Nos= 1 F
VOLUME 41, Nos. 3 & 4 SEPT. /DEC. 1995
QUART ER. LDY
Marryshow House -A Living Legacy 1
The Independencia Efimera of 1821 and the Haitian Invasion of
Santo Domingo 1822: A Case of Pre-emptive Independence 15
The Unsung Slaves: Islam in the Plantation Society 30
The United States and the 1909 Nicaragua Revolution 45
Revolution, Reformism, and the Failure of Insurrection:
Political Change and the Venezuelan Experience 64
John D. Martz
Frontiers Within and Without-The Case of Belize 78
French Guiana Introduced to Paris in Creole 110 Years Ago 85
C.L.R.James on Cricket as Art 92
The Twin Processes of Racialization and Ethnification among
Afro-Trinidadian Immigrants in Los Angeles 99
BOOK REVIEWS 123
Notes on Contributors 150
Information for Contributors 151
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIIES
The lion. R.M.Nettleford, O.M.., Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor of
Continuing Studies, Mona. Editor)
G.M. Richards, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Principal, St. Augustine, Trinidad
Roy Augier, Professor of History, Mona, Jamaica
Sir Keith llunte, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Principal, Cave Hill.
Neville McNorris, Department of Physics, Mona
Veronica Salter, School of Continuing Studies, Mona (Managing Editor)
All correspondence and contributions should be addressed to:
School of Continuing 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 and book reviews of
relevance to the Caribbean will be gratefully received. Authors should refer to tile
guidelines at the end of this issue. Articles submitted are not returned. Contributors are
asked not to send intemational postal coupons for this purpose.
Jamaica J$150.00 (1993) J$200.00 (1994)
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Exchanges are conducted by the Gifts and Exchanges Section, Library University of the
West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
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Information for back volumes supplied on request. Caribbean Quarterly
is available on microfilm from Xerox University Microfilms and in book form from
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Abstract and Index
1949-90 Author, Keyword and Subject Index now available.
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Subscription orders may be forwarded to the Editor or the Resident
Tutor at the University Centre in any West Indian Territory served by this Univer
This double issue of Caribbean Quarterly contains nine articles, seven of
which are historical in context and all from different regions of the Caribbean. That
the writing of West Indian history offers challenge to scholars to continually refine,
re-define and re-assess augurs well for our greater understanding of the region and
serves to forge links between all the territories making up the Caribbean. Links that
defy language barriers that once kept us isolated from each other. Links that are
necessary in this world-age of global trading partners and massive blocs.
The first article "The Independence Efirma of 1821, and the Haitian Invasion
of Santo Domingo 1822", by Patrick Bryan, studies documents that examine the
relationship that existed between Haiti and Santo Domingo leading up to the
occupation of Santo Domingo by Haiti. The occupation lasted for twenty-two years
and certainly "set the stage for the antagonism between the two countries, which
has implications for the current relationship between Haiti and the Dominican
Republic. Two other articles examine insurrection. Benjeman Harrison's article,
"The United States and the 1909 Nicaragua Revolution", discusses the key role
played by the United States in driving Jose Santos Zelaya, (a fierce nationalist
determined to supplant the United States influence from Central America), from
power. In the words of Roosevelt's Secretary of State, Elihu Root, it was necessary
to "clip Zelaya's wings". According to John Martz, in his article, "Revolution,
Reformism and the Failure of Insurrection: Political Change and the
Venezuelan Experience", insurrection and armed opposition to government is a
significant phenomenon in the contemporary world, including the Caribbean Basin.
He argues that the leftist insurgency in the early 1960's in Venezuela constituted
the most serious threat to elected government during the past third of a century in
the region. He argues that the interaction of revolutionary and reformist forces in
Venezuela provide a useful basis for broader understanding of the nature and
character of roads to power in Latin-America and the Caribbean Basin. Twenty
years later Belize became an independent state, Joseph Palacio, an anthropologist
examines the implications for his country in his paper, "Barriers Within and
Without The Case of Belize". He refers to political, geographical and cultural
parameters as they exist both within Belize itself and in relationship to neighboring
Two historical papers examine socio-cultural issues. Sultana Afroz in her paper,
"The Unsung Slaves:The Status of Islam in Plantation Jamaica", focuses on
"the brutal and systematic suppression of Islam", the majority religion of the
African slaves, arguing that it was perhaps an attempt to put in place a subservient
Black Christian community. Alix Emera, in his article, "French Guiiana introduced
to Paris in Creole 110 Years ago", writes about the publication of a novel from
French Guiana- Atipa, written by Alfred Parepou, which was published in Paris
during the nineteenth century without translation. This novel has been considered
by some to be a foundation novel for the creole language.In light of the current
controversy about the legitimacy of creole and patois as languages, this paper
makes topical reading. Beverley Steele's article, "Marryshow House", traces the
history of the house of the Grenadan statesman within the historical context of
Grenada itself up to and beyond the tragic events of 1983.
The final two papers deal with contemporary issues. Earl McKenzie writes on
"C.L.R.James on Cricket as Art". In the past year, the University of the West
Indies hosted a conference on West Indian Cricket at the Cave Hill campus. The
acclaimed National Dance Theatre of Jamaica (NDTC) choreographed a dance
piece which clearly portrayed cricket as an art. McKenzie ends with a plea;
"philosophers of art should study art wherever it is found". The final paper by
Christine Ho, "The Twin Processes of Racialization and Ethnification among
Afro-Trinidadian Immigrants in Los Angeles," analyses the processes of eth-
nification as the construction of a racial-ethno identity that implies a desire to be
treated on the basis of culture rather than race in the quest for upward mobility.
She also examines the development of race consciousness among Afro-
Eight book reviews complete this double issue. Mention should be made of
N'Zengou-Tayo's detailed review "La Republique haitienne: Etat des lieux et
perspectives". She regrets that because of the language barrier so few persons
from the English-speaking Caribbean will be able to avail themselves of the
information contained in this collection of essays. She writes that the collection
does much to dispel the simplistic and stereotyped view of Haiti held by so many
who gain their information from American sensationalist media. If we hope to learn
from others' history- so similar to our own, we need to break down the remaining
barriers- of language.
MARRYSHOW HOUSE A LIVING LEGACY
BEVERLEY A. STEELE
This is about a house, a very distinctive and historic house located on Tyrrel
Street, St. George's Grenada. It is the former home of the late Theophilus Albert
Marryshow Grenadian statesman and advocate of West Indian unity.1 It currently
houses the School of Continuing Studies (Grenada) of the University of the West
Indies, and it is fortuitous that this building which witnessed important thrusts
towards the binding of the Caribbean into a unified whole should today continue in
the service of one of the oldest shared West Indian Institutions.
T.A. Marryshow, although conscious of his dignity, was never arrogant or falsely
proud. When building his home, however, he seemed to be conscious of the place
he would one day occupy in West Indian history. Not a man of means, he somehow
found the money at age 30 to build a home which would reflect the importance of
the tasks he set himself nationally and regionally. When he built his house it was
huge compared to the surroundings houses. Although some substantial houses
and commercial buildings have been built around the house, it is today still
Marryshow named his home the "Rosery" as the popular song by that name
was one of his favourites. Secondly, Marryshow commemorated in this name his
love for roses. Out of the volcanic boulders which were a conspicuous feature of
the lands on which the house stands and the rich volcanic soil, Marryshow created
with his own hands a rose garden of such beauty that it is still referred to with
delight and awe by the people old enough to remember.
The approach to the house was through this garden, but it was seldom used.
Marryshow preferred to walk a path paralleling the "Jorden Drain", an aqueduct for
rain-water run-off to the west of the house. This path wound through his prized fruit
trees and into a second, hidden, rose garden built in terraces behind the house.
The accustomed entrance to the house was up a long flight of concrete steps to a
gallery decorated with hanging baskets of fern. Double doors gave access to a
passage leading directly into Marryshow's upstairs sittingroom whose virtual wall of
sash windows and louvers overlooked St. George's Harbour. The Carenage in all
its glory was swept into this room to enchant and delight all visitors.
Although a bachelor all his life, Marryshow's house was kept clean and dignified
by devoted housekeepers. The furnishing was not lavish, but he had some nice
pieces which raised the tone of the more mundane. A huge double-ended settee
graced the sitting- room. All the bedrooms had huge mahogany wardrobes.
Marryshow's bedroom had a carved mahogany four-poster bed, complete with a
canopy. The second bedroom had an attractive brass bedstead. In the dining-room
down-stairs was a mahogany banquet table and an elaborate brass gong.
There are photographs which document some of these items. For example, a
much prized photograph shows the late C.L.R. James and Mrs. James seated in
the sitting-room with Marryshow in some magnificently carved high-backed
armchairs said to have come from the S.S. "Orinico" wrecked off St. David's
Grenada, on November 2, 1900. A goodly-proportioned brass table stood in the
middle of the sitting-room. This room was also the setting for a graceful brass lamp,
two huge glass hurricane shades of etched glass, an oversized Chinese vase and
a magnificent crystal chandelier. The room was made exotic by Marryshow's
penchant for stuffed and ceramic animals. A china parrot in a cage swung in the
alcove of the upstairs bay window. The ledges of Marryshow's built-in bookcases
in the sitting-room were graced by a stuffed tiger's head and a two-foot silver
racehorse. The object which is the most prominent in people's memories is,
however, Marryshow's life-sized ceramic bull-dog, which became his political mas-
cot. Marryshow carried this object to political meetings, and encouraged people to
attach to him the appellation of "The Bulldog". To complete his menagerie a 6-foot
crocodile occupied the space beneath the staircase downstairs.
Upstairs Marryshow had a fantastic and varied private library which included
everything from volumes of popular American and European poets to books on
political philosophy and contemporary Caribbean sociology. Many of the first
volumes of journals put out by the very young University College of the West Indies
had pride of place in Marryshow's academic collection. These included Volume 1
no. 1 of both Social and Economic Studies and Caribbean Quarterly, journals of the
new regional University. Marryshow had also a large collection of historic
photographs, including a photography of a bust of Paul Robeson by Paul Epstein.
This photograph was one of an exclusive series of six prints from the only negative.
Marryshow can be styled as "Renaissance Man". He was scholar, orator,
journalist, creator artist, mentor of the arts and definer of Caribbean identity. There
was nothing incongruous, therefore, in Marryshow's large collection of sheet music
being interleaved, as it were, with his more austere tomes. Marryshow possessed
a powerful and beautiful bass voice and shared with his friend Paul Robeson, a
love for the American Negro Spiritual as well as music for the voice across the
range from classical to indulgently popular. To add the spice of life to his books and
papers were issues of The West Indian newspaper which Marryshow co-founded
with C.F.P. Renwick in 1915. In the pages of this newspaper is full evidence that he
had free reign for his dry but wicked wit as well as his golden oratory.
As with Marryshow the statesman, Marryshow the house-builder was a pioneer.
Her new home built in 1917, was reputedly the first house in St. George's con-
structed using cast-concrete. Prior to this, houses were built of red-brick brought as
ballast from England, or of local stone filled in with masonry, or of wood.
Let us watch as the masons and carpenters build and mould Marryshow's
"House of Dreams". They first lay a foundation of brick, and then cast thick, cool
concrete walls up to the first floor. They finish the upstairs up to the roof with timber
siding. Inside they complete the first floor. They finish the upstairs up to the roof
with timber siding. Inside they complete the first floor with close boarding on timber
studs. They then lay a floor of timber boarding on timber joints and shingle the roof
with cedar "shakes', except for those portions which are too flat for shingling there
they put metals sheets of galvanized iron. The roof is elegantly gabled and
supported by battens on timber rafters. There are two attic windows and a
generous attic space to insulate the rooms below from the fierce heat of the almost
equatorial sun. The ceiling is high, and made up of close boarding suspended from
Upstairs the builders fashion a handsome sitting-room and two bedrooms, each
with its good-sized dressing room. A study for the owner and the entrance hall
complete the accommodation upstairs. A mahogany staircase with beautifully
turned balustrades leads to the quarters downstairs. Most of the downstairs area is
dedicated to a large dining room, with a bay window and alcove as on the upstairs
floor. This dining room was to be the setting of many an elegant dinner party for
Marryshow's important friends from the length and breadth of the Caribbean, from
the United States and from beyond. Later on in life, when Marryshow had to curtail
his hospitality because of desperate financial circumstances, this room was to
become a practise theatre for the Pygmalion Glee Club founded by Pansy Rowley,
and later the Bee Wee Ballet, Grenada's first ballet troupes, and the "mother' of all
A kitchen complete with a Dutch oven, and a bathroom fitted with marble
bathtub, were situated in the area behind the dining room. A nicely proportioned
guest room completed the building.
One must remember that in 1917 indoor plumbing and electricity were not
commonplace even in the best homes in the Caribbean. For a good portion of its
early life, Marryshow's house was lit at night by kerosene lamps of both the
hanging and table variety. As to the plumbing this was installed after the house
became University property.
Having erected the frame of the house, the builders embellished their hand-
iwork with decorative touches. Beautiful panes of etched glass, some of which still
survive, were fitted as skylights above the windows. Two of the internal doors
incorporated panes of expensive imported beveled glass. The ambience of the
entrance hall and sitting room was enhanced with carved pilasters, brackets and
archways while all rooms had carved wooden friezes and carved transoms over the
doors. In some areas the frieze was of the carved "ginger-bread" type, which had
the practical function of allowing air circulation, as well as a touch of the vernacular.
