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Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover
    Table of Contents
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Full Text

Caribbean Quart
Volume 23 No 1
, March, 1977



ISSN 000846495

A 4


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VOL. 23 NO. 1



Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.

7. The Fusion of African and Amerindian Folk Myths
Jan Carew
22. The Use of African Folklore in Hispanic Literature
Miriam DeCosta
31. Carlos Fuentes: "Mexico Coming to Terms with Itself'
George Irish
50. Diglossia in Haiti: A Comparison with Paraguayan Bilingualism
Gerard A. Ferbre
61. On The Genesis of New World Black English
David Qla Oke

80. Parable 1
Velma Pollard
81. A Travelogue Continues
Stanley Reid

83. Frontier Adaptations in Lower Central America
eds. Mary W. Helms and Franklin O. Loveland
Exiled from St. Vincent. The Development of Black Carib Culture
in Central America up to 1945 by C.J.M.R. Gullick
Richard Buhler
86. The Poetry of Nicolas Guillen: An Introduction by Dennis Sardinha
George Irish

MARCH 1977



Editorial Committee

Hon. R.M. Nettleford, O.M., Professor of Extra-Mural Studies (Editor).
Lloyd Braithwaite, Pro-Vice Chancellor, U.W.I., St. Augustine, Trinidad.
Sidney Martin, Pro-Vice Chancellor, U.W.I., Cave Hill, Barbados.
Roy Augier, Pro-Vice Chancellor, U.W.I., Mona, Jamaica.
J.J. Figueroa, Professor Caribbean Center of Advanced Studies, Puerto Rico.
G. A. O. Alleyne, Professor, Department of Medicine.
Uoyd Coke, Department of Botany, U.W.I., Mona.
Neville McMorris, Department of Physics, U.W.I., Mona.
Janet Liu Terry, Associate Editor.

All correspondence should be addressed to:
Caribbean Quarterly,
Department of Extra-Mural Studies,
University of the West Indies,
Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.

We invite readers to submit manuscripts or recommend subjects which they
would like to see discussed in CARIBBEAN QUARTERLY. Articles of Caribbean
relevancy will be gratefully received.

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Subscription orders may be forwarded to the Editor or to the Resident Tutor at
University Centre in any West Indian Territory served by this University.


Vol. 14 Nos. 1 & 2
Walcott and the Audience for Poetry
Dialect in West Indian Fiction
The Unresolved Constitution
Upright Man
Jamaican Folk Music
The Caribbean Artists Movement
The Predicament of the Artist in the Caribbean
Notes and Commentary:
1. The Fine Arts
2. Walcott on Walcott
3. The Jamaica School of Art and Crafts
4. Sparrow and the Language of the Calypso CAM Comment
5. Bennett on Bennett
Folk Themes in West Indian Drama
The Dream on Monkey Mountain
The Dance as an Art Form
The Little Carib and West Indian Dance
Towards a West Indian Criticism
The Waiting Room Wilson Harris
Controversy A Correspondence

Vol. 18 No. 1
Planning for Rural Development in Jamaica
Guyana's "Green Revolution": Social and
Ecological Problems in an Agricultural
Development Programme
The Role of Mini-Research Stations in
Increasing Farm Productivity in the Caribbean
Poem After the Carnival
Peasant Movements & Agrarian Problems in the West Indies:
Part 1 Aspects of the Development of the Peasantry
Part 11 Aspects of the Present Conflict
between the Plantation & the Peasantry in the West Indies
The Development of Small Scale I[arming:
Two Cases From the Commonwealth Caribbean
Canada Sugar and the Commonwealth Caribbean
The Economic Situation of the Commonwealth Caribbean
Vol. 18 No. 2
Attempts at Windward/Leeward Federation
The Advantages of Economic Integration in the Windward and
Leeward Islands
Political Aspects of Integration of the Windward and
Leeward Islands
Small States in the International Society: with Special
Reference to the Associated States
The Grenada Declaration 1971
Statement on Grenada Declaration

Carifta and the New Caribbean
Review by Keith Hunte & Leonard Shorey
Vol. 18 No. 3
Reappraising the Sixth Form Idea

Mervyn Morris
Edward Brathwaite
Kenneth Ramchand
Wilson Harris
John Figueroa
Olive Lewin
Edward Brathwaite
Aubrey Williams

Cecil Gray
Derek Walcott
Rex Nettleford
Beryl McBurnie
I-dward Baugh
Joyce Sparer
G. R. Coulthard &
Mervyn Morris

Barry Floyd

Bonham C. Richardson

Horace Payne
Dennis Scott

Woodville Marshall

George Beckford

D. T. Edwards
George E. Eaton
Owen Jefferson

Bernard Marshall

Dwight Venner
S. Lestrade & Ralph

Vaughan A. Lewis

D. Venner, V. A. Lewis &
S. Lestrade

Errol Miller

Educational Planning in a Developing Society -
The Case of British Honduras
A Functional Role of Teachers' Organizations in Barbados
Libraries and Librarianship in the Commonwealth Caribbean
West Indian Higher Education The Story of Codrington College
Teaching Literature in a Dialect/Standa d Sittion
Vol. 18 No. 4
Emergence of a National Drama in the West Indies
Ole Times
The Discharge
Seasons Greetings Love and Revolution
Alejo Carpentier: Regionalist or Universalist
West Street
Conference Jan. '71
Alejo Carpentier: Regionalist or Universalist
The Man
Before the People became Popular
In Memoria
Requiem for a Caribbean Fisherman
A I cw Lines written to a friend slowly dying in Viet Nam
Sufferers Bay
Review Article
The Novel as Sociology as Bore
Vol. 19 No. I
The Trans-national Appeal Of The Cuban Revolution:
Chile, 1958-1970.
A View of Modern Man

The Greytown Passion Play, 1898
Guantanamo Its Political, Military and Legal Status
Review Article
Guillen at Seventy
Vol. 19 No. 2
West Indian Cricket A Socio Historical Appraisal Part 1
Indian Heritage in Trinidad, West Indies
Odomankoma Kyrema Se
W. Adolphe Roberts: Creole Romantic
Self& Identity Problems in Jamaica Part II
Vol. 19 No. 3
Portrait of a Jamaican Healer:
African Medical Lore in the Caribbean
West Indian Cricket Part II An Aspect of Creolization
The Place of Voodoo in the Social Structure of Haiti
Problems of Identity for the Black Man in the Caribbean

Social Structure, Values and Business Policy in the Caribbean
Time in European and African Philosophy A Comparison
Epitaph (Poem)
VoL 19 No. 4
The Black Caribs Native Resistance
to British Penetration into the Windward Side
of St. Vincent 1763 1773
Nanny Maroon Chieftainess

Norman Ashcraft
Leonard Shorey
Alma Jordan
George C. Simmons
Sybil James

Errol Hill
Paul Douglas
Robert Lee
Glen D. Godfrey
Judy Miles
George Irish
E. Lloyd Napier
Dion McTair
George Irish
Bernal Reid
Wayne Brown
Kenneth Ramchand
Stanley Reid
A. L. Hendriks
Mcdonald Dixon
Rawle Gibbons

John Hearne

Miles D. Wolpin
Juan Carlos Onetti
(George Irish)
R. L. Woodward, Jr
Lynn Darrell Bender

Keith Ellis

M. St. Pierre
J. C. Jha
M. Warner
F. M. Birbalsingh
Errol Miller

Leonard Barrett
M. St. Pierre
M. Laguerre
Rene de Pestre
(trans. G. Irish)
Hired Nunes
Earl McKenzie
R. Gibbons

Bernard Marshall

Alan Tuelon


Jan Carew

Miriam DeCosta

George Irish

Gdrard Fe`rre

David Ola Oke

Velma Pollard

Stanley Reid

Guyanese novelist, poet, author, essayist, and storyteller,
has a life-time appointment as Professor of African-American
Studies at North-western University Evanston, Illinois,

Professor of Spanish at Howard, served as Chairperson
of the Department of Romance Languages from 1974-1976.
She is the editor of Blacks in Hispanic Literature: A
Collection of Critical Essays.

is Head of the Department of Spanish at the University of
the'West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. He has published widely on
Caribbean-Hispanic Literature and Nicolas Guillen of Cuba.

a native speaker of Haitian Creole holds a doctorate in
linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania and is at
present Associate Professor in the Department of Modern
Languages at Saint Joseph's College, Philadelphia, USA.

educated at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and the
University of York, England in Linguistics, is currently
Professor and Head of Department of Linguistics at the
University of Ife, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.

Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of
the West Indies, Mona, has special interest in the Teaching
of English. Her works on Edward Brathwaite have been
published in JET.

is research assistant in the Department of Management
Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica.
His poetry has appeared in periodicals and magazines such as

Native and Phenomenal Environment

"The native and phenomenal environment of the West Indies, as I see it,
is broken into many stages in the way in which one surveys an existing river
in its present bed while plotting at the same time ancient and abandoned,
indeterminate courses the river once followed. When I speak of the West
Indies I am thinking of overlapping contexts of Central and South America as
well. For the mainstream of the West Indies in my estimation possesses an
enormous escarpment down which it falls, and I am thinking here of the
European discovery of the New World and conquest of the ancient American
civilizations which were themselves related by earlier and obscure levels of
conquest. This escarpment seen from another angle possesses the features of a
watershed, main or subsidiary, depending again on how one looks at it.
The environment of the Caribbean is steeped as I said before in such
broken conceptions as well as misconceptions of the residue and meaning of
conquest. No wonder in the jungles of Guiana and Brazil, for example, mat-
erial structural witnesses may be obliterated or seem to exist in a terrible void
of unreality. Let us look once again at the main distinction which for con-
venience one may describe as the divide pre-Columbian/post-Columbian. The
question is how can one begin to reconcile the broken parts of such an
enormous heritage, especially when those broken parts appear very often like
a grotesque series of adventures, volcanic in its precipitate effects as well as
human in its vulnerable settlement? This distinction is a large, a very large one
which obviously has to be broken down into numerous modern tributaries
and other immigrant movements and distinctions so that the smallest area one
envisages, island or village, prominent ridge or buried valley, flatland or heart-
land, is charged immediately with the openness of imagination, and the
longest chain of sovereign territories one sees is ultimately no stronger than
its weakest and most obscure connecting link".

WILSON HARRIS IN Tradition and the West Indian Novel.


My formal studies of the fusion of African and Amerindian folk myths began when
I recreated six folk tales I had heard in my childhood for a British Broadcasting
Corporation programme. I wrote the six folk stories in dialect and broadcast them on
the "BBC 3rd Programme". They were entitled: "The Legend of Nameless Mountain",
"Anancy and Tiger", "The Coming of Amalivaca", "The Legend of Kaietuk", "The
Children of the Sun", and "Kaie and Ichillibar".
I wrote the stories in dialect because they belonged to an oral tradition and I was
convinced that writing them in literary English for a broadcast would rob them of a
pristine eloquence and clarity.
The dialect of Agricola, my village, was close to singing. In their original form, the
stories had to be acted, danced, sung, impregnated with hypnotic cadences and a tonal
magic as the storyteller spun them out for his audience. A good storyteller had to be
an actor, a dancer, a bard, a magician with words. Great storytellers, on the other
hand, became legendary figures archetypes looming large between men and gods, the
urbane and the demonic, terror and ultimate redemption they created enduring
images in the minds of those who came under their spell.
Agricola, pressed between a wall of rain forest and the muddy east bank of the
Demerara river, was a village of 1,200 when I was a child. In its small circumference,
lived the descendants of Africans slaves, Indian indentured labourers (Hindus and
Moslems), native Amerindians. Portuguese from Madeira, a sprinkling of Chinese, and
creoles who were mixtures of all the polyglot races living in Guyana.
Agricola was more than a village, it was a world in microcosm. In the midst of its
varied cultures presided over by the official British colonial one, it is remarkable that
African and Amerindian folk myths could have fused and survived.
There were two extraordinary prophet-storytellers who hailed from Agricola -
Prophet Wills, an ex-schoolmaster and renegade lay-preacher, and Jordan, a shoemaker
who was the founder and Christ of the Jordanite sect.
Prophet Wills was a wanderer, a nomad, he went from village to village prophesying,
denouncing the evil ways of the villagers, making rain in seasons of drought or
shouting back floods when the rain gods were too prodigal with their showers. He told
his stories obliquely, resurrecting secret gods and devils from a forbidden Afro-Amer-
indian pantheon. Jordan seldom left Agricola. What he had in common with the
Prophet was this: he never hesitated to bring biblical characters into his pagan mytho-
poetic folk legends Judas, Amanja, and the Amerindian Kanaima were fused into
one, Elijah, Legba, Master of the Crossroads, and Amalivaca, the Christ of the Arawaks

became a composite character. Jordan and Prophet Wills, with their wild and un-
tramelled eloquence, brought legendary figures close enough to the villagers for
listeners to feel the breath of characters like Anancy or Pia on their faces as the voices
of these two prophet-storytellers brought them to life.

Jordan spun tales of redemption and escape. His serpent-tongue created a promised
land which no elysian fields could rival, no garden of Eden could match. He was a
masterful creator of images. The reality he invented became more palpable, more real
than the tawdry reality of Agricola itself, with its poverty and sickness; its collective
claustrophobia induced by a vast forbidding forest pressing the village against the
narrow, muddy riverbank.

The prophet was long-legged, wide shouldered, a towering figure with red eyes that
seemed to be fed perpetually by the burning cinders of his private obsessions. Jordan
was small and deceptively quiet. He was forever concealing his power like a coiled
snake. His voice was usually as gentle as the flutter of hummingbirds' wings, but there
were times when without warning it could thunder like the roll of Apinti drums.

They were both bor storytellers and the tales they told were like fantastic coats of
many colours adorning austere traditional themes. The themes were the eternal ones of
the struggle between the forces of good and evil. The two, the wanderer and the one
who never strayed far from his village, were troubadors, archetypal messengers, culture
bingers and inspired interpreters who stood between God and the villagers. They were
the maestros of the storytelling profession, the spellbinders who attracted crowds of
listeners, not only in Agricola but everywhere in Guyana that they choose to go. In the
village itself, however, there were many anonymous practitioners of the storyteller's
craft. for folk legends were an intrinsic part of the extended family and its culture. In
Agricola, with its semi-feudal economy, the extended family was not merely some-
thing we had inherited and took for granted, it was a necessary social unit for survival.
The family storytellers were invariably older folk grandparents, great aunts and
uncles or old friends of the family. The children would assemble at bedtime and the
tales would be spun out by the Old Ones. The tales would amuse, instruct and at times
fill the young listeners with a delicious sense of terror, for the family storytellers were
like the maestros, educators handing down cultural secrets from one generation to the
other, and instructors in the basic moral and ethical canons by which the family was
supposed to live. Many of the tales showed how wrongdoing was punished and virtue

When he was a boy, my grandfather told me, there were older people who were well
known as storytellers, and one of them (they took turns) would walk down the main
street of the village after sunset calling the children by their family names to come out.
All children of six years and older would answer the summons and assemble under a
silk cotton tree (every village had its silk cotton and in the gloaming, its lofty crown
seemed to scrape the skies while its vast, buttressed roots provided an almost magical
backdrop for the storyteller). In my time, this tradition had been discontinued. I heard
my stories from my great aunt, my Douglah nurse (Afro-Amerindian) or at forbidden
sessions which Jordan or the Prophet held in cathedraled depths of the forest.

It became apparent after I had written The Legend of Nameless Mountain, that the
story had evolved out of a tradition that was neither purely African nor Amerindian,
but essentially Guyanese. Therefore, the Guyan-isation of the African and Amerindian
folk legends was a phenomenon that I, an inheritor of the end-product, had over-
looked until I transposed one story from an oral into a written form and
examined its symbols, its structure and its meaning for the first time. But let us,
at this stage, examine some important elements in the mytho-poetic traditions of
the two parent cultures the African and the Amerindian from which the
Guyanese folk myth derived.
The African survivors of the Atlantic crossing, disoriented by the experiences of
violent capture, a forced march to the coastal assembly point, the brutal waiting
period in baracoons and the crowded journey for two months or longer in the dark,
heaving holds of slave ships, arrived in the New World like a person who was born
again. The gods they had appealed to had been mute; day and night, light and
darkness, time and space had been transformed irrevocably for these dark survivors.
The only certainties they knew were that they were still alive after the trauma of being
violently uprooted; that sea-drums pounding in their brain for months had wiped out
every familiar sound that they had ever known. In the New World, the newcomers had
to reconstruct the entire fabric of myth and reality for themselves. Fortunately for the
uprooted African, their folk myths, with very few exceptions, are impregnated with
realism, and myth and religion were fruit from the same tree. Their gods, devils,
mythological archetypes were in a profound sense organic entities in a Human World,
and, in the African tradition, they were held accountable at all times to the com-
munities that acknowledged them. This symbiotic relationship between people, gods
and folk archetypes gave to the New World African a cultural resilience that made a
significant contribution to his survival. Besides, the African brought with him,
regardless of the mosaic of cultural groups from which derived a built-in ethic which
bound him first, as a stranger in a strange land, to study and respect the host culture
before he established elements of his own. This gave to the children of the African
diaspora a means of surviving anywhere in the human world and they did not need
guns and superior armaments in order to do this. When the African arrived in the New
World, he knew that the European who had brought him there was a usurper who had
seized the land of the Indians, desecrated the graves and the altars of their ancestors,
and sent countless of the ones who had welcomed them to the Forest of the Long
Night. It was clear to the African slave, that in order to escape the terrible retribution
that was certain to overtake their masters, they had to make peace with both the living
and the dead in this new land. Their meeting with their Indian hosts was, therefore, a
matter of profound cultural importance. The African had to recreate his vision of
himself in the universe after being violently uprooted and brought to the New World as
a slave and he knew that without the help and active collaboration of the Indian this
would not have been possible. To use his master's eyes to see himself and the world
and to even appear to be an accomplice in his atrocious deeds would have left him, the
African, with a permanent heritage of self-hatred, distorted self-image and guilt. In
order to reconstruct his ontological system, the African was compelled by the logic of
his own cultural past to establish relations with his Indian host independent of the

white man. But it was the white man who created the meeting-points. At the beginning
of the Columbian era, both Indians and Africans were enslaved.

In 1502 Ovando, the Governor of Hispaniola, introduced the first Africans to the
domains he ruled. In 1505 Herrera, the New World's first Spanish historian, tells us,
there was a major slave rebellion in which Indians and Africans joined forces against a
common enemy. That this kind of united effort should have taken place after having
known each other for only three years seems extraordinary, and it certainly baffled
Herrera. Ovando, reacting to this and to other rebellions in nearby San Juan de Puerto
Rico, wrote home to Spain suggesting that no more Wolofs (a general name given to
Africans who were Moslems) be sent to the New World since "they walked rebelliously
through the land" and no sooner had they set foot in the Indies than "they began to
disaffect the Indians". Neither Herrera nor Ovando seemed to have been aware of the
fact that the African and Amerindian cultures were complementary ones; that for both
of these peoples the land, the fields, the mountains and valleys could never be the
object of private ownership; the life of the people was determined by the life of plants
and animals, that is, by the life of the environmental surroundings which are in turn
ruled by the rhythm of seasons. The Nature they conceived of was one animated by
vital hidden forces of which man is but a part that must abide by their harmonious
order. Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians of North America could have been
speaking for Africans and Amerindians everywhere when he said,
The earth was created by the assistance of the sun, and it should be left as it
was . . the measure of the land and the measure of our bodies is the
same .... The one who has the right to dispose of land is the one who created
it ...
It was from this united vision of man and his environment that Africans and
Amerindians created their profound cultural accommodations.
Both Amerindians and Africans saw themselves as part of a Human World which
existed in stasis, and in the quietude of this state, future time hardly existed at all. If
people occasionally erupted out of stasis, they disintegrated only to be reborn into the
world-balanced-in-suspense which they left.
In the Mayan Popol Vuh one of the most lucid and sophisticated genesis myths of
the Americas, the states of stasis, disintegration and rebirth are clearly defined.
This is the story of how everything was in suspense, everything becalmed,
wrapped in silence, everything immobile, silent and empty in the vastness of the
This is the first account, the first reasoned utterance. There was neither man,
nor animals, nor birds, fishes, crabs, trees, stones, caves, ravines, herbs nor
forests; only the sky existed.
The surface of the earth had not appeared, there was only the calmness of the
sea and the sky stretching into infinity.
Nothing made a sound, nothing moved or shifted or made any noise in the sky.

There was nothing standing erect, only the water sleeping, the sea, becalmed,
solitary and tranquil. Nothing had the gift of existence.
There was only immobility and silence in the darkness, in the night. Only the
Creator, the Originator, Tepeu, Gucumatz, the progenitors, were in the water
surrounded by an infinite translucency. They were concealed under green and
blue feathers, that is why they called Gucumatz. It was their nature to be great
and wise men, great thinkers. In this way the sky came to be and also the Heart
of Heaven which is the name of God and the way he is called.
Then the word came into being. Tepeu and Gucumatz met in the darkness of
the night, and they talked to each other and meditated; they reached an
agreement, marshalling their words into thoughts.'
At this stage, when words were put together to create thoughts, the gods then
abandoned the silence and their contemplative posture and set revolutionary changes
in motion. But they were all creative changes. The Mayan world view in this genesis
myth is one that conceives of change but not of destruction. The story continues:
Then while they meditated, it was clearly manifested to them that at dawn
man should appear. So they decided on the creation and the growth of trees and
bees and the birth of life and the creation of man. This was resolved in the
darkness and in the night by the Heart of Heaven called Hurricane.
The first is called Caculha Hurricane. The second is Chipe-Caculha. The third
is Ruxa-Caculha. And the three are the Heart of Heaven.
Tepeu and Gucumatz then came together, and they conferred about life, and
the light of existence; they decided on how daylight and dawn would come to
pass and who should produce food and nourishment.2
The Mayans saw the creation of earth and the creation of man as almost simul-
taneous events.
"Let it come to pass! Let the emptiness be tilled! Let the water recede and empty
the space. Let the earth break forth and settle" Thus they spoke. "Let day
come. Let the dawn break in the sky and over the earth! There will be no glory
or greatness in our creation and formation until the human being exists, until
man is formed." Thus they spoke.3
The Popol Vuh continues in measured mytho-poetic tones to show how all living
creatures came to live on earth. It tells of how Man was first made the equal of the
Creators, the Heart of Heaven and the Heart of the Earth. But, because this left Man
knowing and seeing all things, it made him indifferent to the challenge of new
creations, of propagation and the knowledge of change. Therefore
Heart of Heaven blew his breath in their eyes which misted as when one blows
upon the surface of a mirror. Their eyes became blurred and they could only see
what was near to them.4
This then was the first cataclysmic change to overtake Man, the first in what was to
be an eternal cycle. The Africans, after one examines a great variety of their myths, do

not on the whole share the almost universal preoccupation of Amerindians with the
creation of the world. But the Popol Vuh nevertheless, is close to African mytho--
poetic traditions. For African myths are impregnated with realism and in them gods
and men are never far apart, and the former are eternally responsible to the people
they both rule and serve. The genesis myth of the Amerindians around Lake Titicaca
for example, who saw the world beginning when the Great Serpent stirred in the
depths of the sea, makes the whole conceptual framework of creators and creation far
more abstract than that of the Popol Vuh. One of the West African myths which tells
of the creation of men and not of the world was preserved by the Maroons of Jamaica.

Once the earth was created, the story goes, Damballa, one of the senior members of
the pantheon of gods, created men by baking cakes. The burnt cakes were the
ancestors of black men, those that were neither well baked nor under done were the
ancestors of brown men, while white men were sired by cakes Damballa neglected to
bake at all. This story is also told by Amerindians in Guyana, but in their version they
claim that the brown cakes, the most perfect ones, were their ancestors. One suspects
that this particular version could well be Carib since Caribs are obsessed with a per-
sistent fantasy of being a chosen people.

The Popol Vuh with its muted abstractions and its mytho-poetic statements made
with the clarity of a message sent by talking drums, was perhaps one of the first
profoundly successful attempts to make the universe coherent and intelligible by the
children of an Asian diaspora who had been wanderers in the Americas for so long.

The African, coming from a continent in which homo sapiens made his appearance,
had a longer and more continuous experience of belonging to a homeland than any
other peoples. He carried in him mankind's original memories. To have survived the
savageries of slavery in the New World, to have retained essential elements of his
African culture while at the same time quickly adjusting to and assimilating new ones
- Amerindian, European, and in some instances Asian remains a unique and
miraculous achievement.

The slave from Africa and his descendants assimilated elements of European culture
rapidly enough to ensure not only his own survival in the New World but also that of
Amerindians and, later, of the minorities of colour like East Indians, Chinese,
Afro-Portuguese from the Azores and others like the Indonesians in Surinam as well.

The legend of the Third Gift offers profound insights into the role of cultural
intermediary and in some cases, culture bringer that the African played in the New
World. This legend was brought to the Canje river district of Guyana by members of
the Ejau tribe. The Ejaus, an extraordinarily creative and gifted people, lived mostly in
the Niger River basin in what is now Nigeria. They are fishermen, farmers, hunters and
are famous for their skills in making weapons. It was a source of pride that the Ejau
could have his weapons for hunting made to order -a stabbing knife, a cutting knife, a
spear with the balance and feel of a precision instrument, or bows and arrows shaped
like living extensions of the body, the arm the mind's eye.

