Jamaican worker
has rejected the sugar industry and will
only contribute to its support to the ex-
tent that it suits his convenience.
Meanwhile, at the level of the technical,
professional and clerical worker, the sugar
industry complains that it is unable to
match the salaries offered by the growing
bauxite industry, and that in consequence,
sugar factories are short-staffed.
SEASON AND SUCROSE
The cane cutter is not the only one
who tries to manipulate the crop to suit
his own purposes. The cane farmer knows
that when he begins to cut cane too early
in the year his cane is yielding a low per-
centage of sucrose the sugar that is in
the cane and as a result his ton of cane
earns him less than it would later in the
crop. The same thing happens in reverse
toward the end of the crop. So everybody
who grows cane would like to concentrate
his reaping during a few short months -
say February, March and April. But this
means that the island would need twice
the factory capacity to take of the crop.
So the factory has to apportion its own
production and the production of its
farmer-suppliers to spread the crop as
evenly as possible over the six or seven
months during which it works to take off
the crop. Under good conditions a ton of
sugar will be produced by eight tons of
cane; when things go awry as they did in
June of this year (1969) when heavy rains
fell all over the island, some cane needed
as many as sixteen tons to make a ton of
sugar. And, of course, this cane costs no
less to grow and transport than any other;
the factories pay for the farmers' cane on
the basis of the conversation ratio (tons of
cane to tons of sugar). This is one reason
why factory owners always grow large
acreages of sugar on their own land sur-
rounding the factory; when farmers' canes
are slow in coming in the factory has its
own cane to keep its mills working.
GROWERS' CENTRAL SERVICES
There are about 27,000 farmers in
Jamaica who supplied two million tons of
cane to sixteen factories for the 1969
crop. A grower is registered as a supplier
to a named factory and the factory is
obliged by law to take all the cane that
the grower sends to the factory during the
period of the crop. In the case of the big
farmer, the factory makes calculations of
the sucrose content of his sugar by testing
sample loads of the farmers own cane; it
is not possible to test small farmers' cane
on an individual basis. However, large and
small farmers alike have a representative at
the factory a chemist who keeps a check
on the tests which the estate makes on
farmers' cane. This chemist is an employee
of the All-Island Cane Farmers' Association,
which represents the cane farmers in their
dealings with the factory managers, the
Government and the public. The Associa-
tion helps the farmer in other ways it
negotiates for the purchase of fertilizer
in bulk and arranges the distribution of
this fertilizer among the twenty or so local
associations which make up the central
organisation. The Association also has
advisory officers who help small farmers
in particular by advising them on ferti-
liser treatment, cane varieties and farm
management methods. The Central Assoc-
iation is maintained by a cess which is col-
lected by law on each ton of cane supplied
by farmers. At time of writing (1969) the
cess is seven cents per ton.
The Association is certainly one of the
better organised and more effective farm-
ers' commodity groups in Jamaica. It has
done a great deal since the days when the
factory operators and a handful of large-
acreage cane farmers dominated the in-
dustry leaving the thousands of smaller
farmers no choice but to accept the
prices and conditions which the factory
owners dictated. In a much more real
sense the cane farmers are part of the in-
dustry and their collective voice is heard
and respected in the country.
There are areas of weakness where no
one has been able to help the thousands
of small cane farmers. .No serious pro-
gramme has been set up to merge small
cane farms so that some of the subsistence
scale farmers might graduate to a higher
economic level; this is certainly a major
need of the industry. But not even the
cane farmers' leaders will come forward
to advocate such a course because that
would mean a substantial reduction of the
numbers of people in the industry and
even in these times numbers are an impor-
tant political weapon.
Cane farmers themselves claim that
their major problems are unavailability of
long-term credit and the difficulty of
securing regular and reliable transport for
their canes at crop time. But both these
difficulties are associated with the small
size of the typical cane farmers' holding,
his lack of skill as a manager and his con-
sequently weak economic position.
Of cultivation problems the cane far-
mer has not very many. In a few districts
in Jamaica cane-fly has been a problem
but standard insecticides have maintained
control. Thanks to research programmes,
to the long history of cane farming which
has made most growers and workers
familiar with the basic devices of cane
growing, to the research into cane varieties,
irrigation methods, crop management and
crop science which the Sugar Manufac-
turers' research department carries out
and publicizes and thanks to nature which
made the Jamaican climate almost ideal
for cane growing, the industry has served
very well the purposes of cane farming
Jamaicans during more than three hundred
years. And although its ups and downs
have tossed it from the position when
Jamaica was world leader in sugar pro-
duction in 1805 with 100,000 tons manu-
factured to the low year 1913 when total
Island production was less than 5,000 tons
sugar has always been a favourite crop
with the Jamaican farmer.
During the past few years it has be-
come the custom in irrigated sugar areas
for farmers to burn each field the night
before it is reaped. This removes quan-
tities of leaves and trash and makes it
easier for the cutters and loaders. The
practice is not recommended for farms
Holeing a Cane Piece
A 7n^i L.
Interior of Sugar Plant
S.M.A. Research Dept.
Interior of Plant
Planting of Sugar Cane
where there is no irrigation because it is
necessary for a burnt field to have water
on the roots immediately after the cane is
removed. Burning is always done over a
restricted area and with precautions taken
against spread of the fire.
There is another kind of cane fire -
and this is one of the most serious threats
to the progress of the industry. The cane
field fire which is set by 'person or per-
sons unknown' cause severe dislocations
everywhere in the industry. When a large
area of cane is burnt by arsonists, the
whole scheduling of harvesting has to be
re-arranged, so that the burnt cane can be
brought to the mills without delay. This
means that other farmers' canes have to be
left back until the emergency is cleared.
In many recent years where cane fires have
followed one another in close sequence,
there has been a resultant loss of cane
running into hundreds of thousands of
tons, As a consequence insurance rates in
the industry have increased steeply and the
general uncertainty has driven a number
of farmers out of cane farming.
Although the sucrose loss in burnt
cane increases dramatically with every day
of delay between cutting and milling, this
loss occurs in all other cane to a greater or
lesser degree, too. Indeed, the industry
calculates that a ton of cane left in the
field for four days after being cut, fetches
the farmer about a dollar less than if
it were delivered on the day of cutting.
There are many thousands of tons of
cane in Jamaica that reach the factory
four, five and even eight days after cutting.
Under most conditions cane is ready
for harvest a year after it is planted. It
is taken to the mills and there it enters a
manufacturing process that is surely one
of the oldest known to man. Even today
here in Jamaica there are in the hills of
many parishes mills of the simplest types-
three vertical iron rollers geared together
and mounted on a central post with a
twenty-foot sweep turning the axle of one
roller. At the end of this sweep a mule or
steer is harnessed and the animal goes
round and round to extract a few barrels
of cane juice a day. This 'liquor' is carried
by an underground pipe into the 'boiling-
house' where it is heated in a series of
'coppers' concentrating it by evaporating
the water in the liquor to the point where
it crystallizes as 'new sugar'.