Marryshow's craftsmen added so many decorative touches that in contemplat-
ing the plethora of the whole it is easy for the eye to miss some. Decorative scrolls
are a feature on the exterior of the house, adding interest to the roof line. The
external ground floorconcrete wall features rustication, and externally the fenestra-
tion of some of the windows is highlighted with fish- scale wooden tiles. Another
detail of the house is a pair of Demerara windows upstairs next to the area used by
Marryshow as his study. The existence of these Demerara windows provided a
practical solution to dispensing drinks neatly without an upstairs kitchen. Demerara
windows traditionally have a slatted ledge about a foot wide. When utilized as a
bar, spills fell away to the earth below.
Marryshow House is sometimes called "Colonial Victorian". It was certainly
Colonial, but it claims to being Victorian could technically be challenged.
Marryshow's house was in fact extremely eclectic in style. In his book on architec-
ture in the Caribbean, David Buisseret has this to say about the architecture of St.
"The respective parts of the French and English in
the architecture of St. George's seem impossible
to sort out with any accuracy: the town is best
envisioned as a marvellous blend of the two tradi-
This was so true of Marryshow's house.
The presentation of the Creole and English architectural idioms inside and
outside Marryshow's house also reflects the paradox of many Grenadians of that
era. In some ways, they strove to be very British, but in other ways the older French
Creole culture persisted, marryshow himself demonstrated this paradox. By Deed
Poll be changed the French spelling of his name "Marecheau" to its anglicized form
"Marryshow". In many of his attitudes and actions, however, his French heritage
could not be denied.
Marryshow House remains a testament to the skill of its craftsmen in blending
diverse cultural architectural elements into a pleasing whole which reflects the
integrity of Grenadian culture. The self-expression of the craftsmen and elements
of the vernacular style they created for Marryshow House is replicated in other
houses in St. George's and the rural parishes. marryshow House, however,
remains the best known and the handsomest house of this unique architectural
As Marryshow aged, his financial situation became bleak. He had used all his
money and then gone into debt to travel on West Indian business. That business
encompassed his tireless advocacy for Universal Adult Suffrage, Federation, and
the Caribbean Labour Movement. It included also an historic trip to London where
he badgered the Colonial Office to introduce representative government and take
the first steps which would lead eventually to Grenada's independence.
After giving up his ownership and editorship of the West Indian newspaper in
1935, Marryshow had no steady income. Those of his children who grew up in "The
Rosery" Marion, Basil and Julian had left Grenada and were pursuing their own
careers abroad. The upkeep of the house reflected Marryshow's penury, and when
he died on 19 October 1958, the house although structurally very sound, was in
need or redecoration and refurbishment.
The house and approximately one and a half acres of land were left to
Marryshow's son Julian, a former Federal Civil Servant, and Marion, a Nursing
sister. Neither had any plans to return to Grenada, and therefore put the property
up for sale. It was Julian's wish that the new use for the old house should reflect the
importance and dignity of his father's career. The Grenada Museum Committee
was seen as the type of entity which would ensure the future prominence of the
residence of T.A. Marryshow and this organization was first approached. However,
the ability to purchase was outside the scope of the Museum Committee, but its
Chairman, Mr. Alister Hughes approached the Resident Tutor, Miss Margaret
Blundell with the idea of enhancing both the University's physical presence and
Marryshow's former residence by putting one inside the other.
The first approach was made to the University on 23rdJanuary, 1964. In a letter
to the University's Vice Chancellor, Dr. Phillip Sherlock, Miss Blundell said: "It
would give us a wonderful association with Grenada history, and give U.W.I. the
opportunity of restoring and maintaining an historic building."3
Mt the time, the house had been vacant for 6 years. Negotiations were
protracted and at one point, all but abandoned. The doubts of the then Acting
Director of Extra Mural Studies about the serviceability of the building were ex-
pressed to the University's Registrar: "We should be cautious about acquiring an
old, wooden building whose further life may well be limited to a few years."4 It was
obvious that he had not fallen victim to the charms of the place. It was not until her
Royal Highness, Princess Alice, Chancellor of the University championed the
cause that negotiations took a hopeful turn. Also, in March 1964, Grenada's
Administrator, I.G. Turbott wrote to the Resident Tutor saying: "I have received a
letter from Her Royal Highness, The Princess Alice, in which she said that she saw
Mr. Marryshow in Tobago on 17th March, and expressed the hope that the U.W.I.
could use the Marryshow residence in St. George's for University purposes... Her
Royal Highness is, as you know, very keen that action be taken without delay to
acquire this property..."5
This letter elicited a positive response from Vice Chancellor, and the University
purchased the property without any more arguments and objections.
Along with approximately half an acre of land the house was purchased for
EC$30,875.00. After renovations, the University Centre moved from its rented two
room premises on Granby Street to Marryshow House on 8th April, 1965. One
condition of the sale of the house to the University was that the house should be
referred to as "Marryshow House University Centre". This is the practice up to
After the triumph of getting Marryshow House purchased for the University
Centre, it fell to Miss Blundell to complete the transformation of the building to its
new use. A car park was built in 1967 and an outdoor theatre in 1968.
Miss Blundell began supervision of an annex which would bring the floor space
of Marryshow House University Centres under construction in the Eastern Carib-
bean. Unfortunately, she could not complete her task, as ill health caused her
rather abrupt resignation and departure from Grenada.
Miss Blundell was succeeded by Mrs. Gertrude Hamilton, and to this capable
Jamaican lady fell the task of putting the finishing touches to the renovation of the
building re-establishing the integrity of the property which had been eroded during
Marryshow's decline and after his death, and supervising the completion of the
extension which was begun about July 1969.
It was Mrs. Hamilton's unique sense of humour that saved her from collapsing
under the many vicissitudes arising out of the construction of the extension and the
period following its construction. Essential difficulties were many and varied, but
they were overcome, and on 3rd December, 1971 the Centre was opened by the
Chancellor, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Wooding, T.C., C.P., C.B.E.
The extension had been constructed with funds from the United Kingdom
Government, Government of Canada, the Ford Foundation, the Nuffield Founda-
tion, and the University of the West Indies. The opening was a "star-studded"
occasion as the representatives of the countries of the major funding agencies
attended, as well as the University's Chancellor, R. Hon. Sir Hugh Wooding; Vice
Chancellor, Sir Roy Marshall; Principal of the Cave Hill Campus, Mr. (late Sir)
Sidney L. Martin and many distinguished guests.
The opening was not without its traumatic moments. The Chancellor, Sir Hugh
Wooding, in a previous role, has been a member of the Commission of Inquiry into
the expenditure of public funds by the Premier, Eric Gairy, and, Mr. Gairy declined
to attend the opening. The performance of the National Choir was also cancelled.
Despite these and other tense moments, the opening brought welcome attention to
the University, and the beginning of a new era of activities of the Extra Mural
Department in Grenada.
One feature of the opening ceremony was a display of local art. This exhibition
was so successful that the people who had been asked to help to mount it, formed
themselves into the Grenada Arts Council. Three of the founding members still
actively serve on the council which mounts an exhibition at Marryshow House
University Centre every year. These exhibitions still provide a window to the public
for artists in Grenada.
The contractor for the extension was Mr. W.E. Keens-Douglas. He did not have
the latitude to revise the plans for the extension which came from Canada. These
plans were more suitable for a temperate climate, but the condition of the extension
after 20 years is a testament to Mr. Keens-Douglas' excellence in his craft. Over
the years simple renovations to this extension have increased the utility of the
original plan, and made serviceable rooms that were not designed for the tropics.
In 1972 the University Centre including the new extension was attacked by
termites. Extensive extermination procedures had to be undertaken and a watchful
eye has had to be assiduously kept ever since. The University threatened also in
that year to reroof the Centre with galvanized iron. This was averted, and the
shingles were replaced.
At this time, the island was entering a period of serious political unrest. A feature
of this unrest was frequent fires involving major buildings. In October 1972 the
Anglican High school in St. Seorge's was destroyed by fire, set by political activists.
The school obtained permission of the Resident Tutor and the University, to house
the school's senior pupils between 23rd October 1972 and July 1973.
At the end of 1972, Mrs. Hamilton was transferred to the Bahamas, and was
succeeded in December 1972 for a brief nine months by Mr. Chamberlin M. Hope,
a Barbadian. In October 1973 he was succeeded by Mrs. Beverley Steele, original-
ly from Jamaica but married into a Grenadian family. To date she remains in this
Grenada was to have had national celebrations of its Independence on 7th
February 1974. Instead civil unrest, electrical blackouts, and political turmoil
marked the occasion. On "Bloody Monday" January 2st, 1974, the massive Anti-
Government demonstration that ended in an encounter with gangs of thugs armed
with guns and missiles was watched by the Resident Tutor from the bay-windows
of Marryshow House. During the uproar of this violent encounter of citizens, police
and thugs, Rupert Bishop, father of Maurice Bishop leader of the New Jewel
Movement, was shot, many people injured and several hundred tear-gassed. It
was hours before the Resident Tutor could leave the sanctum of the Centre. It was
months before Grenada returned to normalcy.
In March 1974 Marryshow House was made available to yet another Secondary
School in distress. This time it was the St. John's Christian Secondary School. This
school, situated at Brothers in St. John's drew a third of its pupils from St. George's.
Owing to the closure of the Port after "Bloody Monday" and the eventual gasolene
shortage, pupils from St. George's were deprived of transport and could not get to
school. The University through the Resident Tutor was asked to house classes for
the pupils from the St. George's area from 18th March 9th April when the
gasolene supply situation returned to normal.
With the addition of the Extension, the University Centre comprised 2 offices, 3
store-rooms, a large all-purpose hall, an underutilized library area, two small
classrooms and of course, Marryshow's upstairs sitting room. The lack of an
auditorium prompted the temporary ousting of the embryo library from its desig-
nated space into the smaller space of one of the original bedrooms. Many were the
poetry readings and public lectures held in this freed space. In an effort to revive
the society's flagging memory of Marryshow, a Marryshow Festival was held in
1974. The main event was a Historical Exhibition housed in this room. At this time,
Marryshow's name had virtually gone into shadow, but the emotional outpouring of
love and affection for Marryshow and the gratitude of mature Grenadians to the
University Centre for having organized this Festival occasioned the beginning of
new dynamics between the Grenadian public and the University Centre. As a result
of the Festival, the public came to see the Resident Tutor as a representative of a
University which cared, and which through its championing of the memory of
Marryshow at Marryshow House became a caretaker of precious Grenadian
heritage, and the tangible reminder of elusive moments of greatness of one of its
Discussions on social, economic and political issues had, in the past, been a
feature of the University centre's programmes. This type of activity although
necessary to Grenada's emergence as an independent state, was not always
welcome by the Government in Power. In September 1973, a lecture by a young
economist, Unison Whiteman, was scheduled to take place at the Centre. Just
before the commencement of the lecture, the area in which the Centre was located
was subjected to a blackout. Mr. Whiteman, although well- qualified, could not get
a teaching job in Grenada, save with the University Centre. Paradoxically, during
the regime of the People's Revolutionary Government, a non-political lecture
sponsored by the United States Information Service, Barbados, and hosted by the
Centre, was ordered cancelled by direct order of Maurice Bishop, Prime Minister.
After the Revolution, on February 25, 1985, a seminar "Communications and the
Media" sponsored by the CARICOM could only take place with Government
blessing without one of its main lecturers, Dr. Aggrey Brown of Jamaica. Creating
a forum for free speech at the University Centre was necessary but risky. The fact
that in 1990 General Elections every political party was allowed to hold election
campaign meetings in the car park of Marryshow House, and that in 1991 all
political leaders participated equally in the Conferences of the West Indian Com-
mission, is hope that the carefully guarded non- partisan political nature of the
University Centre has been not only finally accepted, but indeed come to be
With the help and encouragement of Miss Gloria Payne, a Career Civil Servant
and a graduate of UWI's Mona Campus, the Resident Tutor wrote a proposal to
the Inter American foundation for the construction of a Folk Theatre responding to
a felt need for a theatrical space available to amateur players and dancers in
Grenada. The proposal was accepted, and after some delays occasioned by
difficulties encountered with the wider seepage problems affecting the site, con-
struction began against the house's northern wall, using the facade of the original
house as a backdrop for the theatre stage. Built to seat 200, the theatre was
designed with help from Ken Corsbie and Noel Vaz, well-known Caribbean theatre
personages. All interested in theatre in Grenada also had an opportunity to con-
tribute to the architect's brief. The Theatre was completed and opened in 1982 on
Marryshow's birthday, November 7. The Theatre has since served as a catalyst to
the Creative Arts in Grenada, and has been the venue for scores of plays,
performances of folk and other choirs, dance theatre, poetry readings, Creative
Arts Workshop, book launching, lectures, talent shows and concerts of classical
music. The Cavite Chorale from the Cave Hill Campus of the University performed
in the Marryshow Folk Theatre in June 1986 and the University Singers of the
University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in 1987. It is a tribute to the success
of the theatre that it is now too small for some productions and that there is
pressure in the society for the building of a larger national theatre.
Although built primarily to support the Creative Arts, Marryshow Folk Theatre
performed another important, unusual function. This theatre was opened while th
the People's Revolutionary Government was in power. Eleven months later, this
government imploded violently. Maurice Bishop, Grenada's Revolutionary Prime
Minister and his closest associates were shot by a firing squad on October 19,
1983 on the order of a faction of the P.R.G. calling themselves the "Revolutionary
Military Council". A still unknown number of ordinary citizens, some only teen-
agers, also lost their lives in this act of genocide.