The Third Gift really deals with the symbolic and actual transition from a nomadic

stage to one of permanent settlement. The legend tells us of a weary, itchy-footed
people driven by epochs of drought, hunger and destitution to a green place at the
foot of a high mountain. The prophet who leads them there dies as soon as they begin
to settle down. But, before he dies he tells his people that they must send all the men
of the tribe up the mountain, and the one who climbs to the highest point and brings
back a gift for the people should be made Chief. In the young men's first sally up the
mountain, the one who climbed the highest brought back a shining stone a marvel of
indented surfaces and colours, and this stone was the symbol of the gift of work, for,
with it they could shape and sharpen their tools. The second gift that a young man
brought back was a flower, symbol of beauty. But, implicit in this legend is the
suggestion that between the gifts of work and beauty was language, and language was
not a gift but a necessary skill tied to the work-act. The spoken word becomes
necessary when group activities like ploughing, sowing, harvesting and the other
varied and complex communal tasks have to be coordinated.
In the legend, too, beauty and function were synonymous girls wore flowers in
their hair, the prows of canoes, doors had flowers sculpted on them. But, after having
received the gifts of work and beauty, the people were still restless. They were still
vulnerable to the primordial impulse to wander that nomads have buried in their
beings. So, when the young men set out up the mountain for the third time, they
knew that the one who climbed the highest had to bring back a gift that would be the
most important of all. The winner of this contest of endurance and skill brought back
the gift of fantasy, of imagination, of faith. He breached ramparts of Heaven above the
clouds and reached the snow-capped peak of the mountain. Once there, he tried to
bring back a handful of snow. But, it melted on the way down to the warm plains. So,
using words creatively for the first time, he painted a picture of the wonders he had
seen, and, the magic he imparted to the word made it possible for his people to share
vicariously in what only gods had had a divine right to experience before the telling of
this story.
In the legend Ika, the bringer of the Third Gift tells us,
"I went up to the clouds and over and above them, and I don't know how
long it took because past the clouds was a brightness that blinded my eyes.
Then, there came a time when all I felt was a soft carpet under my feet, and
when I breathed in the mountain air, it was like drawing knife blades up my
nostrils. When my sight came back, I found myself on the mountain top...."
"Lord! You must have seen the whole world from there, Ika!" a young man
"Yes, and while I stood up there, a soft white thing like rain started to
fall ... and yet it wasn't rain because it fell like leaves when there is no wind. I
gathered this downy whiteness in my hand, but the further down the
mountainside I ran, the less of it I was holding, so I went back for more and ran
down the mountain again. Four times I did this, and every time I was heading
for home bird-speed, this magic thing melted in my hand. All I bring with me
now is the memory of it, the feel of the sky and the bite of the wind and the
fire and ice burning my hand."

And the people listening believed, for this quiet young man, when he did
speak, could warble like singing-birds-sweet, and when he spoke, his words
would grow inside your head like seeds.
Ika became prophet of the Jubas, for he had brought the best gift of all, the
gift of Fantasy, of Imagination and Faith. So, with the gifts of Work and Beauty
and Imagination, the Jubas became poets and bards and creators, and they live at
the foot of Nameless Mountain to this day.5
Fire and endless movement were eternal realities in the Amerindian cosmology and
also constant factors in both the Amerindian myth and actuality. The bringer of fire to
man in Amerindian myth, however, is not a cosmic figure like Prometheus, but
Wao-uno, the white crane, a fragile and vulnerable creature.
When we delve into the primordial memories buried deep in the most ancient
culture-stratum in the Americas, we discover Pia and Makunaima, the Children of the
Sun, at once the most typical and the most universal creations of Amerindian mytho-
logy. Paul Radin, commenting on this, writes:
the Children of the Sun! It is clearly recognizable despite many transformations.
How we may indeed ask, did this favourite story of the southwest of the United
States, of the Pawnee and Arikara of Nebraska and North Dakota, of the
Winnebago of Wisconsin, come here?6
And by "here" he meant the Guyana Highlands, and the sacred mountain
Roraima-of-the-red-rock. Perhaps, the answer is that in the milleniums that go back
into pre-history, the original inhabitants of both North and South America had dis-
covered how accessible these continents had always been from within, so that the
migratory waves that carried the myth with them had woven it into a broad, cohesive
and indestructable cultural matrix which remains miraculously intact to this day.
Pia and Makunaima, the legend goes, learned the art of making fire from Crane,
having seen him strike his beak against a flint and the friction send off a shower of
sparks. So, in the instant of seeing this almost capricious act of Crane's, the Children
of the Sun discovered the gift of Fire, and set out to perform gigantic tasks as builders,
creators and culture-heroes.
The brothers placed huge rocks in all the rivers to detain the fishes: the rocks
thus placed caused the great waterfalls. Crane was at first accustomed to catch
his own fish, but finding Pia and Makunaima more successful fishermen after the
river had been dammed, kept near to them and took away their fish.7
Having brought the gift of Fire to man, and having tamed the rivers, Pia and
Makunaima set out on a long journey with their mother, and when even she became
tired they took her to the vast and spacious tableland on the summit of Roraima, and
this became her final home. After leaving his mother on the top of Roraima, the
legend continues,
Then came a change of occupation for Pia. He abandoned the hunt as the role or
principal occupation of his life, and travelled from place to place teaching the
Indians many useful and good things.8

It is at this point that Pia assumes his stature as a culture hero. He evolves from the
hunting stage, and having done this, he begins to codify the gains that have been made
and to advance toward new achievements. He becomes a teacher, a prophet, a
magician. But, in the midst of all these transformations he must remain close to the
roots of life. He does this through his Earth Mother. For, although he disappeared
finally from men, he first remained a while with his mother on Roraima. And when he
was about to depart, he told her that all her wishes for good would come true if she
bowed her head and covered her face with her hands while she made her wish. This she
does to this day for,
Whenever the mother of these two heroes of our race is sorrowful, there arises a
storm in the mountain, and it is her tears, that run down in streams from the
heights of Roraima9

Pia then became the father of all prophet-priests in the Americas. He is the ancestor
of the piai men. They are his spiritual descendants, the inheritors of this mytho-poetic
dream. It is significant that Pia and Makunaima, the original culture-heroes of all the
Americas, built the culture of this hemisphere on foundations of creative labour. Their
first mission as culture-bringers was to transform the world for the benefit of all, and
in the process to change their own natures. The acts of creative labour which they
performed made it impossible to sit idly on the heights of Roraima with their mother.
So, they returned to the human world where they would remain forever.

They thus established forever indissoluble links between the spiritual and material
Marx, in Volume I of Das Kapital, described labour in a way that would have made
the Children of the Sun qualify as the first Heroes of Labour in the Americas. He

Labour is in the first place a process in which both man and nature participate,
and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates and controls between
himself and nature. He opposes himself to nature as one of her own forces,
setting in motion arms, legs, heads, the natural forces of his body in order to
appropriate nature's production in a form adapted to his own wants. By thus
acting on the external world and changing it, he at the same time changes his
own nature.'0
It is against the background of the primordial myth of the Children of the Sun that
the cruel and fantastic reality of the Columbian history of the Americas unfolded
itself. And yet this myth, buried under borrowed cosmologies must be resurrected if a
genuine liberation of all classes and races in the hemisphere must take place. The
indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Africans who joined them at a stratum of
destitution which pressed down upon them both like an incubus, shared at a psychic
level a respect for the sun which bordered on terror. In the cosmologies of both
peoples, the sun was cruel and the darkness kind. The symbols of the two peoples -
black and white, darkness and light were the opposite to what they had become in
the European cosmology. White was for Africans and Amerindians alike, the colour of
devils or of nemesis. On the other hand, it was in the cool darkness of the womb, the

Forests of the Long Night, the Rivers of Night that men and gods found peace and
In the plethora of Amerindian tales about the Children of the Sun, neither Pia.and
Makunaima nor their mother are acknowledged by Father Sun as kith and kin. Mother
and sons live in the Human World while Sun lives in the wide indifference of the sky.
But, although Sun remains aloof from his sons and their mother in the myth, his
organic links with man and his endless seasons of creative labour remains a constant.
For Sun, even though he is distant, remains a pivotal and living cultural element, the
embodiment of movement and fire and a fantastic reality in the endless cycle of
seasons. The Amerindian world view is shaped by a dominant cultural impulse to
merge with all living things around him. His art and crafts, his religion and ritual are
collective enterprises that link him to a world within a cosmos. It is in this context
that his links with Sun are established. Sun journeys daily across the sky. "Sun," says
the Guyanese poet A.J. Seymour, "is a burning fire turning on air" and then the poet
adds, "Sun's in my blood today." Seymour is, in his poem to the sun, echoing the
Akan belief that the original life cell
is a divine element a created thing which God had made for man and which he
gave him as a gift, as it were they believe that God, whom they sometimes call
Nyankopon, shoots a particle of the sun's fire into the bloodstream of the child,
thus bringing the blood to life."
Sun is, therefore, a dialectical entity in Amerindian and African beliefs: it is distant
and yet it's in the blood: it is a god-like being, and yet it has anthropomorphic links
with the human world; and with the Amerindians, its most fundamental links are
created through its eternal cycles of movement and its offspring Pia and Makunaima.
The legend tells us, too, that the god-like remote Sun sweats, and that gold is the Sun's
sweat. Gold, for the Amerindian, was not in itself a sacred metal; rather it was a soft
and plastic metal which could be used to sculpt sacred objects. The value of the gold
lay in its being transformed through man's genius and his reverence for the Sun into
objects of worship.
The conquistators melted down the sacred sculpture of the Amerindians with such
greedy haste, that the spiritual heirs of Pia and Makunaima, the priests and the
magicians, accused them of "raping the sun." It is interesting that the principal setting
of the legend of El Dorado, the Golden City was the Guyana Highlands, which extend
to all points of the compass from Roraima. Roraima-of-the-red-rock the ever fertile
source of streams is how the Amerindians address the sacred mountain in their
From the summit of Roraima, it is as if all the vast spaces of the South American
Continent are willing to reveal their secrets to you. One sees the limitless vistas of the
heartland the Llanos, the Pakaraima, Kanaku, Rupununi and Akarai sierras, and the
forests like a petrified green ocean leading to the secret junction of the Orinocco and
Amazon rivers.
This region, the Amerindians say, devours men and their dreams when the dreams
are out of tune with the spaces around them.

It was in this region that Pia and Makunaima came to the parting of the ways. Pia
became the prophet of hope, the purveyor of all things positive, the spiritual ancestor
of the priest, the magician, the piaiman. Makunaima, his twin brother, on the other
hand became the archetypal figure of evil, the spiritual ancestor of Kanaima. Kanaima
is in the Amerindian cosmology the ultimate embodiment of evil, a symbol of terror,
nemesis stalking human beings in cool forests of the night; he can transform himself
into an animal, a reptile, a bird or a ball of fire.
This dialectical situation of the good Pia opposing the evil Makunaima is common
to the foremost mythological archetypes of both the African and the Amerindian. The
African equivalent to Pia and Makunaima is B'ra Anancy, the Spiderman. He is the
embodiment of both good and evil, for in African religion and philosophy good and
evil are in the eyes of the beholder and not necessarily in separate persons, objects or
things where one is juxtaposed against the other. But Anancy as a trickster, the other
side of Anancy the god-like figure, the rain-maker, the lightning-rod, the thunder-axe,
the guardian of the rainbow, is more benign than Kanaima, and it was as a benign and
supremely clever trickster that he was brought by West Africans to the New World.
For the uprooted slave, the hard-pressed post-emancipation black peasant and those
Amerindians whose destinies had become inextricably bound up with the black
peoples the black Caribs, the Seminoles, the Caribs of Dominica and those Afro--
Amerindian communities on the vast littoral from Peru on the Pacific to Southern
Brazil on the Atlantic Anancy with his agile brain and his invincible instinct for
survival, became the foremost symbol of wish-fulfilment. For Anancy the trickster, no
matter how impossible the odds against him seemed to be or how mighty his
opponents, inevitably came out on top, winning for himself food, women, land,
respect and liberty without the cruel tasks that those escaping with him vicariously
were compelled to perform for such trifling rewards.
B'ra Anancy, the Spiderman, God or Trickster, is an African archetype who finally
linked man to all things in the universe. The choice of the spider as an archetype fits
perfectly into the cosmological visions of the African peoples. The spider is shaped like
the sun or like a wheel. The sun is a giver of life whilst the wheel is the most important
of man's inventions.Thus the spider is a symbol of man's link with time, space, the
mysteries of Nature and man's creative labour. Wiener writes:
In Africa the spider is connected with an enormous number of tales. And among
the Hausas, the rainbow is called "bakan gizzo" literally "the spider's bow,"
which indicates the relation which the divinities that came down from heaven
bear to the spider. Indeed since the spider is the king of cunning and craftiness,
all fables are told in his name.
An important point to note about Anancy, is that his bow, the rainbow, is called
"Gajjimare," god of rain and storms which has the shape of a snake "and is
double gendered, the male part being red, the female blue ... it lives in the
storm clouds but is supposed to come out at night and is also said to inhabit all
watering places ... so a pot is kept full in every house."12
Anancy, the trickster or god was a para-symbolical figure, and hence a mythological
archetype that could be transplanted in spite of the most daunting challenges. Anancy,

the king of all cunning, linked as he was with all things human and divine, could
stretch his bow, the Rainbow Serpent, across the Atlantic, and find there new watering
Anancy's Rainbow Serpent had the same symbolic and mystical meaning for the
Hausas, the Mandingos or the Bambara peoples of West Africa that Quetzalcoatl, the
Shining Serpent, had for the Toltecs or the Mexicas of Mexico. The snake, symbol of
fertility, strength, mystery or terror threads its way through the myths of Africa and
the Americas. The Amerindians around Lake Titicaca believed that the world was
created when the Snake God, stirring in the murky depths of the ocean, raised the
earth on his back.
In parts of the Guyanas and the Caribbean islands, Anancy the god-like figure
merged into the Amerindian Piaiman, the Patamoona Blow-man and sorceror, or else
he fused with West African gods, like Legba, Master of the Crossroads, Shango,
Damballa, or Obi-Myal. For the sons and daughters of the African diaspora, there was
no single figure like Kanaima embodying\the ultimate in evil, but there was Obeia, an
aberrant cult of evil whose practitioners were regarded as pariahs and outcasts in
Guyana and Eastern Caribbean, although the original West African god Obi was a
symbol of both evil and good. The myal cult in Jamaica is the more positive side in the
Obi-Myal religion which was transplanted in a sundered form in the Eastern Caribbean
and Guyana.
Anancy the trickster became the most popular folk hero for black peoples every-
where south of the United States. The Afro-American adopted Brer Rabbit and Brer
Tortoise, mythological archetypes from East Africa. There is even a folk tale in the
American South in which Brer Rabbit wins out in a contest with Anancy, as if
to mark symbolically, the boundary beyond which the King of Tricksters could
not trespass.
Language played an important part in forging the powerful links that were to bind
the Amerindian and black peoples together. The African, creating functional oral
languages out of the sophisticated and class-oriented European ones, was able to give
to the Amerindian enough of the colonizers' language to ensure his survival. The Caribs
of Dominica, the only survivors of this courageous people in the Caribbean
archipelago, no longer speak their own language. Only th,: older people have retained
some words and phrases, but they all speak a French Patois, taught them, not by the
French or the English, but by the black peoples of Dominica and the neighboring
islands with whom the Caribs have been in continuous contact for more than four
Caliban, in Shakespeare's The Tempest, accused Miranda, "You taught me
language" and indeed he could well have explained that the initial teacher of a
language is in a position to make it an inheritance for bondage or for liberty. And
Prospero the cunning, the cruel, the eloquent colonizer and his daughter Miranda were
interested in a monopoly of liberty for themselves at Caliban's expense. The Calibans
of the Americas made of Prospero's language an inheritance for liberty, not only for
themselves but for Amerindians and all the oppressed races and classes that were to
settle in this hemisphere.

For the African slave in the New World the myth became more heightened, more
palpably real, more necessary to his survival. Somewhere in his psyche was an eternal
dream of eventually returning home and rejoining the spirits of his ancestors, and
because of this his mythological archetypes were transformed to meet the new
Brer Rabbit and Tortoise were important folk archetypes from East and Central
Africa which took root in North America. Brer Rabbit was in his African homeland
Sungura the Hare. It is interesting that a millennium earlier Aesop, an African slave who
had won his freedom because of his wit and his agile brain, had immortalized the Hare
and the Tortoise in one of his fables.
Aesop's original name was Luqman. He was a famous creator of fables in the Arab
world, and is mentioned with respect by Muhammad in the twenty-first chapter of the
Koran. Luqman was said to have been an Ethiopian, that is, a Negro slave. His stories
were passed on to Greece where he became known as Aithiops. Aesop is the end
product of the false assumption that Luqman's name and country of origin were the
The mythological archetypes which took root in the Americas, Brer Rabbit and
Tortoise in North America and Brer Anancy in the Caribbean archipelago and parts of
South and Central America, were symbols of cunning and invincibility in the face of
terrible odds.
A vivid symbol of this invincibility can be found in the tar-baby, a famous character
in the Uncle Remus stories of the Afro-American. Tar-baby is an archetypal symbol of
the oppressed black and indestructible, endowed with the strength and powers of
resistance of both the male and the female. Its tormentors were themselves worn out
raining blows upon its head and in the end the aggressor becomes the victim. Tar is
black, plastic, capable of being poured into any mould; the harder it becomes, the
more vulnerable it is, the more easily it can be pounded into dust; its strength lies in
appearing to be soft and yielding. Finally after it is pounded into dust, it can be
melted down and returned to a pristine plastic form.
The tar-baby tale type, we have often been told, is of Amerindian origin, but it is
one of those tales that has prototypes in both African and Amerindian folklore. The
Africans brought to the New World as their particular prototype a wax-girl. Pro-
fessor Vansertima tells of how the Temme of West Africa believe that Anancy, the
Spiderman, owes his grotesque shape to an encounter with the wax-girl. He became
stuck to her and had to be forcibly detached.
The wax-girl and the tar-baby fused into one and the same symbol for both
Amerindian and African in the face of the colonizer's depredations.
For slaves anxious to conceal their persistent longing for freedom, the animal story
was a perfect vehicle. To those unschooled in the subtleties of an oral tradition in
which speech inflections, facial expression, gesture and the infinite variety of feelings
that wove themselves in and out of the storyteller's narrative, animal stories could
easily be dismissed as infantile, but because of this political, historical and cultural
messages could be more safely woven into a seemingly amusing or innocuous story.

The storyteller could also implant in every tale the idea of the moral right of the weak
to struggle against the mighty by any means necessary.

For the slave the rabbit was a communal creature, swift, fragile, cunning, its habit
of procreation legendary. It had survived down the ages when stronger and more
ferocious enemies had in their pride rushed into extinction. The rabbit, too was gentle,
loyal, loving. Although each warren was a fortress unto itself, it lived and survived in
groups. Its fear was so terrible that it could cause its death. On the other hand this
habit of fear made it acutely sensitive to all vibrations in air and land and sky. And
whenever it conquered its fear and fought back, its rage was so sudden, so unexpected
that predators with ten times its strength would pull back and in that instant of
hesitation give it a final chance to escape. And finally it could adapt to any conditions
of climate or geography and become an organic part of the rhythms of life, pro-
creation and death in any environment in which it found itself.

The most important feature about the tortoise is its hard protective shell into which
it can retreat and hide from most of its enemies. It is slow but has phenomenal
endurance on land or in water. It is most vulnerable when it is uprooted. The eagle, its
most formidable enemy, must carry it aloft and dash it to pieces on the rocks. It is a
plodding, secretive creature, slow to anger, and deliberately acting the part of a
buffoon so that its enemies could leave it alone or underestimate its strength and
cunning. The only time that it is swift and graceful is when it is swimming under
water. But on land it is a creature of the Antaeus legend, strongest when its feet are
planted firmly on the earth. Sometimes its whole bearing gives one the impression that
it is immeasurably sad, as though it was burdened with the griefs of all other living

The folk archetypes etched on the palimpsest of my mind were the creation of
gifted storytellers the maestros and the family practitioner of the craft and these
stories form an important part of the spectrum through which I view the modern
world. When I took my swift journey from Agricola into the twentieth century, one
that spanned a distance in time of three centuries, these stories helped me to survive
the awesome psychological and social pressures that beset me. Today, the extended
family in Agricola is dissolving, and smaller, disconnected and impersonal family units
are taking its place. In this changing situation, the traditional storyteller is becoming
an endangered species. There are still a few old people who remember the stories but
the youth, preoccupied with other concerns, no longer listen to them.

Ivan Forrester, a poet, painter, musician and storyteller is probably the last
exponent of the dying art. He is nearing middle age, and in the tradition of Prophet
Wills who died decades ago, wanders restlessly up and down the country, but in a very
real sense he is a prophet without honour in his own country and after him it is
unlikely that there will be other storytellers of the same genre.
The Amerindians, who until recently functioned from isolated and often nomadic
communities in the Guyana hinterland, are now having their forest sanctuaries
violated. Their journey into the twentieth century, a longer one in time and distance
than the people of Agricola had to take, is equally precipitate, and as far as the survival

of their folk myths is concerned, disastrous. The extended family, which was also a
built-in fact of life in their communities one made up traditionally of families, clans
and tribes is also dissolving, and what is crystallizing is an aberrant social growth.
The fusion of Afro-Amerindian folk myths, a matter of enormous cultural sig-
nificance in the New World, offers us an opportunity to view the entire Columbian era
through a spectrum of the Human World. The storyteller and the story were synony-
mous when the oral tradition was the one through which the indigenous culture was
handed down from generation to generation. The stories now have to be transposed
into a written form not just as dull ethnographical material for scholars but as living
artistic creations.