The 'muscovado' sugar which was pro-
duced by our sugar industry up to less
than a hundred years ago was similar to
the 'new sugar' produced by the process I
have described; the main difference is that
the old factories used to drain a lot of the
molasses out of the sugar while it was cool-
ing after the boiling process.
During the nineteenth century econo-
mic forces and the development of the
steam engine contributed to the reduction
of the number of sugar estates in Jamaica
and bigger factories led to improvement
of the process. Nowadays there are fifteen
operating factories with a production
capacity of more than half a million tons
of raw sugar per crop.
At the factory steam is generated in
boilers heated by bagasse the residue
left afterjuice is squeezed out of the cane.
The steam serves to drive the mill rollers
and to heat the various vessels in which
the juice is concentrated and crystallized.
These vessels are first the juice heaters
from which the juice passes to evaporators
and then to the 'vacuum pans' where the
juice is boiled at low temperature under
vacuum to prevent burning. From the
vacuum pans the thick syrup goes into the
crystallizers; here the solid crystals of
sugar are formed. The sugar is separated
from the molasses in centrifugals cylin-
drical vessels with perforated walls. The
centrifugals spin at more than a thousand
revolutions per minute and this movement
drives the molasses through the tiny per-
forations in the centrifugal walls, leaving
a mass of sugar crystals to be scraped from
the walls of the vessel for drying and
A big sugar factory may employ a hun-
dred men in each of three shifts a day
during the crop and may process more
than 5,000 tons of cane a day. Consider-
able quantities of water are used in the
process as well as many thousands of
units of electric power.
While development and research have
brought the sugar industry a long way over
the centuries, the successes have been
mainly in the direction of using improved
cane varieties for higher yields, better use
of land, water and fertilizer, more efficient
use of machinery in field and factory. The
commercial products of the industry are
Interior of a Boiling House
much the same as they were in the begin-
ning raw sugar, rum and other spirits,
Attempts to make the industry less
dependent on large numbers of workers
have not been popular with governments
and labour unions, indeed success along
this line would remove from the industry
one of its main distinctions in the indus-
trial sector, namely that of being the
largest employer of labour in the island.
Where the industry has succeeded to a
very limited degree is in extracting from
its basic raw material any number of valu-
able industrial products in the way that,
say, the petroleum industry has done.
Building-board from bagasse is an example.
As countries such as Jamaica move
further into a more industrialized concept
of nationhood, sugar and similar agricul-
tural products produced for export tend to
become a less profitable and less promising
way of employing resources. It has been
argued that the decline in production
since 1965 was due to drought; the next
few years will probably show that the de-
cline is a sign of the times.
Four thousand farmers left the industry
during the past four years and although
sugar production will certainly be with us
for a long time to come, the indications
are that fields of waving cane and sugar
factory chimneys are losing their place as
the dominant features of the Jamaican
Manufacture of Sugar
That Spring of 1656, the year after the
Conquest, the corn tassels came shrunken
and the cocoa failed again. The English
soldier-planters swore their uneasy oaths
and the land swore back sleepily, fallow,
ripe and unyielding.
Antonio and Morales, those two beau-
tiful black scouts (see How A Thousand
Irish Lassies Obfuscate Today's Census
Takers, June 1968) ceased their wenching
in the mountains above Guanaboa Vale
long enough to cast their bleary weary
eyes on the encampment below. They saw
the shrunken tassels and the drooping
cocoa plants and smirked their satisfaction.
"By the Virgin of St. Jago de La Vega,
the lousy English are getting it in the
seeds," Antonio said in Spanish. "We
should go down and assist them to get it
in the seeds more pronto."
(For you will recall that those two
doughty scouts were dedicated fellows
with a single bent: to eject the English
Invaders from Jamaica. They planned to
later do the same to their present Spanish
Antonio and Morales
by Vic Reid
Illustrated by Anne Wienholt
- -. -
i c a6
V-~i..I !~i !F:
Morales frowned and shaded his tired
eyes to pick up the tiny figures in the Vale.
He was enervated. The week's furlough
they had earned for wiping out a platoon
of Yorkshire pikemen had deprived them
of vigour. They had altogether made too
merry with the cane liquor and the truly
delicious mountain maidens.
"Antonio, comparee" Morales said,
turning to warm in the sun,"we could not
give battle to a washerwoman detail today.
Our celebrated excesses of the past week
have taken a toll of us."
Antonio stretched, lean, catlike, lusty,
dreaming of the fine furlough.
"Morales, amigo, you are right. We
need another week of rest before we can
be doughty scouts again."
They turned once more to the sun,
sighing for the munificence of the life
they lived as beautiful black scouts against
lousy English, for the Spanish pigs. Sud-
denly, they shot upright. A brief, bright
glance and the steel touched their'souls.
"Hombre, the furlough is over. It is
our duty to harry the English," Antonio
"Si, Antonio," Morales said, a chilling
anger in his eyes. "But we are so very
~' ~ ,,c~*
-.r ` t I
* 4$ .
have been blessed by a priest."
"If we cannot fight with our arms, we
must fight with our heads," Antonio
Captain Fallon of the English Army of
Occupation had a hang-up. He believed in
facts. He did not know that it was wrong
to believe in facts in the face of the
evidence. He muttered a swear word and
his Jamaican hoe-man said something to
his companion in Spanish.
Fallon turned sharply. "What did you
Antonio, for it was that sonofabitch,
spread his hands. He rattled off something
"Speak English!" Fallon said.
Antonio shrugged again. "No spika de
English ver' well," he said.
Fallon looked bleakly at him. "I don't
believe you. I think that in the year since
we captured the island from your Spanish
friends, you black fellows have come to
understand English but you prefer that
benighted Popish tongue."
Fallon plucked a cocoa-pod and sque-
ezed it between his fingers. It was dead.
Nothing. This was the evidence. But
against this, the facts were plain. There
had been plenty of rains and good sun-
light and the crop should have been
bountiful. Not this, this graveyard.
A bugle blew up the Vale. Cattle
lowed, knee-deep in the high grass, guarded
by a line of musketeers. You never knew
where or when those black mountain
hostiles would turn up. Fallon could
hear the clank of the mule-drawn mill
crushing the sugar cane for his regiment.
"What's your name, fellah?"
"Antonio, senor," Antonio said. "And
this is my brother, Juan. We worked wit'
the English senors in St. Jago de la Vega."
"I don't care where you worked."
Fallon said irritably. "Just tell me, why
has the cocoa crop failed?"
Antonio showed his pure white teeth.
He was glad he had listened hard when he
scouted close to the English camp. He
had picked up considerable scholarship.
"Because of that Senor Oliver Crom-
well. He's a heretic. The crops should
"Don't give me that balderdash!"
Morales cast his eyes down. He rested
on his hoe, head bowed. Fallon looked
curiously at him.
"What is your name, you?" Fallon
"Juan, senor," Morales said softly.
"Speak up, man!" snapped Fallon.
"For a favour, senor, he's a quiet man,"
Antonio said quickly.
"Quiet Juan, do you believe all this
manure about blessing the crop?" Fallon
Juan, who was Morales, seemed to
shudder. Unlike the half naked Antonio,
he wore a voluminous old brown shirt
drawn about his ears and a wide straw hat.