On 25 October 1983, Forces of the United States of America and the Caribbean
intervened in Grenada, and within ten days, a semblance of normal life was
restored to a chaotic and desperate situation. The U.S. Military needed a place to
hold Press Briefings for journalists including those from all over the world who
flocked to Grenada eager for stories of the betrayals, blood, gore and general
"commesse".6 The Resident Tutor was approached by one of Grenada's leading
businessmen, Mr. "Laddie" Mclntyre in the company of some of the U.S. military's
top Information Officers with a request for the use of the University Centre's
facilities for Military Press Briefings. After initial consultation with the University's
Registrar, mr. Byron Robertson, and subsequently with other University officers,
the doors of the University Centre were opened to the United States Military Press
Officers. A different type of drama unfolded daily in the Marryshow Folk Theatre.
One of the first sessions held by the U.S. Military Press Centre was the
debriefing of surviving members of the Maurice Bishop faction of the People's
Revolutionary Government. It was with mixed emotions but mainly thankfulness for
their lives that the Resident Tutor and staff greeted George Louison, former
Minister of Education & Agriculture, Mr. Kendrick Radix, former Minister of Legal
Affairs and the others who appeared for this debriefing. Members of the military
could not understand how we could be gracious to the U.S. Military and still
embrace in brotherhood these Grenadian revolutionaries. Neither could the
American journalists understand our motives for draping a large portrait of Maurice
Bishop in funeral purple and having it in full view of the Centre. During this time,
and for a long time after, Grenadians (including ourselves) cried silently for our
brightest and best and what could have been. The hurt and confusion of the
Grenadian people have never been addressed. The end of the revolution was for
so many academic Marxists a fantastic opportunity to churn out inaccurate publica-
tions about a reality of which they had had no personal experience. Their writings
show no sympathy for the citizens of Grenada who were used and abused as the
objects of leftist experiment. The ruin of a country not their own did not concern
them, and the death of a generation of unique, brave and intelligent though
misguided young politicians was undoubtedly regretted less than the demise of a
bankruFp and repressive system. After the initial military debriefing sessions, the
daily press briefings became less emotionally charged, barring the occasional
heated exchanges between journalists charging "cover-up" and the Military Press
Officer countering with allegations of inappropriate journalistic behaviour. It was
one of these briefings which attracted world-renowned West Indian novelist and
writer, V.S. Naipaul, who had also been drawn to Grenada at this time, to get his
version of the Grenadian story.
Mr. Naipaul's arrival had been noticed by the Resident Tutor and he was
welcomed by her in a manner befitting an honorary Doctor of the University. His
thanks were to immortalize the staff of the Centre, who, very understandably, took
the occasional moment to observe the goings-on at the briefings. In an article
written for Harper's Magazine Mr. Naipaul wrote:
"University.... staff stood and watched from the
windows of the original house. The windows
opened directly onto the lecture- theatre stage;
and the watchers were like figures on a balcony in
an Elizabethean theatre, or like West Indian mid-
dle-class folk looking on from a respectable dis-
tance at a backyard squabble."7
By early 1984 Marryshow Folk Theatre, and other space occupied by the U.S.
Military, were vacated. By this time the United States Information Service (USIS)
had taken over responsibility for the Press Office. In leaving they took their
newly-established office to Bruce Street near the Esplanade, the Centre's relief
cleaner and library assistant who got better and more prestigious jobs with the
USIS (Grenada Office). Our former Library Assistant still mans the USIS desk at
the U.S. Embassy, Point Salines, Grenada. The relationship the U.W.I. Centre in
Grenada had with the U.S. Minltary Press Officers and the USIS was very special,
and remains so to this day.
On February 20, 1985 President Reagan visited Grenada. To celebrate his visit
1300 books were presented to the Grenadian public by the USIS and it was
decided to house these books permanently at the University Centre. The Librarian
from the Cave Hill Campus of the U.W.I., Mr. Michael Gill was flown into Grenada
by the United States Government for the handing-over ceremony and Grenada's
Governor General, Sir Paul Scoon, Lady Scoon, the Commander of the 82nd
Airborne Division of the United States Army, the Director of the USIS in Barbados,
Mr. Bob Dickerman, and the U.S. charge d'affaires for Grenada, Mr. Roy Haver-
camp, and other distinguished quests gathered in Marryshow's upstairs sitting
room for a unique gathering. This handing-over ceremony also effectively ended
the "Military History" of Marryshow House.
Since 1972 Marryshow House has had serious need of additional repairs. The
Acting University Vice Chancellor agreed finally to complete renovation of the
premises in 1987, appreciating that this would be recognized as the University's
recognition of Marryshow's Centennial. A sum of ES$53,595.00 was made avail-
able for re- roofing, erection of handrails on the steps, re-flooring of the theatre
stage with expensive but durable greenheart boards, repainting and other improve-
ments. There had been years of fruitless negotiation for these repairs, and Profes-
sor Leslie Robinson will be remembered for this grand gesture to Marryshow and
The period 1984-1989 in Grenada was relatively free from traumatic political
polarization and upheavals. In this more peaceful, settling-down environment, the
pent up thirst for continuing and professional education was released. The first
graduate from the University's Certificate in Public Administration (Challenge/Out-
reach) programme, Miss Claudia Alexis, was feted on 27 January 1987 at a
reception attended by the Honourable Rex Nettleford, Director of Extra Mural
Studies. The first students after the U.S. Intervention were exceptional in their
bravery and dedication to attempt studies in distracting times. However, as time
went on class size in the Centre's programmes doubled, then tripled. The original
classrooms were built to accommodate no more than 16. The large area upstairs
had long been rededicated to the library, and there was a further crisis of accom-
modation when in 1988 one of the tiny classrooms was altered to house the
UWIDITE ground station. The problem of space was acute.
Another grant for funding of Community Development Courses and enhanced
facilities at the University Centre was approved by the Inter-American Foundation
in 1989. Construction of a new library building began on 15th July, 1990. In the
meantime, the U.W.I. Development and Endowment Fund (Grenada) chose as one
of its projects the enclosing of the space under the library to provide additional
classrooms. The combined project was completed in 1992, and co-incidentally an
enlarged UWIDITE room made by dedicating the second small classroom for this
purpose and breaking the dividing wall between the two.
The new wing was blessed and opened by Grenada's Governor- General, Sir
Paul Scoon, on 4th February, 1992. Sir Alister Mclntyre, Grenada-born Vice
Chancellor of the University of the West Indies honoured Marryshow House by his
presence on this occasion. Present also was the Pro-Vice Chancellor for University
Services (EC), Professor Gerald Grell. Professor Grell's presence certainly must
have evoked positive "vibes" from Marryshow's spirit for his mandate is to bring the
region closer, and further bond the University to the Eastern Caribbean. Several
dozen friends of the University and of "Marryshow House" also came to celebrate
the creation of what has become the "Marryshow Complex". So it is that the major
facets of Marryshow's career have found an echo in the work of the University
Centre free debate, cultural expression through the Creative arts, scholarship,
and the nurturing of West Indianism.
Even a rose garden exists, and roses flank the monument to Marryshow given
to Grenada by Grenadians in Aruba, and removed at the request of Sir Paul Scoon,
Grenada's Governor General, from the original, but now deteriorated site, on the
Esplanade to the grounds of the Marryshow House in 1990.
In 1991 the Govemment of Grenada issued a two-stamp Commemorative
Stamp Issue. In this issue "Marryshow House" is depicted on the 45-cent stamp
This is the second time this historic house has been featured on a postage stamp.
The building was first featured on a 25-cent stamp in 1973 to commemorate the
25th anniversary of the founding of the University of the West Indies. And so the
histories of Marryshow House, the University and the region continue to be tied
The University Centre, Marryshow House, now stands proudly equipped to go
forward into the 21st century and has accommodation for a total of 60 persons in
the UWIDITE facility and 40 persons in each of the three classrooms. The pos-
sibility exists that the Theatre might be enlarged. Lands at the rear of the University
property may be purchased, and there are dreams for the construction of a second
UWIDITE room, a Computer Lab and a facility for the local production of distance
teaching support material. Despite the ongoing debate between Governments
supported by their advisors, and the University, as to the relative teaching role of
the UWI Centres vs Tertiary Level Institution in the non-campus territories, it is
envisioned that the University Centre will remain a focus on intellectual and artistic
activity for Grenada. In addition, it is hoped that it will always be seen as a
monument to Marryshow and a symbol of regionalism. "Marryshow House" has
been shaped by history and its additions have been dedicated to by necessity.
Despite its age, its spirit is dynamic, creative and seminal. It has been remarkably
plastic and flexible for bricks, cement, mortar and wood.
Late in the evening, or at times when only the Resident Tutor occupies the
complex and the University Centre is very quiet, intrusive thoughts occasioned by
the ambience of the old house, its weight of history and the tremendous personality
of "The Bulldog" intrude on as otherwise rational mind. Sometimes the thoughts of
the older, mature Marryshow put him very near, and almost visible in his rocking
chair in the upstairs bay window looking out at passers-by on Tyrrel Street, or
shambling over with his unique parrot-toed gait, to where the Resident Tutor works,
peering over her shoulder with his face crowned with a "full head or greying hair,
wide flat nostrils, holding tortoise shell framed spectacles rather insecurely, thick
lips from which a cigarette dangles loosely".9 At other times the ResidentTtutor is
entertained by the young, vibrant Teddy Marryshow practicing his political
speeches, or searching for the right words for an editorial designed to inflame his
people to fight for their own brighter future. With a strange mixture of flashing eyes
and mischievously smiling lips "his voice booms with passionate sincerity and the
ringing phrases ... hanging) tremendously" ', Alas, now only in the imagination.
May Marryshow's presence never depart from this house, but always be a source
of inspiration for those who study, work or use the Centre in any way. May its
existence be a constant reminder of the debt all West Indians owe to Marryshow
and his contemporary advocates of West Indian Nationhood. And may the School
of Continuing Studies, through its various programmes, continue always to reflect
Marryshow's living legacy.
1. For a readable and adequate biography of this great West Indian see Shephard, Jill
Marryshow of Grenada An Introduction. Barbados: Letchworth Press Limited 1987. For an
account of some of Marryshow's political achievements see Emmanuel, Patrick Crown
Colony Politics in Grenada 1917 -1951. Barbados: Institute of Social & Economic Research
(Eastern Caribbean) University of the West Indies, 1978.
2. Buisseret David. Historic Architecture in the Caribbean. London, Kingston, Port-of-Spain:
heineman, 1980, p. 24.
3. Maraaret Blundell. Letter to the Vice Chancellor of the University College of the West
Indies (LCWI) dated January 23, 1964.
4. G.E. Mills, Memo to Registrar, UCWI, dated March 31, 1964.
5. I.G. Turbott. Letter to Margaret Blundell dated March 24, 1964.
6. "Commess". A local word also in common usage in Trinidad meaning a general state of
confusion tinged with scandalous and dramatic incidents. See Mendes, John. Cote ce Cote
la Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Dictionary. Trinidad: B.L.C.P. Ltd., N.D., p.
7. Naipaul V.S. "An Island Betrayal" Harper's, March 1984, pp. 61-72.
8. UWIDITE is the abbreviation for University of the West Indies Distance Teaching
Experiment. This is a satellite and telecommunications distance teaching facility spanning
most of the territories that financially support the regional institution.
9. Redhead, Wilfred. A City on a Hill. St. George's Grenada: The Author, 1985, p. 35:
10. Frank Hill as quoted in Bearson, Jake Patton. Why we Lose An Anthology for Black
People's Cultural Survival. Milwaukee: The Author, 1989, p. 146.
11. The author is deeply grateful to the following persons for help and encouragement with
this article: Julian Marryshow, Alister Hughes, Gonra Payne-Banfield, Savitri Steele, Claudia
Halley, Rudolph Griffith.
The Independencia Efimera of 1821, and the Haitian Invasion of
Santo Domingo 1822 : A Case of Pre-emptive Independence
Yesterday at dawn we were surprised at the gates of the city not having been
opened as customary, and shortly after several patrols on horseback, with drawn
sabres, were observed passing through the streets, directing their course to the
government house, which they immediately took possession of, and carried the
Governor prisoner to Maison a Force. On the rising of the sun, the tricoloured flag
was hoisted, and a salute fired from all the forts, they having been previously taken
possession of, without the least resistance. Several parties of troops on horseback
afterwards patrolled the streets with loud cries of Viva Colombia! Viva la Inde-
pendencia! Viva la Patria! etc.
Jago la Vega Gazette Dec. 15, 1821
Letter signed by "Friend" in St. Domingo. Dec. 2, 1821.
On November 30,1821, Jose Nunez de Caceres, a Dominican creole who held
high office under the Spanish administration he was Auditor de Guerra and
Asesor General as well as Rector of the University declared independent the
Spanish half of Hispaniola. He called it Spanish Haiti. In the same move he
declared the newly established Republic of Spanish Hayti attached to Gran Colom-
bia, the newly established Republic of Simon Bolivar.
In 1795 Spain by the Treaty of Basle had surrendered Santo Domingo to France
upon which an elite which claimed to be too hispanophile to live under French rule
migrated from Santo Domingo to the other Spanish Caribbean territories of Puerto
Rico and Cuba. Probably more important than their hispanophilsm was the fact that
France had abolished the system of African slavery in neighboring Saint Domin-
gue and Spanish action in 1795 brought into question the new society which had
been emerging at the end of the eighteenth century. In 1801 Toussaint L'Ouverture
invaded the 'Spanish province' in the name of France, abolished slavery, and
removed the old Spanish restrictions on commerce by throwing open the ports of
Santo Domingo to trade with Great Britain and the United States.' As it turned out
Toussaint's inclination to use coercive measures to supply planters with labour
made his brief sojourn in Santo Domingo partly acceptable but only partly, since
the Toussaint regime envisaged a regime of at least racial equality. When Tous-
saint retired from Santo Domingo to face Le Clerc across the border French rule
continued in Santo Domingo under General Ferrand. In 1809 the Dominicans, with
full cooperation from the British at war with Napoleon who had invaded the Iberian
peninsula expelled the French, and invited Spain to resume control of the
province. For twelve years, until 1821 Spanish rule Espana Boba was restored.