1. "Popol Vuh", Suni Paz Unpublished Translation.
2. Ibid., (Suni Paz).
3. Ibid., (Suni Paz).
4. Ibid., (Suni Paz).
5. The Third Gift, Jan Carew, Little Brown, Boston, 1975,
6. Radin, Paul, 'Indians of South America', Reprint of 1942 edition. Greenwood.
7. Radin, p. 197.
8. Radin.
9. Radin.
10. Marx, Das Kapital, p. 197.
11. Ju-Ju in my life, James H. Neal, p. 170, George G. Harrap and Co. Ltd. London, 1966.
12. Weiner, Leo, Africa and the discovery of America, Vol 2 Reprint of 1922 edition, Kraus


One of the primary contributions of Afro-Hispanic literature to the development of
an indigenista or native culture in the New World is the introduction of African
folklore into Caribbean and South American literature. The confluence of the two
cultures African and Hispanic began much earlier, however, with the conquest of
Christian Spain by Islamic Moors and with the expansion of the African slave trade on
the Iberian Peninsula in the sixteenth century. As early as the ninth century, Ziryab, a
poet who became known as the "Black Nightingale", introduced East African customs
to the court of Abd al-Rahman III; he taught the Moors to eat asparagus, to use cut
glass tableware and to wear their hair in a fringe.' More distinctively African customs
entered the Peninsula during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a period of great
literary productivity which paralleled the culmination of the slave trade. Spanish
writers, such as Cervantes, Andres de Claramonte, Lope de Rueda and Ximenez de
Enciso, allude to African songs, dances and customs in their works. Fernando Ortiz
singles out, for example, the use of African theatrical forms, including the mojiganga
and the bululd on the Castilian stage,2 while Jose L. Franco identifies black Guinean
dances such as the gurujd, gurumbd, paracumbi, yeye, and barambeque in seven-
teenth-century Spain.
In analyzing African folkloric elements in Caribbean and South American literature,
it is necessary, first, to identify the social and literary elements which comprise that
folklore, secondly, to trace the evolution of the folk tradition while underscoring the
relationship between the study of African folklore and its use in creative writing, and,
finally to examine the ways in which African folklore is incorporated into Hispanic
literature. According to Franco, the word folklore was first used in 1846 by Ambrosio
Merton, the pseudonym of William J. Thomas, for a collection of narrations of "the
manners, customs, observations, superstitions, ballads, proverbs, etc. of the past."4 It
is practical, for the purposes of analysis, to group folkloric elements into three major
categories: (1) customs, that is, all of the physical and tangible activities which relate
to the quotidian life of the people, including the use of dance, song, food, drink, dress,
games and ceremonies associated with birth, love, marriage and death; (2) beliefs or
the intangible, spiritual ideas inherent in the superstitions, religious practices, mytho-
logy and sacred rituals of the people; and (3) the oral tradition which includes the
language and literature of the folk.
The study of Afro-Cuban folklore preceded the emergence of Negrism, a Cuban
literary movement, by about two decades. In 1906, the ethno-musicologist, historian
and linguist, Femando Ortiz, published Los negros brujos (The Black Sorcerors), and
began a systematic and scientific examination of Afro-Cuban customs and beliefs. His

major works include The Dances and the Theater of Blacks in Cuban Folklore, The
Africanity of Folkloric Music in Cuba, Black Slaves, The Instruments of Afro-Cuban
Music and A Glossary of Afro-negrisms; he also analyzed the art, literature and religion
of Black Cubans in a series of published articles. Undoubtedly, the work of Ortiz
kindled interest in the Afro-Cuban folk tradition and provided material (themes,
images, archetypes) for creative writers who began publishing their poems and short
stories in the late twenties.
Between 1930 and 1960 many anthropologists and sociologists continued the work
of Ortiz and began collecting the songs, tales and legends of neo-African people.
Ildefonso Pereda Valdds, Horacio Jorge Becco,6 and Jose Luis Lanuza7 published
anonymous work songs, tribal hymns, street songs, chants and litanies (many in the
original African languages), while writers such as Romulo Lachataner6,8 Ram6n
Guirao, 9 and Lydia Cabrera reproduced the African folk tales, legends and short
stories which abounded in Cuba. Of the latter group, Lydia Cabrera has been the most
prolific. She has published three collections of short stories; a book about the secret
Abakoaa society; a study of Afro-Cuban religion called El monte; Anagd, a lucumi or
Yoruba dictionary; Proverbs of Old Black Men; a work on precious stones entitled
Otan lyebiyk, as well as numerous articles on the Yorubas.
In tracing the evolution of Afro-Hispanic folk literature, one can discern three
distinct periods: (1) the first, which lasted from about 1550 to 1750 and which
coincided with the apogee of slavery, might be called the bozal period, (2) the period
of mestizaje, from about 1750 to 1900, when the Spanish and African cultures merged
to form a new and peculiarly American fold tradition, and (3) the negrista period of
the twentieth century, when non-folk artists imitated and often caricatured the folk
tradition. The bozales were Africans, newly arrived in the Americas, who retained their
native tongues and customs, and who could speak Spanish only with difficulty.
Because the bozales had a highly developed oral tradition, but did not have a recorded
history or a written literature, relatively little is known about their customs and
beliefs. There are infrequent references to their songs, dances and beliefs in the chron-
icles and travelogues of European and criollo writers. Some of the bozal tradition also
survived into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when much of the material was
collected and recorded by folklorists. Examples include the "Rezo de Mayombero," a
liturgical song of eighteenth-century Cuban slaves; "A Song to Iroko [a sacred tree] ";
and "A Song to Lower the Sack" [a working song]. In these early lyrics, the African
language predominates, although there are often intercalated phrases in a dialectal
Spanish. Lydia Cabrera includes in her Refranes de negros viejos proverbs such as
He who is son of Oggun [god of war] does not flee from
Who has seen the bones of the kangame [the ant] ?
When death blows, the strongest man flies like a leaf.
The tortoise swims in the middle of the river, but
always returns to the bank.
which came directly from the African continent. Guirao also collected African stories

and legends in his Cuentos Y Leyendas. Some of these include "The Legend of Icu
[Death] "; "The Story of the Deer and the Turtle", a Carabi tale; "The Dance of the
Owl" from the Congo; and a Yoruba story entitled "The Tiger, the Monkey and the

The bozal oral literary tradition was primitive; that is to say, it was devoid of the
literary sophistication, including complex structures, thematic profusion, three--
dimensional characterizations; highly connotative figurative language, and manipula-
tion of verbal symbols, which characterize the works of learned writers. However, it is
an extremely rich literature lyrical, subtle, suggestive grounded in an African
philosophy which affirms the wholeness of life. There is no distinction in the African
frame of reference between the spiritual and physical realms, between animate and
inanimate existence, between the human, animal and plant worlds, or between man
and the divinity, because their gods are anthropomorphic. Indeed, to appreciate this
literature, one must understand the significance of animism (the materialization of the
divinities or the belief that men, animals and plants are inhabited by souls which may
exist in a separate state), totemism ( a system of distinguishing families or clans in a
tribe by the totem, an object which has a blood relationship to a specific family
group), ritualism (devotion to prescribed ritual forms in worship), and atavism (a
recurrence of ancestral forms).

The period of mestizaje was characterized by the integration of African and Spanish
folklore, and the creation of a neo-African culture. Emblematic of this syncretism are
two supernatural creatures, the giiije of Cuba and the tunda of Ecuador. Both of these
creatures are derived from African folklore, but they are American by name and
habitat and by their appearance in twentieth-century Afro-Hispanic literature. The
prototype of the giiije might be the African boll or nia, enchanted beings, ghosts or
genies who lived in the water and the forests.'0 In "The Legend of the Gliije", Guirao
describes the creature as a "fantastic being that has its home in the Yayabo
River... It has the shape of a fish ... the head of a Negro and the tail of a fish."" As
described by the poet Nicolas Guill6n in the "Ballad of the Gufije," it is a black dwarf
with a huge stomach, short, twisted legs and long straight ears.

The tunda, according to the Ecuadorian poet and novelist, Adalberto Ortiz, also has
an African origin; it is similar to the Bantu creature, the quimbungo.12 In the folklore
of Esmeraldas, the coastal province of Ecuador that was settled by shipwrecked slaves,
the Tunda is a hermaphrodite who assumes the shape of a beautiful woman to lure
children into the jungle where she bewitches them. This supernatural creature is the
subject of a short story and two poems by Ortiz,a3 a long narrative poem by Nelson
Estupifin Bass,14 as well as a poem by Thomks Garcia Pdrez, who describes her as,

a horrible, deformed black woman with enormous lips, and an animal's foot
shaped like a grinder. Because of her hybrid nature, she cannot have children and
this is the reason that to satisfy her maternal instinct she steals little black
children, especially cry-babies and brats; she carries them to her lair of thorns,
and there, with her diabolic magic and tapao [a regional dish made out of dried
meat and bananas] of prawns, she drives them mad, she intunds them.15

There are many other examples of mestizaje in Hispanic culture. Two of the most
complex are the syncretism of Spanish Catholicism and African religion into santeria, a
Cuban religion similar to Haitian Voodoo; and the assimilation of Spanish secret
societies or cofradias and African naciones or tribes into organizations of iiniigos.
Naiiiguismo was a form of witchcraft which originated among the secret societies
between 1834 and 1836 to perform traditional African rites and to offer mutual
protection to members.
The twentieth-century negrista tradition is the least authentic of the three, because
it did not emanate from the folk; instead, it developed out of certain historical, social
and literary movements which emerged at the beginning of the century. Although
many Black poets, including Pilar Barrios and Virginia Brindis de Salas of Uruguay.
Orlando Tenorio Cuero of Ecuador and Helcias Martan Gongora of Colombia,
seldom incorporated folk motifs into their works for a variety of aesthetic or ideolo-
gical reasons, most of the poets of the Negrist movement used the themes, archetypes,
language and the mise en sckne of Afro-Hispanic life. The following list, which is not
intended to be comprehensive, suggests the diversity, the chronology and the geo-
graphic distribution of folk elements.


A. Dances:
19th-century Cuba yuka, caja, mula, cachimbo, mani, zapateo, tumbandera
20th-century Cuba columbia, guaguanc6, conga (Arozarena); bembe (Aroza-
rena and Radillo); comparsa (Arozarena, Pichardo Moya, Ballagas, Alvaro de
Villa); rumba (Tallet, Guill6n, et al); papalote (Ballagas); chambela (Hernindez
Ecuador bambuco, caramba, mambo, bomba, conga (Ortiz)
Peru zapateo, agua'e nieve, alcatraz, festejo, marinera, sana, tondero (Santa Cruz)
Panama cumbia (Korsi)

B. Songs:
Ecuador el Andariele, la Caderona, la Caramba, el Torbellino, el Bambuco,
Caramba, Agualarga Aguacorta, bolero, rowing songs (Ortiz)
Peru zafia, alcatraz, palmer, Agua'e nieve, socab6n, panalivio (Santa Cruz)

C. Musical Instruments:
Ecuador cununo, tumba, timba (Estupinin); guasa, marimba bong6, maraco
Peru caj6n, manchay, tamborete, sexteto (Santa Cruz)
Cuba marimbula, clave tres (Arazarena); bong6 guitarra, clave, cajbn, palos, mara-
ca, botija, contrabajo, cornetin, tambora, tambor de mora (Valdes-Cruz)
19th-century Cuba -martmbula, 6rgan6, acorde6n, timbal giiros (Montejo)

D. Drinks:
Ecuador mampunga, Agua'e Kananga (Ortiz)
Peru Chicha, tisana, cachina, claro
Puerto Rico guarapillo (Marques)

E. Food:
Peru carapulca, tamales, mazamorra, bienmesabe,
champ (Santa Cruz)
Venezuela Curacao cooking: arepa, stobat, calis,
sopita, buiiuelos (Diaz Sanchez),
Puerto Rico fritangas (Marques)
19th-century Cuba harina amala, calalit, quimbombo,
guenguere masango, ochinchin food of Ochhn,
ecru de frijoles de carita food of Obatala (Montejo)

F. Dress
Peru caracoles (Santa Cruz)
Cuba majagua (Valdes-Cruz), esquifacion (Arozarena)

G. Games:
19th-century Cuba tejo, botija, galleta, baraja (Montejo)
Peru lingo, Siete Cuatro (Santa Cruz)

H. Folk Types:
Cuba mami Ine, Caridi, papa Montero, Che Encarnacion,
la negra Pancha, Vito Manue, la negra Tomasa, Maria Sabel,
Maria Bel6n Chac6n
Puerto Rico mama Romualda, Bernabe Quirindongo, la vieja

I. African Tribes:
Ecuador mandinga (Estupinin); conga, bantu, yoruba
Peru angola congo, nago (Santa Cruz)
19th-century Cuba congo, lucumi, mandinga, ganga, carabali

J. Ceremonies:
candombe, velorio, baquin6, comparsa

A. African Gods:
Cuba Ogdn, Chang6, Orumbila, Yemaya (Arozarena)
Acue (Vald6s-Cruz)
Ecuador OxalA, Chango (Ortiz)
Peru Chang6, Och6n, Eku6, Obatala (Santa Cruz)

B. Religion:
Cuba ecobia, ecobios, ekines, letras, ororo, siete
filere, fiafiigo ceremonies (Arozarena)

C. Priests:
Cuba Babali Ayd (Arozarena)
Peru Ocamba (Santa Cruz)

D. Witchcraft:
Cuba chichereku devil/man, oche idol,
santeria, Fabas sorcerer (Montejo); emb6, enkikb (Arozarena)
Ecuador Macumba witchcraft, macumbero sorcerer,
vereju or berejfi Bantu word for "devil" (Ortiz)
Peru references to evil doers, signs and cures (Santa Cruz),
indio-brujo, manchay-punto
Venezuela Mandinga devil, faculto sorcerer (Diaz Sanchez)
Puerto Rico fetiches, brujo, sangre del sacrificio
totem tambor sacramental, vodu zombi (Pal6s Matos)

A. Folk Sayings:
Peru "Francica, bota frifrb," "Al que de inga no le
toque," "Chicha de terranove," (Santa Cruz)
Cuba "Guasa, columbia," "Ad, a6," (Arozarena)

B. Africanisms:
Cuba ororo, tebere, ocamba, monina, ibana, (Arozarena)

C. Tales:
Venezuela the stories of Anita, "stories of devils and visions, which
started with formulae: "You don't have to believe this if you don't want
to .." and "No matter what people say ..." Her stories dealt with creatures
of the other world, such as souls in torment or demons. Stories included: (1)
"The Man with his Head in his Hand," (2) "Shall I Come Down or Not?",
"The Hobbled Mule," "The Little Cart," "The Lady Hangman" and "The
Souls in Purgatory." (Diaz Sanchez) 16
The writers who incorporate Afro-Hispanic folk elements into their work can be
placed into three categories. First, there was a group of writers, primarily white
Cubans and Puerto Ricans such as Jose Tallet, Felipe Pichardo Mova, Alejo Carpentier,
and Luis Pales Matos who used folklore to create a mythic, unreal and magic ambient
in which Antillian island and African jungle merged. Theirs is a fabulous land of
serpents, sacrificial fires and totems where savages fall prostrate before Ecde and
Change, chanting:
Oh, papa Abasf
Oh, papa Boco!
These writers use Afro-Hispanic folklore, much as Alejo Carpentier uses history, to

create a dramatic and spectacular world of "magic realism;" they are not concerned
with a realistic portrayal of folk life or with the communication of poetic and
dramatic truths.

A second group of poets and novelists such as Ram6n Guirao, Adalberto Ortiz and
Emilio Ballagas have a deeper understanding and appreciation of the depths and com-
plexities of folk life, but it is a view that is shaped by literature. They were heavily
influenced by literary "isms" such as Romanticism, Costumbrism, Realism and
Modernism, and the customs, rituals and scenes which they portray emerge from
books and not from life. Illustrative of this phenomenon is Adalberto Ortiz' explana-
tion of his interest in Afro-Ecuadorian culture. On his return to Esmeraldas after the
completion of his education, he recalls:

My cabin mate... had given me the Anthology of Black American Poetry by
Emilio Ballagas. When I finished reading it, I was overwhelmed with the negroid
rhythms that were stirring in my own blood without my knowing it.1

He continues: "When I arrived in Esmeraldas, I again observed the 'marimba dances'
and lived the folklore of my people." The verb observed separates the writer spatially
from his subject, but, more important, it marks the psychological distance between the
"I" of the poet and the "you" of the people. Ortiz thus articulates a separation which
is social, based on an hierarchic class/caste system, racial (because the poet identifies
himself as a mulatto in opposition to the Black masses), and educational (the learned
in contrast to the illiterate). Further, he does not say that he lived the life, but the
folklore, of his people, removing himself from the flesh and blood plane of reality to a
kind of abstract, illusory projection of that reality not unlike the fictional realm in
which Don Quijote lived and moved and had his being. Because this folklore had a
literary origin, its purpose was ornamental and not functional; it embellished a work
by creating a mood or a setting, by localizing a particular action or activity, or by
images. The folkloric elements assume a grotesque picturesqueness which distorts and
debases Afro-Hispanic culture.

A third group of writers Marcelino Arozarena of Cuba, Nicomedes Santa Cruz of
Peru and Rambn Diaz Sanchez of Venezuela combine an almost scholarly interest in
folklore with a very subjective appreciation of their African heritage. Arozarena and
Santa Cruz are the most authentic of this group, because they are able to convey the
wholeness of Black folk life, to maintain intact the African cultural tradition with its
dependence on rhythm, rite and ritual, and to use folkloric elements in a functional
way. Arozarena's thirteen-page "Vocabulario" reveals that the poet has studied and
analyzed Afro-Cuban folklore in great depth, and that he understands and appreciates
Yoruba customs, Raffigo ritual, African languages, and Abakua symbolism, as well as
Spanish, particularly Andalusian, folklore. His knowledge is partially derivative, the
result of intensive reading and investigation; he cites, for example, Ortiz' The Dances
and Theatre of Negroes in Cuban Folklore, Garcia Blanco's El Folklore Andaluz and
Cimorra's El canto Jondo.18

Santa Cruz also has lengthy notes which not only define, but also explain in great

detail the origin and history of certain Black Peruvian customs. He notes that the safia
(or the zaila) is a dance derived from the Angolan lundd, which was transformed into
an irreverent song and orgiastic dance in the village of Miraflores de Zaha in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.19 The section of his IDcimas entitled "Folklore"
contains twenty-six poems with such titles as "Black Rhythms of Peru", "I'm Going to
Sing a Palmero" and "The Wake of a Black Creole" which describe the total life of a
people their African origins, their songs and dances, and their aspirations and dis-
appointments. There is also a strong identification of the poet with his people; he says,
for example, in one poem "My grandmother arrived from Africa dressed in snails'
shells", and in another he exclaims, "And if my color is black, being what I am makes
me happy". He speaks of the slaves who came from Timbuctoo and Mozambique to
sing songs like the cara, the solar, the lundd and the temporera, as well as to dance
the marinera, and he perhaps sums up the significance of this Afro-Hispanic culture
when he writes:
The customs of old Black people,
who suffered a thousand disillusionments
for so many years,
leave a vivid image.20



1. Janheinz Jahn, Neo-African Literature: A History of Black Writing (New York, 1968) p. 30.
2. Fernando Ortiz' Prologue to Rafael Marquina's "El negro en el teatro espanol antes de Lope
de Vega," Ultra IV, p. 554.
3. Jose L. Franco, Folklore criollo y afrocubano (Havana, 1959), P. 8.

4. Ibid., p. 9.
5. Antologia de la poesia negra americana (Montevideo, 1953); Cancionero popular uruguayo
(Montevideo, 1947); and La guitarra de los negros (Montevideo).
6. Negros y morenos en el Cancionero Rioplatense (Buenos Aires, 1953).
7. Cancionero de negros, "Coplas y cantares aigentinos (Buenos Aires, 1952).
8. Oh, mio Yemayf! cuentos (Havana, 1932).
9. Cuentos y leyendas negros de Cuba (Havana, 1942).
10. Juan Pablo Sojo, Temas y apuntes afro-venezolanos (Caracas, 1943), p. 29.
11. Guirao, Cuentos, p. 75.


12. Adalberto Ortiz, La entundada (Quito, 1971), p. 12.

13. La entundada, pp. 5-12 and El animal herido (Quito, 1959), pp. 35 and 38.
14. Timarin y Cuabu: cuaderno de poesia para el pueblo (Quito, 1956), pp. 59-68.

15. Julio Estupiflan Tello, El negro en Esmeraldas (Quito, 1967), p. 159.

16. Ramdn Diaz Sinchez, Cumboto, trans. by John Upton (Austin, Texas, 1969), pp. 58-60.

17. El animal herido, p. 7.
18. Marcelino Arozarena, Cancidn negra sin color (Havana, 1966), pp. 58, 62 and 63.
19. Nicomedes Santa Cruz, D6cimas (Lima, 1971), p. 384.
20. Ibid., p. 44.


A National Image
"Where is our real clue, where, where? Will we live to get to know it? ... What is
our true image?"
These questions asked by one of Fuentes' major characters, Manuel Zamacona, provide
some insight into Fuentes' intentions in two of his major novels to date 2 La region
mas transparent (1958) and La muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962). They reveal the
desire of a probing spirit to discover an image of contemporary Mexico representing
the true national character and the real essence of life in Mexico since the Revolution
of 1910. They also represent the intense drama of a complex and perplexed people
struggling to come to terms with itself after three hundred years of colonial rule
followed by one hundred and fifty years of stagnation in post-independence traumas.
It is Zamacona himself who describes the quest as an effort to reveal "the totality of
Mexico to Mexicans"' (p. 272).
The essence of this Mexican character in Zamacona's opinion (and no doubt in
Fuentes' opinion too), cannot be of foreign origin. For this reason, he distrusts the
European image that he claims had been superimposed on Mexico by Porfirio Diaz and
his mentors with their positivist philosophy based on the ideas of Auguste Comte. He
therefore rejects the wholesale adoption of North American and European beliefs and
pattems of life, regarding them as a fatal penetration of an alien culture into a country
with a totally different origin. His great desire is to have the foreign mask removed and
to come to terms with their true national image. He sums up the dilemma in these
We have always wanted to run towards models that do not belong to us, to dress
up in clothes that do not fit us, to disguise ourselves so as to conceal the truth:
we are another people, different by definition. (p. 269)
Zamacona admits that this national image, this substantial difference that gives
Mexico a character of its own, is not very easily explained. In the first instance it
necessitates a search into the nation's past in an attempt to understand the roots and
origins of the Mexican peoples. He is by no means advocating a sentimental revelry in
the evocation of their indigenous past, but rather, a profound quest for meaning and
for qualities and values still relevant to life in modem Mexico. His interest in the past
is illustrated in these lines:
I want to know the meaning of dressing in feathers so as not to use them
anymore, and be myself, my true self, without any feathers. It is not a question

of longing for our past and revelling in it, but of penetrating it, understanding it,
subjecting it to reason, cancelling the dead side of it i.e. the stupid and
rancorous side and salvaging the living side, knowing, finally, what Mexico is
and what one can do with it.
However, this return to the past cannot be regarded as the absolute answer to the
search for the national image. Zamacona is forced to disagree with Ixca Cienfuegos
who believes that the true Mexican character can only be discovered by falling back
upon and reviving the distant indigenous past. And without despising the cultural
achievements of the Aztecs, Zamacona refuses to identify himself or even modern
Mexico with the Aztec culture in its entirety. He rejects the idea of submission to what
he calls "a despotic and bloodthirsty power disguised with a satanic theology" (p.
361). As he contemplates his collection of leather seats and reproductions of Indian
art, his mind reflects upon the Indian's fearful worship of nature, their ritual and
ceremonies, their primitive sensuality and the consuming passion of their nature and
he realizes that Mexico, by virtue of evolution and historical change, can no longer be
represented by such a picture. The present structure of Mexican society and the
pattern of its life are far more complex and difficult to explain:
All this only explains us partially. It is not possible to revive it. For better or for
worse, Mexico is now something different. It is that radically different some-
thing that now had to be explained in its totality, by focussing towards the
future and towards its integration rather than basing it in a collective massacre.
(p. 59)

The originality of the Mexican character must therefore be sought in the ethnic and
cultural synthesis that constitutes the historical experience of the country. Using
himself as a starting point, and as an example of the mixture of the criollo and the
indigenous (he has the criollo features of his mother and the dark brown complexion
of his Indian father), he postulates that Mexico's originality has to be the result of this
fusion and not the purity of any one of its constituents. In practical terms therefore,
originality is not evaluated in terms of sources but rather in terms of an evolutionary
experience which gains its validity and dynamism from the reality of the present as an
on-going dialectical process and from the undefined and unlimited possibilities of the
future. In this way, Zamacona avoids the dangers of excessive sentimentality,
sectarianism, and stagnation, in the search for an identity, while recognizing the diffi-
culty of producing clearcut definitions:
Not knowing what is the origin. The origin of the blood. But is there an original
blood? No; every pure element is fulfilled and consumed in itself; it finds no
root. The original is the impure, the mixed; like us, like me, like Mexico. That is
to say, originality supposes a mixture, a creation; not a purity that predates our
experience ... Mexico must find its originality by looking ahead, not by looking

This thought is interestingly correlated to a similar thought in La Muerte de
Artemio Cruz, in which the protagonist's alter ego focuses the debate on the return to
the original cultural sources as an end in itself:

No one wishes to return to a golden age that is full of mistakes, to sinister
origins, to bestial grunts, to fighting for flesh like the bear, or for the rook or for
flint, nor to sacrifice and madness, to the nameless terror of origin, to the
immolated fetish, to the fear of the sun and the storm and the eclipse and
fire ... cosmic terror.3