His hands looked Yoruba, ebony black
with long fine bones.
"Believe, senor? One does not believe
in the use of the eye. It is either so, or not
so," Morales said softly.
Fallon groaned. Another Spanish
"What about your murderous brothers
up in the mountains? The Maroons? Do
they bless their crops, too?"
"There are no reports of their hunger,
senor," Antonio said.
Fallon growled warningly. He had
detected the laughter in Antonio. It was
true the English army was going increas-
ingly hungry. The soldiers were afraid to
go hunting, or even to graze their stock
far afield. The Maroons slaughtered them
with grinning ease, especially since this
ragtag army was not strong on guts. They
had been thoroughly whopped in His-
paniola and had only taken Jamaica be-
cause of a weak garrison. Right now,
they were close to mutiny. They were
hungry. They must have food. Fallon
"Tell me how the crops were blessed
in the Popish days," he said.
Antonio cleared his throat. Morales
slipped a sly look at him. The heathen
bastard is going to enjoy it, Morales
thought. He hoped his friend and camp
brother would not be struck dead under
heaven for what he was about to do.
Antonio made a couple of swift ges-
tures as if he drew a frame for Fallon.
Fascinated, Fallon felt himself inside the
"By the grace of God," Antonio said,
peering through his framed fingers at Fal-
Ion, "it has been a good year. We have
lived to see the Easter and it is now plant-
ing time. The Lord's dew is on the land
and His lillies are on His altar."
"The Host is on the altar, my son,"
Morales said in soft reproof.
Fallon could almost smell the candles
burning and hear the Latin intoned.
Antonio drew a breath and half closed his
eyes. Morales thought him remarkable, a
credit to his people.
"We are in the fields," Antonio said
quietly. "It is morning. We are dressed in
our best. Good Spanish cloth to take the
wear of our work. We have dug the holes
for the cocoa seeds and we stand in lines
along the rows. The sun is just broaching
the mountains, senor. A light wind plays
in the tall trees by the river.
"You hear the birds singing.
"And then the voices of men, singing.
"And then the voices of men and boys
"And presently, from among the trees,
comes the Cross."
Morales quickly genuflected and cros-
sed himself. Fallon the Puritan caught
himself in time.
"Get on with it," he growled angrily.
Antonio is very good. Morales thought;
he held the hoe like a thurible. One must
thoroughly back up one's compatriot.
"There," Antonio said, pointing, "at
the edge of the trees, comes the Crucifix
and the acolytes. Black and white boys,
their faces young in the sunlight, bearing
the incense and the holy water before the
"Who bears the Host!" cried Morales
in a strained voice.
Antonio turned quickly to Fallon.
"My friend is overcome. It goes close to
"Carry on," Fallon said, looking at
Juan who was Morales.
"Now they are between the rows. The
priest' prays. The candles burn. The
incense is dispensed. The holy water is
sprinkled on the field. So are the crops
blessed, Englishman. Sugar cane, corn,
cocoa which will not yield for you. They
come up in vast quantities, Senor English."
Fallon looked up to find Antonio's
eyes on him. He shook his head angrily.
"And this Popish nonsense worked?"
"We were never hungry, senor," An-
tonio said, spreading his hands.
Fallen wiped his wet face and longed
for an English spring. But now his men
were hungry. They were edgy and dan-
gerous. Trouble could explode anytime.
Fallon thought he needed just a little
outside help. Just now.
After the Conquest of the country was
well and truly established, he would
introduce these fields to some honest
English protestant ploughing and see
whether he couldn't take the curse from
Well. Just supposin'.
He moved closer to Antonio. "Could
you find me a priest?"
Antonio started. His brow worked
"Find you a priest, Englishman? Haven't
you driven them all to the hills? And
driven them across the ocean to Cuba?
Didn't you bum their Cathedral in St.
Jago de la Vega? The curse of Mother
-, 2rJ .-I -~33L
- 3 j jj1
J' "I $ 4-4 '
.- ~:.* *
Church is on you, Senor English!"
But Morales had moved in closer.
"Gently, gently, my son," Morales
said, his fine boned hand up. "You must
forgive, my son."
Forgive, Father?" Antonio cried. "Af-
ter what they did to you? Forgive, Father
Fallen started. Father Juan. He
looked closer at Juan. Morales kept his
head down, hands clasped together. He
answered Fallon's unspoken question.
"Yes, my son," Morales said. "I will
do it. Fetch your soldiers. Be here in the
morning. But bear no arms, you under-
Fallon nodded. It came out with
Antonio hardly heard. He was thinking
of where to place the ambush.
Note: During the Spanish Occupation, blessing
of the fields was a normal Catholic rite. The
English lost several crops during their early
occupation largely perhaps because of the
dearth of plantation knowledge among their
London-bred (and other cities in England)
"Yes, Fa-Father," he managed.
The voice clangs eight. Her half-shut eyes
Which have wrestled with sleep since six
Unzip like a Jack-in-the-box
Revealing pupils flecked by mistrust.
She sits upright, stoops to regain
The toy that acts as sister and son,
Slowly crosses the room to land
A good-night kiss which burns like a brand.
Then she is off, up the dark stairs
And into a room where fear's curtains
Are tightly drawn, where right on time
The sandman scratches the blinds at nine;
Away from the tinkle of ice
Conversation foreign but warm
Adults who hinge on swizzle sticks
And stir in numbness with rum and cokes.
;t:i i~ d4 ~
~n~t~paLF~ ''i 'r~t~B ~t~C~
To An Expatriate Friend
by Mervyn Morris
Colour meant nothing. Anyone
who wanted help, had humour or was kind
was brother to you; categories of skin
were foreign; you were colour-blind.
And then the revolution. Black
and loud the horns of anger blew
against the long oppression; sufferers
cast off the precious values of the few.
New powers re-enslaved us all;
each person manacled in skin, in race.
You could not wear your paid-up dues;
the keen discriminators typed your face.
The future darkening, you thought it time
to say good-bye. It may be you were right.
It hurt to see you go; but, more,
it hurt to see you slowly going white.
by Mervyn Morris
(for Roger Mais, 1905-55)
The grey beast, smiling welcome,
stretched a claw
to draw the artist in;
red with rage
the artist turned and spat.
"I cannot stand
the grey beast
with its bland
black tie. Leave me
to rear my roses, hold
opinions, suffer books,
paint pictures, love
the people, choose
The grey beast, placid, smiled
The gentle artist, red
with rage, sped
sharp arrows at the
huge grey gut.
The grey beast, mocking, smiled.
At long last, in a rose-red dawn,
the artist whispered "Help!"
The grey beast muttered sadly:
"You despise me. Be yourself "
The grey beast nibbled on his toast,
Blandly scratched his crusted head;
Casual, as statement (not as boast)
He grunted, reading:
"Artist-fellow, Mais, is dead."
by Anthony McNeill
The wind is crisp and carries
a tang of the sea. The flowers
bur richly against the grass.
The grass itself shines and is precious.
Ahead, the sky and the ocean
merge in a stain of blue. On the beach
yesterday lolloping tourists
were posting umbrellas like crosses.