In 1821 Nunez de Caceres's movement again terminated Spanish rule. Precisely
two months and nine days later, Santo Domingo Spanish Hayti was invaded and
occupied by Boyer's troops, an occupation which lasted until 1844. What is inter-
esting about the Independencia Efimera the name given to Nunez de Caceres's
independence is not so much that Spain who had been invited to return twelve
years before was expelled, as that having declared independence the Dominicans
should have in one swift movement appeared to have negated it. But the declara-
tion of independence is also worth some consideration since Santo Domingo was
up to 1821 the only one of the Spanish Caribbean territories to have declared and
successfully maintained independence if only for two months and nine days.
This paper then really begins with two questions why the declaration of
independence and why the deliberate decision to declare it, simultaneously, non-
existent. The paper ends with a hypothesis rather than with a firm conclusion with
respect to Dominican motivation. Certainly, the independence efimera is in many
respects shrouded in nationalist myth and Dominican historiography has focused
far more on the Haitian invasion which followed the Independence Efimera. The
independencia efimera can best be understood as a culmination of developments
in Santo Domingo and Haiti, set in motion since the latter half of the eighteenth
In the latter half of the eighteenth century, the colony of Santo Domingo had
been experiencing changes of some significance. Firstly, the expansion of the
plantation economy of the French colony had created a demand for cattle, and
foodstuffs from Santo Domingo. In the 1870s the Spanish province exported
approximately 25,000 head of horned cattle and about 2,500 mules and horses
across the frontier, at an average cost of 30 pesos per head.2 The demand for
livestock had at first encouraged smuggling on a large scale. But the realistic
Spanish authorities had come to recognize that fiscal advantages could be gained
for the Spanish treasury if the trade were legalised and encouraged. In 1870, the
Spanish government formally allowed the purchases of Dominican livestock for
sale across the frontier. It was the best times for the Hateros, the cattle ranchers of
Bourbon policy, obsessed with increased agricultural production in the Empire
facilitated the slave trade, and Bourbon 'generosity' was extended to Dominicans
who saw the potential of Santo Domingo to become a significant sugar producer,
based on slavery. Antonio Sanchez Valverde, a Dominican creole, writing in the
late eighteenth century commented on the inefficient existence of twenty-two sugar
engines in the environs of the capital city. In 1789, these estates altogether
employed 600 slaves.3 Sanchez Valverde lamented that these mills were devoted
exclusively to the production of syrup, used principally by the Dominican population
and only occasionally exported in limited quantity to Puerto Rico. The proprietors,
he said, needed "Negroes, equipment and the advantages of trade." The available
slaves in Santo Domingo, were, moreover, treated with far too much leniency.
Our slaves rest or work for themselves almost
one-third of the year... The abuse of hiring out
slaves for a wage, too widespread in our America,
makes a large number of the few we have, use-
less, because this is a type of Negro who lives
without discipline or subjection...They hide and
protect each other and those who escape from
the haciendas. The few who do work do so
The Dominican slave, continued Sanchez Valverde, worked one day and
rested the next. He criticised the "poorly understood principle of religion, which
consists in favouring by all means possible and without any foresight, the liberty of
Sanchez Valverde was in effect advocating a revolution in the mode of produc-
tion in contemporary Santo Domingo; a society more sharply divided into a class of
masters and a mass of slaves; a classical plantation model a la St. Domingue; and
the emergence of a planter class which would probably over time have superseded
the ranchers (the hateros).
Sanchez Valverde was not alone in his desire to see a more rigorous system of
slavery imposed in Santo Domingo. In 1783, Juan Batista Oyarzabal, an hacen-
dado of Santo Domingo, requested from the Crown permission to import 400
blacks for work on his ingenio.5 The Crown obliged. More slaves, more production,
and more gold for the Spanish treasury. Indeed, in 1789, the Crown, eager to
stimulate production of sugar, coffee, and tobacco, granted a grace period of two
years for the free importation of slaves.6
In the same year, the crown promulgated a slave code (Codigo Negro) to
regulate the relationship between slave and master, the rights of slaves in educa-
tion, clothing and amusements.7 The law allowing the free entry of slaves was
suspended in 1794, but not before a large number of slaves had entered Santo
Domingo to swell the black population and to consolidate the demographic
dominance of coloured over white. In 1793, there were an estimated 14,000
slaves8 out of a population of 119,600,9 and in 1794, 30,000 slaves out of a
population of 103,000.10 The slave and freed population outnumbered the white
population by almost two to one in 1794. Jamaica, for a long time a port of re-export
of slaves to Spanish possessions, was a source for the slaves entering Santo
Domingo. Between 1796 and 1801, according to Klein's figures, Santo Domingo
"again became the primary port of re-export, taking 2,617 of the 5,294 slaves
It is significant that up to 1789 a slave code had not been deemed necessary.
Local custom, it would appear, had been the guiding principle in the relationship
between master and slave, who, in the particular system of production which
prevailed prior to 1780, relative to the rest of the Caribbean, enjoyed a certain
measure of physical freedom. The inflow of slaves and the incipient revision of the
mode of production made necessary a regulatory code. A Swiss traveller to Santo
Domingo in 1782 went so far as to say that "here ... the white skin is a title of
command, consecrated by the policy and laws. The black skin constitutes the
uniform of contempt."12
The Bourbons also made Montecristi a free port, through which North American
trade with the French in St. Domingue was conducted. Montecristi though a village
port with a few huts was contiguous to northern St. Domingue. The exports from
Montecristi were, it is true, all French produce, and its imports all went immediately
to the adjoining French colony,13 but the essential point from the Spanish point of
view was that fees could be collected from vessels, and the Spanish governor
"gave them clearance and charged duties on the sugar and molasses exported."
This trade with Montecristi was carried on mainly by the New England merchants
and by a sprinkling of Virginians and West Indians. In order to facilitate the trade
North Americans took up residence at Montecristi, purchased French sugar,
shipped it from North American ports to London, where it entered as British sugars,
"thus vitiating the preferential system which gave the products of British West
Indies a monopoly of the home market."14 The British government while taking an
adverse view of the American trade had of course no objection to trade with the
Spanish colonies in fact a Free Port Act had been passed in 1766 to encourage
trade between Spanish ports and ports of the British Caribbean.
From the Dominican point of view the British Free Port Act of 1766 made
possible closer commercial connections between British and Spanish ports. The
ports of Kingston, Savanna-la-Mar, Montego Bay and Lucea (Jamaica) were
opened to trade with Spanish ports. While the free port act forbade the importation
of sugar, coffee, pimento, ginger, molasses and tobacco in foreign vessels, it
allowed the export of negroes in exchange for a duty of thirty shillings per slave.
By the first half of 1788, of the 86 Spanish vessels entering Jamaica, over a quarter
came from Santo Domingo.15 During the late eighteenth century, the Spanish
province began to trade poultry, rice, horned cattle, corn and mahogany to
Jamaican ports in exchange for ironmongery, salt provisions, and cotton goods of
coarse quality, blue Yorkshire blaize, Osnaburgs, and a "variety of other articles
required for the labourers in wood-cutting and agriculture."16 It is clear enough that
Santo Domingo's imports were partly designed to feed and equip its growing slave
population. In the Cibao Valley, across the Central range of mountains from the
southern capital of Santo Domingo, the tobacco industry experienced growth. In
1778, authorization was given to export the surplus of tobacco to St. Domingue,
after the royal factories were supplied. Tobacco cultivation spread from Moca to La
Vega and Cotui.17 The town of Santiago became the major distribution centre of
tobacco, and the Port of Puerto Plata the principal exit for the crop. The tobacco
merchants are even described by Juan Bosch as composing an incipient "commer-
The Haitian Revolution reversed or stunted some of these developments. The
Haitian Revolution which was to provide a stimulus to the growth of the Cuban
plantation system during the nineteenth century by providing a large gap in the
international sugar and coffee markets, had precisely the opposite effect in Santo
Domingo. In 1796, slave rebellions flared in Santo Domingo, as 200 slaves from
the ingenio, (Boca Nigua) proclaimed their freedom, destroyed the canefields and
attacked the home of the proprietor Juan Oyarzabal.19 Other slaves fled across
the frontier in search of immediate freedom. Slave owners, obviously sensing that
France, when formal possession of Santo Domingo took place, would liberate the
slaves, fled to Puerto Rico and Cuba with their available slaves, jewelry, titles, etc.
Not only did the incipient sugar economy collapse, but the thriving cattle economy
of the eighteenth century, intimately linked with Saint-Domingue was much
weakened by the revolution across the frontier.20 The population of Santo Domingo
fell from 119,600 in 1783 to 71,223 in 1819.21
The economy of Santo Domingo had continued to be regionalized during the
late eighteenth century, but the predominant social class had been the hateros,
who were not replaced by the sugar planters as the predominant social class. The
long dominant hateros, a creation not of systematic expl )itation by Spain, but of
Spain's neglect of Santo Domingo, were a genuine creole institution, a response of
Dominicans isolated from Spain to find their own means of survival. They had
evolved something of the patriarchal quasi-feudal hacienda system, which while
responding to the stimuli of trade in the 1780s, was much weakened by the events
after 1791. Their position, however, could not be challenged by the tobacco
farmers of the north, and the Haitian revolution had weakened the prospective
competitors, in the sugar industry. But their economic base routed by revolution
and war, and by migration, they yet retained the social prestige which was attached
to their quasi-feudal control of peon and slave labour.
The invasion by Bonapafre of the Iberian peninsula in 1807 had provoked in
Spanish America widespread sympathy for the deposed Spanish King. Santo
Domingo was no exception. With the open assistance of Britain, the Dominicans,
spearheaded by the hateros of the east, under Juan Sanchez Ramirez, expelled
the French from Dominican shores in 1809. Governor Ferrand committed suicide.
Ferrand had, after Toussaint's retreat to Saint Domingue, reimposed slavery in
Santo Domingo, and had succeeded in reintroducing some 10,000 slaves into
Santo Domingo,22 an action which contributed to the return of exiles to Dominican
shores. There had been an increase in the production of and export of cacao,
tobacco, sugar and coffee. The trade with the United States especially in timber -
increased. It is probable that the anti-Ferrand reaction was related to the sentimen-
tal attachments to the Spanish Crown, to the machinations of Great Britain, and to
Ferrand's anti-clerical policies. Moreover, the restoration of Spanish rule promised
a continuation of slavery and an expansion of trade with British ports. According to
Armytage, between 1808 and 1815, many of the Spanish vessels entering Jamaica
were either from Puerto Rico or Santo Domingo.23 Santo Domingo followed Cuba
and Puerto Rico in the trade of cotton to Jamaica,24 and in 1809, the year of the
expulsion of the French, British merchants went to Santo Domingo to establish
relations with Spanish merchants and to charter vessels for trade.25 Napoleon's
invasion of the Iberian peninsula had, after all, converted Anglo-Spanish hostility
into an entente cordial between two traditionally hostile powers. One of Santo
Domingo's emergent industries was woodcutting whose chief product, mahogany,
found its way to British ports.
We now return to the independencia efimera. Bosch, gives his view very
Anybody, could have done something similar (to
what Caceres did) with other objectives and the
result would have been the same: no one moved
to prevent the foundation of Hayti Espanol, but no
one moved to help it. And there is but one reason:
the society of the hateros had failed and in the
country there was no social class to take the
place of the hateros. Thus Nunez de Caceres
acted with a group of friends in a social vacuum.
It was as though he had gone to battle without
soldiers against an enemy that did not exist.26
The assumption that Bosch makes, based on his reading of what had transpired
over the previous half century, is that there was no social group or class which had
the stamina to support independence. The strongest social group, the hateros,
were too weak to attract the support of other social groups in the interests of
political independence. If there was no 'social class' whose interests were to be
served or defended by a declaration of independence, why did Nunez de Caceres
act in the way he did? Did he act in a vacuum as Bosch suggests, going to war
against a non-existent enemy? Was Nunez de Caceres, then, a hopeless romantic
caught up in the struggle for independence which was rampant throughout the
Spanish American Empire between 1807 and 1821? Did Nunez de Caceres
behave as he did because of the personal factor, viz. the failure of the Spanish
administration to grant him higher administrative office? The other question is why
was it that Santo Domingo should have been the only Spanish Caribbean territory
to behave in this way? Both Puerto Rico and Cuba remained loyal to Spain.
In his proclamation of independence Nunez de Caceres gave his own inter-
pretation of his movement, and it might be useful to examine what the hero of
independence thought. Among other things Nunez stresses that the "three prin-
ciple goods in which lie the happiness of nations are life, liberty and property."