Aztec Inputs:
This forward thrust and this blunt refusal to get stuck in the primitiveness of the
past does not, however, represent a rejection of valid contributions from the past to
the national synthesis. In fact to deal with the crucial question of Aztec inputs into
the national character, Fuentes dramatises the problem in the persons of Ixca
Cienfuegos and his mother Tebdula Moctezuma: the latter representing unconditional
recognition of a powerful Aztec heritage as the only source that can give an original
and definitive stamp to the Mexican character; the former representing what might
seem as a realistic swing from Te6dula's extreme position to the progressive, for-
ward-looking position of Zamacona without losing sight of the validity and desirability
of some aspects of that Aztec heritage.
Tebdula appears as a mysterious and semi-magical figure, whose life, pattern of
behaviour and mode of thinking are grounded in the distant past. Very few people
even get to understand her real personality, for as lxca points out to his friend Rodrigo
Pola, Te6dula is no ordinary Mexican, but has the constitution of stones and serpents.
She operates in a world of darkness and mystery, paying reverence to her jewels and
the dead bodies of her husband and her other children. (Their corpses are only
occasionally taken out of their sacred hide-out inside her house to be cleaned,
decorated and worshipped ceremoniously). Her jewels are just as sacred to her, for not
only do they have deep historical significance but they have ritual value and magic
power. It is this attachment to a distant world of magic and primitive ceremonies that
gives her the outward air of belonging to a world that is not immediately perceptible.
She has the strange appearance of being "anchored in a day and a year which had
disappeared centuries ago, and which had nothing to do with the inescapable moment
of that very day and of that very year." (p. 331)
That world is the Aztec world which she proves to be alive and vibrant even in 20th
century Mexico. Tebdula will not be convinced that the old culture is dead or even
irrelevant to the life of present day Mexico. She is prepared to admit that many people
are ignorant of and unresponsive to the vital presence of the Aztec culture, some
aspects of which have perhaps been overshadowed by new influences or might have
taken on new forms. What Tebdula cannot do is to accept the idea of the total
extermination of that old culture. There are still rites, myths, signs, spirits and special
voices arising out of that special world proving its vitality and presence. In fact, she
believes that all life proceeds from the nature-dominated source of that "other world"
which must itself continually be alive if it must generate life. It is with deep conviction
that Tebdula defends a valid culture of the sub-surface:
It is not men who create life, but that very earth on which they tread, you
know? They can come, all those who came and took our belongings away from
us and made us forget the signs, but far beneath the earth, my son, in the dark

places where their feet can no longer tread on us, right there, everything con-
tinues as usual and one continues to listen to the voices of those regions whence
we came.
She keeps alive numerous Aztec myths because they give meaning to life. She
cannot lose faith in the invisible, spiritual forces that influence and shape her life from
the "other world" nor in the forces of nature that control all life. She can confidently
prophesy that the same earth that gives life to man will one day swallow up Norma
Robles and many like her who have cut themselves off completely from that old
tradition, failing to fulfil its rites and sacrifices. She cannot share the doubts and
skepticism of Ixca and many other modern Mexicans:
I only know what I am telling you. Our people are moving about, son, invisible
but very much alive. You will see if it's not so. They always win ... You know
better than I do that they do not let go our hands and that at the required time
they are present. As if to recover what happened before, as if to say that
everything finishes where it began, in them and in their centuries... Because
they are called ... we follow them, calling on them to give a reason for our lives.
(pp. 332-333)
It is not surprising that Te6dula preaches and, in her own way, practises the Aztec
tradition of sacrifice and offerings. As Ixca explains, she believes that Norma Robles'
death is a necessary sacrifice because of Mexico's departure from its former tradition;
and once that sacrifice is fulfilled there is sure to be a revival of that former way of
life. It is with this in mind that Te6dula hastens to make her offering by hurling all her
valuable jewels ceremoniously into the flames that consume Norma's body. Then she
turns to lxca and remarks:
Now the sacrifice is accomplished ... We can now return to being what we are,
son. There is no more reason to dissimulate. (p. 398)
She too wants her son to make an offering to the gods, however simple it may be,
when she dies. She has the assurance that her sacrifice and offerings made at the death
of her husband and her children have been received favourably by the gods of whom
she says:
"they are hiding now, but then they will come out, to receive the offering and
the sacrifice." (p. 396)
It is in this atmosphere of simple faith in the Aztec myths that Ixca is brought up.
His primary attachment then, is not to the contemporary high-life of Mexico City, but
to another side of the Mexican reality, "the Mexico that is bound to its own navel, the
Mexico which is really embodied in ritual and which was really created in a faith."
Life in modem Mexico, he feels, is a substitution and a flight from the real origins
of the nation. People of the type of Robles, the unscrupulous banker and materialist
or Hortensia Chac6n, the sex-maniac and adulteress or Librado Ibarra, the
power-thirsty lawyer, live only dubious and marginal lives that stand diametrically
opposed to the essence of their origins. And as a part of the national destiny, he
forsees a serious confrontation of the new image represented by Robles and the old
image of Tebdula and himself, and out of this he expects either side to emerge the

stronger force. In view of this, he advocates a return to the past and to that original
essence as the better solution to the quest for a national identity. Zamacona makes this
Cienfuegos thinks that by going back, by allowing ourselves to fall to the very
depths, we will ensure that discovery, that revelation of what we really are. (p. 58)
This explains why Ixca cannot be a Christian. Aztec mythology is more meaningful
and inspiring than Christianity. The latter encourages mediocrity, weakness, cowardice
and a shameful self-pity rather than moral strength and courage to face life. When
Rodrigo Pola comes to him lamenting over his failure in life, Ixca immediately recom-
mends a rejection of Christianity.
Forget everything else, all you have been, Rodrigo, those signs that you haven't
even learnt to live, signs of a faith that only increases your self-pity. Spit on the
sacred if the sacred is that vulgar compassion which only stresses your medio-
crity! Spit on that other cheek of the cowardly God! (p. 256)
Rodrigo's salvation is only to be found in the Aztec belief in sacrifice. And it must
not be a sacrifice carried out in half measures, but an unreserved commital to the
Sun-God in a relationship that purges him and recreates him into a new creature. lxca
admonishes him to renounce his former way of life and his half-hearted pursuits of his
ambitions to be a famous writer, a successful lover and an affectionate and generous
son, and to plunge into this mythical sacrifice risking everything and embracing it in its
Then, only sacrifice can save you ... Tremble and feel the terror in sacrifice and
you will reach our people, you will smother the sun with kisses and the sun will
squeeze your throat and will consume your blood so that you might be one with
it(pp. 255-256)
For Ixca himself, the Aztec sacrifice is preferable to any other form of modern life,
whether it be the Christian religion, the capitalist's materialism or newspaper popu-
larity. As he tells Manuel Zamacona, he regards the economic power of Mexico's
nouveaux riches as a cheap kind of power, incomparable to the spiritual quality of the
Aztec tradition:
I tell you that I prefer to die immolated on a stone of sacrifice rather than be
subject to the shit of capitalist chicanery and newspaper gossip. (p. 361)
His gods are the Aztec gods rain, sun, earth the immediate and visible elements
representing forces that are superior to and more meaningful than any invisible Deity.
These are the pure gods, the "real, permanent and inviolate powers of the cosmos"
with which he desires to ally himself and find inspiration for living.
He draws courage from the Aztec myth of the leper who, by sacrificing himself, was
ultimately reconverted into a star. And from there he goes on to outline his faith in
the Aztec mythology:
It is simply that a single sacrifice, however exemplary, would not suffice. A daily
sacrifice was necessary, a daily food offering so that the sun might give off its
light, run its course and feed at the same time. No, I do not see a single God nor
a single isolated sacrifice. I see the Sun and the Rain way above the city. I see

the visible and immediate elements, linked intimately and without any inter-
mediary, to the life of every man. I see the authentic proofs sun, rain of a
superior power, and above the earth my slim wall of flesh and bone. This is the
zone of encounter. Above are the pure Gods. Beneath, the rest of our lives,
hidden from fearful eyes. Nothing more.

Here, the assumed superiority of Christianity is reversed when Rodrigo Pola imme-
diately becomes immobilized and weak in the face of Ixca's strong faith in his Aztec
deities. He grows acutely aware of his religious indifference and tries to gather together
the scattered threads of his Christian faith to affirm their soundness. Meanwhile Ixca
destroys the idea that there is one God and asserts the Aztec view that God is
multiple: that there are more gods in heaven than men on earth.

Ixca's concept of life is a coherent philosophy based on the fatalistic Indian view of
life. He emphasises the brevity of human life here on earth and the deterministic
influence of the gods on each individual. Every man is created by a god who deter-
mines the course and length of his life and he is expected to live that life so fully and
intensely and without illusions, that his god can, as it were, feed upon the intensity of
his life. Furthermore, man has no need to fear death, for in dying he only returns to
his creator in another form of life. This is how he propounds his view:

Every man sustains the creation of a God, Rodrigo; every man, every generation
of men, reflects the face and the formless colours of a God who marks him and
determines his life and follows him until, at death, he is reintegrated into the
original duality. All one needs to know is whether that journey between creation
and death, that brief sojourn, is lived with the intensity appropriate for the
sustenance of the creator or whether it is wasted in compromise, in simple
unconscious existence. (p. 254)

Purity vs Mestizaje
However closely Ixca adheres to Aztec thought, nevertheless there seems to be a
point at which he becomes disillusioned about the relevance of the Aztec mythology
and way of life in contemporary Mexico. All along, he believes that a return to the
past is necessary for Mexico to discover its true self, but he has to face reality and, like
Manuel Zamacona, admit that the Aztec culture can no longer be regarded as the sole
determinant of the new face of Mexico. When he says to Te6dula, "our world has died,
Te6dula, and forever too" he is suggesting that their Aztec world either has been
submerged by the European intrusion or has been absorbed into and fused with it to
mould the new character of Mexico. At least, he feels sure that only a limited number
of people in Mexico today still find Aztec mythology meaningful. The sun has lost its
divine meaning and become, an instrument for pleasure on the beaches of Acapulco.
Few people still have any interest in the secret voices of the spirits with which Tebdula
claims to communicate so effectively. Ixca himself has tried and failed to make
No, they are not listening anymore. Look how I have wanted to listen to them; I
have spent my years with my eyes shut waiting for their buzz. It is as if a wind

of new words has swept it all away. Today's sun is no longer our sun, Tebdula; it
is a sun ... for all I know, made to provide a tan for skin covered with synthetic
The fear that troubles Ixca is that it seems that the only way to keep that Aztec
culture alive and in vogue is for people like Tebdula and himself to continue thinking
about and believing in it, because for the majority of Mexicans that world no longer
exists and to go back to it would be a retrogressive step. As Federico Robles would
say, "that is asking us to call a halt, to stop working and creating industry and
welfare". (p. 367) The point he is making is the same one Zamacona has made and
which Ixca has admitted: Mexico has evolved into a new country with a new and
complex image.
Historical Dimensions
One of the principal landmarks in this evolution is the Mexican Revolution of 1910,
out of which Mexicans have emerged with a new mentality, new values and interests, a
new outlook on life and a new pattern of life. It is these national characteristics,
socio-historic and psychological, that Fuentes examines in his two major works.
La muerte de Artemio Cruz is, basically, the study of an individual character whose
life and fortunes are shaped by the course and outcome of the Revolution. Cruz stands
out as a symbol of the men who have come to dominate the social, economic and
political image of the new Mexico during the fifty years that followed the outbreak of
the Revolution. He starts from very humble origins as the illegitimate son of a Negro
maid-servant from the Caribbean and her licentious master, a member of a declining
aristocratic Porfirian family. He is nurtured at a mere subsistence level by his mother's
brother, Lunero, and later trained in basic skills and religious doctrines by "el maestro
Sebastian", who sends him into the Revolutionary armies of General Carranza against
Huerta and the Federalists. Astonishing military success follows rapidly. In 1913 he is
a Lieutenant, in 1915 a Captain, and by 1919 when he leaves the army, he is a
Lieutenant-Colonel. On giving up military service, Cruz marries the daughter of an old,
but wealthy Porfirian aristocrat, Don Gamaliel Bernal, whose son he had met in a
prison in Perales, before young Bernal was executed by Federal troops. Cruz therefore
enters agriculture as manager of his father-in-law's lands and some months later
inherits the entire family estate. By a process of ruthless scheming and deceitful
paternalism he wins the loyalty of the Indians and poor labourers whom he exploits
with remarkable finesse and success.
His agrarian revolution in Puebla wins him the favour of the President as well as the
local populace. He abolishes the strict class barriers on his estates, invites his workers
into his mansion, discusses local grievances and changes with them, giving them a false
sense of belonging and participation. He gives them loans but cunningly exacts ex-.
orbitant interests from his debtors. He acquires, by devious means, the lands of neigh-
bouring landlords like Labastida and Pizarro who have been traditional oppressors of
the people, and takes over the communal lands of peasants for real estate speculation.
He introduces irrigation by a network of canals dug by manual labour thus increasing
the productivity of the lands. In a short while, his popularity wins him the local
nomination for a federal seat as a deputy.

The President's endorsement is ensured, for Cruz knows how to curry favour. The
central government acknowledges his meritorious services in the Revolution, in the
agrarian reforms and in his establishment of order in an area where police authority
was lacking. Other rewards are showered on him. The President helps him to acquire.
lands in Mexico City and to buy shares in mining enterprises. He sets up mixed
companies (Mexican and North American) in which he cuts the figure of a straw man
in order to get around legal complications, and serves as local representative for various
U.S. investors, as well as liaison officer between the government of Mexico and
Chicago and New York. His position is so strong that he manipulates the stock
exchange with inflationary and deflationary tactics to suit his own interests. In this
way Cruz establishes himself as the archetype of the successful revolutionary who
becomes businessman, politician and hard-fisted capitalist in modern Mexico.
La region mas transaprente in a different way conveys a similar picture of life in
Mexico during and after the Revolution. In this novel the author does not concentrate
on a single individual but rather, gives a microscopic view of a cross-section of Mexico
City as it evolved in the first half of the twentieth century. Everything is there: the
ruined Porfirian aristocracy; the progressive and wealthy upper and lower bourgeoisie
- bankers, businessmen, lawyers, intellectuals; the lower classes comprised of
taxi-drivers, labourers, housemaids, bartenders, unemployed young men, ruffians, pros-
titutes and newspaper-boys; their patterns of behaviour, ways of thinking, prejudices;
the influence and presence of the indigenous past; the impact of the Revolution; the
evidence of social and economic change; and an interesting, complex situation of
interaction between these distinct social classes.
The man who plays the greatest role in the scrutiny of the "transparent region" of
the Distrito Federal is the strange and mysterious figure, Ixca Cienfuegos who, in a
detached manner, describes himself in these terms:
He is a bloody character . like God: anywhere one goes, no one can see him.
He has free access to the official saloons, the high-life saloons and those of the
magnates as well. Sometimes he is the magic brain of some banker; sometimes a
"gigolo" or a simple marihuana addict who just comes and goes: in the final
analysis, just another odd figure in this unharmonious world in which we live.
He is a friend and confidant to everybody little orphans, poor and humble folk, the
sick and elderly mother of Rodrigo Pola, widows, intellectuals, bankers and aristocrats
- who voluntarily tells him his life story. Few people know Mexico and its people as
well as Ixca, and his familiarity certainly lends credence to his judgements and observa-
tions on Mexican life and the Mexican character.

His vision of Mexican history from the conquest up to the present is expressed in
the pessimistic image of a continuous night of suffering, defeat, treachery and false
promises. The regime of the Catholic Church in the colonial era, the latifundista
system, slave lavour, capitalistic exploitation, hard-handed military leadership and
violent revolutions have mapped out the course of Mexican history. He puts it quite
The equinox of suffering has reached Mexico; here all the promises and tradi-

tions have formed one brotherhood; the sun is older here and more wrinkled;
and it is only here that its rays give off the light of darkness. The sun rumbles
incessantly, but it is always night; night of the gods who fled terrified, nights praying
that what happened before might happen again, long nights spent in front
of a mirror going through the mimicry of models whilst backs are torn in rags
and tears seep through hands; night loaded with bundles and coffers of gold and
silver, night of the bayonet and flint. (pp. 367-368)

Ixca is totally disillusioned over the way the Revolution turned out. The initial
idealism that inspired so many youths to enter into a noble cause for equitable distri-
bution of lands and protection of workers degenerated into a base desire for power
and wealth and led to a chain of treachery and conflict between generals and factions.
It was an opportunity for robbery and pillage and a transference of economic power to
a new class of men favoured by the generals and politicians. The thought that haunts
Ixca is that the Mexican Revolution did not rest at removing the abuses of the
Porfirian regime with its privileged aristocrats, but should create a new privileged class
that would dominate Mexican life with its crude materialism. He sees this as a serious
threat to the cultural, social and moral life of the country and he voices his opinion

Our cultural life continues in a perpetual status quo, just like our political life. It
is only the bourgeoisie that moves at all and advances by taking over the
country ... as for the intellectuals who should be able to provide a moral
counterpoint to that force that assails us, well you can see for yourself, they are
more crippled by fear than a kidnapped virgin. (p. 359)
People, he feels, have lost their basic human quality and have become like insensible
automatons, "air, blood, sun, a nameless tumult, a twisted mass of bone and stones
and rancour, but never a person". He would like to see the order of things reversed by
stripping off the wealth and luxury and reducing people to the point where they must
fall back on their original humaneness and spiritually to start building up a sound
character at individual and national levels.

The other character that Fuentes uses mainly in the role of an observer-critic is
Manuel Zamacona, a rational, yet idealistic intellectual. He demonstrates a full grasp of
the real Mexican situation in its historical perspectives: the past and its points of
relevance to contemporary Mexico; the real issues involved in the Revolution and its
consequences; the current problems (social, political, economic, spiritual) of Mexico
and their implications for the future.
He is undoubtedly the most disabused and disillusioned character in the book. He
has no faith in what he calls the despotic, bloody and satanic theology of ancient
Mexico. Like lxca he is disappointed with the course the Revolution has taken. Even
in one of the few advantages of the Revolution the arousing of a new national
consciousness which has motivated a search into the past he sees inherent weak-
nesses, for even if "the Revolution uncovers for us the totality of Mexico's history, it
does not ensure that we understand it or that we rise above it." He fears that the
appearance of stability and internal peace may lead to stagnation in the pursuit of the

goals originally proposed in the Revolution, since the privileged classes soon lose
interest in agrarian reform, organisation of labour, protection of workers, popular
education, and respect for human liberty and social justice. The Revolution, he feels,
has failed to go beyond the mediocre and precarious achievements of merely replacing
one set of local exploiters by another, establishing the economic hegemony of the
United States of America and paralysing the internal political life of the country by
setting up a single party, PRI, without any effective opposition. These are his views on
the political situation:
The day is coming, Ixca, when the people will ask for just that. No riots, no
bullet wounds; not even that the PRI should become the opposition. No. But
simply that one should be able to say things openly and be able to discuss public
figures and social problems... that the definitive candidate should not be
selected in turn by a conclave of ex-Presidents. Clearly, our mercenary press does
not help much. (p. 360).
Manuel's position represents a loss of confidence in the intellectuals who sit back
and watch the situation consolidating, without making any effort to set things right.
He despises the young socialist poets with their shallow artistic taste, and their use of
anti-yanki slogans to attack U.S. imperialism. He recommends that they fight imperial-
ism with its own weapons and not with meaningless cliches and poetry. What he finds
lacking is genuine commitment among those intellectuals he describes as "the titular
bureaucratic intellectuals with all the reticence and good sense in the world; the young
poetic-socialists who have found their Dada in Marx; the neglig6 types, the redeemers
of Sanbom's, the cocktail Maecenas and those who build and destroy reputations with
their brief Sunday notes". He is in no way pro-North America, but he dislikes the
mediocrity of the anti-U.S. campaign.
In fact, Manuel is himself a socialist and a nationalist. He rejects all foreign models
- positivism as a borrowed European cloak, and capitalism which he considers an
outdated moral and economic system to be thrown off by all enlightened peoples. He
wants social justice, respect for human dignity, the discovery of a national character
and identity and national answers to local issues. It is with conviction that he says:
What interests me, is to find solutions that are relevant to Mexico and which, for
the first time, allows a reconciliation of our cultural and human heritage with
our judicial forms; a real integration of the diverse elements of the life of this
country. (p. 272)
And, to his view, capitalism is not the best answer, for with economic power in the
hands of self-making capitalists, all sense of moral responsibility disappears into the
background, giving way to the self-interest of a powerful minority. This, he claims
Mexico cannot afford to allow to happen, in the name of progress. He admits that
progress is necessary, but insists that it has to mean more than copying the classical
patterns of bourgeois life as seen among Europeans and North American capitalists.
Hence his searching questions:
But what will we do when all the power emanating from the Revolution is
wantonly surrendered to the whims of an unparalleled Croeso-hedonism in

Mexico? ... Take, for example, the case of that banker Robles of whom one
hears so much; what does his power represent except the mere increase of power
for its own sake without any meaningful attributes? (p. 63)

Social Dimensions
All this illustrates how Fuentes, through the instrumentality of both Ixca and
Manuel, exposes the life and mentality of the middle classes and the forces at work in
their circles. At the root of all their ambitions there lies a love for status, pleasure,
money and power. It would seem that social-climbing is the order of the day in
Mexico. The lower middle classes are gradually invading the upper middle classes as
young lawyers worm their way up by means of commerce and industry. Robles and
Regules do it and Librado Ibarra ends up frustrated because he does not climb as fast
as his fellow lawyers. Rodrigo marries Pimpinela de Ovando, thus climbing into high
society and is not ashamed to admit that what he gains principally from the marriage
are, "her name, her elegance and her relations." Interclass marriage (aristocrats and
bourgeois) is generally accepted as an exchange of class status and money. When
Norma Robles rises out of her poverty and begins to enjoy "high-life", she haughtily
parades her snobbishness as a virtue, with this question as her excuse: "Who is not a
snob in some way these days?:: And this status consciousness among the middle
classes undoubtedly arises out of a determination to share the traditional social
prestige of the Porfirian aristocracy now that they have taken over economic domi-
nance. At the same time, the aristocrats, with the exception of a few recalcitrants like
Pimpinela, spare no ends to guard their closed society against the intruders. Though
ruined economically, they cling tenaciously to their titles and traditions and some like
Dona Lorenza Ortiz de Ovando scornfully refuse any contact with the nouveaux riches
who have always been their servants and inferiors.

Conjoined with this social-climbing is an avid pursuit of pleasure. Norma Robles
makes the point explicitly when she says:

One must enjoy this new, gay and cosmopolitan Mexico... because everyone
has a right to enjoy himself after working for all his life ... Social life, clothes,
good taste, the real enjoyment of all the really good things of life.... (p. 298)

For the bourgeoisie this means luxurious eating and dressing, living up the 'high-life'
of parties in Las Lomas de Chapultepec, vacations in Acapulco or abroad, a sophis-
ticated pattern of adultery and a proud display of cars, fabulous houses, and offices.

Money and power operate concomitantly as motive forces in the life of the middle
classes. They are as much the mainspring of Artemio Cruz's activities as they are for
Robles or Rdgules. As Robles aptly remarks, people's sense of values changed radically
during the Revolution when they began to recognize the need to sacrifice some of
their ideals in order to achieve tangible results. The outcome of this change is the
strictly materialistic outlook of the bourgeoisie for whom money and material
possessions have become the symbol of real power. It is Robles again who expounds
the view of his class:

We have created, for the first time in the history of Mexico, a stable middle
class... We established the bases of Mexican capitalism ... and so we invented
power, Cienfuegos, real Mexican power which is not a mere display of force.
Their driving force is their love for physical possession: whether it be the sensual
possession of a woman or the material possession of money and goods. Artemio Cruz,
reviewing his life on his deathbed, asks himself:
Who else will be honest enough to say, as I am doing now, that my only love has
been the possession of things, their sensual property? That is what I love. The
sheet I am embracing and everything else including what I see passing before my
eyes now. (p. 139)
This desire for material success grows into inordinate proportions, until it becomes
an unmitigable obsession that haunts them to the point of death. As Fuentes writes:
You will desire: how you will wish that your desire and the desired object were
the same thing; how you will dream of immediate fulfilment and identification
without the separation of desire and the desired: you will rest with your eyes
closed, but you will not cease seeing nor desiring: you will remember, because in
that way you will be able to make the desired thing your own: by looking
backwards, in nostalgia, you will be able to make anything you desire your own:
not by looking forwards, but backwards: memory is desire satisfied. (pp. 62-63)
Their common interests and the impelling force of their desires inevitably draws
them into a vicious struggle for survival. Everyone unscrupulously uses the weapons at
his disposal to remove all obstacles to his success, for the new Mexico is a world
controlled by a sort of social Darwinism which permits the survival of only the fittest.
Again Fuentes writes:
You will recognize others and allow them (her) to recognize you: and you will
know that you will oppose every individual, because every individual will be one
more obstacle to your achieving the goals of your desire.
The only consoling thought for the frustrated Cruz just before he dies, is that he
has utilized his senses amply: he has seen, touched, listened, smelled, possessed and
commanded; and above all, he has survived all the hazards of war, the rivalry of the
business world and the coldness of his wife and daughter. It is of little consequence
that his measures for survival have been immoral, criminal and ruthless. He gloats upon
the thought of his survival for, as Gonzalo Bernal points out to him in prison, it is the
order of the day:
We are now living amongst criminals and dwarfs, because the bigger caudillo
adopts pygmies who cannot outshine him and the smaller caudillo has to assas-
sinate the bigger one in order to rise. (p. 196)
This is well illustrated in the rivalry between Federico Robles and Roberto R6gules.
Both start out from humble origins, study law, then enter the commercial sector and
end up as powerful bankers. But their mutual interests and ambitions lead to the
sudden destruction of Robles who is then the more powerful foe. R6gules after waiting
for the opportune moment to deal the fatal blow, seizes it at the precise time that