This morning I chose to stay home,
to watch the cats and think of
Columbus. And the grass is precious
merely because it belongs to us.
The Sunday Coronation "KING"
by Dennis Scott
". .. and I find that my stuff is getting so
plain that I am scared. You know, it
simply becomes like a vase, or a glass of
water, or something... "
Queen in the house of my shadow,
ruler over areas bounded by my hands
outstretched, measures me drink. The tap glows
brass and tender, my child sleeps. Toast. Room
chair-straight and cool; no place
here, no time. Sunday reconciles
the bruised week, all the bare
bright skirmishes in the flag of your scarf,
and the kitchen-clock tick -
because of your apron's fold
because of your feet without shoes -
muffles all morning, contains
this unofficial kingdom steady, slow.
My clinked knife breaks me wedges of content,
crumbs roll as bright as a silence
you shape round me, gold crumbs. No one
brings me water that leaps as slow
round in the wet glass, gathers light
from all covers of the young and yellow
Sunday like you, sovereign, sweet like water.
Now birds outside wheel quietly, sipping peace
from the still air in my house, your
man served kindly; comfort now
over me, you bring simply
water, tasting of always.
Morning paper comes.
I wrap my calm in its crinkled news-smell
(water turning clears room clean) I attend
the court bf your solstice. Queen of my heart
there are jewels of clear, wet loving
on your fingers, the sun
in the lensed glass circles us, joining.
Drawings by Joan Lobban
It would be almost as difficult as answering the question
WHO IS MAN, to define ART.
And to answer why man has a need in the seemingly use-
less field of art, would be no easier a task than to explain how a
relatively old woman, Helen, the wife of Menelaus, caused
Paris to carry her across the seas and thus start the war that we
call the Trojan. Man's quest beyond the satisfaction of his
physical needs: food, shelter, clothing and the propogation of
the species, has always been difficult to explain. Some, like
Marx, Engels and the originator of the interpretation of dreams,
Sigmund Freud, maintain that the economic and the sexual
needs of man were the sole sources motivating art. In fact the
Marxian sentence that "art reflects the means of production of
a given era "remains largely a question begging statement. How
true wold it be if a housewife would say that her dinners
reflect the purse and the generosity of her husband. Both the
Marxian analysis and my facetious question have a basis in
truth; man cannot build a temple to tower over his mud huts
unless he has stored some surplus in his granaries. The house
wife cannot offer prime beef unless her husband is well paid
and not a skin-flint; but why the Maya in Yutacan built
pyramids about one thousand A.D. and then stopped, and why
the Egyptians did the same in about two thousand B.C. cannot
be explained in terms of pure economics and technology.
Similarly when Freud said that the artist sublimates his sexual
urges in his art, one can well understand why the Frenchmen
Maillol, in his sculpture and the painter, Renoir, in his paintings
were able to capture the luscious female body that did excite
them; but it would be wrong to say that Maillol and Renoir
Helen of Troy
were frustrated bachelors masturbating mentally, as it were.
Even if we go so far as to admit that energy can be channelled
and this, the Hindus have always maintained, into various out-
lets as Freud pointed out, the spinster not fulfilling her own
motherhood but vacariously doing so in teaching or nursing or
the soldier wasting his surplus energy in killing rather than
begetting, it still does not add up to my mind, to a satisfactory
theory of the origin of art.
It is clear, however, that man is a most complex, in fact the
most complex entity on the face of the earth. His needs are
very various. Food, initially supporting life becomes the
gourmet's sumptuous dinner at Maxime's. The folded branches
that provide shelter from rain and sun become the glorious
edifices of Karnak in Egypt and the golden palaces of Cuzco.
And the animal urge to beget children can find refinement in
the sexual act as displayed in the erotic temple sculptures of
ancient India as well as in the elaborate fertility dances of the
Gio in Africa; but this is not enough; the craving for an after-
life has always found expression in the search for a hereafter.
Be these Gods that lead man to eternity conceived in the ways
of Hindu, Moslem, Animist, Jew or Christian. The craving for
immortality is, I think, linked with the religious or eternal
longings of mankind as much as with the desire of man to live
in pleasing and pleasant circumstances.
To express his longings for eternal form, man has always
used two modes of expression the stone age murals of
Altamira in Spain as well as the Skythian brooches of the
South Russian steppes represent the earliest known duality of
'Torso' Aristide Maillol
by Alex Gradussov M
4 Egyptian temple at Karnak
ca. 2000 B.C.
S Palace wall at Cuzco,
Peru ca 1400
6 Indian erotic temple
sculpture ca 1000
7 Masai Dance (East Africa)
8 Mosque Jama Masjit, India
9 African sculpture,
Richard and Jane Pusey
with their servant
by Philip Wickstead 1775
Seaside Fish Cook
by Stafford Schliefer. 1969.
10 Bisons, cave painting at Altamira, Spain ca.10,000 B.C.)
11 Scythian brooch (gold), Southern Russia ca. 7/6 Century B.C.
12 Burial urn (excavated Roumania) ca 3000 B.C.
13 Burial urn, Congo
22 Vincent Van Gogh "Landscape in the Provence" (1888)
14 Medieval Psalter illumination (ca 1200)
18 John Constable 'Cloudscape'(1822)
16 Sir Joshua Reynolds 'Lord Heathfield'(1 787)
17 Manet "Nana" (1858)
19 J.M. W. Turner 'Peace, burial of Wilkie at sea'
20 "Delacrdix" head of lion (1860)
21 Gauguin "South sea Islanders, Tahiti" (1900)
23 Vlamminck "Harbour Scene" (1906)
24 Picasso "Three Musicians" (1921)
25 Mondrian "Broadway Boogie Woogie" (1941-42)
26 Klee "Conspicious Might" (1924)
S 27 Modigliani "Nude on cushion"
28 Chagall "Maternity" (1913)
29 Miro "Maternity" (1924)
30 Oceanic, New Zealand 'Tikki' Pendant
Jade & Mother of Pearl early 19th C.
31 The Guggenheim Museum, New York City
32 Pop Art (ca 1962)
this artistic desire. It is almost like a cycle: first there is a
desire to depict reality as closely as possible the bison of
Altamira is as vivid today as he was ten thousand years ago, or
there is the desire to simplify the complex world to symbols -
and here the Skythian brooch as well as the geometric patterns
adorning burial urns as far apart as Southern Sweden and the
Congo basin, lend support to the need for abstract or abstract-
ing art. Just at the moment we are in an abstracting phase of
The medieval illuminations of the psalters gave way to the
Renaissance frescos, academic painting has been displaced by
Modern Art primarily was a desire to represent reality in a
more compressed and symbolic form. But the immediate
change from the academic school, painters who had restricted
their palate to a medium brown a degeneration of the
Baroque and Rococo vigour and vitality which dispensed to a
certain extent with vivid colour, substituting energy and move-
ment as well as a decorative element was disgusting to men
like Manet and Monet. It is true that the Englishmen, Con-
stable and Turner, and the Frenchmen Delacroix and Millet had
already broken to a certain extent with the prevailing tradition.