In order to enjoy these rights governments are
instituted and formed, deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed (Asociados);
from which it follows that if the government does
not conform to these essential ends, if far from
looking for the conservation of society (ital. mine)
it becomes oppressive, it comes within the
province of the people to alter, or abolish that
form of government and to adopt a new one
which seems more appropriate to its own security
and future good.27
If we assume that this is not just idle Enlightenment rhetoric, where does
Caceres see a danger to the preservation of society? A hint of an answer is found
later in the manifesto when he says:
With (independence) we shall have laws formed
by ourselves corresponding to the character,
education and customs of the people accom-
modated to the climate and locality, and our na-
tional representation based on numerical
proportion will provide a perfect equality between
the people of these provinces, and will not serve
to foster discord between the various classes, as
has happened with the provisions (bases) estab-
lished by the Constitution of Cadiz. (ital. mine).28
Nunez de Caceres and his associates were perhaps, after all not acting in a
vacuum, but to 'conserve society' and eliminate 'class discord' which the Spanish
government itself seemed to be threatening. In another section of the proclamation
Nunez de Caceres declares that the turbulent situation in Spain and the inability of
the mother country to offer help and improvement offered further justification for
In 1821, in fact, the Spanish Crown was under attack from the liberal 1812
constitution of Cadiz. The constitution of 1812 was to be for over fifty years the
symbol and to some extent the reality of Spanish liberalism. This constitution
would have suggested that the metropolis had gone liberal, liberal enough to
threaten traditional social and economic relationships. In fact the liberal constitution
was largely reformist, intended to "create", as Carr suggests "the legal framework
of a bourgeois society." The constitution was concerned with the "sovereignty of
the people," with the control of the powers of the king (the second followed from the
first), with universal suffrage.29 It was concerned with civil equality, personal liberty,
the rights of property, and freedom of contract. The constitution assumed an attack
on 'regional ecclesiastical, and aristocratic privilege, the removal of seigneurial
privileges, the adoption of the elective principles in local government, the suppres-
sion of the Inquisition and the payment of taxes by the clergy.30 The liberals also
accepted the notion of the indisputable right of the "individual to dispose of his own
property as he saw fit... the essential foundation of a liberal economy and a
bourgeois society." The liberals of Cadiz were not "primarily concerned with a
socially desirable redistribution of landed property but rather with the establishment
of clear and absolute property rights the Roman Law notion of jus utendi et
abutendi as against the medieval confusions of multiple claims to enjoy the use of
the same piece of property."31
This liberal constitution was proclaimed in Spain and the Empire in 1812, and
later in 1821. In 1812, there had been a serious slave revolt in Santo Domingo
inspired by the constitution and led by free men of colour. It was feared that the new
proclamation of the Constitution would reinforce the efforts of slaves and coloured
in combination to bring about an end to slavery and all discrimination against the
coloured population. "Inferiors revolt," Aristotle had declared, "in order that they
may be equal, and equals that they may be superior..." The constitution of Cadiz of
1812 and 1821 could even though it might not have been so intended have
provided a charter of sorts for rebellion with its stress on 'sovereignty of the people,'
equality before the law, personal liberty and freedom of contract. The proposal for
the absolute title to property could also have affected traditional property relation-
ships, and certainly the entrenched position of the Roman Catholic Church. It is
often not what is but what people think is that determines action. And the Cadiz
constitution could have been interpreted as a charter for freedom (for the enslaved)
and equality (for the free but second-class citizen).
In 1821 Governor Kindelan recalled the year 1812
in which Jose Leocadio, Pedro de Seda, Pedro
Henriquez, and several other free men and
slaves, seduced by evil men, or hallucinated by
the same false ideas of liberty, dared to disturb
the public peace.32
The Governor of the Spanish colony also found it necessary to stress that the
Constitution did not imply elimination of distinction between whites, browns and
blacks, and between freemen and slaves, as some people either erroneously or
maliciously were informing the 'less instructed' among the people. The governor
clearly found it necessary to explain for the benefit of potential agitators or creators
of class discord that the Cadiz Constitution was never intended to alter traditional
class relationships. The liberal constitution the governor stressed did not imply
freedom for Dominican slaves. Slaves were neither, declared the governor,
Spaniards nor citizens, and freemen and libertos whether pardos or morenos were
Spaniards but not citizens, until they received a charter from the (Spanish) Cortes
indicating that they were. Could the view of the Spanish governor be entirely
reassuring to the creoles or to the Roman Catholic Church? Evidently, Nunez de
Caceres thought not, because referring to the turbulent situation in Spain in 1821
he expressed doubt about the ability of Spain to offer 'assistance and improve-
ments.' We must presume assistance with respect to the potential disruption of the
society created by the aspirations aroused in 1812 and 1821 by the Cadiz constitu-
tion. The 1812 rebellion had been suffocated in blood, but was Spain able to do the
same in 1821? The slaves had been restless and there had been conspiracies
even after 1812. Apart from the threat faced in 1821 from them and from the
freemen, there was in addition the very real threat from Haiti which in the latter year
was united under Boyer, militarily stronger than the Spaniards in Santo Domingo
and dedicated to the principle that the island should be ruled under one flag, and
that slaves were to have freedom.
It seems probable that Nunez de Caceres and his supporters sought inde-
pendence from Spain not, ironically, with the intention of breaking away from the
Spanish tradition but with a view to maintaining certain aspects of that tradition
intact. Caceres's position on the slavery question was very clear and coincided
with that of Kindelan, namely that he would not "with the stroke of a pen ruin so
many of his compatriots." The freedom which he gave to his own slaves was
perhaps a political device to attract support from Pablo Ali who controlled the major
battalion in Santo Domingo, and who was coloured. (Jose Gabriel Garcia describes
him as a 'valiant African,' others describe him as having Haitian origins).33
The independence coup of Nunez de Caceres emerges more and more as a
pre-emptive coup, against the possibility of a Haitian invasion which would have
freed the slaves of Santo Domingo.
If we can assume that Nunez de Caceres was serious when he suggested that
Spain could not assist Dominicans in the defence of their society, we must ask
defence from whom? The answer lies in the particular relationship which existed
between Haiti and Santo Domingo at the time. In effect, it is being proposed that
Nunez's act of independence was a pre-emptive coup against Haitian intervention,
and that he sought the protection of Gran Colombia, still a slave state and one
dedicated to the preservation of colonial hierarchy, to secure itself from Haiti. It was
not only Haitian intervention which was feared, but the fact that Haitian intervention
would bring about precisely what Nunez was seeking to avoid the liberation of the
slaves and a regime of legal equality.
Much has been made of the fact that the number of slaves in Santo Domingo
was not large. But even the existence of 15,000 enslaved human beings who have
the option of liberation through alliance with a neighboring state is room enough
President Boyer had been busy during 1820 campaigning for an annexation,
and had even been in touch with Pablo Ali, the chief of the major battalion in Santo
Domingo. Pablo Ali, and others of his troops, had requested Spanish citizenship
which had been refused. Nunez and his fellow conspirators, to win Ali's support
and to wean him away from Haiti offered promotions for his men and a promise of
liberty to all slaves.34 That or those promises enabled Nunez to win Ali over to his
side. Nunez de Caceres had prevaricated.
In his proclamation Nunez denounced Spanish monopoly as well. So that apart
from expressing concern about the social discord arising out of the Cadiz Constitu-
tion he was reasserting the traditional creole demand for free trade. In truth, the
Spanish government had certainly up to 1816 been permitting trade between Santo
Domingo and British ports. Nunez envisaged nevertheless a period when
All nations will come to our ports to provide our
needs and to ... purchase the fruit of our country;
instead of the system by which Spain apart from
lacking the principle articles which we consume,
has never been able to negotiate other than for
the benefit of the Exclusive and with the avarice
of monopoly, which is born and is derived as the
legitimate son of that absurd principle.35
If the break with Spain was deemed necessary, it was also true that Dominican
independence could not be guaranteed if Haiti persisted in its designs, to annex
Santo Domingo. Protection had to be obtained from elsewhere. Gran Colombia
had in the past showed some interest in Santo Domingo, as Mexico had
demonstrated interest in closer ties with Cuba. More vital was the fact that Colom-
bia was still a slave-holding state, and had shown all the indications of maintaining
or of being able to maintain creole, elite dominance. Bolivar had himself concluded
that among the coloured masses of Colombia liberty could be confused with
licence and his execution of Admiral padilla was symbolic of his determination to
avoid the establishment of a pardocracia.36 The suffrage was to be limited by
prohibitive property qualifications which effectively disenfranchised the bulk of the
population. The Colombian system, then, was infinitely superior to the regime
envisaged in the eyes of Nunez de Caceres and his associates by the Constitu-
tion of Cadiz or by a Haitian invasion and occupation which envisaged the unity of
Hispaniola under Haitian rule, and the abolition of slavery. French "radicalism" to
which Dominicans had already been exposed under Toussaint L'Ouverture had
reached Spain through the Cadiz constitution, but could also return to Santo
Domingo via Haiti in its most virulent form. (It was true that President Petion had
militarily assisted Colombia in the latter's struggle against Spain after 1816 in
exchange for Bolivar's promise to free Colombian slaves but Colombia was to
refuse to recognize Haitian independence, and had only committed itself to gradual
Nunez de Caceres and his colleagues pronounced the independence of
Spanish Hayti, and joined Colombia in order to forestall an imminent Haitian
invasion. Haiti, united under Boyer, following the deaths of Henry Christophe and
Alexander Petion was too strong militarily for Santo Domingo, which could not be
assured of military assistance from Spain. Neither Puerto Rico nor Cuba adopted
the tactics of Santo Domingo, precisely because they were not under a similar
threat. Moreover, a Haitian invasion was likely to lead to an immediate re-abolition
of slavery in Santo Domingo.
Jean Pierre Boyer made it clear that he had no intention of recognizing
Dominican independence, and regarded the proclamation of November 30, 1821
as invalid and in violation of the "fundamental laws" of the (Haitian) state, viz. that
Hispaniola was "one and indivisible."
In a letter to the "General of Santo Domingo" on January 11,1822, Boyer noted:
I have a high esteem for all those who were
instrumental in preventing the effusion of blood;
but at the same time I deplore the error which has
led to the organization of a Government
separated from that which has been established
by the fundamental laws of the state, and declar-
ing your intention of becoming a part of the
Republic of Colombia...Always disposed to be in-
dulgent, and to judge others by the pureness of
my principles, I thought that those who directed
the change which took place on the 1st Decem-
ber, 1821, might have been mistaken in the
choice of their means, and might have been
governed by circumstances of which I am ig-
The Haitian President emphasised Article 41 of the Haitian constitution that had
proclaimed the island "one and indivisible," and noted that the disunity of the island
had been prolonged only because of the "calamities suffered by our (Haitian)
Government." Evidently, Boyer had heard of the proclamation of independence
through a mission to Santo Domingo. The mission, headed by Colonel Frement,
had found "on his arrival, at Santo Domingo, that the change had taken place the
fist day of December."38
The Haitian occupation commenced on February 9th, 1822, led by Boyer,
whose entry in Santo Domingo was not resisted. One of Boyer's first acts was to
abolish slavery. A letter from Martinique dated February 14th, 1822 referred to a
fleet that included 2000 men, destined for Samana to retake Santo Domingo from
the Haitians. "The unfortunate planters are ruined, in consequences of their slaves
having been declared free by act of the Haitian Government."39 A letter from
Mayaguez, Puerto Rico noted that "we have been inundated by an emigration of
Dominican Friars, from St. Domingo, the consequences of the negro government
of Hayti having taken possession of the city... Arrivals from St. Domingo bring
accounts of the whole of the slave population of Spanish St. Domingo having been
added to Hayti."40 On March 8, 1822 Governor Manchester of Jamaica in a letter
to Earl Bathurst commented on the great increase of Territory and power which this
accession had added to the Republic of Hayti. The contiguity of that Island to
Jamaica and the Language assumed by Boyer in his proclamation which breathes
a spirit of ambition by no means favourable to the peace or security of neighboring
colonies made me extremely anxious to ascertain the real state of affairs in St.
Domingo." Manchester promised to send the ship Carnation to Hispaniola to
investigate the "designs" of the government of Haiti.41
Nothing important seems to have emerged out of these early responses.
Haitian independence had been recognized (at great cost to Haiti and great profit
for French planters), the British were by 1822 committed to abolition which took
place twelve years later. The Spanish Government was in no position to intervene,
and the Colombian Government continued to evince no substantial interest. Juan
Bosch's comment, therefore, that no one moved to help Spanish Hayti, is equally
valid for Spanish Hayti under Haitian rule.
Twenty-two years later the Dominicans expelled the Haitians, and proclaimed
the Republica Dominicana, under the leadership of Juan Pable Duarte. Those
twenty-two years, however, set the stage for an antagonism between the two
countries, which has had implications for the current relationship between Haiti and
the Dominican Republic.
1. Emilio Cordero Michel, La Revolucion Haitiana y Santo Domingo, Santo Domingo;
Bibllioteca Taller 1968, pp. 49-53.
2. M.L. Moreau de St. Mary Descripcion de la Parte Espanola de Santo Domingo. Ciudad
Trujillo": Editora Montalvo, 1944, pp. 382-386.
3. Antonio Sanchez Valverde, Idea del Valor de la Isla Espanola ed. Cipriano Utrera, Ciudad
Trujillo, Republica Dominicana, Editores Montalvo MCMXLVII, p. 61.
4. Ibid., p. 170.
5. Carlos Larrazabal Blanco, Los Negros y la Esclavitud en Santo Domingo Coleccion
Pensamiento Dominicano, Santo Domingo, Republica Dominicana, Julio Postigo e hijos
editors, 1967, p. 56 and p. 60.
6. Ibid.., p. 59.
7. Ibid., pp. 126-128.
8. Ibid., p. 184.
9. Frank Moya Pons 'Nuevas Consideraciones sobre la historic de a poblacion dominicana:
curvas, tasas y problemss' Estudios Dominicanos, Vol. 3, Num. 15, nov.-dic., 1974, p. 21.
10. Larrazabal Blanco, Los Negros... p. 185 and Franklyn Franco, Los Negros Los Mulatos
y La Nacion Dominicana Ediora Nacional 2a Edicion, Santo Domingo, 1970, p. 72. The
population figures are not based on census data, and are in fact contradictory. However, they
indicate the pattern of miscegenation.
11. Herbert Klein The Middle Passage: Comparative Studies in the Atlantic Slave Trade.
Princeton: Princefon University Press, 1978, pp. 154-155.