Robles makes a false move to purchase lands without having the ready capital, under-
mines the whole transaction and pulls Robles' business and reputation to the ground.
Robles is driven into a state of semi-madness and forced to flee north to start afresh,
cultivating cotton.
Fuentes uses the word "chingar" to explain this violent streak in the Mexican
character. As he points out, the word is no longer confined to its original obscene
usage, but has become a commonplace in the current speech for all classes, coveying a
wide range of meanings. It is the axis upon which the Mexican psychology revolves, for
their entire historical experience, starting with the rape of Indian women and in-
digenous culture by the rapacious conquistadores, has been built up on the idea of the
proverbial "chingada" a raped woman. As Cienfuegos says, "Mexicans never know
who is their father . The father achieved what we will never be able to achieve; the
conquest of the mother". Then Fuentes himself writes:
You will pronounce it: it is your word: and your word is mine, word of
honour: .. imprecation, snapping greeting, life word, brother word, souvenir,
voice of the desperate, outburst of the poor, command of the powerful, invita-
tion to fight and to work, epigraph of love, birth sign, threat, jest, oath, com-
panion in feasting and drunken spree, sword of valour, throne of strength, high
point of cajolery, crest of the race, guardian of boundaries, summary of history:
password of Mexico: your word.4
Stressing its fundamental importance to the understanding of Mexican attitudes,
Fuentes again writes:
Born of rape; dead in rape; living by dint of pure rape; belly and shroud, hidden
in rape. It faces you everywhere, it deals the cards, it plays your game, it
conceals reticence and the double-cross, reveals cowardice and valour, gets
drunk, shouts, succumbs, lives in every bed, she dominates ceremonies of friend-
ship, of hatred and of power. Our word. You and I, members of that lodge: the
fraternity of the raped woman. You are who you are because you knew how to
rape and not be raped; you are who you are because you did not known how to
rape and allowed yourself to be raped: chain of the raped woman which im-
prisons us all... You are the son of the sons of the raped woman: you will be
father to more children of the raped woman. (pp. 144-145)
It represents a curse on the nation: the suspicion, frustration, resentment, hatred,
envy, rancour, scorn, insecurity, poverty, abuse, insult, intimidation and false pride
that constitute its total experience. It embraces their desire to survive at the expense
of others for they deliberately convert the "hijos de la chingada" (fellow Mexicans)
into objects for utility, pleasure, domination, scorn and victory.
It is also expressive of the concept of machismo, a major characteristic of the
Mexican people. It is Robles who points out that Mexicans admire manliness which
manifests itself in a haughty, aggressive and violent manner as well as in pride and
ruthless pursuit of success. He tells Cienfuegos:
One thing is lacking; to step on the neck of this country, to bother other people,
not to give in, to be the great rapists. Then, instead of uprisings, one gets

admiration. There is nothing so highly admired in Mexico as being a great rapist.
(p. 111)
The more refined and subtle forms of machismo are evidenced among the elite in
their struggle for success and survival, whereas the cruder aspect of bullying, aggressive-
ness and violent murder is the pattern among the lower classes.
The conduct of Fifo, Beto, Tuno and Gabriel at the bullfight is a good example of
their rude and insulting manners. In protest against the boring and unattractive style of
the afternoon's bull-fight, the four ruffians (two are labourers on U.S. farms and one a
taxi-driver) decide to make noise and throw paper missiles at other spectators.
Suddenly, Beto turns around and spits a mouthful of beer into the face of a man who
had just commented on their misconduct. Tuno and Fifo join in and push the man's
hat down over his ears, pinching his navel at the same time. The man goes to get his
friends to take revenge, but Beto and his gang beat their six opponents publicly and in
the presence of the police who stand by and enjoy the fight. The ruffians continue
their tricks kicking the buttocks of a girl sitting in front of them, and insulting and
provoking the tourists. They seem to go armed with long razors for Fifo silences a
tourist with one when she tries to call the police.
There is a certain arrogance that goes along with the violence. When Manuel
Zamacona and his friend Nerval pull up at a gas station to refill, Manuel alights and
approaches some men saying politely, "Sorry, could you sell me a few litres of..."
when all of a sudden one of the men fires five bullets into his stomach saying,
"Nobody looks at me like that".5
Gabriel dies in a similar manner. First, he is beaten up in a bar by two men who
enter and demand drinks at his expense. One of the men warns him that "Everyone
knows who is boss around here ... and you, old man, although you are just on
vacation, it is worth your effort to find out." And on another occasion, not long after,
as Gabriel tries to elbow his way through a crowd, he touches one of the same men
only to feel a dagger in his stomach and hear the man's voice declare, "I told you, old
man, that you weren't going to hold me twice... Nobody touches me up like that" as
his partner bursts out into raucous and malicious laughter.
This then is the new Mexico in the mid-twentieth century, as Fuentes sees it,
struggling to come to terms with its very complex image. On the social side, Fuentes
leaves no stones unturned. The crudeness and viciousness of the lower and middle
classes and the proud, though ruined, aristocracy is presented simultaneously with the
more tender side of family life of taxi-drivers like Juan Morales, bankers like Rigules
and aristocrats like dofia Lorenza Ortiz de Ovando. The socio-economic advantages
gained that still exist and the weaknesses of the capitalist structure of the economy.
Criticism of the political situation and its impact on the national image is there. The
cultural symbiosis of Mexico with its indigenous past and its cosmopolitan present is
heavily emphasized. The psychological and moral characteristics of Mexicans are
analysed thoroughly. Fuentes sums up the present circumstances of the nation with
intense cynicism in these two paragraphs:
You will bequeath this country; you will bequeath your newspaper, your bribes

and flattery, your dead conscience, benumbed by the false speeches of mediocre
men; you will bequeath your mortgages and an ungrateful social class, power
without grandeur, consecrated foolishness, a dwarfs ambition, a fool's com-
promise, a rotten rhetoric, institutionalized cowardice and a vulgar egoism.
You will also bequeath thieving leaders, subdued trade unions, new landowners,
American investment, imprisoned workers, monopolies and their great press,
their daily-paid workers, their hoods and secret agents, their foreign bank
accounts, their gluttonous agitators, their servile deputies, their opportunistic
ministers, their elegant subdivisions, their anniversaries and commemorations,
their lice and worm-infested tortillas, their illiterate Indians, their jobless
workers, their rapacious pawnshops, their fat men armed with aqualungs, their
thin men armed with finger nails: have their Mexico, their own inheritance. (p.

A Critical Approach
Fuentes' tools for his analysis of Mexican character and experience are sharpened
by three main lines of thought: Marxism, existentialism and Nietzschean philosophy.
Fuentes' marxist inclinations are very lightly veiled in his works. It is evident that
he despises heartless capitalists like Artemio Cruz and Federico Robles and the
numerous North American investors who have taken a strangle-hold on Mexico in
recent years. He hates their ruthless exploitation of the poor and their usurpation of
power. He treats them harshly in the end, for Cruz is forced to relive his unscrupulous
life through memory on his death-bed, and although he tries to forget, Fuentes does
not allow him that respite. He taunts him to the very last minute with the bitter
thought of an irresponsible pursuit and misuse of economic power. Fuentes also
presents Robles ruined and driven half-mad and then places him back in the arid north
to cultivate cotton with the peasants.
On the contrary, Fuentes seems more sympathetic towards the humbler folk -
Juan and Rosa Morales and their little boys who are so closely knit in a tender and
affectionate family bond. Juan refuses to work for any member of the dominant
economic class and so runs his own taxi. He bluntly refuses to accede to their wishes
when Junior and Pichi try to coerce him into driving on a route he considers out of the
way. His death and the consequent difficulties facing his family are treated with deep
understanding and sensitivity by the author.
A strong dialectical note reminiscent of Hegel and Marx lies at the core of his vision
of Mexican history. Hegel's conception of history as a dialectical process seems to
influence Fuentes' conception of the ethnic and, cultural history of Mexico in which
races and cultures are substituted for Hegel's "ideas" to produce an interesting racial
and cultural synthesis: fusion of the indigenous and European to create a typically
Mexican mixture.
Still more applicable, perhaps, are Marx's theories of dialectical materialism and
class struggle and his doctrine of surplus value. In Fuentes, the Marxian pattern
operates effectively. Newer economic systems successively confront and defeat older
ones. Porfirian feudalism is defeated by modern capitalism which in turn is being

confronted by socialism. Zamacona (and evidently Fuentes himself) regards capitalism
as unsuitable and irrelevant to the Mexican situation. It has no safeguard against
disintegration and the opposition of the growing socialist antithesis actually fer-
menting among the intellectuals and the peasant masses.
This type of war is not waged only between opposing systems of production but
also between classes. The aristocratic owners of the means of production prior to the
Revolution are displaced by a rising middle class who must in turn come to terms with
the proletariat. This last class like the slaves and plebians of ancient times or the serfs
and journeymen of medieval times, will refuse to sell their labour power to the capital-
ists and demand a share of those instruments of production. According to Fuentes'
novels, the revolutionary situation exists: dissension among the ruling class; discontent
among the masses; inefficiency and weakness in government circles; growing awareness
of the need for change.
Finally, it is clear that Fuentes abhors the accumulation of surplus wealth by the
capitalists at the expense of the proletariat. He tacitly condemns high interest rates,
excessive profits and exorbitant rents, the three main constituents of surplus value.
And he openly condemns exploitation when he denounces the word "chingar";
Leave it on the road, kill it with weapons which do not belong to it: let us
destroy it: destroy that word which separates us and petrifies us and corrupts us
with its double portion of cross and idol: let it not be our answer nor our fate:
wash yourself clean of that raped woman. (p. 146)
Fuentes' conception of man's duty to his fellowmen is therefore Marxian, and this
makes him critical of a conception of man's duty to himself that is Nietzschean.
Nietzsche's superman concept is well adapted in the character of Artemio Cruz for
whom pity, humility, sympathy, self-denial and personal sacrifice, regarded tradi-
tionally as virtues, are now become vices. For him, as for Nietzsche, the ancient
Germanic qualities of strength, bravery and honour are the real virtues. Cruelty and
force when necessary are useful tools for success and power. It is Fuentes himself who,
with ironic venom, writes:
We desire the greatest possible good for our country, but as long as that is
compatible with our personal welfare: let us be intelligent: we can reach far; let
us do what is necessary and not the impossible let us decide once and for all
what are the acts of strength and cruelty which are of use to us, so as not to have
to repent them... we would not have anything to offer if we have done and
given everything already, except, perhaps our own personal sacrifice: Why die if
we are not going to see the fruits of our heroism? Let us always hold something
in reserve; we-are men, not martyrs: everything will be ours if we retain power:
lose power and you get (screwed) crushed ... when it is necessary, force is
justified; power is not shared... you will reject all guilt; you will not hold
yourself responsible for a morality you did not create, but which you found
ready-made. (pp. 124-125)
By Nietzschean standards Cruz is a good man for he loves and desires power like a
monomaniac. For Nietzsche, "all that heightens in man the feeling of power, the desire

for power, power itself' is good, and "all that comes from weakness"6 is bad. The
good man, operating in Nietzsche's framework of Social Darwinism, must eliminate
the unfit who hinder his efforts to survive. Cruz, Robles and R6gules do this without.
fear or qualms and then boast of being supermen. They can each say what Robles says
to himself:
Paint me up in colours and let them call me Superman, yes Su-per-man; let them
call me Tarzan. (p. 50)
Like Nietzsche, they must reject Christianity and its values, its "slave morality" fit
only for the weak, the recreant and craven. Cruz owes it to himself to rebel against the
Church. He describes a priest as "the monster who voluntarily disguises himself as a
woman, voluntarily castrates himself and voluntarily gets drunk on the fictitious blood
of a God." (p. 128)
He does not believe in God and so he cannot even insult Him on his deathbed. He
cannot rebel, for in his rebellion is implied the existence of something or someone he
disapproves of:
Why insult him if he does not exist? This is good for me. I will admit all this
because to rebel is to concede that those things exist. This is what I will do ... I
will not give them any right by rebelling. (p. 117)
To his skeptical mind, Christianity stifles and stultifies real living with its distorted
morality. It leaves one frustrated and feeling foolish when one tries to live a normal
and natural life:
Every act in life, every act that affirms us as living beings, demands that we
break God's commandments. (pp. 123-124)
That kind of life is too inadequate for the Nietzschean type of character. Personal
dignity is not attained through half-measures. He must live intensely, play the game of
life to the fullest extent, risking all he has unreservedly. (This view is shared by Ixca
Cienfuegos in La region mas transparente. There is to be no meddling in mediocrity,
no bowing to shyster lawyers and fraudulent doctors, no queuing up in shops and
offices, no borrowing of loans, no envying of the wealthy families of Las Lomas de
Chapultepec. He must live a full life in every respect without caring about virtue or
humility. He declares this view emphatically:
Just imagine a world without my pride and decision; imagine a world in which I
was virtuous, in which I was humble: below, whence I came or above where I
now am: it is only there that one finds dignity, I assure you; not in the middle,
not in envy, monotony and lining up: it is all or nothing: Do you know my
game? Do you understand it? All or nothing, all on black or all on red, with eggs,
eh, with eggs, risking it all, even one's mother, exposing oneself to being shot
either by those above or those below: that is what it means to be a man, as I
have been; not as you would have wanted me to be, a half-man, an irascible man,
a man of uncontrolled shouts, a frequenter of brothels and wine cellars, a
he-man suited only for postcards ... you have not been able to abandon me,
you have stuck to my luxury ... obliged to respect me in a way that you would
not have respected my mediocrity.(pp. 120-121)

Yet, inspite of all his intense living, when Cruz comes to the end, Fuentes keeps
him still searching for meaning to life. A sense of failure and frustration haunts him as
he relives his life through memory. His only pleasant recollections are built up around
his son Lorenzo who died in the Spanish Civil War and his early love for Regina, a
young peasant girl who was brutally killed before his eyes during the Revolution.
Apart from those memories, it seems that all the rest is futile and absurd, for his
possession of things and people, his successful satisfaction of his desires, must all be
obliterated by death.
In this sense, Fuentes' view of life has existentialist overtones. The absurdity of life,
the finality of death, the futility of Christian faith, the elusiveness of true happiness
(experienced by Cruz, Robles, Norma Robles and Rodrigo Pola), the nihilistic rejec-
tion of all absolute values except those created by the individual for his own satis-
faction are some basic ingredients of existentialism. Besides, Fuentes' selection of
epigraphs in La muerte de Artemio Cruz provides significant clues to this inter-
pretation of his thought. He seems to endorse the existentialist idea of nothingness as
the essence of life and the cosmos when he quotes from a popular Mexican song:
Life is worth nothing: nothing. (p. 7)
And then the idea of death as an escape from an unendurable world seems implicit in
this quotation borrowed from Montaigne's Essais:
The premeditation of death is a premeditation of liberty.
It is Cruz who puts on the final seal when he points out the difference between his
view of death and the official view of the Church:
SWhat great importance is being attached to all this. A fact which for the most
interested party, that is myself, means the end of importance ... When I realize
that everything will cease to be important, others are trying to convert it into
the most important affairs ... I let them do as they please. I cross my arms on
my stomach... just to see if they do not understand the meaning of crossing
one's arms like that. (p. 117)
This daring resignation indicates an acceptance of destiny that is both Aztec and
existentialist, both ancient and modem. Joy, success, failure, suffering and death are
accepted with equal determination. This must be a part of Fuentes' multi-faceted
message for contemporary Mexico and for the world at large.



1. Carlos Fuentes, La region mis transparente, Mexico, 1963, p. 268 (First published in 1958).
2. His other major novels Zona sagrada (1967) and Cambio de piel (1967) are not included in
this study.
3. Fuentes, La muerte de Artemio Cruz, Mexico, 1967, p. 145. (First published in 1962).
4. Fuentes, La muerte...., op cit, 143-144. Octavio Paz gives a similar interpretation of the
Mexican character in El laberinto de la soledad, (Mexico, 1950, pp. 67-80). He writes: "That
word is our password. By it and in it we are recognized among strangers and we fall back on it
whenever the condition of our being rises to our lips. Knowing it, using it, throwing it into the
air like a flashy toy and making it spin like a sharpened weapon, is a way of affirming our
Mexican character."
5. Ibid., p. 380. (Samuel Ramos' psychoanalysis of the Mexican pelado in his Perfil del hombre y
la cultural en Mexicd (Buenos Aires, 1951, pp. 52-57) adds some insight into the character of
this type of Mexican. He describes him as one who brazenly flaunts certain elemental impulses
and demonstrates a bellicose spirit and a phallic obsession in his attempt to prove that he is
stronger, braver and more determined than anyone else. This attitude, Ramos feels, is due to a
deep sense of inferiority caused not only by his low social status but by his feeling of insecurity
about the value of his nationality, a feeling shared by cultured and intelligent Mexicans among
the bourgeoisie).
6. Quoted by E.A. Singer, Modern Thinkers and Present Problems, (New York, 1923, p. 204.)


This article is primarily a discussion of linguistic usage in Haiti, and its comparison
to the situation observed in Paraguay. In relation to Guarani versus Spanish usage, the
reader is referred to the articles by Joan Rubin and Pedro Rona listed in the biblio-
graphy which supply more than sufficient information. The data on Haiti, I have
collected myself, and I have personally administered a questionnaire modelled on
Rubin's. The last chapter of this paper deals with some specific Haitian educational
problems caused by the peculiar language situation in that country.

1 Linguistic background of Haiti
There are two languages used in Haiti: Haitian Creole, to which I shall refer some-
times simply as Creole or Haitian, native tongue of the totality of the population, and
French, known by 5 to 7 per cent at the most of the country's five million inhabitants.
(For a detailed description of Haitian Creole see Fer6re, 1974). The special type of
bilingualism found in Haiti has been called "diglossia" by Charles Ferguson who
describes it as:
"a relatively stable language situation in which, in addition to the primary
dialect of the language, there is a very divergent, highly codified (often grammati-
cally more complex) superposed variety, the vehicle of a large and respected
body of written literature, either of an earlier period or in another speech
community, which is learned largely by formal education and is used in most
written and formal spoken purposes, but is not used by any sector of the
community for ordinary conversation." (Ferguson 1964:435)
Ferguson illustrates his concept with examples borrowed from Creole, Arabic,
Greek, and Swiss German. However, it seems that the Greek, Swiss-German and Arabic
diglossic situations are not identical to the Haitian one in some aspects, as brought up
by Albert Valdman:
"La diglossie en Haiti differe de celle que l'on trouve dans les pays de langue
arabe, en Grace et dans les cantons germanophones de la Confederation
Helvdtique, par le fait que les deux langues en presence, le crdole et le francais,
bein qu'apparentees, divergent considerablement l'une de l'autre du point de
vue de leur structure. Par ailleurs, et ceci est particulibrement important, la
langue vemaculaire, le crdole, est issue de la langue dominant, le francais ... par
la pidginisation et la crdolisation sous les conditions socio-linguistiques fort
sp6ciales de la traite des noirs et de la plantocratie colonial des dix-septibme et
dix-huitibme siecles." (Valdman 1966:4).

I would tend to agree with Valdman's first remarks. However, in view of new
theories attributing to relexification an important role in the development of creoles,
to consider French as the source language of Haitian, a condition labeled as "particu-
larly important" (my translation) by Valdman, is still a debatable issue.

1.1 Comparison with Paraguay
As in Haiti, there are two languages spoken in Paraguay: Spanish and Guarani.
However, the two situations cannot be said to be identical. Spanish was imported into
the area pretty much the same way that French came to St. Domingue, whereas
Guarani was an indigenous language that existed before the discovery of America.
When we further compare bilingualism in Paraguay to what is found in Haiti, we
discover that in Paraguay the two languages are spoken by a greater percentage of the
inhabitants of the country. Rona says about half. Joan Rubin talks of a "trend toward
greater bilingual usage" (Rubin 1968:529). In November of 1970, I had the privilege
to talk to a Paraguayan educator, Doctor Rita Cuevas, who was visiting Philadelphia.
Doctor Cuevas indicated that although all native Paraguayans in Asuncidn and in other
urban areas speak both languages, and that children there learn both languages at the
same time, in some rural areas, however, one still finds people who know only
Guarani, and children tend to learn Guarani before they learn Spanish.

2. Sociolinguistic consequences of Haitian diglossia
Together with its social organization, Haiti has inherited from European coloniza-
tion a linguistic hierarchy that tends to attach a label of prestige to French in contrast
to Creole. This applies even to the varieties of Creoles. For example: In addition to the
possible horizontal classifications of Haitian into three main varieties, the dialect of
the North, the dialect of the West; and the dialect of the South, each one of these
geographical dialects can be roughly subdivided into two vertical dialects. The phono-
logy of the least prestigious vertical variety, "Gros-cr6ole", is mainly characterized by
the absence of front rounded vowels yo,oe/ replaced respectively by /i, e, el. (Johnson
and F6r&re 1972). In "Standard Creole" (Fdrre 1974) /y, 0, oe/ reappear and con-
stitute in the eyes of the public the symbol of the superiority of that dialect over
"Gros-crdole", no doubt because of the existence of those vowels in the phonemic
inventory of French.

2.1 Comparison with Paraguay
It seems that Paraguay had inherited from colonization a linguistic hierarchy similar
to that which still prevails in Haiti and according to which a label of prestige was
attached to Spanish in contrast to Guarani. Rona says that "it was customary until a
few decades ago to neglect or despise Guarani". ... (Rona 1966:280) But it appears
that this whole attitude has changed in Paraguay. Rona thinks that "the reaction came
through a political change." This is the kind of reaction that is badly needed in Haiti
no matter how it may come. Today, native Paraguayans have come to consider
Guarani as the symbol of their long struggles against Spanish-speaking people from the
times of colonization to more recent years. Here is Rona's evaluation of the change:

"All Paraguayans realize that the Guarani language is the most genuine
manifestation of their being an independent nation. . They do not consider
anyone as Paraguayan who fails to master the tongue. There is an attitude of
complete identification between the language and the nation itself'. (Rona
1966: 278)
Contrary to what is observed in many instances in Haiti, Paraguayans are rather
prejudiced in favour of Guarani. Even educated writers express opinions that
linguistics cannot approve. Rona on page 278 quotes from some of them, from Jover
Peralta who says:
"Es uno de los idiomas mas sabios y hermosos, mis podticos y filosdficos, y a la
vez, uno de los mas antiguos del mundo, el mis antiguo que se conoce".
from Bertoni:
"Es que el Guarani por la riqueza de su ldxico, por la perfecci6n de su
estructura gramatical, por la superabundancia de palabras que posee para la
expression de concepts abstractos, y por la belleza y diversidad de sus formas
de dicci6n, tiene la alcurnia de los lenguages de los pauses de alta cultural .
Such statements are, of course, unscientific. Nevertheless they tell a lot about the
attitude of Paraguayan people toward Guarani.

3. Questionnaire on Haitian usage
The following questionnaire modelled on Rubin's was submitted to 50 bilingual
Haitian natives. It can be taken for granted that such a questionnaire applies only to
urban usage, since in the rural areas there is practically no significant use of French.

What language do you use in the described situations?

Code Symbols F French C Creole ~ Free Choice

Situation F C

1. Your children to you .......................... 50 0 0
2. You toyourchildren .......................... 43 0 7
3. Home with children present ..................... 40 0 10
4. Home with children absent ..................... 4 12 34
5. Youtoservants .............................. 0 50 0
6. Children to servants .......................... 14 12 24
7. Servantstoyou .............................. 20 25 5
8. Servants to children ........................... 28 6 16
9. Children to children (adults present) .............. 50 0 0
10. Children to children (adults absent) .............. 16 0 34
11. Beingintroduced ............................. 50 0 0
12. To a guest you know at a formal party ............. 50 0 0

13. To a guest you don't know at a formal party ....... 50 0 0
14. To a guest you know at an informal party........... 21 13 16
15. To a guest you don't know at an informal party...... 50 0 0
16. Everyday conversation with acquaintances ........ 3 6 41
17. Everyday conversation with people you don't know .. 43 0 7
18. Everyday conversation with very close friends ....... 0 43 7
19. Everyday conversation with relatives .............. 0 48 2
20. Talking to peasants .......................... 0 50 0
21. Talking to taxi-drivers .......................... 12 20 18
22. Buying at open-air market ...................... 0 50 0
23. At work to employer for business ................ 50 0 0
24. At work to employee for business ................ 46 0 4
25. To a first time date ........................... 50 0 0
26. To a not-first-time date ......................... 14 28 8
27. Talking to a medical doctor ..................... 50 0 0
28. Talking to a vodoo doctor (docteur feuilles) ........ 0 50 0
29. Talking to the military authority ................. 48 0 2
30. Talking to the civilian authority .................. 50 0 0
31. Cursing ................................. 0 48 2
32. To tell native jokes .......................... 0 50 0
33. To tell non-native jokes ........................ 28 6 16
34. To a teacher .................. ............. 50 0 0
35. To a catholic priest .......................... 50 0 0
36. To a protestant priest ........................". 48 0 2
37. To a vodoo priest (houngan)..................... 0 50 0
38. To a nun .................................. 50 0 0
39. To a beggar .................................. 0 50 0
40. Political campaign speeches..... .. ..... 0 0 50
41. Sermons in urban churches ...................... 45 0 5
42. To write a letter .............................. 50 0 0
43. Language of Primary Schools .................... 50 0 0
44. Language of Secondary Schools .................. 50 0 0
45. Language of Universities ........................ 50 0 0
46. Language of urban "Ecole du soir" ................ 0 46 4
47. Language of official Government business .......... 50 0 0
48. Language of written documents .................. 50 0 0
49. Language considered as literary. ................... 50 0 0
50. Folklore language .......................... 0 48 2
51. Radio commercials .......................... 4 0 46
52. T.V. commercials .......................... 50 0 0
53. Radio or T.V. native comedy ................. 0 44 6
54. Radio or T.V. non-native comedy ................. 50 0 0
55. Radio newscast .............................. 3 0 47
56. T.V. Newscast ............................... 50 0 0
57. M ovies ..................................... 50 0 0
58. Newspapers .................................. 50 0 0

3.1 Comments on the Questionnaire
It would be too long to discuss all the results of the questionnaire, and the implica-
tions of some of them are self-evident. I will then limit my comments to some aspects.
There is a total of 2,900 answers given by the 50 informants. They fall into the
following distribution:
1730 answers where the informants opted for the use of French;
755 answers corresponded to uses of Creole;
415 indicated that the speaker had free choice.
Those numbers include 350 questions about written language, where the only
possible answer is French. Great trust can be attached to results showing a unanimous
or near unanimous agreement among the informants. Unanimity is, of course, best, but
when among fifty informants, you find only one or two disagreeing with the opinion
of the overwhelming majority, you may start thinking about their reliability, or about
the special significance of their divergent answers. However, all answers have been
compiled as given. In the next paragraphs, I will comment on them according to the
following classification:
a) Areas stressing the use of French
b) Areas stressing the use of Creole
c) Areas stressing free choice
a) Areas stressing the use of French
Complete agreement is found in questions #1, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 30,
34, 35, 38, 42, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48, 49, 52, 54, 56, 57, 58.
# 11, 12, 13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 30, show the importance of the formality factor in the
choice of French as a code. Already one can see that Creole appears to have scored low
wherever there was a certain degree of formality. In many cases where a certain
relaxation in formality is possible, without reaching total familiarity, the informants
have opted often for free choice rather than plain Creole.
The answer to #35 (to a Catholic priest) showing French unanimity is especially
significant: in addition to the formality involved, it is true that most Catholic priests
are French and the Catholic Church has never been very interested in Creole. The
Haitian people's image of a Catholic priest is then that of a French speaking person,
often a Frenchman.
Questions # 42, 43, 44, 45, 47, 48, 49 having to do with education or written
language, the exclusive use of French is not surprising.
It is interesting to notice that #52 (Television commercials) obtained complete
French agreement, while for #51 (Radio commercials) the answers were 4 for French
and 46 for~ A similar contrasting pattern exists between #56 (Television newscast)
and #55 (Radio newscast): #56 obtained 50 French answers, while #55 breaks down
to 3 for French and 47 for~ These patterns are indicative of certain socio-economic
facts. Many people from the Creole-speaking proletariat and rural classes do have
radios; but, because of their poverty, they are not expected to have a television set.