Particularly Turner's palette had the glowing intensity that was
to characterise the whole Impressionist school. But these were
individual geniuses who transcended the narrow confines of the
contemporary Academic School. It was not a concerted on-
slaught that was to lead from the Impressionist, to the Expres-
sionist, and thence to Abstract Art, Cubism, and in a manner of
revolt, to Dadaism and Surrealism. Somewhat confusing the
picture are the so called "Primitives" Rousseau, theDouanier
(custom official), and our own Kapo are good examples of that
approach to painting.
The Impressionists, Manet, Monet, Sisley, Pissaro and Renoir
to mention only a few, were fired by the impulse to capture
the real light of a scene. The intensity of their colours and the
fluidity of their composition, expressed in far less precise brush
strokes than was customary, managed to capture something of
nature that had with the exception of perhaps Turner always
escaped the painter's eye and the painter's canvass. It is only
necessary to place a landscape in the Impressionist manner -
and Albert Huie in Jamaica has followed to a certain extent
that pattern alongside a painting by one of the classical
painters, Reynolds or Ingre and one can see the tremendous
difference in shade, hue and intensity of colour. Indigo, canary
yellow, purple, scarlet and sometimes even black create an
entirely new view of the surrounding world. The brown, ochre,
muddy dull pallette has disappeared and has, I don't doubt it,
no chance of resurrection.
But the revolution of colour was to be replaced by the
revolution of form. The Impressionists essentially wanted to
improve the verisimility of the picture they painted, but the
impulse that was to govern the successor generation, was
simplification. An impetus, no doubt, came from photographic
competition even though colour photography was not even
thought possible (nonetheless in our own day, it is the supreme
rival to any attempted "copying" of nature). Therefore, the
Post-Expressionists had to reduce reality to the bare minimum;
to make it a symbol or sign-post rather than a likeness of the
The Southsea Islanders of Gaugin and the landscapes at Arle
of Van Gogh were the hallmarks of this new approach, but the
master revolutionary of art was Cezanne: his landscapes were
patterns and plans of the surrounding nature. And thus when
the Fauve School of Painting, Vlammick and Matisse, came to
the fore, their violent brush strokes, executed in primary col-
ours, horrified the contemporaries and delight us. The dis-
satisfaction with the inability of transforming the world as given,
led to Picasso's Cubism, where Cezanne's pattern making came
to its logical conclusion. In Mondrian it found another outlet.
But for some, even that was not enough. Klee and Kadinsky
created new forms and Chagall turned the world up-side-down.
Pari-pasu with the abstract art went further experimentation
in semi-representational art. Modigliani and Stanley Spencer
are as modern as Miro and Rothko.
The European Expressionists often guided or inspired by
the primitive traditional art of other peoples, particularly
African sculpture and Oceanic art, found satisfaction in the
divorce of their art from the narrow confines of literalism. Not
having to paint things as they appear to be, but as they either
ought to be or might be. (In Jamaica, Parboosingh, within
the context of his own interpretation, is an Expressionist) They
gave art a completely new direction. Picasso's genius is evident
in his ability to follow, or usually lead, the varying ways of
modern art. As a classical painter, as a rebel and founder of
Cubism, in his 'blue' period or as a passionate advocate of the
essential purity of African art, Picasso constantly followed his
impulse of re-creation and re-discovery of reality.
But, after Picasso, it is hard to see an overall leader of
modern art. The very fragmentation of life, the over-speciali-
zation of learning and the emphasis on money-making as the
yardstick of success in modern civilization have robbed the
artist of an audience that is comprehending and appreciative of
the values that the artist is trying to create. If in the past the
patronage of the Church and of the wealthy patrons was in-
adequate, there is no parallel institution to foster and nurture
art in the modern world. The American Foundations that
support art are often doing valuable work for art as a whole,
but their influence is small compared with the aid dispensed by
the Medieval Church or the Renaissance Prince Patron.
Moreover society has become cynical about art and that, I feel,
is at the bottom of the tremendous change in attitudes towards
art that has taken place over the last hundred years. Banks may
have pictures in their lobbies for prestige, the wealthy in the
wealthy countries of the world still buy pictures, but the mass
of educated and uneducated people that were in the mainstream
of appreciation in by-gone ages, have become utterly divorced
from any feeling or love for the visual arts. Advertising, the
modern substitute, has so debased any genuine response to
visual values that derisive laughter and jeers are the most com-
mon response to any modern painting. But the people or the
advertisers, or the businessmen of little taste even if of much
wealth-.are not the only ones to blame. The very artists have
The gimmick 'pop-art' or automatic painting or other
such pretentious and inadequate cloaks hide usually the man
who is out for a 'fast buck'. His aids, the modern art dealers,
rarely have an aesthetic value system or even try to acquire one.
Their aim is to make their discovery sell, and any means to that
end, is fair game in the play for the market. Many talented
young artists, particularly in the New World and in the under-
developed countries, grasp eagerly for guidelines and embrace
new creeds and new schools too quickly and too unthinkingly.
The traditions of their homeland are cast aside, and metro-
politan idols are put into the center of their market place. But
the ultimate losers are all of us. Life is more hackneyed, more
banal, less exciting, less satisfying; the senses of sight and touch
have been lost. The world has become either garish and vulgar,
or drab and conformist. The root cause of the decay, is the root
malaise of our civilization an almost complete lack of direc-
tion. Standards are neither set nor sought. Catch as catch can
is the prime guide line. But the losers complain in the wrong
terms, too. They feel that they have been left out, forgetting
that often they have opted out. The whole breakdown is a
reciprocal one. Artists forget that they must have and must
help to create, an audience, and an understanding one atthat-
and the Mecenases of society be they state or private must
learn not to substitute size and artificial novelty, for feeling for
form and depth of thought. The new art has to be born. Art
as it has existed is on the decline. The best of it is worthy of
our attention, and one can only hope that the young painters
of Jamaica, people like Milton Harley, Howard Parchment and
Osmond Watson, will continue searching for a style adequate to
the Jamaican and the modern situation.
Art is, and must be, at the heart of a people to make its
by Kenneth Ramchand
"It's all so blasted silly and compli-
cated. After all I've earned a right here as
well, I'm a native as they ain't I? A little
better educated maybe whatever in hell
(Palace of the Peacocks p.58)
At the beginning of The History of the
Caribby Islands (1666), translated from
the French by John Davies, the author
writes: "In the first place we shall speak
of the inhabitants thereof who are stran-
gers ... which having dispatched we shall
descend to a more large and particular con-
sideration of the Indians (the Amerindians)
the natural and originary inhabitants of
the country". With the European dis-
coveries "the natural and originary inhabi-
tants" of the West Indies were virtually
eliminated; the small communities which
survive in Dominica and Guyana today are
regarded as marginal to the society. This
would seem to account for the fact that
the aboriginal Indian seldom appears, and
is not a centre of social or political interest
either in verse, in drama, or in fiction by
writers from the West Indies, indeed, the
1. As there is no danger of confusion with
Indians from India in this article, the word
'Indian' will be used in free variation with
'Amerindian' to include the different tribes in
Guyana, and the Caribs and Arawaks who
dominated the islands.