12. Jean Price-Mars, La Republica de Hait y La Republica Dominicana. Diversos Aspectos
de un Problema Historico, Geografico y Etnologico (translated from the French by Jose Luis
Munoz Azpiri), Vol. 2, Puerto Principe, 1953, p. 30.
13. George Louis Beer, British Colonial Policy, 1754-1765, New York, MacMillan Co. 1922,
14. Ibid., p. 102.
15. Frances Armytage The Free Port System in the British West Indies A Study in
Commercial Policy, 176-1822. London and New York, Longman Green, 1953, p. 64.
16. James Franklyn, The Preseht State of Hayti (St. Domingue) with remarks on its Agricul-
ture, Commerce, Laws, Religion, Finances, and Population, etc. (1828) Frank Cass Reprint,
1971, p. 36.
17. Juan Bosch, Composicion Social Dominicana: Historia e Interpretacion, Santo Domingo,
Dominican Republic, Editoria Arte y Cine, 1970, p. 164.
18. Ibid., p. 167.
19. Huoo Tolentino, "El Fenomeno Racial en Haiti v en la Republica Dominicana," in Tolentino
et al Problemas Dominico Haitianos y del Caribe, Universidad Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico,
1973, p. 120.
20. Dorvo Soulastre, 'Viaje portierra de Santo Domingo al Cabo Frances, Ca ital de la Parte
Espanola de la Misma Isa,' in Rodriquez Demorizi, ed. La Era de Francia en Santo Dominqo,
Contribucion a su Estudio. Academia Dominicana de la Historia. Editoria del Caribe, 1955,
21. Moya Pons, 'Nuevas Consideraciones ...,' op. cit., p. 21.
22. 'Noticia Historica y Estadistica de la Colonia y Darticularmente de la Parte Espanola,' in
Emilio Rodriquez Demorizi, La Era de Francia en Santo Domingo, p. 123.
23. Armytage, The Freeport System.... p. 123.
24. Ibid., p. 79.
25. Ibid., p. 69.
26. Juan Bosch, Composicion Social..., p. 171.
27.'Declaratoria de Independencia del Pueblo Dominicano,' in E. Rodriquez Demorizi, Santo
Domingo y la Gran Colombia: Bolivar y Nunez de Caceres, Editora del Caribe, Santo
Domingo R.D., 1971 p. 50.
28. Ibid., p. 50.
29. Raymond Carr, Spain: 1808-1939. London, Clarendon Press, 1966, p. 98.
30. H.V. Livermore, A History of Spain, Inc. New York, Grove Press, 1960, p. 358.
31. Raymond Carr, Spain..., p. 98.
32. Quoted in Franklyn Franco, Los Negros..., p. 128.
33. Jose Gabriel Garcia (Rasgos Biograficos de Dominicanos Celebres, Santo Domingo
1971) Editora del Caribe, describes All, as 'a valiant African who commanded the battalion
of 'pardos' organized after the reconquest.' See p. 160.
34. Frank Mova Pons La Dominacion Haitiana, 1822-1844, UCMM, Santiago, Dominican
Republic, 1972, pp. 29-30.
35. Nunez de Caceres, 'Declaratoria...' p. 51.
36. See among others, David Bushnell, The Santander Regime in Gran Colombia, 1954.
37. Jean Pierre Boyer to the General of Santo Domingo. Published in St. Jago de la Vega
Gazette (Jamaica), March 23, 1822.
39. Letter from St. Pierre Martinique dated February 14, 1822. St. Jago de la Vega Gazette
(Jamaica), March 23, 1822.
40. St. Jago de la Vega Gazette (Jamaica), March 23, 1822. Letter from Mayaguez, Puerto
Rico, dated February-th, 1822.
41. Jamaica Archives Governor's Despatches. Manchester to Bathurst. March 8, 1822.
The Unsung Slaves: Islam in Plantation Jamaica
The Coat of Arms, "Out of Many, One People" unites the multi-cultural and
religiously diverse society of Jamaica. Out of these many, the Muslims form an
invisible minority in Jamaica, the third largest island in the Caribbean. Currently,
numbering about 3,000, most of the Muslims are in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica
and in the parishes of St. Catherine, St. Mary and Westmoreland. Others are
scattered throughout the country.1 The existence of this Muslim community in
Jamaica whose presence dates back to the days of slavery is largely unrecognized
in a predominantly Black Christian country. Ethnically, the majority of Jamaican
Muslims are of African descent. The second prominent group is of Indian origin and
a few are of Middle Eastern descent from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. (See Map
This paper focuses on the status of Islam in Plantation Jamaica. The term
plantation has been used loosely to mean the slavery period and does not refer to
any specific plantations. It includes both sugar and livestock.
The Advent of Islam : The African Islamic Connection
Of the three Abrahamic religions, Islam was the faith of the Black African slaves
brought to Jamaica and to the other West Indian islands from West and Central
Africa. Islam, thus, first appeared in Jamaica not with the help of the so-called
Islamic Sword, but as Muslim slaves brought in chains by the European Christians.
Ironically, the anti-Islamic forces, thus, facilitated the sowing of the Islamic seed in
Jamaica and in the rest of the British Caribbean.
As early as the tenth and eleventh century, Islam had made an important impact
in West and Central Africa. The Islamic presence was established by merchants,
missionaries and teachers, rather than by conquest and empire. Colonies of Arab
merchants and traders allied with local political elites and inspired them to accept
Islam. Thus, between the tenth and the eighteenth centuries, a succession of
Sudanic kingdoms Ghana, Mali, Kanem, Songhay, Hausaland, and Dogomba -
were converted or organized under the banner of Islam. Mandinka, Fula, Susu,
Ashanti, Hausa and other nations had become part of the Dar-al-lslam, "the abode
of submission," meaning the lands and peoples under Islamic law and rule.2 (See
Maps # 2 & 3)
Within this realm of Islam, in some cases the chiefs remained pagans but
employed Muslims as officials, traders, and advisers. In other instances the chiefs
accepted Islam but maintained a cultural orientation which synthesized Islamic
rituals and festivals with pagan customs and ceremonies. In cases such as Kano,
Katsina, Takrur and Bornu, the chiefs became fully Muslim and active patrons of
Muslim religious life. These Muslim regimes favoured the work of Muslim
ulama/clerics who presided over prayers, sacrifices, and festivals, applied Islamic
law, and established an Islamic tradition of culture. Arabic thus became important
not only for the diffusion of Islam but for communications and trade. Bornu, Kano
and Timbuktu became centres of Islamic scholarship, imparting Quranic, hadith
and legal studies, supplemented by studies in linguistics, history, mathematics, and
astronomy. These centres had produced Arabic texts as early as the fourteenth
century and were visited by North African and Egyptian scholars.3
Bryan Edwards, in his five volumes, The History, Civil and Commercial of the
British West Indies, writes, "Most, if not all, the nations that inhabit that part of
Africa which lies to the northward and eastward of Sierra Leone are
Mohometans."4 The fact that Islam had been the religion of many of the rulers and
the ruled of West and Central Africa long before the commencement of the Atlantic
trade strengthens the argument that a good proportion of the millions of Africans
forcefully brought to the West Indies were Muslims. Christianity was foreign to most
of those removed from Africa. Besides Islam, traditional African religions/ancestral
worship were commonly practised.
Analytical studies and official records on the background of the slaves suggest
that those brought to Jamaica and to the other sugar plantation islands belonged to
Mandinka, Fula, Susu, Ashanti and Hausa nations.5 This further confirms the
existence of Muslims among the slave communities in Jamaica and the British
West Indies. Historical accounts and interviews of African slaves further leave no
doubt that possibly a sizeable number of those carried in slave ships to the sugar
plantations of the British West Indian island of Jamaica were followers of Islam.
Accounts suggest that many of the African slaves brought to Jamaica belonged to
the Ashanti Empire. A number of them were taken in native wars and sold to
European slave traders on the coasts. These intro-regional wars did not guarantee
neither persons of high rank nor warriors of prowess against capture and enslave-
ment. It is very likely that many of those from Ashanti were captives or enslaved
during the campaigns undertaken by the non-Muslim Ashanti government against
the northwestern Muslim-dominated provinces whose rulers were known for their
proclivity for Islam.6 The Muslim enlightened reform movement then in progress in
Dar-al-lslam had spread to Western Sudan in the late eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries. The reforms because of their progressive and dynamic
characteristics brought the polytheists under the fold of Islam.
Mrs. A Carmichael, a wealthy English traveller who resided in the British West
Indies for sometime and interviewed many Mandinka slaves is of the opinion that
many of them were Muslims. In her two volume work called The Domestic Manners
and the Social Conditions of the White, Coloured and Negro Population of the West
Indies, she writes: "It is a commonly received opinion in Britain, that negroes are
professed idolaters...There is not a trace of idol worship among them. ...I am
convinced there is not a negro, old or young, who could not tell that one God made
the world, and created mankind; and that He is all powerful and all seeing."7 These
Africans in bondage seemed indignant at the idea that they were thought to be idol
worshippers. They further stressed that in their country they went every fourth day
to church to perform prayers. Such statements would suggest that they were true
believers of Islam, submitting themselves to Allah and to no other gods or goddes-
ses. Furthermore, they regularly performed their Friday Jumma prayers/afternoon
congregational prayers in compliance with the precepts of God as revealed in the
Holy Quran. Islam has distinguished Friday from other days and given it a
prominent position being the most preferable to God, hence it is the prime duty of
Muslims to attend the midday group prayers. Devotees are enlightened with
Khutbah (sermon) on Islam and advised to follow the precepts of God.
Social and Cultural Background
The accounts of Mandinka slaves left by Bryan Edwards reveal their high level
of Islamic education, their utmost devotion to their religion and the disciplined life
they led in their country of origin. Despite all the atrocities and cruelties committed
on them by their white masters on the plantations, many of these slaves never quite
forgot the Islamic teachings which they received in their early childhood in Africa.
The Mandinka servants of Edwards were educated in Arabic and could write with
great beauty and exactness, the Arabic alphabet and some passages from Al-
Quran. They further displayed a gentleness of disposition and demeanour. Ed-
wards believes that this was "the result of early education and discipline."8 If
education and discipline are regarded as characteristics of good family back-
ground, it would then suffice to say that probably many of the Mandinka and
African slaves were from well-educated and well-to-do Muslim families. The per-
sonal narratives collected in Africa Remembered further testify to the illustrious
background of the slaves.
Bryan Edwards writing on the national customs and manners of Muslim slaves,
states as follows:
An old and faithful Mandinka servant, who stands
at my elbow while I write this, relates that the
natives practice circumcision, and that he himself
has undergone that operation; and he has not
forgot the morning and evening prayer which his
father taught him. In proof of this assertion, he
chants in an audible and shrill tone, a sentence
that I conceive to be part of the Al-Koran, "La lia
ill illa"! (i.e. La Ilaha Illallah, there is no god but
Allah) which he says they sing aloud at first ap-
pearance of the new moon. He relates, moreover,
that in his own country Friday was constantly
made a strict fasting. It was almost a sin, he
observes, on that day to swallow his spittle; such
is his expression.9
The above account is a clear testimony that Islam was the religion of many of
the Mandinka slaves and possibly of many of the black slaves who were brought
from the Muslim nations of Africa. The recitation La Ilaha Illallah is the core of Islam
and summarizes the complete belief and submission to Allah. The repetition of this
verse alone reinforces that Islam made its appearance in Jamaica during slavery
days, in fact, long before Hinduism and possibly other minority religions which
presently enjoy constitutional recognition. The significance of Friday and the impor-
tance of the moon in the Muslim calendar are also stressed.
Dr. Robert R. Madden, one of the six special magistrates sent to Jamaica in
1833 by the British Government to supervise the implementation of the Emancipa-
tion Act of 1833, recorded the presence of a considerable number of Muslims in
Jamaica. He also found them to be generally literate, independent and following
the principles of Islam despite all the odds and pressures under bondage. In his
letter to J.F. Savory, Esq., Jamaica, St. Andrews, dated March 30, 1835, Madden
included the following narrative:
I had a visit one Sunday morning very lately, from
three Mandingo negroes, natives of Africa. They
could all read and write Arabic; and one of them
showed me a Koran written from memory by him-
self but written he assured me, before he be-
came a Christian. I had my doubts of this point.
One of them, Benjamin Cockrane, a free negro...
was in the habit of coming to me on Sundays...His
history is that of hundreds of others in
Jamaica...Cockrane says his father was a chief in
the Mandingo country...I (Madden) have not time
to give you an account of his religious opinions;
but though very singular, they were expressed
with infinitely more energy and eloquence than
his sentiments on other subjects. He professed to
be an occasional follower of one of the sectarian
ministers here, and so did each of this two
friends. I had my doubts thereupon. I expressed
them to my wife..., and told her to prepare for a
demonstration of Mohometanism. I took up a
book, as if by accident, and commenced repeat-
ing the well-known Mussalman Salaam to the
Prophet, Allah Illah Mohammed Rasul Allah! In an
instant, I had a Mussalman trio, long and loud: my
negro Neophytes were chanting their names with
irrepressible fervour, and Mr. Benjamin Cockrane
I thought, would have inflicted the whole of "the
perspicuous book" of Islam on me, If I had not
taken advantage of the opportunity for giving him
and his companions reproof for pretending to be
that which they were not.10
The account reveals that probably hundreds of African slaves who had been
brought in chains from Dar al-Islam of West Africa had been forced to observe the
practices of their masters' religion under rigidly specified conditions. In actuality,
however, many of them remained faithful to their religion and practised Islam
privately amongst themselves. They waged the true JIHAD in their struggle for
self-purification as Muslims despite all the odds against their faith. The recitation of
the first pillar/foundation of Islam, La Ilaha Illallahu Muhammadur Rasul Allah, i.e.
that ""there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah",
illustrates the strong faith//man in Islam. The mere fact of writing the Holy Quran in
Arabic from memory demonstrates having a strong background in Islamic teach-
ings. The Holy Quran or the Word of Allah revealed to Prophet Muhammed (Peace
be upon him) through angel Gabriel contains 114 chapters called Suras and
divided into thirty parts. Not one letter nor a word of the Arabic text of the Holy
Quran has been changed since its revelation. Thus the Muslim slaves who
memorized the Holy Quran word for word can be regarded to be men specialized
in the study of Islamic theology.