The programmers most likely think: why use Creole on television if all the prospective
watchers are bilingual people? Of course, questions 57 and 58 do not bring any
surprising information: The movies shown in Haiti are imported, and all newspapers
are printed in French.
There is another area of interest. It involves the answers to questions #1 (your
children to you) and #2 (you to your children). There is complete unanimity about
the fact that the informants want their children to speak French, but seven of them
recognized that they don't always talk French to their children. Also, only 16 in-
formants said that children would speak French among themselves when adults are
absent. This pattern is not an encouraging one for those who hope that usage and the
quality of French will increase in Haiti. Charles Ferguson's comments about language
acquisition are relevant here:
"... adults use L in speaking to children and children use L in speaking to one
another. As a result, L is learned by children in what may be regarded as the
normal way of learning one's mother tongue. H may be heard by children from
time to time, but the actual learning of H is chiefly accomplished by the means
of formal education, ...
This difference in method of acquisition is very important. The speaker is at
home in L to a degree he almost never achieves in H. The grammatical structure
of L is learned without explicit discussion of grammatical concepts; the grammar
of H is learned in terms of rules and norms to be imitated.
It seems unlikely that any change toward full utilization of H could take
place without a radical change in this pattern of acquisition. For example those
Arabs (make it here Haitians, my change) who ardently desire to have H
replace L for all functions can hardly expect this to happen if they are unwilling
to speak H to their children." (Ferguson 1964:432)
Finally, formality again seems to play a role in the answers to questions 17, 24, 29
and 41.
b) Areas stressing the use of Creole
Complete agreement is found for #5, 20, 22, 28, 32, 37, 39. Significantly enough,
most of the times, one of the parties involved is from the non-bilingual groups.
Because of Haiti's socio-linguistic organization, peasants, open-air market merchants,
vodoo-doctors, vodoo-priests, beggars, are expected to know only Creole.
Almost complete agreement can be noticed in areas where informality or familiarity
are factors in the choice of the code. #18 (Everyday conversation with very close
friends), #19 (Everyday conversation with relatives), and #31 (Cursing) have obtained
respectively 43, 48, 48 answers indicating the choice of Creole. It seems that the closer
you get to familiarity the higher the chances are that Creole will be preferred.
c) Areas stressing free choice
There is only one question on which all the informants were unanimous in having
complete freedom in choosing the code. It is #40, (Political campaign speeches),
Indeed Creole is very widely used during the political campaigns, and so is French,
depending on the audience. But the politicians do not delay in assuming their French,

as it may be, as soon as they are elected. Near complete agreement about free choice is
observed in # 16 (Everyday for conversation with acquaintances). It shows the
relaxing of the formality level in intermediary stages between informality and
familiarity. # 5 (Radio commercials) and # 55 (Radio newscast) were already com-
mented upon under paragraph 3. a.
3.2 Comparison with Paraguay
Because of wider bilingualism of Paraguay, Joan Rubin's questionnaire refers to a
bigger sector of the population of the Inland Republic, while the Creole/French ques-
tionnaire is necessarily limited to the diglossic urban populations of Haiti. Joan Rubin
has obtained some interesting contrasts of usage asking the same questions in different
areas: a rural area and an urban area. She has succeeded in showing that Spanish tends
to loose popularity in the rural areas although it is still used. A similar questionnaire
that would be submitted to Haiti's rural areas would just show an insignificant usage of

The quality of Rubin's questionnaire is quite adequate; however, some questions do
not bring much information no matter how they are answered. I do not see what she
can learn from question 35 (Drinking alcoholic beverages), which she calls un-
ambiguous although she does not specify in company of whom. What she expected
from question 21 ( a woman smoking a big black cigar), is not clear either.
Rubin's work is a very enlightening one. She has succeeded quite well to show that
functions can be pretty much the same and yet be filled by different types of code
situations. In her analysis she comes with several variables that she calls "location",
formality-informality", "degree of intimacy", "degree of seriousness". She adds other
factors such as the speaker's estimation of his listener's proficiency, the sex of the
speakers, and presents a series of ordered dimensions or priorities. Her work is very
explicit: one just looks at it and sees right away what is taking place.
Finally, I think that while Rubin's research does not prove the existence of any link
between social stratification and code, the two are inextricably connected in Haiti
where usage of French is often considered the symbol of higher social classification.
4. Illiteracy in Haiti: a problem related to diglossia
Haiti finds itself facing an unusually complicated socio-linguistic situation resulting
from the presence of a bilingual educated-class next to a Creole-speaking proletariat
and peasant population representing around 90% of the population of the country.
Since the early years of the life of that nation, French has been the official language of
the government agencies, the business institutions, the newspapers and other com-
munication media etc., and it has been the only language used in school at all levels.
This represents no great difficulty for the city-dweller, even if he has received no
formal education in French, because of his daily practical contacts with that language.
However, the Haitian peasant often has little or no contact with French, and the
peasant child beginning school is faced with a tremendous handicap when he is to
learn, to write, and required to write a language which is unknown to him. Many
Haitian scholars have studied this problem, with as one of their principal goals, the
creation of a Creole orthography. Unfortunately most of them have been too much

influenced by their French background and have proposed gallicized orthographies
showing too many of the inconsistencies of the French writing system. Judge for
example by the following text taken from Faine 1939:136:



Avou6r ce debat,
pas avouer c6 d6bat
mt6 pitot fermin
bouche moin
Li dire nous
pas rentrer lacaille

Avouer, c'est s'attirer des ennuis
Ne pas avouer, c'est s'attirer des ennuis
j'ai pre6f6r de me former
la bouche
Il mous a dit
de ne pas rentrer a la maison

Georges Sylvain, Christian Beaulieu, Father Joseph Salgado, and others also have
adopted orthographies similar to Faine's etymological system, copied closely from
French. It is regretful that those proposed alphabets tended to transfer into Creole
such French spelling inconsistencies, as for example, the same sound represented many
different ways:



or unpredictable pronunciations as in:
"Nous portions des portions" or
"Les fils de la chemise de mon fils"
Creation and adoption of an alphabet for Haitian must take advantage of the
opportunity offered to get rid of many spellirig problems already considered as real
handicaps in French and in other languages. An ethnophonemic orthography is the
In the early 1940's, under a programme sponsored by the government of President
Elie Lescot of Haiti, the American Education expert Dr. Franck Laubach and the
Protestant Minister H. Ormonde McConnell proposed their ethnophonemic ortho-
graphy. (See for example McConnell 1945).

In spite of some of the merits of the proposed system, the reaction of the Haitian
public was completely negative. One of the main criticisms was the alleged unnecessary
introduction into a "Romance" language of the "anglo-saxon" letter w, which caused
the Laubach alphabet to be pejoratively called "made in U.S.A." Those who voiced
this argument only demonstrated their ignorance of the international phonetic agree-
ments using the same convention in French. But the use of the circumflex accent to
indicate nasalization was the most severely criticized. In fact, why not use simply n?
Since there is no reason to create unnecessary breaches in the case of transition from
Creole to French by the Haitian Creole reader for whom the system is primarily
designed, the introduction of the circumflex accent as a nasalization symbol is a
negative factor which brings more problems that it solves, considering among other
things its existence already in French. It is true that Laubach's nasalization convention
is linguistically justified. But simple use of the letter n is also an equally correct and
socio-linguistically more desirable solution, since the goal of the project was to "teach
adults to read and write Creole, with a view to their passing on to French afterwards".
(McConnell 1945:7).
After the disastrous failure of the Laubach experiment, its lack of success was
attributed to many non-linguistic reasons, some more unbelievable and nonsensical
than others. One of the favourite arguments was that the "French cultured ego-
centrical dictatorial" elite of the country desired to keep the masses at the lowest level
of ignorance; this is untrue and unfair. The elite Government of Dr. Lescot which
sponsored Laubach did everything possible for its success. Another argument was that
the programme was strongly opposed by the Catholic Church which allegedly saw in
Dr. Laubach's alliance with the Protestant Reverend McConnell some kind of a plot to
do away with the supremacy of the Catholic religion in Haiti: again there was abso-
lutely no factual basis for such an accusation.
Anyone who wants to be fair has to recognize that Laubach and McConnell owe
their failure mainly to the fact that they chose the least prestigious dialect of "Gros
Creole" and were very poor socio-linguists. They did not understand the Haitian's attitude
toward Creole.

Any programme whose goal would be to solve the problems of Haiti's illiteracy
worsened by a special type of bilingualism, has, of course, to begin with the design of a
good writing-system allowing the alphabetization of the Creole-speaking Haitians in
their own language. But the selection of the official variety of Creole is a political,
social, and economic problem more than a surely linguistic one. Such a problem has
presented itself several times in the history of the world, and is presenting itself right
now in many countries. However, its constant reappearance does not simplify its
nature. It is, moreover, complicated in cases where multidialectalism corresponds to
some kind of social stratification. Several considerations must be kept in mind, such
a) If it is at all possible, the choice might be of a universally well-known variety
that would facilitate communication in the country.
b) What variety is spoken in the area where the seat of the Government is located,
where most official business takes place?

c) Also it might be interesting to find out which, among the several varieties, is
spoken by more people, and what is the importance of that group of people besides
being the majority.
d) What is the variety used in the biggest metropolitan area?
e) What variety offers the best possibilities of adapting itself, and helping the
people to adapt themselves to the surrounding civilization?
f) Are there important historical reasons that would indicate the choice of a particu-
lar variety?
g) Is there any rivalry among the speakers of the different varieties? If yes,
serious social or national disturbances may be caused by the wrong choice.

h) Do people in the country believe that one variety has more prestige than another
or provides a better ethnic, cultural or religious identification?
i) Is there already a trend of standardization of one particular variety to the
detriment of the others?
Laubach and his team did not take into account many of the preceding problems.
Recently the whole problem of "1'Education par le creole" has been approached
anew in Haiti. About the Faublas-Pressoir orthographic system used today, here is
Douglas Taylor's opinion:
"Only in Haiti and within the past decade, so far as I know, have the
schools begun to teach reading and writing in a Creole mother tongue.
Even there, the standarized orthography based on a phonological analysis of
Haitian Creole has had to be abandoned under pressure from people who think
that their language should at least 'look like' French." (Taylor 1968:613)
I sincerely think that Taylor is too severe in his judgment. I have seen the Faublas-
Pressoir orthography that has replaced Laubach's "under pressure": it is a good ethno-
phonemic system. Besides allowing the presentation of a more prestigious and wide-
spread variety of Haitian Creole, its main difference from Laubach's is in the symbol
for nasalization which is now the letter n.
Let us hear how two linguists describe the Faublas-Pressoir system. Hall says:
"Pressoir 1947: proposes an orthography similar in all respects to McConnell-
Laubach, except for nasalization: rejects circumflex because it diverges from
French spelling, uses letter n after vowel for nasalization, and -n for /n/ after
vowel". (Hall 1953:26)
All this seems to be within the limits of "phonological analysis". Albert Valdman says:
"En ce qui concern le choix de symbols et les conventions qui relient les sons
du creole aux lettres, sauf quelques details, I'orthographe Faublas-Pressoir est
parfaitement adequate." (in: MAL Newsletter 11:11)
I further disagree with Taylor. It is not that the Haitians "think that their language
should at least look like French." The truth is that Creole is viewed for good reasons,
as a preliminary step toward a more complete education which, at the present time,

can be acquired only in French. So, why create a wider gap between Creole and
French? The adoption of the Faublas-Pressoir alphabet has solved a thirty-year old
impasse, and constitutes an important step toward the solution of an illiteracy prob-
lem unusually complicated by the diglossic situation.



FAINE, Jules, 1939. Le Crdole dans l'univers Port-au-Prince, Imprimerie de 1'Etat.
FIRIERE, Girard Alphonse, 1974. Haitian Creole: Sound-System, Form-Classes,
Texts. University Microfilm, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
FERGUSON, Charles A., 1964 "Diglossia" in: Hymes, Dell, (ed.), 1964. Language in
culture and society. New York, Harper and Row.
HALL, Robert A. 1953 Haitian Creole: grammar, texts, vocabulary, Memoir 74,
American Anthropological Association.
JOHNSON, Bruce L. and FERERE, Gerard A., 1972 "Haitian Creole: surface
phonology" in: Journal of the I.P.A. Vol. 2, No. 2, December 1972.
McCONNELL H., and SWAN, E., 1945. You can learn Creole, Port-au-Prince.
RONA, Pedro, 1966. "The social and cultural status of Guarani in Paraguay" in:
Bright, William, (ed.), 1966. Sociolinguistics, Mouton and Co., The Hague, Paris.
RUBIN, Joan, 1968, "Bilingualism in Paraguay" in: Fisherman, Joshua (ed.), 1968
Readings in the sociology of language. The Hague, Mouton.
TAYLOR, Douglas, 1968. "New language for old in the West-Indies." in: Fishman,
Joshua (ed.), 1968. Readings in the sociology of language. The Hague, Mouton.
VALDMAN, Albert, 1966. "Analphab6tisme et standardisation en Haiti" in: MLA
Newsletter No. 11, December 1967.


The group of English dialects used by the Black community of the United States is
not so obviously similar to that used by the Black communities of the West Indies that
one should lump them together in a linguistic discussion without explanation. The
principal justification for considering them together here is that, as Alleyne has put it,
"it is coming to be understood that at least some of the unique characteristics of
contemporary 'Negro' dialects derive from earlier so-called creolization pro-
cesses. This would link historically the speech of the Black community of the
United States firmly with that of Afro-Caribbean communities". (Alleyne: 1970,
Therefore, in spite of obvious present-day differences between these two groups of
New World English dialects, a common prototype will be assumed for them which, in
the following discussion, will be referred to as Early Black English. The non-standard
varieties of English used in any predominantly Black working-class neighbourhood in
the New World will, just for convenience of reference, be referred to in this paper as
Black English to borrow an expression from Dalby: 1971 and Dillard: 1972.
Since the mid-1950's, the structure and history of Black English and similarly
derived language forms have been taken up for serious study. Discussion of their
history has almost inevitably led scholars to apply the concept of genetic relationship
to the New World Black languages in general in an attempt to determine the family or
families into which these language forms should be classified. Since the history of the
Afro-European contact that produced them is so well known, one would expect that
their genetic classification should raise no problem. There has, however, been much
disagreement; and the whole effort to make a genetic classification of them has seemed
so unfruitful that Dell Hymes has recommended (Hymes: 1971, p. 80) that
"downgrading of genetic classification is a necessary step toward clarity"; and Mervyn
Alleyne has suggested (Alleyne: 1971, p. 178) that the question of the genetic
classification (of language forms like these) may be "unanswerable or irrelevant".
It is against the background of such doubts that this paper was conceived. We shall
attempt here a critical review of efforts to apply the genetic concept to Black English,
pointing out in what ways such efforts have failed. We shall suggest ways in which the
study of the genetic aspects of Black English (and similarly derived forms) could be
made more fruitful.


In discussing the genesis of New World Black English, certain problems arise which
are not normally encountered in the genetic study of established languages. One
important question has to do with the concept of GENESIS itself: how shall we
interpret "genesis"? Some other questions arise from the practice of genetic classifica-
tion in historical linguistics. The major interest of historical linguists in their considera-
tion of the genetic aspect of languages has been to classify these languages into families
- i.e. according to how they are related as continuation of earlier language forms.
Several questions may be raised concerning this practice. In the first place, we may
ask: can we validly do this exercise for languages like Black English which had their
genesis not strictly as continuation not even as a divergent form of one language
but as a new synthesis of elements from many established languages? If we cannot, or
if we find it unusually difficult to do so, what is wrong? Is Black English (or any
similarly derived language form) to be considered as something other than language?
Or is something wrong with the genetic principle as applied in language study?
The question to pose first is: how shall we interpret "genesis"?
The genetic concept in language study derives by comparison with the biological
process by which a parent brings into existence another member of the species, trans-
mitting in the process part of its own essence to its offspring. The relationship between
the two biological units (old and young) is usually described in such terms as
Parent-to-Child, Parent-to-daughter, Mother-to-Daughter, etc.; and by virtue of the
Mother's transmission of her own essence to the daughter, there is a genetic relation-
Since the 19th century, language scholars have noticed that some modern languages
show such patterned similarities that were best accounted for as deriving from a
common ancestor. Unless borrowing can be demonstrated, or items demonstrated to
be similar only by chance, the common ancestor is presumed to have all the features
shared by such languages. The ancestor is further considered to have been one language
that developed varieties which became progressively differentiated until they became
separate languages. Viewed thus, that single language, like a mother, has brought into
existence two or more daughter languages which then stand in genetic relation to one
another in the same sense that two sisters do.
This analogy with biological reproduction has its own weaknesses some of which are
very important in a discussion of the genetic aspects of Black English. For instance, the
'natal act' by which the biological child comes into existence is of such nature that it is
possible to say when it is over; whatever takes place in the child after birth is no longer a
part of the'natal act': it is part of post-natal growth and development. Besides, the nature
of the biological child is such that we can assess its quantity at birth and compare this
with its quantity at selected stages in its later development. Thus we can say:
John weighed 71bs 2 oz. at birth;
John has gained 17 lbs 1 oz. since birth; etc.
By contrast, a new language takes a long time coming and, except perhaps in a

figurative sense, it is meaningless to say that Language L was born (or derived) on
April 19, 1973; and, in any sense, it would be meaningless to say something like
Language L has gained 100 words and two sentence patterns since it came into
existence. By the nature of language, the 'natal act' and early development are not
consecutive; they are one and the same thing.

This difference between the biological and the linguistic 'natal act' is normally
masked by the nature of the language material to which the genetic concept applies in
lingustic classification. Established languages 'like French, Yoruba or Chinese do not
provide a good test of the genetic concept because we are busy investigating what
languages they are related to only in their modern form or in forms found in their
earliest texts. We never raise any questions relating to the genetic affiliation of their
earliest forms the forms they had at their genesis, because the data we have at our
disposal do not get so close to their origin as to necessitate such questions; data needed
for consideration of such questions are lost and virtually irrecoverable.

Black English, like several other similarly derived language forms, has its genesis in
Afro-European contact which is little more than 500 years old. The historical process
by which it was created is so recent, therefore, that any application of the genetic
concept to it brings us face to face with the relatively well known history of the
situation in which it arose.

It is, of course, possible, to ignore the history of the contact situation, forget that
the varieties of language collectively referred to here as Black English have a history,
and proceed to compare the present state of each isolatable variety with all known
human languages to find out which languages these Black English varieties are related
to. We would certainly obtain a result. For instance, since some of the varieties are less
deviant from some varieties of British or Middle-class American English than others, it
would be easy to classify such varieties along with, say, Standard British English within
the Germanic subfamily of Indo-European. For some other varieties, however e.g.
Gullah or basilectal forms of Trinidad Creole, we would find it more difficult to
classify them as Germanic without further qualification, this in spite of the over-
whelmingly large number of English words in them, for we would find that there is
striking similarity between them and French Creoles used also in Black working-class
neighborhoods elsewhere in the New World. They would also be found to be in many
respects very similar to West African languages. Now, if we classify them as being
genetically related to English on account of the similarity between them and English,
what should we do when we discover the similarity between them and West African
languages and French or Portuguese Creoles similarity that is there as a result of the
formative process and not simply as a result of borrowing? Almost all West African
languages that participated in the making of New World Black dialects belong to
Greenberg's Niger-Congo subfamily of Congo-Kordofanian; while French and Portu-
guese belong to the Romance subfamily of Indo-European. Should we also proceed
then to classify these Black English varieties within Niger-Congo as well as within
Romance? If not, by what degree of similarity can we decide that they are Germanic
only and not Niger-Congo or Romance? How close must linguistic similarity be before
it becomes genetically significant?

We shall return to the problem of interpreting the term 'genesis' later; but in the
meantime, let us go on to the second important question: Can we make a valid genetic
classification of language forms like Black English? We may start from the viewpoint
that if English, German and Dutch, or Yoruba, Twi and Hausa are genetically classi-
fiable, then Black English must be unless it is not a language. It is presumably from
such a viewpoint that a number of linguists have already ventured opinions on the
genetic classification of this type of language form. In attempting to answer the
question posed here, it would be necessary to assess the amount of success with which
such people have classified Black English, to see how convincing their classification has
In the contact situation that produced Black English, native speakers of some
African languages (principally West African languages) came into contact with native
speakers of some European languages. Under pressure to master each of the various
European languages involved in the contact situation, the Africans used each of these
European languages in such a way that new language forms arose: Black Portuguese,
Black Dutch, Black French, Black English (Dalby: 1971). Some of the new language
forms have become so distinctive as to be unintelligible to native speakers of the
European languages that supply most of their vocabulary.
In making a genetic classification of these new language forms, we could classify in
a way that reflects any of the following four genetic explanations:
(1) that each new Black language form derives basically from the particular
European language involved in the contact;
(2) that each derives basically from the African languages involved in the contact;
(3) that each is a systematic blending of the African languages on the one hand
and the European language on the other;
(4) that each derives basically, not from the African languages or from the parti-
cular European language involved in the contact, but from a totally different
All these explanations have been offered, with varying degrees of support by those
concerned with tracing the history of Black English and similarly derived language
forms. How plausible are the explanations?

3. New World Black English As An Indo-European Language
For a long time, the only explanation of the origin of Black English was that it was
simply a variety of British English which is deficient for several reasons that are related
to the inferior nature of its Black speakers. So thoroughly had the Black man lost his
ethnic identity in the American Melting Pot (Stewart: mimeo) that he could not be
expected to bring anything of his own into the development of English speech (i.e. apart
from his "thick lips" and his "clumsy tongue"!). In addition to this ridiculous explanation,
there was another which, partly adapting Stewart's terminology, we may refer to as
the linguistic lag: the distinctiveness of Black speech is, in some cases, explained by its

tendency to lag behind White speech in development. In other words, a Black English
feature like double negation has been in English ever since the White man entered
America and the occurrence of it in any non-standard dialect like Black English
amounts to a retention of an ancient usage (Burling: 1973, p. 112).

The meaning of these assimilationist explanations is that Black English is simply a
variety of White English, however divergent it may be from say, the Standard variety.
If it is, then the conclusion with regard to genetic affiliation is obvious.

Sranan-Tongo is a New World Black language form produced by the same process
that gave rise to Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean Black English. It has retained
many African linguistic features and can be easily distinguished from any variety of
English directly derived from Britain. In dealing with the genetic classification of
Sranan-Tongo, however, Robert Hall leaves his reader in no doubt that its hybrid
nature cannot "invalidate the assumption of genetic relationship" with English: the
proportion of English structure in Sranan-Tongo is "both greater and more funda-
mental" than that of African structure; the systematic correspondences between it and
English "are all pervasive, i.e. found in all branches of linguistic structure, whereas the
correspondences between ... Sranan-Tongo on the one hand, and African languages
on the other hand ... are indeed extensive, but scattered and less systematic" (Hall:
1958, pp. 370-371). Such statements made for Sranan-Tongo are meant also to apply
to other varieties of New World Black English because Hall is in fact dealing with all
"creolized languages".
The major weakness of the kind of position taken by Hall is that it is based solely
on present-day linguistic evidence. It is doubtful whether he would describe the
correspondences between Sranan-Tongo (or other varieties of Black English) on the
one hand and African languages on the other as anything but "all-pervasive" and,
correspondingly, those between Sranan-Tongo (or other Black English varieties) and
British English as anything but "scattered and less systematic" if his comparison of
these languages had been based on, say, early 18th century data. In the face of a
decreolization process that set in from about the end of the 18th century (Stewart:
1969, p. 26), the distinctively African features of Black English have progressively
disappeared and the New World Black English dialects have become more and more
like White English where the two types have co-existed within the same community.
The result is that, by now, these "late post-creoles" are acquiring most of the charac-
teristics of Standard or other White varieties of English (see Williamson: 1970) while,
from one generation to the next, as Fasold: 1972 convincingly argues, they continue
to lose or inhibit their own distinctive elements. The time element is therefore im-
portant, even crucial, in comparison of language forms; for, if Hall's kind of com-
parison were to be repeated two centuries from now, assuming that decreolization is
not inhibited, stopped or otherwise channeled, the linguist who wishes to compare the
English of New World Black communities with Standard English may then find that he
is comparing Standard English with itself! To avoid the kind of weakness noted in
Hall's classification, we must be clear what 'genesis' means when we speak of genetic
classification. We should demand that genetic classification must at least reflect the
facts of the genesis of the language as far as these facts are known. If it does not,

any implied claim of genetic relationship is a false claim. 'Genesis' itself should be
considered to refer to the earliest period when a group or groups of participants in a
given speech community become aware that one of the speech forms of the com-
munity has become largely unintelligible to them. Since what is here referred to as
"the earliest period" is not one day (or even one year) but a considerable stretch of
time, 'genesis' is, chronologically, a vaguely defined concept; but as long as it includes
the very beginning of the historical process by which the new language form comes
into existence, it will work well. Classifications of the type done by Hall for the
creoles ignores the beginning; it is therefore a failure. It tells us something about the
genetic affiliation of some present-day forms of Black English but not about the
genetic affiliation of its original form; so it is not even properly genetic. The 'genesis'
of New World Black English can for practical purposes, be taken to date from the
beginning of the Afro-English contact to the time that decreolization began to work
noticeably. Stewart puts the date at around 1800 (Stewart: 1967, pp. 24, 26).