Their Role In
fiction in which the contemporary Indians
do appear2 either registers them as de-
tribalised individuals in the towns("Bucks")
or portrays them as exotic groups in the
interior. Two historical novels3 in which
they are prominent seek to picture a
primitive already degenerate people living
in a remote time, there being no evidence
in these works of felt continuities between
the present generation of West Indians
and their ancestors on the land.
In Palace of the Peacock (1960) and
Heartland (1964), on the other hand,
Wilson Harris discovers relevance in the
Indians, involving them in three of the
basic themes in his fiction: the unity of all
men, the theme of re-birth, and the search
for ancestral roots. At the same time, the
author from Guyana makes the 'historical'
2. See especially Christopher Nicole, Sha-
dows in the Jungle (1961).
3. H.G. deLisser, The Arawak Girl (1958)
and Edgar Mittleholzer.
Indian come alive' in a way that no other
West Indian novelist or historian has been
bold enough to imagine.
The historical action lying behind
Palace of the Peacock the European-
pursuit of gold and the Indians in the
sixteenth century is never far from our
consciousness as we read the novel. Harris
evokes the emotions roused by the coming
of the invaders to the aboriginal village
with great vividness, suggesting both In-
dian excitement and European misgiving:
"Our arrival at the Mission was a day
of curious consternation and belief for the
colony. The news flew like lightning
across the river and into the bush. It
seemed to fall from the sky through the
cloudy trees that arched high in the air
and barely touched, leaving the narrowest
ribbon of space. The stream that reflected
the news was inexpressibly smooth and
true, and the leaves that sprinkled the
news from the heavens of the forest stood
on a shell of expectant water as if they
floated half on the air, half on a stone.
We drove at a walking pace through
the brooding reflecting carpet unable to
make up our minds where we actually
stood. We had hardly turned into the
bank when a fleet of canoes devoured us.
Faces pressed upon us from land and
water. The news was confirmed like wild-
fire. We were the news.
(Palace of the Peacock p.37)
Harris's presentation of the meeting
between invader and invaded does not
allow us to make a stock response either
to the historical conflict or to the peoples
involved. A passage from H. G. deLisser's
The Arawak Girl may help to show the
significance of this. As the invaders'
caravels approach, the Arawaks come to
meet them with spears and shouts. Colum-
bus wishes to be moderate:
We must pacify, not antagonise, these
savages; by pacific methods we shall bring
them to do whatever we wish.'
'But if they attack us Admiral?' de-
manded one fellow, glancing from the
deck of the Nina down to where the
Indians in the canoes were brandishing
'That is another matter, then indeed
we shall have to teach them a lesson they
will not speedily forget. But remember,
we are Christians, and we are here, among
other things, to spread the doctrine of
Holy Church. We must forgive our
enemies.' At the moment it did not occur
to Don Christopher that he and his were
really the enemy and that the people of
the island could have no need of forgive-
ness from them. But then the Admiral
already looked upon the Indians as his
King's subjects and therefore necessarily
obedient to the governance of himself as
His Majesty's Viceroy in these parts.
(The Arawak Girl, p. 16)
The authorial intrusions and the heavy-
handed irony in the dialogue are part of
an attempt to turn the reader against the
invading Spaniards. Historical novels
which re-create conflict situations from
the past run the risk of persuading us to
take sides, thus perpetuating those con-
flicts. But although historical novels raise
this problem in an acute form, it exists for
most writers of fiction.
'For while particular novelists may
manage to make us identify with some of
their personages without blocking our
sympathy for the others, it is one of the
limiting qualities of conventional novels
dealing with characters in a social context
(involving manners, morals, politics etc.)
that they can force us to take sides so
exclusively, it sometimes becomes tempt-
ing to describe this kind of fiction as
'divisive'. In The Arawak Girl, cited less
as an easy target than as a convenient
illustration, deLisser portrays the girl
Anacanoa both as a fierce nationalist
heroine against the Spaniards persuad-
ing us to share her hostile attitudes to
"these brutal pale-faced men . of an-
other breed altogether'" and as a beautiful
and exceptional Indian set apart from a
decadent race so that we approve of her
and despise her people in the mass.
Wilson Harris's novels deliberately steer
away from such divisive possibilities. The
Amerindian woman captured by the in-
vading crew in Palace of the Peacock is
not cast as a heroine. She is un-named
and aged; forced to accompany the crew
in pursuit of the flying folk she shows no
antagonism to the foreigners:
We had in our midst a new member
sitting crumpled looking like a curious
ball, old and wrinkled. Her long black
hair with the faintest glimmer of silvery
grey hung in two plaits down to her
waist. She sat still as a bowing statue, the
stillness and surrender of the American
Indian of Guyana in reflective pose. Her
small eyes winked and blinked a little. It
was an emotionless face. The stiff brood-
ing materiality and expression of youth
had vanished, and now in old age -
there remained no sign of former feeling.
There was almost an air of crumpled
pointlessness in her expression, the. air of
wisdom that a millennium was past, a long
timeless journey was finished without
appearing to have begun, and no show of
malice, enmity and overt desire to over-
come oppression and evil mattered any
(Palace of the Peacock p. 71)
But the reader's fear that Harris might
be about to foist an equally hackneyed
contrast between European materialism,
and greed on the one hand, and native
spirituality on the other is quickly dis-
As the vessel enters a particularly dan-
gerous section of the river, casually named
in the novel "the straits of memory'" the
use of the initially visual "tiny embroider-
ies" as a metaphor for the disturbed sur-
face of the river is the means by which
Harris leads the reader through further
sense impressions to blur the distinction
between the passive wrinkled woman and
the possessive river, and to receive a more
dynamic relationship between them:
"Tiny embroideries resembling the
handiwork on the Arawak woman's ker-
chief and the wrinkles on her brow,
turned to incredible and fast soundless
breakers and foam. Her crumpled bosom
and river grew agitated with desire bottling
and shaking every fear and inhibition and
outcry. The ruffles in the water were her
dress rolling and rising to embrace the
Harris depends upon the reader's capa-
city to feel the connection visually and in
terms of energy, between the woman's
long,flowing hair and the lively stream for
a reinforcement of this identification:
"This sudden insolence of soul rose
and caught them from the powder of her
eyes and the age of her smile and the dust
in her hair all flowing back upon them
with silent streaming majesty and abnor-
mal youth and in a wave of freedom and
(Palace of the Peacock p.73)
At this point the reader is aware that
the Amerindian woman wishes to possess
the crew just as much as the crew wish to
possess the tribe they are risking death to
pursue. But another process begins in the
sentence. The boat is in "the straits of
memory" and it is about to crash, so it is
not difficult for us to accept that at this
psychological moment the woman should
return to "an earlier dream of distant cen-
turies . the Siberian unconscious pil-
INDIAN "PICTURE WRITING" AT THE ILHA DE PEDRA ON THE RIO NEGRO.
grimage" (p.72), from which it follows
that she should become young and majes-
tic again. This process seems to insinuate
that in spite of the apparent differences in
time and person and place, the present
crew's quest is in the same spirit as that of
the pre-Columban Amerindians.