The Process of Baptism
Thousands of slaves have been reported to have gone through the process of
baptism. However, the practice of Christianity by many of the African Muslims
slaves was only pretensions, apparently, to avoid confrontations and punishments
from the plantation class and the church. On the other hand, for many who came
from respected and honourable families, often pretentious conversion was a token,
at least, of partial acceptance. The ostentatious acceptance of Christianity gave
them some social respectability and with it came personality change.
The church, under its own conditions often determined the divine worship of the
slaves. The masters were frequently required by the church to bring their slaves to
Mass and teach them religion. Very often, church policies preferred conversion to
manumission of emancipation of slaves. The Anglican Church played a major role
in baptizing the African slaves. Under metropolitan urging and insistence, new
colonial laws encouraged slave baptism, church marriages, Christian lessons and
directives, and sabbatarianism.11 Reverend George Bridges, the founder of the
Colonial Church Union claimed in 1823 to have baptized 10,000 slaves within two
years in Manchester parish.12 It seemed to have been a profitable profession to be
a religious minister as a fee of two shillings sixpence was charged to baptize a
slave decreed by the Jamaican legislature. Rev. Bridges and his counterpart, Rev.
Lindsay are known to have physically attacked non-conformists and burned their
place of worship. They sincerely believed that the role of the Church of England
was to defend the social order. Behaving like Social Darwinists and blindly believ-
ing in "imperialism of righteousness", these Reverends tended to stress the func-
tion of Christianity in "civilizing" the slaves. Furthermore, by exaggerating their role
in the conversion of thousands of slaves ostensibly in smoothing the social transi-
tion from slavery to free wage labour, the white ministers "distorted the slaves'
motivation for making what was essentially a voluntary transition."13
Neither the Reverends' accounts nor the Church histories give any information
on the religious affinity of the thousands of slaves baptized in Manchester. The
subsequent rebellion in Manchester in 1832 believed to have been led by Muslims,
can serve to be an indication that there might have been a good proportion of
Muslim slaves in Manchester who had been baptized against their religious beliefs.
Hence, along with socio-economic discontent, the existence of religious discontent
cannot be ignore.
Despite the adoption of Christian names by the African slaves, they cherished
their Muslim names. In a letter to Magistrate Madden, Benjamin Cockrane revealed
his name as Anna Moosa. He further disclosed with fondness that he was the son
of one of the lords in the Carsoe nation which was an Islamic country.14 Such had
been the background of many. However, the accounts of most of the African slaves
and their religious affinity have not been written. Perhaps this has been a deliberate
attempt to conceal the high state of cultural and disciplined life of the African
Muslims who had been forcefully enslaved. Or perhaps, the ignorance of the
plantation masters on Islam failed them to take note of many of the Islamic
practices observed by the slaves. They were simply regarded as part of the
animistic or polytheistic beliefs-
The two autobiographical fragments of Abu Bakr al-Siddig, born in Timbuktu
about 1790 the son of a learned family of the Western Sudan is regarded as the
best testimony of the Muslim presence in Jamaica. The first personal account
written in Arabic on September 20, 1834 was given to Magistrate Madden in
Kingston, Jamaica. The second version also written in Arabic but in England in the
following year in August was translated and published by G.C. Renourd. These
personal recollections of Abu Bakr reveal the background of his family which
belonged to the class of the ulama, or men of learning in Islamic jurisprudence. The
conduct of public affairs largely rested in their hands. Abu Bakr's father and his
great-grandfathers, both paternal and maternal, presumably belonged to the class
of jurisconsult shahid 1-malik.5i Furthermore, the family belonged to one of the
Shurfa groups in Western Sudan which claimed descent from Prophet Mohammed
(Peace be upon him).
Abu Bakr al-Sliddig had advanced Quranic learning, initially in Jenne and
subsequently in Bouna which was a center of learning, referred to by H. Bart as "a
place of great celebrity for its learning and its schools, in the countries of the
Mohammedan Mandingoes..."16 Bouna together with Jenne also happened to be
trading centers where Arab traders came from Fez and Meknes. These traders
were often well integrated into the general population, marrying local women and
raising families. The offspring of such marriages sometimes inherited local chief-
tainships and eventually inspired the conversion of local peoples.17 Hence, the
presence of Muslim Arabs and their assimilation further strengthened Islam and
Islamic practices. So strong was Abu Bakr's Islamic teachings that even after thirty
years in Jamaica, he still knew the Quran "almost by heart." Abu Bakr who became
a prisoner in one of the anti-Muslim campaigns carried out by the polytheist Ashanti
government against Bouna was sold to an English ship in about 1805, and
transported to the West Indies.
Like hundreds of other African slaves, Abu Bakr had different masters during
bondage and had been baptized as Edward Donellan (variously spelled as Donlan
or Doulan).18 However, the accounts of Abu Bakr illustrates his firm belief in Islam,
his total submission to God and the acceptance of his bondage as God ordained.
Though there is some bitterness expressed against slavery because of its oppres-
siveness, he does not lose faith in God. He wrote, "But praise be to God, under
whose power are all things. He does whatever He wills! No one can turn aside that
which He has ordained, nor can anyone withhold that which He has given. As God
Almighty Himself has said: Nothing can befall us unless it be written for us (in His
book)! He is our master: in God, therefore, let all the faithful put their trust!"19 This
demonstrates Abu Bakr's firm faith in Islam which requires total submission to the
Will of Allah.
In his personal recollections, Abu Bakr further stresses the observance of the
five pillars of Islam and other Islamic principles by the members of his families.
Besides, the iman/faith in Allah and Muhammad as his Prophet, Muslims are
required to perform prayers five times daily, make payment of the zakat (two and a
half per cent annual tax on the savings of the rich for the poor), observe sawm/fast-
ing during the month of Ramadhan and perform the hajj/pilgrimage to the Holy
Mosque, Kaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia (obligatory for those who are financially and
Through the exertions of Dr. R.R. Madden, Abu Bakr was freed by his master,
Alexander Anderson in 1834. He received a donation of twenty pounds sterling
from the inhabitants of Kingston raised by public subscription to help him initiate his
life as a free man.
Impressed by Abu Bakr's knowledge of Africa, his learning in Arabic and of his
family background, Magistrate Robert Madden approached the Royal Geographi-
cal Society with the suggestion that the former African slave be employed as a
guide for some future expedition into the Western Sudan. Though rejected by the
Society, Abu Bakr was brought to England by Captain Oldrey, another Special
Magistrate from Jamaica. Subsequently, Madden commended Abu Bakr to John
Davidson, a medical doctor who was then undertaking a private expedition to
Timbuktu. Abu Bakr's noble ancestry as illustrated in the notes taken by Davidson
during his travels, enabled the latter to receive permission from the Sultan of
Morocco to undertake the expedition to Timbuktu. In Morocco, Abu Bakr was "fully
acknowledged and (Davidson's dragoman had orders from the palace to treat him
with respect, as he was a Mulay (prince)."20 Abu Bakr is perhaps one of the very
few who returned to Africa to his hometown, Jenne, after almost thirty years of
bondage in Jamaica.
Apparently, little communication existed among the Muslim slaves living in the
different parishes or on the different plantations in Jamaica, except for those who
belonged to the same master. With the passage of the Emancipation Act, in 1833,
whereby all the slaves in Jamaica were given the status of "apprentices" com-
munications were opened between men who had left Africa many decades before.
Such exchange of letters and correspondences were initiated by the Special
Magistrates, like William Oldrey and R.R. Madden. Mohammad Kaba, a Muslim
slave of Spice Grove Estate in Manchester Parish was enabled to correspond with
Abu Bakr in 1834 through the kind hand of Magistrate Madden. Like Abu Bakr,
Kaba was known in Jamaica by his Christian name Robert Tuffit or Robert Peart.
Of Mandingo parentage, he came from Bouka, a short distance east of Timbuktu
and belonged to a well-to-do family learned in law and Islamic teachings.21 Kaba
himself studied the Quranic law at Timbuktu which was probably the most impor-
tant centre of Arabic and Muslim studies. While there, he fell into the hands of
robbers and carried down the coast to be sold to the European slave traders in
1777. The endeavours made by his relatives to ransom him were in vain. He was
brought to Jamaica and had been in bondage for some fifty-six years.
The Observance of Islam on Plantations
The correspondence of Mohammad Kaba illustrates his strong Islamic back-
ground. He greets Abu Bakr with an Islamic salutation, "As-Salamu Aleikoum"and
discloses his Muslim name. There is a profound happiness expressed in his letter
that he was able to write to Abu Bakr who believed in Islam, had a good standing,
and who had a similar fate.22 Like many of his other Muslim slave brethren in the
estates, Muhammad Kaba adhered to his belief in Islam and observed the Islamic
practices. At a meeting with Brother G. Lewis, a Baptist Priest, Muhammad Kaba
confessed: "Me do pray... Me say me believe in God, but not in his Son; for in me
country we pray to God and his prophet Mohomet."23 Kaba was baptised by
Brother Langley and like the other Muslim slaves was known by his Christian
name, Robert Peart or Robert Tuffit. Apparently, so strong was his conviction in
Islam, that never in truth and in spirit did Muhammad Kaba give up his faith in
Islam. Even as a Baptist and a member of a Moravian Church, Kaba and many of
his fellow Muslim slaves who had gone though the process of baptism "were in the
habit of fasting three times a week, eating and drinking nothing from sunrise to
sunset."24 Such a practice, usually observed by a devout Muslim, irritated the
planters who took every means to put it down. Apparently, the planters were
concerned with the efficient performance of the slaves. On one such occasion, an
overseer finding his slaves fasting, ordered them to break stones all day with
sledge-hammers. As true believers in Islam, they did not bow down to the pres-
sures and break their fasts, but "readily continued to do till evening without
intermission, and so successfully, that he (overseer) could not refrain from ex-
pressing his surprise."25 Such observances of the Islamic pillar may tend to
suggest that the Muslim slaves though baptized and were members of local
Christian churches paying regular dues at the rate of 3 pence each became
crypto-Muslims. They tried to reconcile the secret practice of Islam with the out-
ward profession of Christianity.
Despite the tremendous odds and possible persecution, the African Muslim
slaves rose in rebellion against slavery in January 1832, in Manchester. According
to Madden, this rebellion is regarded to be in response to the call for Jihad made
through a Wathigah, a "pastoral letter" which "exhorted all of the followers of
Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) to be true and faithful if they wished to
enter paradise."26 Apparently, this document written in Africa in 1789 was circu-
lated in Jamaica and reached the hands of Muhammad Kaba alias Robert Peart in
Manchester. The circulation of the document and the subsequent rebellion would
suggest that the belief in Jihad to correct the brutal system was strong among the
African Muslim slaves in Jamaica like in the other European colonies in the
Caribbean at the time. Muhammad Kaba's leadership in this Jihad and his stead-
fastness in the performance of prayers and observance of fasting from sunrise to
sunset dispel his profession of Christianity. Islamic practices were, perhaps being
camouflaged and legitimized in the name of a Christian Church for the black
slaves. The religious conviction of Muhammad Kaba and his Muslim fellow slaves
often drew the suspicions of the local officials. On one such occasion, Muhammad
Kaba and some others were taken before a bench of magistrates and examined as
to the nature of the instruction which they received. Muhammad Kaba might have
been a slave but with his scholarly background in Islamic studies and his faith in
Islam, he was no such fool to disclose his belief. His answers convinced the judges
that the gospels were aimed to make them more valuable servants and better
members of society. Muhammad Kaba along with the others were quietly dis-
Michael Craton in his Testing the Chains: Resistance to Slavery in the British
West Indies, mentions this resistance as a "small outbreak" of unrest in which six
rebels were shot dead and two executed.8 He, however, views it as part of the
great rebellion, commonly known as the Baptist War which engulfed Jamaica in
1832. The involvement of Muhammad Kaba and others who apparently belonged
to the Moravian Church may further suggest that the rebellion was not necessarily
a total Baptist War but a Jihad against Christianity which legitimized the institution
There is no tangible evidence to suggest that early slave revolts in Jamaica
were being led by Muslim slaves. However, the Islamic greetings of the Maroon
community in Moore Town in Portland, Jamaica would indicate that a good number
of the Maroons and early runaway slaves who led the first successful rebellions
against the British as early as the late nineteenth century with their final victory in
the 18th century were of Muslim background. The mere fact that As Salamu
Aleikoum, peace be upon you, is the common greeting in the Maroon community
even at present, certainly suggests that either many of the Maroons were followers
of Islam or came from African states ruled by Muslim rulers or Islam was the
established religion of their communities of origin. Since the Maroons do not
represent one ethnic group, the Islamic greeting might further indicate that Muslim
slaves belonging to various ethnic backgrounds led the first Jihads in Jamaica.