It was suggested above that one possible explanation of the origin of Black English
is to say that it basically derives from a source language which is not one of the
languages in contact. Although this may at first seem absurd, it is not an unreasonable
explanation; indeed much scholarship has gone into the attempt to demonstrate that
New World Black language forms may have derived from an Afro-Portuguese pidgin
which itself is supposed to be basically Portuguese. 2 As a matter of fact, once we
accept the possibility of large-scale or total relexification in language change, it is not
difficult to accept that two languages in contact may simply be providing material for
the relexification of a third language that is not directly involved in the contact
situation. This is the foundation for the conclusion that most Black speech varieties in
the New World derived from a common Afro-Portuguese-base. Thompson (1961)
contains a suggestion that Papiamento, a Portuguese-based slave jargon might be
considered the pattern for all the West Indian creoles. Taylor (1960), (1961), and
Stewart (1962) contain a similar conclusion that the most likely source of grammatical
correspondences among Caribbean creoles was an Afro-Portuguese pidgin which, for
Stewart, might have originated in the middle of the 15th century (Stewart: 1962, p.
46). This is becoming a popular thesis which is coming to be stated with increasing
frequency and even confidence. A statement of it in Cassidy (1971) goes thus:

"Today the thesis is defensible that in modem times, from the second half of the
fifteenth century when the Portuguese began trading along the West African
coast, there came into existence a trade language drawing its European element
basically from Portuguese, that the Portuguese themselves carried this in the
sixteenth century to East Africa, India, and the China coast; and that when
other Europeans began to follow their lead they used this Portuguese
Pidgin... as the basis and model for pidgins of their own. English, French, and
Dutch Pidgins then ... appear to have been formed partly by direct adoption of
PgP elements, partly by replacement of others, and partly by new addition from
various sources". (p. 203).

The earlier English Pidgin, continues Cassidy, must have been used along the West
African coast as contact language which would afterwards "naturally be brought with
slaves to the New World" and become the source of the varieties collectively referred
to here as Black English.

Notice, first of all, the indirect and rather tenuous connection between the
supposed Afro-Portugese pidgin base and the Black English dialects: in order to make
at all plausible the argument for an Afro-Portuguese pidgin base, it has been found
necessary to derive the English Pidgin base of New World Black English from it after
all, the Portuguese did not have a formidable presence in most of the Black Eng-
lish-speaking colonies. Notice also, that in order to maintain the indirect Afro-Portu-
guese Pidgin connection with the Black English-speaking populations in the New
World, it has also been found necessary to suggest rather vaguely that the English
Pidgin derivative was "brought with" the captive Africans shipped to the New World.
What is meant by "brought with" is not explained. Cassidy is not the only linguist to
have expressed the idea of the West African slave coming to the New World with a
West African pidgin: Stewart also does in several studies, e.g. Stewart (1967) p. 24,
Stewart (mimeo) p. 33. We shall return to this idea below.
Probably the most clearly stated and perhaps also the most insistent claim for the
Afro-Portuguese Pidgin origin of New World Black language forms is that made in
Whinnom (1965):
"certain pidgins and creoles are relexifications of an advanced Portuguese pidgin;
others may be relexifications of a more primitive Portuguese pidgin which
originated as a relexification of Sabir or, possibly, directly of Sabir itself" (p.

One of Whinnom's reasons for taking this position is, as he himself states it: "If
Portuguese pidgin particles survive in a pidgin or creole, this must surely be regarded as
conclusive proof of Portuguese pidgin origin" (p. 520). Therefore, because we have in
the English-worded Sranan-Tongo the compound preposition na...de (ascribed to
Portuguese), Sranan-Tongo must have a Portuguese pidgin origin. We find this rather
unconvincing; throughout his study, Whinnom places great emphasis on three "verbal
markers" and on the preposition na .. .de: they seem to be all that decide whether or
not a language form is Portuguese-derived or not. It seems reasonable to ask: what is
the status of these elements in Whinnom's theory of language? In the absence of any
justification of his use of them as a classificatory criterion, it is difficult to understand
their significance or to accept the validity of his description of Sranan-Tongo (or any
other language form) as being a mere English relexification of a Portuguese pidgin

We may now return to Cassidy's thesis of the formation of a West African
English pidgin and to the commonly accepted view that this pidgin accompanied
African slaves into the New World. We may recall that Cassidy states that, after the
formation of an Afro-Portuguese pidgin, "other Europeans. .. used this Portuguese
pidgin.. .as the basis and model for pidgins of their own". The question arises: was
English pidgin a European creation which Africans simply had to imitate? This impli-

cation of Cassidy's statement is in keeping with Krapp's 1925 position that the
European deliberately pidginized his language for the African; the weaknesses of such
a position are so obvious that we do not consider it worth-while to go into them here.
We may also ask why these "other Europeans" would be interested in pidginizing their
own languages through the mediation of a Portuguese-derived language form when
they had the obvious choice of directly pidginizing their mother tongues in the contact
situation or of directly pidginizing their own mother tongues if pidginization was a
European prerogative. At the very beginning of the Afro-English contact, five Africans
accompanied the Englishman, William Towerson, back to England (in 1554) to train as
interpreters (Dalby: 1971, p. 115) suggesting that one feature of Afro-European
interaction was that the Africans sought to meet each European ethnolinguistic group
on its own ground. If this was so, under what pressure did the English have to
pidginize their language through an Afro-Portuguese pidgin intermediary? We cannot
rule out the possibility, however, that English traders on the West African coast
discovered quite early that the Afro-Portuguese pidgin was already known to many
African traders with whom they had to do business, and that it was in their own best
interest to learn and use it as a contact language in their interaction with Africans.
They then might have continued to use it with gradual English relexification until such
relexification was virtually complete. All this is, however, largely in the realm of
conjecture; and we cannot confirm or disprove it until someone has attempted a
comparison of the earliest West African Pidgin English texts with Portuguese or
Afro-Portuguese Pidgin.
The idea of a West African English pidgin being naturally "brought with slaves to
the New World" to form the base of New World Black English is also questionable. Of
course, if it went with the slaves as another commodity on the boat rather than as part
of their linguistic repertoire, that leaves the way clear for 'in situ' genesis of early
Black English in the Caribbean and American plantations. However, while Cassidy
leaves the meaning vague by using the phrase "brought with slaves", Stewart (1967)
states more clearly though quite cautiously: "It is likely that at least some Africans
already knew pidgin English when they came to the New World... ." (p. 24); just as
Dalby (1971) states of Afro-Portuguese pidgin: it "was already established around the
early Portuguese settlements on the African mainland and off-shore islands, and many
of the captives as well as the slave traders themselves must have been acquainted
with it" (p. 108).
Where, as in the present case, no direct evidence is available, linguists' suggestions
need at least to be realistic. With this in mind, we may ask two closely related
questions. Who spoke these contact languages? Apart from the traders, both Black and
White, very few others could have had any need for it; and all such people would
probably have been in coastal settlements or in an inland settlement like Bini which
was a great seat of power both close to the coast and easily accessible to coastal
traders. The next question is: Who were the captives? One cannot deny that, occasion-
ally, 'the Biter was bit'; but it is unlikely that the relatively few traders and inter-
preters would themselves often be the victim. Assuming the unlikely, that every in-
habitant of coastal towns spoke the new contact languages, if they were all swept off
into New World slavery, they might be numerous enough to form the nucleus of a

pidgin-English (or pidgin-Portuguese) speaking community in the New World. But
nobody is suggesting this; and it is unlikely, particularly when we remember that
people did not normally sell captives from their own immediate environment (see
Davidson: 1961, p. 22). Apart from those few areas where the savannah reaches the
coast, the coast-line was always (and, outside the national capitals and seaports, still
remains) sparsely populated. The slaves came from the larger population centers away
from the coast: these were hardly the areas where one would expect knowledge or the
use of a Portuguese or an English pidgin. Even today, in a large country like Nigeria,
pidgin English is very rarely encountered outside Lagos, Warri and parts of Eastern
Nigeria and, of course, Nigeria Police stations everywhere! About the mid-19th
century, the Rev. J.T. Bowen (a White American) went inland toward Abeokuta in
Nigeria only a short distance from the coast-line. His experiences are reported in the
Introduction to his 1858 Dictionary of Yoruba. The quarantine in which Bowen was
carefully placed outside the city gate and the chanting of children's songs about the
White Man being "an elderly baboon" ("oibo akiti agba" as Bowen reports) would
hardly lead us to speculate that this was a population so used to the white-man that it
had to acquire a linguistic medium to use in communication with him. All this is not
to deny that there were slaves who already knew pidgin-English before leaving West
Africa. There is evidence that some slaves already knew pidgin-English by the time
they entered the New World; but our contention here is that the number could hardly
have been sufficiently large to provide a viable nucleus for a Black-English-using popu-
lation in the New World.

The thesis of an Afro-Portuguese pidgin base for Early Black English is, therefore,
rather weak whether we see the Afro-Portuguese pidgin mediation as having taken
place in Africa, on the slave boats, or in the New World. But we should not ignore the
basic reason for positing this thesis. One important reason why Whinnom and others
support the thesis is that there are, to use Whinnom's words, "certain fundamental
similarities" to be found among the creoles of the New World; and there is also "an
impressive number of parallels and coincidences" between these creoles and the
Spanish Philippine contact vernaculars that Whinnom himself had earlier described.
Such similarities and parallels must be accounted for; and it seems reasonable to
assume as Taylor had earlier suggested that there must be "some origin [to them]
other than coincidence of compromise between the European and African languages"
(Whinnom: 1965, p. 516). The underlying assumption here, which Whinnom shares
with others like Stewart, is that the varieties of New World Black language are not
likely to have developed separately in the various localities in which Africans found
themselves in the New World; if indeed there had been such parallel development, "it
would be quite reasonable to expect the English of Negroes in different parts of the
New World to have shown varying degrees of approximation to the English of whites,
since local differences in such aspects of the culture-contact situation as the ratio of
Africans to Europeans would be likely to produce this variation" (Stewart: mimeo, p.

Perhaps someone should look at available records to study the correlation between
the Britishness of Early Black English speech in any community and the numbers of

white dwellers in the community. In the mean time, the absence of such study or of
relevant evidence cannot be taken as proof, that there was no such correlation. Even if
we make certain that all Blacks spoke the same way irrespective of the demographic
strength of White presence in the neighborhood, it would still be necessary to
remember that what is crucial in a learner's approximation of the speech of his model
is not so much the demographic factor (which could in any case be irrelevant) but the
accessibility of the model. In other words, if all New World Africans found their
European neighbors uniformly inaccessible, the degree of distance between Black
speech and White speech could still be similar from one neighborhood to another.
Critics of parallel linguistic development also seem to be ignoring two important
points. In the first place, the African in the New World- was not confined to one
settlement all his life; there is much evidence of slaves moving from one Caribbean
island to another or from the West Indies to North America. The migrating slave must
be seen as an agent of linguistic uniformation. Indeed the present-day distinctiveness
of Gullah may have been the result not only of late African occupation and of physical
isolation of the Sea Islands from the American mainland but also of the rather restric-
tive immigration policy of the authorities in 18th century South Carolina, Georgia and
Virginia (see Turner: 1949, pp. 1-5). Dillard noted recently that:

"In spite of the received opinion, there is abundant evidence that Gullah is not
and has never been limited to the Sea Islands" (Dillard: 1968, p. 125).
The fact that Gullah is still "widely spoken even in metropolitan South Carolina
today" may be explained, at least partly, by the operation of such immigration regula-
tions that kept out the linguistically uniformating influences of the linguistically accli-
matized West Indian or American slave.
The second point which critics of parallel linguistic development would do well
to note is that, given the relative linguistic uniformity of the slaves' earlier experiences
in West Africa, the deviation from White speech could be expected to form a cluster
within which the amount of variation is not likely to be very great even if there were
no uniformating agents. This possibility can be under-estimated; but anyone who is
familiar with the use of English all over present-day West Africa is not likely to dismiss
it lightly. For instance, West Africans very readily recognize one another in the United
States where the only useful mark distinguishing them (from Afro-Americans or even
East or South Africans) is not dress or skin color but their spoken English. Secondly,
even back in West Africa, there are common differences between the English of a West
African and British Standard English, these 'deviances' are found in the speech or
writing of Ghananians as much as they are found in the speech or writing of Nigerians
whatever their mother tongue background. The following expressions, for instance, are
likely to be encountered among West Africans drawn from a large variety of
mother-tongue groups:
a) "his own is heavy than mine"
b) "one old man like this" (i.e. 'a certain old man').
c) "they fought and cut themselves" (i.e. there was a fight between A and B; A cut
B and B cut A).

d) "John is my brother" (John is actually his cousin).

e) "When my sister came, he [i.e. the sister] said that 'don't cry again' (the
confusion between he and she is particularly common among people with no
more than high school education; but it may also be heard in the speech of a
highly educated speaker who happens to be off his guard).

Now, such 'deviances' are not actually transmitted from one person to another as they
can be found in the composition of school children even in communities where English
is hardly spoken outside the class-room and where children are therefore not likely to
have heard them from other people. They arise as instances of interference by the
various West African mother tongues in the West African's use of English. One can
confidently predict that research will show that hundreds of such 'errors' which thrive
in the use of English all over West Africa in spite of school teacher's efforts could
be established as instances of parallel linguistic development. We would suggest that a
similar thing could easily have occurred in the West Africans's effort to use English in a
New World situation where there were no school teachers to restrain his inventiveness.

It seems reasonable, therefore, to suggest that, while we certainly have to account
for the fundamental similarities and the "impressive number of parallels and coinci-
dences" among pidgins and creoles everywhere, a case for common derivation has not
been proven and the case for parallel development (at least in the New World) has not
been discredited and may still have to be re-investigated. A typological comparison of
all languages that have been involved in English-based pidginization seems necessary. If
it so happens that these languages share grammatical features that are characteristic of
pidgins (for instance, the general absence of morphological endings to mark certain
categories that are usually marked by suffixes in European languages), then the
similarities and parallels can be explained without recourse to the rather far-fetched
and little substantiated thesis of a Romance origin (Portuguese or Sabir) for all of

Meanwhile, let us consider another possible explanation of the origin of New World
Black English.


To say that New World Black English derives basically from the West African
languages involved in the Afro-European contact is to say that it is basically a
Niger-Congo language. In spite of the structural and, to a limited extent, lexical simi-
larities between certain varieties of Black English on the one hand and West African
languages on the other, no linguist working in this field has followed the example of
Sylvain's description of Haitian Creole as "une langue ewe a vocabulaire francais"
(Sylvain: 1936, p. 178) or of Migeod who in 1911 classified Sierra Leone creole as an
African language, to classify New World Black English as a Niger-Congo language. In
Alleyne: 1970 (p. 9), there is of course a strong suggestion that there is linguistic
continuity between Black English and West African languages in the same sense that

people speak of linguistic continuity between, say, German and Primitive Germanic
which are usually considered to be in a 'daughter'-'mother' relationship; says Alleyne:

"If we find African elements in Afro-American dialects, the conclusion is in-
escapable that they belong to the base of the historical process. If we find an
almost total absence of Indo-European morophology in Afro-American dialects,
but instead find that the morphosyntax can in many respects be shown to be
derived from the morphosyntax of West African languages, we can reasonably
conclude that there is morphosyntactical continuity from West African
languages to Afro-American dialects". (p. 9).

Although Alleyne proceeds to show structures in Afro-American dialects that have
"no historical models in Indo-European languages" whereas they are "quite charac-
teristic of West African languages"; and although he clearly says that such features
mark Afro-American English dialects as "very African creations" particularly because
the features are shared with other Black language forms that use vocabulary other than
English (e.g. Black French), he does not categorically say that Black English should be
genetically classified in the same family as West African languages. In fact, elsewhere -
in a paper written in 1969 and published in 1971 he clearly states that the genetic
classification of these language forms may be "unanswerable or irrelevant".

So many instances of the linguistic continuity of West Africa in the New World
have been noted that it is almost pointless describing them here.3 Many more instances
are going to be described as greater co-operation develops between creolists on the one
hand and scholars working in African linguistics and sociolinguistics on the other.
However, turning up further instances of the linguistic (and indeed cultural) con-
tinuity of Africa in America or the Caribbean will still not enable us to prove that
Afro-American and Afro-Caribbean language forms would be better classified in the
Niger-Congo family than in the Indo-European family unless we wish to falsify the
history of the derivation of these language forms. For, although we can certainly
demonstrate the continuous transmission of Niger-Congo morphosyntax in New World
Black English, so also can we demonstrate the continuous transmission of
Indo-European morphosyntax. Although few people would seriously doubt that New
World Black English is principally an African creation, there also can be no doubt that
its earliest users had to make the new speech form intelligible to interlocutors who had
nothing but a European language to use in the situation. The original form of Early
Black English would, no doubt, have been based largely on the linguistic and usage
patterns of the African mother tongues of its users and might, therefore, have been for
the European listeners little more than a barely intelligible form of an African
language. But 'Genesis' cannot be so narrowly interpreted that it includes only this
stage and no more; for if the emerging new language form had been stabilized at that
point, there might indeed have been a new speech variety within the Niger-Congo
family but there could never have been the new synthesized language forms that
actually became Black English by which much interpersonal communication was later
to be done as much within the diaspora African community as between members of
that community and the White population in the New World.

We suggested earlier in this paper that it was possible to consider New World Black
English as a systematic blending of African languages on the one hand and English on
the other. Stewart (mimeo), pp. 27-31, contains references to earlier views that tend to
agree with this explanation. For instance, Stewart (p. 28) cites Cronise and Ward, who
in 1903 described Sierra Leonean Creole as "a hopeless jumble of English and African
words", and J. Graham Cruickshank who in 1916 described creole English (with the
exception of Barbadian English) as a mixture of African languages and English in the
thorough study of which it was necessary to know well "the four or five main lan-
guages of West and Central Africa" (Stewart, p. 30). Stewart (in footnote 8) also refers
to G. Merrick who, in 1908-1909, ascribed the non-English characteristics of West
African pidgin English to "an effort to fit English words and ideas into a native
mould, to express native thoughts in English words".
It is significant that none of those who have shown active involvement in creolist
studies since the mid-1950's would commit himself to this type of explanation. This
cannot be because such an explanation of the genesis and nature of Black English
would be basically false; for it is known for certain that Early Black English arose of
the attempt of Africans to use English. Is it unpopular because it is simple? This can
hardly be the reason since it would seem better to accept a simple explanation if it
exhausts the known facts as thoroughly as a more complicated explanation. There are
probably three reasons for the unpopularity of any view that seeks to explain the
genesis of Black English in terms of an African as well as an English linguistic origin.
As we said above, there is a tendency as in the case of Hall: 1958, to look at pre-
sent-day data only; and the evidence of the present-day form of Black English over-
whelmingly supports affiliation with English. Implicit in this attitude is a second
reason, a usually unstated numerical principle to which Robert Hall gives expression in
his controversy with Douglas Taylor (see Hall: 1958); says Hall:
"... even though all languages are "mixed", some are, so to speak, more
"mixed" than others... in theory, a language might conceivably combine
elements from two or more sources so that they were perfectly evenly balanced,
and so that they would be, therefore, unclassifiable according to our cus-
tomary assumption [Le. of genetic relationship]. Yet, my contention is that,
in practice, such a condition of perfect balance is never found... My conten-
tion is furthermore that the proportion of French structure in Creole is both
greater and more fundamental than that of African structure. .. (p. 370).
A third reason is that, in genetic classification there is a tendency (though not
necessarily, a rule) to see as essentially 1-to-I the relationship 'Daughter Language to
Mother (or Parent) Language'; while a Parent Language has two or more Daughter
Languages, a Daughter Language tends to have only one parent. In this way, genetic
classification has tended to overstress its classificatory aspect at the expense of genetic
explanation. Indeed, the frantic effort to prove a single linguistic (Portuguese Pidgin or
West African English Pidgin) and a single territorial source of New World Black
Language forms probably owe something to this rigid 1 daughter-to 1 parent concept
of genetic classification.

There are probably more reasons, unknown to us, that can explain the unpopularity
of an Afro-European genesis of Black English. As for the three reasons suggested here,
we can safely say that they are too weak to stand in the way of a bigenetic (or possibly
polygenetic) explanation of New World Black English. There is nothing in the genetic
linguistic concept that obligatorily requires the contemporaneity of data or the
numerical principle, or, for that matter, the 'One Daughter to One Mother' rela-
tionship. It is of course, true that there are many languages for which we have no
choice but to rely on present-day data; similarly it may be true that for most estab-
lished languages studied, the 'One Daughter to One Mother' relationship prevails. But
we should not allow what is common to become the rule just because it is common. As
things stand at the present time, however, the practice of genetic classification seems
to preclude the ascription of Black English to more than one genetic family.

As we have attempted to show elsewhere in this paper, Black English and similarly
derived language forms are hybrids produced in a situation in which African languages
might have contributed more than any European language at the very beginning until
the hybrid acquired a mother-tongue population in American and Caribbean
plantations. Even long after the stage here described as "the very beginning", new
African immigrants in the African towns and settlements around the plantations must
have continued to reinforce the African element in Black English. It is unrealistic to
think that the African slave gave up his African mother tongue simply because nobody
else in his plantation settlement spoke it: human beings do use their language even
when there is nobody to whom they can speak it: they think in it, they sing in it, they
exclaim and curse in it and do it and do many other things with it that linguists do not
care to study. Cruickshank's account (quoted in Stewart: mimeo, pp. 47-48) reports of
an African slave, Jane, who for a considerable period had nobody to whom she could
speak her African mother tongue. One day her master called in an African who was
passing by to see whether Jane would speak to him; Jane and the man "had a long
pow-wow" in their African language. When Jane was asked if she talked, her reply was:

"Aow! No me country!"

which Cruickshank translates as: 'Certainly! He was a fellow tribesman!" Cruickshank,
of course, indicates their ethnic affiliation they were both Yoruba: but even if he
does not, it would still have been possible to know because the exclamation is un-
adulterated Yoruba and the sentence itself is a relexification of Yoruba and could
better be translated as: 'Surprised? Of course, we were born into the same mother
tongue group!' The problem confronting the historian of New World Creoles and
post-creoles today is that he does not have access to information on the ethnolinguistic
background of speakers of earlier forms of Black English as Cruickshank has; and, in
almost all cases, he is ignorant of the West African languages that constituted the
mother tongue of Africans who participated in the genesis of New World Black
English. Such ignorance increases his options as he attempts to make a genetic explana-
tion; for instance, in explaining Miss Jane's reply quoted above, he is free to say that
both Jane's exclamation and the sentence are instances of inaccurate imitation of
White English and his explanation remains a possibility as long as we do not know

specifically the history of the development of bilingualism in Miss Jane. There are still
people in the New World who used West African languages when they were young and
continue to use them today in songs, exclamations, etc.4

But just as these African elements have been there from the beginning, so also have
the English elements which no linguist would doubt today. All that has changed is the
balance between the Africanisms and the Anglicisms in these language varieties. Any
concept of 'genesis' that fails to reflect these facts is seriously inadequate.

The conclusion we draw from the above discussion is that, given the present level of
study in the genesis of New World Black Language forms, it seems rather premature to
attempt more than a tentative genetic classification of New World Black Language
forms. Even if we were to consider existing genetic explanations of these forms as no
more than tentative (and there is nothing tentative in explanations offered in Hall
(1958), Weinreich (1958), Whinnom (1965), it seems that most of these explanations
have ended up on the wrong conclusions. It is wrong to conclude that New World
Black Language forms are Indo-European (Germanic or Romance) and it is wrong to
say that they are Niger-Congo the present-day distance between them and
Niger-Congo languages should convince us that genetic classification of New World
Black Language as Niger-Congo is simply ridiculous.

We would, however, not agree with Alleyne that the question of genetic classifica-
tion of New Black Language forms is either unanswerable or irrelevant. Perhaps Dell
Hymes is right by suggesting that we should aim more at clarity of explanation than at
genetic classification as an end; this of course does not mean that we should
"downgrade" genetic classification as Hymes suggests, for as much as it is no less a
legitimate field of interest than any other aspect of language study, perhaps all we
need to do is admit the tentative nature of our classification and go on improving on
them as more and more studies become available. After all, Black English and other
language forms derived by a similar process constitute a special case and offer a unique
opportunity to test the genetic principle in language classification. Therefore, instead
of forcing these unique language forms into the mould of existing theory and thereby
prejudging issues that need careful study, linguists should keep an open mind and hold
themselves ready to learn from such new language forms. They should also be prepared
to make a free trial of unconventional methods in their study of the genetic affiliation
of a language.