Meanwhile, the literal fact that both
the crew and the old woman are in the
grip of the death-dealing river precipitates
the crew's and the reader's recognition of
an ultimate unity existing at the heart of
the most bitter historical opposition:
"The crew were transformed by the
awesome spectacle of a voiceless sound-
less motion, the purest appearance of
vision in the chaos of emotional sense.
Earthquake and volcanic water appeared
to seize them and stop their ears dashing
the scales only from their eyes. They saw
the naked unequivocal flowing peril and
beauty and soul of the pursuer and the
pursued all together.
(Palace of the Peacock p. 73)
Harris's imaginative use of the name-
less Amerindian woman in one of his
major themes the unity of man is
remarkable enough, considering contem-
porary West Indian attitudes to the Amer-
indians. Yet it is worth noting as well that
far from purchasing his effects by ignoring
historical accounts of the aboriginal In-
dians, Harris faithfully uses these as step-
ping stones. Because of this it is quite
easy to extract an accurate historical pic-
true of the relationship between Amer-
indians and Europeans from Palace of the
Peacock, but the author makes us aware
that to do so is to promote only one of
the many possibilities latent in any histori-
cal situation. His handling of Petra the
pregnant woman in Heartland is equally
uninhibited and equally faithful to the
Like Mittelholzer's Kaywana, Petra is
only part Indian. The other side of her
ancestry is given uncertainly as "Portu-
guese or Spanish". Her tribe, however,
accept her fully. "repressing the fact of
her mixed racial itock". But when it is
discovered that she is with child "no one
knew for certain for whom", she is cast
out and begins a long flight which brings
her to steal daSilva's rations, and with an
imaginary pursuer on her trail to seek rest
at Kaiser's shack. Here her labour begins.
Stevenson, the novel's central conscious-
ness, discovers her at this stage and helps
in the birth. But as soon as he leaves the
house to search for food for her, Petra
collects her moveable belongings and her
child and resumes flight.
To extract Petra's story in this way is
to show how much Harris the novelist is
willing to forego (there is no story of
Petra as such in the novel), and the extent
to which the fiction is grounded upon what
is easily credible and literal. But when
Stevenson comes upon Petra he is suffering
from the shock of a mistress's betrayal
and flight, a father's death, and a con-
sciousness growing in the jungle of unde-
veloped capacities and possibilities in his
own life as if he is himself pregnant with
an uncertain unborn self. On the simplest
level therefore, the confrontation with
Petra, and Stevenson's participation in the
ritual of birth images forth the introspec-
tive process in which Stevenson has been
involved: it is after the meeting with the
Amerindian woman that Stevenson's new
self is released. It is not difficult for the
reader to grasp further that the image is
not static, for we are made to feel that
while Stevenson is literally assisting Petra
in he4 labour, she is, in a less describable
but none the less intimate way, being in-
strumental in his birth.
Yet while the work seems to give
ancestral status to the Amerindians we
must be careful to notice that Harris is
not advancingthe sentimental proposition
that the Amerindians are our true ancestors
and once we make contact with them we
will discover ourselves. For it follows
from the author's conviction of the unity
of all men that the ancestors may be dis-
covered in any race, and that to restrict
them to any one race, as is fashionable in
some West Indian writing, is to reduce
man's complex heritage. The most straight-
forward expression of this view takes
place in The Far Journey ofOudin where
Hassan's hankering for India is ridiculed
by his brother Kaiser, the latter seeing him
as being able to pass more easily for a
Hassan had just got the obstinate idea
in his burning head that he wanted to
return to India to circulate his ashes on
Kaiser protested. If he returned he
would be looked upon as an outcast and
an untouchable ghost. What language had
he save the darkest and frailest outline of
an ancient style and tongue? Not a
blasted thing more. Remember too how
much he had forgotten, Kaiser scolded
him. The ceremonies and sacraments he
fitfully observed were not a patch on the
real thing. It was a dim hope, dimmer than
their father's childhood and innocence.
No, Kaiser said, I shall become a
richer man then you. I am giving up rice
and sugar for gold and diamonds. I can
pass as a negro pork-knocker and I shall
take a passage to the goldfields of Cuyuni
and Mazaruni I shall steal into Venezuela
and swim across oil.
(The Far Journey of Oudin pp. 72-73)
In The Secret Ladder (1963) on the
other hand, so scrupulous is Harris's
approach to truth, he allows the surveyor
Russell Fenwick to distrust the way in
which his mixed ancestry seems to be a
mechanical and therefore parodic form of
a desirable integration of races:
He had never known his father who
had been in his middle fifties (his mother
being at the time in her late thirties) when
he was born. Soon after, his father died
suddenly. His mother possessed a very
good snapshot: it acquired a sub-aqueous
background look over the years but still
revealed a dark big man of vital African
descent. His mother on the other hand,
was a delicate almost aerial figure of a
woman, half French, half English. Her
skin was like a fair East Indian's shadowed
by night-black wings of hair. It was
rumoured that along with her European
stock she possessed a fraction of Amer-
indian blood as well, and that her grand-
mother was as Arawak as her husband's
grandfather had been uncompromisingly
Fenwick smiled. He had grown to dis-
cern a curious narcissistic humour and
evasive reality in the family myth. He was
not ashamed of the unique vagaries and
fictions of the ancestral past. Far from it,
he was proud. . There was something
guilty and concrete he had to learn to
face, after all. Possibly it was all coming
to a head and he would have no way of
escaping in the end. Still he longed for an
easy way out.
(The Secret Ladder, pp. 36-37)
But it is in the relationship between
Fenwick and the aged African Poseidon
that Harris's critical approach to the
question of ancestral roots emerges most
tough-mindedly. The surveyor and his
men find their preliminary work on an
irrigation project obstructed by the run-
away slave villagers who resent these
agents of technology and government as
the latest threat to the freedom they
have fled into the bush to preserve. It is
within this frame that Harris explores
the dilemma of Fenwick, the middle
class West Indian with the refined up-
bringing. The first meeting with Posei-
don, the leader of the free villagers, is
described as a confrontation with some-
thing from a deliberately forgotten prim-
At first Fenwick saw nothing. But
as he peered closely into the barely per-
ceptible door of vegetation he discerned
Poseidon's small upturned boat or corial
buried in the grass. It could have been
the black startling back of a boa-con-
strictor, many of which often lay like
this in the swamps and then vanished.
There was the faint hoarse sound of an
approaching body swimming in the un-
dergrowth. Fenwick adjusted his eyes.
He could no longer evade a reality that
had always escaped him. The strangest
figure he had ever seen had appeared in
the opening of the bush, dressed in a
flannel vest, flapping ragged fins of
trousers on his legs. Fenwick could not
help fastening his eyes greedily upon him
as if he saw down a bottomless gauge and
river of reflection. He wanted to laugh
at the weird sensation but was unable to
do so. The old man's hair was white as
wool and his cheeks covered with wild
curling rings looked like an unkempt
sheep's back. The black wooden snake
of skin peeping through its animal blan-
ket and wrinkled and stitched together
(The Secret Ladder, p. 23)
Writing melodramatically to his moth-
er, Fenwick tries to grapple with this
What will you say when I tell you I
have come across the Grand Old Man of
our history, my father's history in parti-
cular? He has a Greek name Posei-
don... I wish I could truly grasp the
importance of this meeting. Ifl do not
if my generation do not Leviathan
will swallow us all. It isn't a question of
fear it's a question ofgoing in unashamed
to come out' of the womb again.'
(The Secret Ladder, p. 38)
Fenwick must accept and come to
terms with a debased African heritage,
but Harris shows the character as equally
aware of the necessity to avoid setting up
this heritage as a fetish. In the critical
handling of Bryant who worships Posei-
don unreservedly, Harris issued a politic
warning against being carried too far by
emotion ("To misconceive 5 the African,
I believe, ifI may use such an expression
4. Pancho, the half-Amerindian in Jan
Carew's Balck Midas (1958) tells the hero of the
novel: "Me mama was an Indian woman and
gold-fire never light in she eye nor in she people
eye. If it wasn't for you skipper, me would have
lef' the gold just where it born in the earth
5. Author's italics.
as misconceive, at this stage, is to mis-
understand and exploit him mercilessly
and oneself as well"). Simultaneously,
the tension that exists between Bryant
and Fenwick is an externalisation of the
very real conflict in Fenwick's mind.
The surveyor's impulse to worship the
old man is balanced by his realisation
that although Poseidon and his fellows
have avoided enslavement in their
maroon settlement, nothing new has
come of their escape; their static free-
dom "has turned cruel, abortive, evasive,
wooly and wild everywhere almost"
(p.39). The maroon villagers6 are in
fact enslaved again, frozen in their pos-
ture of freedom. Poseidon himself, as
the humane Fenwick frustratedly de-
clares, remains incapable of responsive-
ness to anything external to himself:
' "I can see in your eyes you don't care
about anything I have said. Why don't
you?" '(p. 52).
As The Secret Ladder develops, Fen-
wick and the reader come to see that
Poseidon is important ultimately as a
symbol of man's frail endurance and as
testament to the need for a better
humanity partly dependent upon "the
digging up and exposure of the buried
community he represented."
"I confess I am appalled at his con-
dition'; Fenwick spoke inwardly to him-
self. The sound of his voice had been
buried in the spirit of his avowal, so
abstract and farfetched it seemed, it
vanquished the pride of speech. "Yes, I
confess I owe allegiance to him because
of his condition, allegiance of an impor-
tant kind, that of conscience, of the re-
birth of humanity. And this is the high-
est form of allegiance of all. It is the
kind a man gives to a god. But surely
this does not mean I must reduce my-
self to his trapped condition, become
even less human than he, a mere symbol
and nothing more, in order to worship
him! I would be mad'. He smiled
woodenly at last like someone who
had been humouring a hidden intractable
child and began to speak openly
Plain unwholesome understanding of
history and facts and possibilities is
important, Bryant. Take the unadorned
facts of science, the plain economic
structure of society shorn of worshipful
emotion, shorn of this fiction offreedom
you claim Poseidon alone possesses. I
am glad we can see him as he is so that
we can know what this life is, the hard
business of this life, here and now (do
you follow.me?) and indeed we can see -
beyond a shadow of doubt the neces-
sity for human freedom.' Fenwick
stopped abruptly, trying to dam the
flood of expression. He was filled with
mounting uncertainty and an excess of
(The Secret Ladder p.51)
Harris's refusal to see the discovery of
the African heritage as the solution to
West Indian problems arises in part from
his conviction of the unity of all men, and
in part out of his habitually critical atti-
tude to over-simplifications of experience.
Because he is that phenomenon in con-
temporary writing, the author with an
individual vision not needing to be prop-
ped up by the more obvious social and
political themes, he is able to use as
symbols not only the topical African pre-
sence but the socially 'irrelevant' Indians.
Returning to Petra in Heartland it should
now be possible to see how her ambiguous
parentage stands for ignorance of real
origins and for the difficulty of coming to
terms with national or racial heritage.
Similarly, her uncertainty about the
fathering of her child means that she
does not know what she will give birth to,
or by what midwife's agency. In this
sense, Petra's history is that of man over
the centuries and of the modern West
Indian in particular searching for the true
INDIAN "PICTrRE WRITING" AT COMUTI, ON THE BSEQUIBO.
At the time when her expulsion from
the body of the tribe occurred, it left her
dazed and beaten, immersed in the heart
of a painful brooding insensibility, like
one beginning to learn to live on technical
scraps of stunned memory in a way she
had only glimmeringly perceived before in
a series of losses, raids and deprivations.
For Harris, as for Walcott there can be
no easy answers, and no premature cele-
No temples, yet the fruits of intel-
No roots, yet the flowers of identity,
No cities, but white seas in sunlight,
Laughter and doves, like young Italy.
Yet to find the true self is still arduous,
And for us, especially, the elation can
be useless and empty
And this pale, blue ewer of the sky,
Loveliest in drought. 7
I A e-.._ t
6. It is instructive to compare Harris's
treatment of the maroons with Namba Roy's
idealising reconstruction in Black Albino (1961).
7. Dereck Walcott 'Allegre' in In a Green
by John S. Lopez, Vice President, Professional Photographers Association of Jamaica
The Professional Photographers Asso-
ciation of Jamaica was founded in 1953
by Mr. Walter G. Morals, M.R.P.S., J.P.
Mr. D. K. Corinaldi and Mr. L.
Cruchley joined Mr. Morals in his pro-
ject and together these three men be-
came the motivating forces in building
the association membership to approxi-
mately sixty photographers then work-
ing throughout Jamaica.
The aims of the Association were to
establish and maintain high standards
in photography at the professional level.
It was also felt that such an organisation
could project a better professional image
and create interest in the work of the
commercial photographer through pub-
lic exhibits and competitions.
The first exhibition was held at the
Crafts Market. There have been sub-
sequent exhibitions at the Institute of
Jamaica. However, the most recent
display was held at the Tom Redcam
Library from December 1-13, 1969.
Some of the outstanding members
of the early days of the Association
were Mr. S. W. Harris, Mr. Stoodby
Whyte, Mr. Eric Dawson and the late
Mr. Wally Allen.
Mr. Morais is currently the President
of the Association, and has been pres-
ident for twelve of its sixteen years of
Some of the
1969 Exhibition Award Winners
A. Portrait (Black & White)
Maria Layacona Silver Award
B. Commercial (Black & White)
William Van De Poll Silver Award
C. Portrait (Colour)
John S. Lopez Silver Award
D. Architecture and Industrial
(Black and White)
James Chong- Blue Ribbon Award
E. General (Colour) Silver Award
F. General (Black & White) Silver Award
G. Architecture and Industrial (Black and White)
Neville Hylton -- Silver Award
H. J.I.D.C. Industrial Award (Black and White) -
John S. Lopez
I. Commercial (Colour) Silver Award
John S. Lopez
Tenk you for d(
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