One such method would be to attempt a historical ethnography of New World
Black Language. The original diaspora Africans in the New World must have continued
to use language in the ways they knew back home in West Africa. That is, even if the
slave masters had had language clinics or quarantines in which the New World African
was treated to massive doses of a European language before being let loose on the West
Indian and American plantations, the African could hardly have been using his new
language in a European way even if all of his grammar, his phonology and his lexis

had been completely European, his semantics (in the deepest sense) must have
remained African for a long time. That aspects of semantics so remained can be seen
today in basilectal forms of New World Black English. A historical study of the
ethnography of New World Black English should enable us to understand why the
Black West Indian and the Black American share certain meaning patterns with West
Africans and not with European-derived neighbors with whom the New World Black
population has lived for centuries: it will probably also turn up data that may enable
us to see that some of the meaning patterns shared with the White population have not
necessarily been diffused from White to Black but were probably shared by both right
from the beginning of Afro-European contact. One other thing that a historical ethno-
graphy of New World Black English should be able to do is to help us explain why
West Africans in, say, a London setting feel so much more similarity between their use
of English and the West Indian's use of English than they ever feel between the
Englishman's use of English and their own. Take, for instance, the 'belly-ful' of
laughter accompanying West Indian English speech, the various kinesic features, the
constant reference to "what old people at home call' . .X', the way .. .X' turns out
to be a relexification of a well known African proverb or idiom, etc. Obviously, there
must be more to language than mere structural patterns: Hymes' concept of communi-
cative competence would probably enable us to see that the West Indian and the West
African belong (at least remotely) to the same speech community in a way that the
West African and the Englishman do not. Even if genetic classification is not primarily
about such things and by whose decree are they excluded? a reasonably full
description of what is known about them is bound to illuminate the field of the
genetic study of language and produce arguments that reflect the facts of history and,
to use Alleyne's phrase, "the cultural matrix" of the process by which Black Language
forms were derived.

Another unconventional method that the historian of Black Language forms may
try is the use of a Semantic Grammar approach to the history of Black language.
Existing studies are largely based on the structuralist approach to language; and this
only helps to close the issues even before they are clearly examined. It has to be
remembered that the Second Language learning situation in which Black English (or
New World Black Language in general) developed was an extremely informal one. It
was not a situation in which a teacher taught linguistic structures and insisted on a
certain notion of correctness. The situation in which the New World African learned
his Second Language and developed Early Black English must have been quite similar
to the kind of situation one often encounters today in the informal learning of a
language in many parts of West Africa. The learner has formed a meaning which he
intends to express and he asks anyone who already knows his target language: how do
you say such-and-such in this language? In other words, in such a situation, the
formation of meaning clearly precedes linguistic expression. If this is in any way valid,
a historical linguistic technique that could well reflect such a language learning process
would be one that asks how was such-and-such meaning pattern expressed in Early
Black English? The answer to that would be more revealing or more representative of
facts than the approach that seeks to find out what words and what grammatical forms
are found in Black English. A Semantic Grammar of Black English would then need to

be compared with a similar one done for English or many done for Niger-Congo
However, even if linguists reject these unconventional techniques and insist on
continuing with the old game in which cognates were more relevant than the human
community that used them, there is no reason to continue with the old tendency to a
"one-daughter-to-one-mother" classification. It is reasonable to expect that West
African languages participated more in the building of Early Black English: the original
users of Early Black English must have been in many ways unintelligible to native
English listeners. But there is also no doubt that between Early Black English and
present-day Black English has greatly altered its affiliation and become more identified
with the English of white people than with African languages. However, the genetic
principle as at present conceived appears to be incapable of reflecting these facts: by
requiring that one daughter belong to just one mother, the genetic principle in
language study seems to have forced the various scholars referred to in this study to
disagreement. The concept of genesis in linguistic classification will have to be
modified in a way that reflects the possibility of change in genetic identification of a
language. If it is to serve the facts of the history of language and not simply become a
moulder into which we pour historical facts only to have them distorted, the genetic
concept should become sufficiently elastic to enable us to say: Black English of a
particular period was genetically more Niger-Congo and less Germanic, and that at a
later period it became progressively more Germanic and less Niger-Congo; at a much
later stage still, this affiliation could change as, for instance, in recreolization or total
decreolization. At all times, our concept of 'genesis' must permit us to make state-
ments of classifications that reflect the facts.



1. Admittedly, this is a loose term in the sense that it does not take into consideration the
distinction usually made between pre-Creole (Pidgin) and Creole in the development of these
language forms. However, since such a distinction is not crucial to the question of genetic
classification of the language forms concerned, the term "Early Black English" will serve.
2. See, for instance, Taylor: 1960, 1961, 1963, 1971, Thompson: 1961, Stewart: 1962, Whinnom:
3. See, for instance, Turner: 1949, Cassidy and Le Page: 1967, Morgan: 1970
4. See Warner: 1971.


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- 'Acculturation and the Cultural Matrix of Creolization', in Hymes (ed.): 1971,
169-186. 1971.
BURLING, Robins English in Black and White, N.Y.: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
CASSIDY, Frederick G. 'Tracing the Pidgin Element in Jamaican Creole', in Hymes
(ed.): 1971, 203-221, 1971.
CASSIDY, F. G. and R. B. LE PAGE Dictionary of Jamaican English Cambridge:
University Press. 1967.
DALBY, David 'Black Through White: Patterns of Communication in Africa and the
New World', in Walt Wolfram and Nona H. Clarke (eds.) Black-White Speech Relations,
Washington, D.C.: CAL. 1971.
DAVIDSON, Basil The African Slave Trade (formerly Black Mother) Boston: Little,
Brown & Co. 1961.
DILLARD, J.L. 'Non-Standard Negro Dialects: Convergence or Divergence?', Florida
FL Reporter, Vol. 6, No. 2. 1968.
-Black English, Its History and Usage in the United States, N.Y.: Vintage Books.
FASOLD, Ralph W. 'Decreolization and Autonomous Language Change', The Florida
FL Reporter, Spring/Fall issue. 1972.
HALL, Robert A. 'Creolized Languages and Genetic Relationship', Word 14, 367-373.
HYMES, Dell (ed.) Pidginization and Creolization Languages, Cambridge: University
Press. 1971.
MORGAN, Raleigh 'African Linguistic Features in Creolized Languages', CLA Journal,
Vol. XIV, No. 1, 42-56. 1970.

STEWART, Willian A. 'Creole Languages in the Caribbean', in Frank A. Rice (ed.):
Study of the Role of Second Languages in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, Washing-
ton D.C.: CAL. 1962.
'Sociolinguistic Factors in the History of American Negro Dialects', The Florida
FL Reporter, Spring issue. 1967.
- 'Acculturative Processes and the Language of the American Negro'; mimeo-
SYLVAIN, Suzanne Le creole haitien: morphologie et syntaxe: Wetteren et
Port-au-Prince. 1936.
TAYLOR, Douglas 'Language shift or changing relationship?' UAL, XXVI, 111-161.

--'New Languages for old in the West Indies Comparative Studies in Society and
History, III, 277-288. 1961.
'The Origin of West Indian Creole Languages: Evidence from Grammatical
Categories' American Anthropologist, Vol. 65, No. 4, 800-814. 1963.
-'Grammatical and Lexical Affinities of Creoles', in Hymes (ed.): 1971, 293-296.
THOMPSON, R. W. 'A Note on some possible affinities between the creole dialects of
the Old World and those of the New', in R.B. Le Page (ed.): Creole Language Studies,
II, 107-113. 1961
TURNER, Lorenzo D. Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect, University of Chicago Press.
WARNER, Maureen 'Trinidad Yoruba Notes on Survivals' Caribbean Quarterly, VoL
17, No. 2, 4049. 1971.
WEINREICH, Uriel 'On the compatibility of genetic relationship and convergent
development', Word, 14, 374-379. 1958.
WHINNOM, Keith 'The Origin of the European-based Creoles and Pidgins' Orbis, 14,
509-527. 1965.
WILLIAMSON, Juanita V. 'Selected Features of Speech: Black and White', CLA Jour-
nal, XIII, 420-433. 1970.


My Grandmother had a log in her yard. Not any little kemps of wood you know; a
big, long log in her back-yard. And from I know myself she always rest her wash-pan
on it to wash clothes.
One Monday, just after the school bell ring in the distance and you know that
children get recess-time, I stay in the house where I was sewing and hear my Grand-
mother give out one scream; one bad bad scream like she see duppy. I fly outside and
see the old lady with her two hands on her cotta and her eyes pulp out like she dead;
and when I follow her eyes I see that the wash-pan pitch over and all the clothes on
the ground and the scrubbing-board fling to one side and the big, long, old log as old as
my time easing itself in a snake walk along an invisible line through the dry ackee
leaves and the leaves making a shrr shrr as the slow movement touched them.
One end of the log was little higher than the rest and curved ever so slightly. How
come we never noticed that curve all the time? How come we never notice it was a
snake before? I could only clap my hand over my mouth and I know for sure my eyes
pulp out too. Then I ran outside and called everybody out the road.
What kind of bad-minded snake that, that could sit down for all these years fool
people that it is log; make us wash on it, talk round it, invite we friends to sit down on
it, take it make prekkeh in every kind of way, then after all this time, decide to make a
move? Mind you, is true the snake didn't threaten anybody; is true nobody even try to
find out if is a poison snake; and it didn't run, it only moved, v-e-r-y slowly.
Somebody had the presence of mind in all the general confusion, to run to the
police station and phone the zoo and after a while the zoo people came with their kind
of ambulance. You should see the crowd by the time they come! Next thing I know
the snake was in a coil shape like an over-sized rope and I couldn't see over the tall
men's head how they get the poor unresisting thing into their vehicle.
The snake had moved, and everybody vex. Long after the ambulance gone, people
telling the story with vexation to anybody who didn't pass at the first scream or two.
Such a commotion and for so long the poor ackee tree must be wonder what happen;
must wonder if they upside-down the world ....
A man was seen walking down the street with the head of his wife dripping
blood on his khaki pants. The head was tucked firmly under his arm. Huge tears
rolled from the creased-up comers of his eyes and he wailed loud and deep all
the time looking with reproach at the hapless head:
"Look what you mek me do! Look what you mek me do".



(For June)

While I wait for
a word; ridden
with heat,
written with simplicity
of salt drenched
an incoming winter
inelegantly scrawls
the sun's obituary
the headlines blotted grey.

It is here I see and
feel the passage of time,
marked visibly in the
change of seasons.
Like so many fingers
dotting a now
dampened earth,
each tree unburdened
of its foliage stands.

There is so much silence,
so much space that
the eye's awakening
aborts quickly
trying to forget
this new land away
from the timeless chant
of sea washed shores.

The air cool, clean
as aftershave braces
yet it has no passion
only a threat of precise
violence and an
ability to kill thoroughly.
Black blemishes
this cold purity,
it's heat thaws
each white flesh
of nerve, it promises
to infect the uninitiated


The Canadian winter creeps
thwarted by "Indian Summer"
"it's pretty late they say"
held at bay this year
by black magic
sixteen stories high.

But my obeah is weakening
my rites and curses
abandoned in a Post Office strike
and the winter like age
keeps coming back.



Frontier Adaptations in Lower Central America. Edited by Mary W. Helms and
Franklin O. Loveland. Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1976.
Exiled from St. Vincent. The Development of Black Carib Culture in Central America
up to 1945. By CJ.M.R. Gullick. Malta: Progress Press 1976.
Mary Helms and Franklin Loveland have edited a collection of articles (nine)
dealing with the Caribbean fringe of Central America. The authors contribute a Fore-
word and Afterword which are perhaps the strongest contributions in the collection.
The nine articles are divided into three sections dealing with Pre-Columbian, Black and
Anglo, and economic themes. Each article is preceded by an "overview" by the
authors which places the more specialized research in a larger context. These overviews
are excellent and are the backbone of the book for they provide a realistic analysis of
the situation in the Central American coastal regions and attempt to integrate the
articles into the larger picture.
The nine articles themselves are extremely diverse showing the wide divisions within
cultural research. Several are so particularized as to be of interest only to the specialist.
Others use language more appropriate for a presentation to a learned society than for
a collection aimed at stimulating interest in the area. This is a collection of essays that
were presented at the annual meeting of the Southern Anthropological Society in
April, 1974. They could have been more adapted for this collection.
Of particular interest to Caribbean readers are the articles which deal with the
"Black Populations and the Anglo-Frontier." Much of the Caribbean coastal areas of
Central America have had extensive contacts with the English speaking Caribbean and
the two articles in this section help us to understand "Caribbean" influence in Central
Dr. Wm. Davidson, a cultural geographer from Louisiana State University has con-
tributed an excellent analysis of "habitat" influences on Black Carib (Garifuna) settle-
ments on the Central American coast. It is a fresh approach to understanding Garifuna
culture and helps the scholar understand the cultural complex which has allowed this
group to maintain its cultural identity over a long period of time. Regretfully it is too
short and this reviewer certainly hopes that Dr. Davidson will expand his work. The
second article on the Black-Anglo theme was contributed by Dr. Sheila Cosminsky of
Rutgers University. Hers is an analysis of ethnic relations between two "black" groups,
the Creole and the Black Carib (Garifuna) in Punta Gorda Town, Belize. This is a
touchy subject. Many people do not want to talk about ethnic-racial tensions so Dr.
Cosminsky should be commended for her attempts to discuss the subject objectively.
However, several Garifuna friends from Punta Gorda who read the article did not feel

that it was objective and failed to show a basic understanding of Garifuna culture. This
reviewer has made Belize his home for eight years and while only a visitor to Punta
Gorda tends to agree that Dr. Cosminsky's view of the Punta Gorda Garifuna cultural
complex is too simplified a presentation.
The book has much information on the Central American Caribbean coastlands and
could help to stir interest in this region that researchers have often neglected. It will
probably appeal more to specialists interested in one of the subjects covered than to a
wider audience.
Another book dealing with Central America that will be of particular interest to
readers of this journal is Dr. Gullick's work on the history of the development of the
Garifuna (Central American Black Caribs) up to 1945.
This is a meticulous study of Black Carib or Garifuna culture in Central America
showing many of the aspects of Island Carib (St. Vincent) culture that have persisted.
Dr. Gullick's first hand knowledge of St. Vincent Carib culture has made this possible;
indeed, he may be the only scholar actively working today who is able to interpret
Central American Garifuna culture in the light of its Island Carib roots. From this
angle alone the work is an important contribution in understanding one of the cultural
bridges that exists between the Commonwealth Caribbean and the Central American
An exceptionally strong point in Dr. Gullick's book is his use of the historical
events occurring in Central America to help us understand the Central American
developments in Garifuna culture. These external influences are carefully documented
in the footnotes and clearly explained in the text.
Scholars and students interested in Garifuna culture will find this book invaluable;
it will also be useful in more general studies of Caribbean influences in Central
America. It is an excellent model for thorough ethnohistorical research. The use of
kinship symbols may cause the average reader to find the book slightly laboured at a
few points but overall the book remains eminently readable without sacrificing
scholarship. Dr. Gullick has made a valuable contribution in the field of ethnohistory.


Kingston, Jamaica: Urban Growth and Social Change, 1692-1962. By Colin G. Clarke.
XI and 270 pp.; maps, diagrs., ills., bibliogr., index. AGS Research Series Number 27
University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London 1975. US$25.75 11 4 x
8 inches
Colin Clarke clearly shares Harvey's view that, "the only adequate framework for
understanding the city is one which encompasses and builds upon both the sociological
and the geographical imaginations." (D. Harvey, Social Justice and the City, Edward
Arnold, London, 1973, p. 27). In his book, Kingston, Jamaica, Dr. Clarke attempts to
analyse social structure and social change in this Caribbean city and to relate these to
its evolving spatial structure since its foundation in 1692.

The early chapters, which deal with the development of Kingston's social and urban
systems during the slavery and post-emancipation periods, are largely based on
published histories and other standard works on Jamaica and the West Indies. It is
worth noting that some of Clarke's observations on racial distribution patterns in early
Kingston are not supported by the recent study made by Wilma Bailey (W. Bailey, A
Colonial City: Kingston, 1692-1843, Ph.D. thesis, Department of Geography, Uni-
versity of the West Indies, 1975), Bailey also casts doubt on the validity here of the
plural and pre-industrial models which Clarke uses.
There are, of course, serious difficulties when a scholar tries to understand a com-
plex society with which he has relatively little contact. (Clarke spent about a year in
Jamaica in all). The author's metropolitan white view point is indicated early in the
preface where he describes Kingston's population as a heterogeneous one comprising,
"persons of European, Jewish, Syrian, African, Chinese, Indian and mixed descent (p.
ix). This certainly fails to convey the true character of Kingston's population which is
overwhelmingly African, and in which the European and Asian elements form very
small though powerful minorities. It is not until much later that the reader is informed
that in 1960 nearly three-quarters of Kingston's inhabitants were, "Negro described
as African" (p. 109). As table 28 (p. 152) shows, most of those not classed as African
were partly African descent;

Despite the early mention of slave rebellions and later references what are described
as, "Negro racist organizations" (p. 87), the overall impression of Kingston's Black
majority as conveyed by Clarke is one of general passivity and acceptance of the status
quo. The low self-image of the Black Jamaican which Clarke describes in his chapter
on the period 1820-1938 was by no means as predominant as he implies. It would have
been pertinent to comment here on the remarkable resilience of the Black population
after centuries of subjugation. Marcus Garvey (1887-1940) is an outstanding
illustration of this, and it is misleading to suggest that the important movement which
he founded and the lesser one led by Alexander Bedward were symptomatic of dis-
affection among only "a small group of Negroes within the population." (p. 52).

The most useful part of the book is undoubtedly that which deals with the last two
decades of Jamaica's colonial period, particularly the detailed spatial analysis of census
data. The incidence of unemployment, poverty, overcrowding, high rents and diseases,
especially among the Black population, as the end of the colonial period and the
emergence of the socially segregated areas of modem Kingston are clearly presented.
Particularly interesting are the correlations between the spatial and socio-economic
distributions of different types of family structure, religious affiliation, education
and language (standard English or Jamaica patois). The spatial distributions of the
various data examined are carefully mapped, and much of the value of the book
lies in its wealth of figures and tables which are grouped together at the end.
The standard of cartography is high, but some maps attempt to show too much detail
and fail to illustrate the salient features of distributions as clearly as they might.
On social and political matters Clarke does not always appear to be on firm ground,
and unsupported statements weaken the discussion. For example, no evidence is given

for the existence of a growing revolutionary life leftist element which, we are told,
linked the Ras Tafari cult with Castro's Cuba in 1961 (p. 123).
The book is generally well produced, although the plates are not of high quality,
and there are some errors or misprints part of a sentence omitted (p. 36), Wolmer's
misspelled (pp. 53 and 64), Figures 8 and 9 wrongly numbered. It is worth noting, too,
that the university campus occupies lands formerly part of not one but two sugar
estates, Mona and Papine, and that ruins of both survive. (p. 90).
In his concluding section Dr. Clarke accurately sums up the way in which
Kingston's Black majority is oppressed by a system which is dominated by a coalition
of upper and median social groups who control the two political parties, the trade
unions, the police and the armed forces, and manipulate the labour and housing
markets. More specifically he observes that, "the upper stratum operates behind the
scenes and controls the economy." (p. 139). All of this finds support in the results of
recent research by social scientists at the University of the West Indies. (Carl Stone and
Aggrey Brown, editors, Essays on Power and Change in Jamaica, Department of
Government, U.W.I., and Extra-Mural Centre, U.W.I., Kingston, 1976).
Dr. Clarke's book is a useful although sometimes misleading contribution to our
understanding of a dynamic Third World city. Hopefully, it will acquire greater im-
portance by stimulating interdisciplinary study of Caribbean cities by scholars who live
and work in the region.


The Poetry of Nicolas Guillin: An Introduction by Dennis Sardinha. New Beacon
Books Ltd. 1976. pp. 80, H.P. 2.50, P.B. 1.00.
It is now commonplace to say that one of the basic problems we face in the
Caribbean is the language barrier between English, French, Spanish and Dutch
speaking communities. And yet it is such a real and frustrating reality that we dare not
pass it over lightly. The dangers of the ignorance, animosity, complexes and prejudices
that are engendered by this lack of communication and this absence of a regular
exchange of ideas and experience are enough to impose on those who have overcome
the language problem, a responsibility to attempt to put an end to the tragic and
unproductive division bequeathed to us by European colonizers.
One such contribution is made by Dennis Sardinha in his booklet on Nicolas
Guillen. Sardinha has very clearly indicated that this booklet is intended to serve as an
introduction to the poetry of Guillen and his entire approach to the work of the
distinguished Cuban poet is consistent with that objective. It is a work that is written
to inform not only the average literate layman who knows no Spanish but also the
average Caribbean teacher who has to talk to school children about the Caribbean
experience, about Cuba and her neighbours, about the experience of Negroes in the
region and about the problems of underdevelopment, exploitation, injustice and
human suffering in the context of Caribbean history.

In fact, it is, also, and perhaps even primarily, a work addressed to Caribbean
writers those who have stayed at home and those who have been living abroad. It
presents to West Indian writers in English the case of a Caribbean writer of inter-
national standing who has stayed at home, and has produced nineteen (19) volumes of
good poetry in his homeland. This case has become noteworthy because many Latin
American writers and particularly the Spanish speaking writers of South America and
the Caribbean have tended to feel that they have to live in Europe in order to gain
recognition and perhaps even find inspiration to produce works of respectable quality.
The tendency for Spanish-speaking writers from this region to settle in Paris parallels
the inclination of many West Indian writers to settle in Great Britain. It is interesting
therefore, that Sardinha's first audience for his lecture on Guillen was the Caribbean
Artists Movement in London. By first delivering that lecture in London and then
publishing this booklet subsequently, Sardinha has widened the gateway for further
efforts in breaking the language barrier between English-speaking and Spanish-speaking
writers in the region, he has also exposed the similarity of concerns and approaches
between Spanish Caribbean writers and our own West Indian writers. He has opened
up scope for others to look critically at similarities and connections between Alejo
Carpentier of Cuba, Wilson Harris of Guyana, Gabriel Garcia Marquez of Colombia and
Miguel Angel Asturias of Guatemala or between Guillen of Cuba and Brathwaite of
Barbados, to name just a few.
Sardinha has traced the major phases of the development of Guillen's vision of the
Caribbean and the entire region and has shown how the poet has evolved in close
relation to his own country's social, cultural and political realities, by remaining in-
timately attuned to the agonies and the joys of his people.
Sardinha's book has a pleasant, simple narrative style. The author makes no pre-
tentions to being analytical or polemical in his approach or highly literary and
specialized in jargon. The work is largely descriptive and informative, perhaps even
anecdotic in parts, but the selections from Guillen's poetry are appropriate and repre-
sentative and the accompanying translations are well done.
It is a useful handbook for readers in the English-speaking Caribbean who as yet
have not been introduced to Cuba's most distinguished Revolutionary poet.


The Guiana Maroons (A Historical and Bibliographical Introduction) by Richard
Price, published by the Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976. Pp 184 Price: US$18.50.

Sociology of Education (A Caribbean Reader) ed. Peter M.E. Figueroa & Ganga
Persaud Published by Oxford University Press, 1976. Pp 284 Price: UK2.50.

The Cruise Missile: Bargaining Chip or Defence Bargain? ed. Robert L. Pfaltzgraff,
Jr. and Jacquelyn K. Davis, Published by Institute of Foreign Policy Analysis, Inc. 1977
Pp 53.
The Colonial Encounter (A Reading of Six Novels) ed. M.M. Mahood Published by
Rex Collings Ltd. Pp 100 Price UK4.75.
Distinction Death and Disgrace by William Laws Published by the Jamaican Historical
Society, 1977 Pp 100 Price J$2.00 US$3.00.

Health Economics in Developing Countries by Alan L. Sorkin Published by Lexington
Books 1977 Pp 200.
G.P. Chapman: A New Development in the Agronomy of Pimento............. J75c
M.G. Smith, F.R. Augier, R.M. Nettleford: Report on the Rastafari
Movement in Kingston, Jamaica. ............................. J$2.50
R.M. Nettleford: Trade Union and Industrial Relations Terms............. J$1.60
Carlyle Dunkley: Collective Bargaining .......... ................... J$1.60
Joseph Ragbansee: Civil Service Association in the Commonwealth Caribbean.. J$1.50
John Hearne, Rex Nettleford: Our Heritage. .................. ........ J$1.00
Howard Fergus: History of Alliouagana: A Short History of Montserrat ...... J$2.00
Earl G. Long: The Serpent's Tale: Reptiles and Amphibians of St. Lucia...... J$2.00
Robert Lee: Vocation and Other Poems .............................. J$1.50
Tim Tim Tales from Grenada ................................... J$1.50
3) George Cumper: Looking at Figures ............................... J$1.00
4) Agricultural Research in Jamaica (Five papers from Seminar in 1965)...... J75c
The revised Catalogue and Plays and advice on Royalty fees are available on application
Extra-Mural Department, Extra-Mural Department,
University of the West Indies, University of the West Indies,
113 Fredrick Street, P.O. Box 42,
Port-of-Spain, TRINIDAD, W.I. Mona, Kingston 7, JAMAICA, W.I.

RADIO BROADCAST SCRIPTS: Scripts of broadcast programmes are available from
the Radio Education Unit of the Department ...................... JO1c each.

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