The successful Maroon warfare against the British for human dignity and for
freedom, gave the Bush Negroes, as the fugitives of Surinam were called, the
incentive to redouble their attacks against the Dutch authorities which they initiated
around the late 1720s. Like the Maroons of Jamaica, the Bush Negroes, besides
Captain Adoe, were led by Muslim slaves like Arabi and Zam Zam.29 With their
extraordinary military and organizational skills, the Bush Negroes forced the Dutch
to sign the peace treaty in 1761. Not only were the fugitives given a territory
bordering French Guyana, but the treaty required the Dutch to give these negro an
annual quantity of arms and ammunition. The victories of the Maroons and the
Bush Negroes afforded the slaves of Saint-Domingue two examples of successful
slave revolts.30 Based on the premise of the involvement of Muslim slaves in the
Maroon and Bush Negroes revolts, it can be argued that successful Muslim slave
revolts in Jamaica and in Surinam were precursors to the great slave rebellion of
Saint-Domingue in 1791.
Incidentally, West Africa in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries wit-
nessed Jihads led by Muslim scholars and teachers, itinerant preachers and their
student followers, and the religious leaders of trading and agricultural com-
munities.31 They aspired to carry out a double Jihad, the inner Jihad, the struggle
against corruption of the body/individual, which must precede the outer Jihad, the
war against pagan rulers and corrupt Muslim governments and their hired ulama.
More particularly, these Jihadswere against the corrupt and un-lslamic practices of
West African Muslim states, such as illegal taxation, the seizure of private property,
pagan ceremonial practices and "venal" mallams who served rulers without ade-
quate knowledge of Arabic and Islam. The Jihadswere in the form of reforms unlike
the commonly perceived wars.
Though such rebellions were for the most part suppressed, the spirit of Jihad or
individual purification of one's self probably continued among the first generation of
African Muslim slaves in Jamaica. The stories of probably hundreds of African
Muslim slaves remained untold, unwritten and unheard. The few that have been
written have also been submerged under the weight of the white Christian masters,
the Christian churches and subsequently by the Black Christian community, a
community whose ancestors, perhaps, were once either Muslims or polytheists
Retrogression of Islam
Despite the strong belief in Islam, the faith in its true form failed to make a
permanent impact on the succeeding generation. With the death of the original
African Muslim slaves, Islam was no longer practised in Jamaica until the advent of
the Indian indentured labourers. The typical West African Muslim had a profound
sense of family and family authority. He was accustomed to live by a highly
formalized set of rules largely influenced by the Islamic principles. If he belonged to
the upper classes of society as did many who subsequently fell victim to the slave
trade he might have had considerable experience as a political or military leader.
Likewise, very often Quranic teachings gave him vast experiences in Islamic legal
institutions and law. In short, he was the product of Islamic cultural traditions
essentially heroic in nature and with the everburning spirit of Jihad.
Something very profound, therefore, would have had to intervene in order to
obliterate all this and the Islamic way of life and to produce a society of helpless
dependents subserviently accepting the Christian faith to appease the European
masters. Apparently, a great deal had happened to the captive slave. He had
undergone a complete metamorphosis through the shock in the process of
enslavement and the accompanying physical torment particularly during the dread-
ful Middle Passage. Much of his past had been entirely destroyed; nearly every
prior connection had been severed. Every vestige of literature in possession of the
unfortunate Blacks was thrown overboard during the Middle passage. The Holy
Quran was not an exception. He had not really "forgotten" all these things, his
family and kinship arrangements, his language, his religion, the names he had
once borne, and so on -but none of it any longer carried much meaning. The old
values, the sanctions, the standards, the Islamic principles could no longer provide
him adequate guides for conduct under the brutal system of European slavery. He
could look to none but his master, upon whom the system had committed his entire
being. Once a proud Muslim, the African slave now depended upon his master for
his food, his shelter, his sexual connections, whatever moral instruction he might
be offered, whatever "success" was possible within the system, his very security -
in one word, "everything".
Under the cruel system of slavery and the harsh slave codes which governed
the lives of the slaves, the African Muslims were not allowed to openly communi-
cate in Arabic amongst themselves, but were forced to speak in English. As a
result, Arabic, though not forgotten by the Muslim slaves failed to leave its imprint
on the Jamaican language. Perhaps, a thorough research on the Jamaican patois
might reveal the inclusion and usage of Arabic words.
With no freedom at all, the observance of all the five pillars of Islam was not
possible. Though prayers were performed discreetly as confessed by the Muslim
slaves,' the rigours of the slavery system obviously were not conducive to offer
prayers five times daily. Nor were they allowed to pray openly. Islam is a highly
organized religion which calls upon its followers to adhere to group prayers five
times a day at the appointed hours and in a uniform way. Prophet Muhammad
(Peace be upon him) was quoted as having said: "In a team of every three men in
a village, a group prayer should be held no matter how remote, unless they are
controlled by Satan. Stick family on worship in groups, as the wolf usually hunts
goats scattered away in isolation."32 The prescribed group prayer introduces a
deep sense of unity and equality when all worshippers line up in united ranks side
by side without discrimination. The mere fact that all Muslims throughout the world
face the Holy Kaba at the appointed hours brings a feeling of universal unity. This,
further, strengthens the bonds of amity and brotherhood among the followers of
Islam and a spiritual desire to uphold their common edifice. Prayers, furthermore,
provide opportunities to Muslims to come together and meet daily, weekly and
annually. In the absence of group prayers, under the brutal slavery system there
was no opportunity to enliven Islam. Islam ceased to be a community religion.
As examined earlier, faithful Muslim slaves, despite all the odds observed
fasting. Mohammad Kaba alias Robert Peart confessed that whenever he wished
to observe fasting, he pretended to be sick.33 The observance of the other pillars
were, however, simply not possible and also not a requirement given their slave
status. Under the circumstances, the importance of the five pillars of Islam was
Even Islamic dietary principles could not be observed. Pork, which is restricted
in Islam, seems to have been a common protein for the slaves. The virtues of family
life and marriage were substituted with adultery, a sin which is forbidden in all the
three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But neither the
European Christian plantation masters nor the Christian churches abstained from
committing such a grave sin. The Islamic principles governing family life disap-
peared with the disintegration of the families. Under such circumstances, there was
no succeeding Black Muslims generation to accept and practise the Islamic faith.
What remains of the Muslim African slaves until today, are some of their graves in
St. James, typifying the characteristics of Muslims burials. Islam temporarily be-
came inactive until it emerged again with the coming of the Indian indentured
The succeeding generations of the African Muslim slaves eventually constituted
a Black Christian community in Jamaica like in the other Caribbean Islands. The
systematic and brutal suppression of the West African islamic heritage by the slave
masters, the metropolitan powers and the various Christian churches was perhaps
a calculated move to obiterate the Islamic faith in these sugar plantation islands
and have in place a subservient Black Christian community. Apparently, the efforts
of the crusaders to rid the world of the Islamic faith was quite successful in the
Caribbean. After all, Columbus had set out to discover the East by way of the West
in order to sap the power of the Islamic Empire which stretched roughly from North
Africa to the East Indies Archipelago in the Pacific. The repugnant and often hostile
attitude of the Black Christian community towards Islam, at present, speaks of the
legacy of the cultural and spiritual genocide carried out by the slavery system
approved and aided by the religious institutions. However, the present day Black
Muslim community in Jamaica is the result of the germination of the seeds sown
during the days of slavery. Fertilized and watered by the Black Power movement
and the Nation of Islam of American Blacks, the African Islamic heritage in Jamaica
has regenerated in Jamaica, no longer to be suppressed but to flourish ever
1. An estimate made by the Islamic Council of Jamaica formed in 1981. Besides the Central
Masiid/Mosque of Jamaica located at Camp Road, Kin ston, there are other Masjids located
in different parishes. They are viz.: Masiid Ar-Rahman (Spanish Town, St. Catherinel Masjid
As-Sobr (Albany St. Mary), Masjid An-Nur (Port Maria, St. Mary), Masjid Hussain (Georges
Plain, Westmoreland), Masid Taqwa (Newell District, St. Elizabeth), Masjid AI-Hag [Portland
Cottage, Clarendon), and Jamaat-Al-Salaam (Kingston).
2. Ira M. Lapidus A History of Islamic Societies, (New York: Cambridge University Press,
1988), pp. 489-49; and Adu Boahen with J.F. Ade Ajavi and Michael Tidy, Topics in West
African History (London: Longman Group Limited, 1986), p. 11.
3. Ira M. Lapidus, p. 499.
4. Bryan Edwards, The History, Civil and Commercial of the West Indies, (1819) Vol. II, (New
York: AMS Press, Inc. 1966) p.70. Note that the followers of Islam are called Muslims,
meaning those who submit to the Will of Allah.
5. Although there is no document in Barry W. Higman, Slave Community in the British
Caribbean (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984) as to the ethnicity of
the slaves brought to the other British West Indies would suggest that slaves of similar ethnic
background were brought to Jamaica.
6. Phillip D. Curtin (ed.) Africa Remembered: Narratives by West Africans From the Era of
the Slave Trade, (Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1968), p. 106.
7. Mrs. A. Carmichael, The Domestic Manners and the Social Condition of the White
Coloured and Negro Population of the West Indies, Vol. II (London: Whittaker, Treacher, and
Co., 1833), pp. 251-152.
8. Bryan Edwards, p. 72.
9. Ibid., pp. 71-72.
10. Robert R. Madden, A Twelve Months Residence in The West Indies During the Transition
from Slavery to Apprenticeship, Vol. I (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, and Blanchard, 1835), pp.
11. Michael Craton, Testing the Chains: Resistance to Slavery in the British West Indies
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press,41982), p. 247.
13. Ibid., p. 248.
14. Robert R. Madden, Vol. 1, p. 102.
15. Philip Curtin, Africa Remembered, p. 152.
16. Ibid., p. 153.
17. Lapidus, pp. 501-502.
18. Philip Curtin, p. 155.
19. Philip Curtin, p. 162, also Robert Madden, Vol. II, pp. 128-130.
20. Philip Curtin, p. 155.
21. Philip Curtin, p. 163; Madden Vol. II, p. 135 and J.H. Buchner, The Moravians in Jamaica
(London: Longman Brown and company 39, Paternoster Row, 1854), p. 50.
22. Philip Curtin, pp. 164-165.
23. J.H. Buchner, p. 51.
24. Ibid., p. 52.
26. Philip Curtin, p. 164, and Madden, Vol. II, p. 135.
27. J.H. Buchner, p. 53
28. Michael Craton, p. 311.
29. Abdullah Hakim Quick, Deeper Roots: Muslims in the Caribbean Before Columbus to the
Present (Nassau Bahamas: The Association of Islamic Communities in the Caribbean and
Latin America, 1990), p. 30.
30. Eric Williams, From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean 1492-1969 (Andre
Deutsch, 1970), p. 198.
31. Lapidus, p. 508.
32. Whata Muslim is Required to KnowAbout His Religion (Makkah AI-Mukkarramah: Muslim
World League), p. 28.
33. J.H. Buchner, p. 33.
The United States and the 1909 Nicaragua Revolution
The United States played the key role in the 1909 Nicaraguan Revolution which
drove Jose Santos Zelaya from power. The details of that role have been conjec-
tured about from time to time but no study has done an in-depth examination of the
issue. Most scholars have insisted that the American business community with
investments in Nicaragua played the key role in the coup d' etat but have argued
that Washington became involved only after the fact.1 However the consensus
view has not fully examined all the facts. Other scholars have given total respon-
sibility for the revolution to the United States government and businessmen.2 The
question is crucial because Nicaragua became the first protectorate of the United
States over an existing Central American country and it has been controlled by its
northern neighbour, in one way or another, throughout most of the twentieth
century. Few regions of the globe have been so thoroughly dominated by the
United States as Central America and it is of utmost importance to understand how
that involvement began. For that reason, this study will examine the role the United
States played in the 1909 Nicaragua Revolution. Was the United States govern-
ment just a victim of circumstance or did it plan all along to take control over the
area connecting North and South Americas?
One must begin to examine this question by looking closely at the events
leading up to the 1909 revolution. It can be argued that the administration of
Theodore Roosevelt had decided to get rid of Zelaya long before William Howard
Taft became president.3 Next, it is important to evaluate the account written by the
leading authority on the diplomatic relations between the United States and
Nicaragua at the beginning of the twentieth century, Dana G. Munro. The study will
also look at the central political leaders in Nicaragua at the time of the revolution as
well as the external rivalry between the Conservatives and Liberals. What led
Washington to hate Zelaya so much? Why was the next government also unaccep-
table to the United States government? After those issues are explored, the study
will focus on the question of Secretary of State Philander Knox's conflict of interests
involving Nicaragua, along with the role of his nephew, Drew Linard. Then one
must examine the involvement of other government officials in the revolution.
Following those issues it is important to explore the financing of the revolution and
the role played by U.S. businessmen in Nicaragua. What role did Nicaraguan
leaders believe the United States government played in the coup d'etat? How did
other major powers view the role of Washington? And lastly, what subsequent
events following the 1909 revolution shed light on the question of the previous
involvement by the United States government? These issues will form the heart of
this study. The role Washington played in what became the U.S. protectorate over
Nicaragua is much greater than the consensus view has made of it.
First, of all, a brief review of Theodore Roosevelt and Nicaraguan affairs is
necessary.4 For purposes of this study a summary of that relationship is crucial
because without it one could easily assume that U.S. businessmen, not
Washington, played the major role in the revolution of 1909. When Roosevelt took
office the relations between the two countries was relatively positive. Jose Zelaya
came to power in Nicaragua in the 1890s. This was the decade when Britain ended
its protectorate over the eastern part of that country referred to as the Miskito
Coast. The United States was perceived by Nicaraguans as liberators expelling the
British. Whether or not that was the case is irrelevant to this study but American
investors flocked to Nicaragua in the 1890s. Like many Latin American countries,
Nicaragua offered concessions to foreigners in hopes the development of their
economy would open the doors to prosperity. Zelaya also hoped that his country
would become the canal route for the watercourse connecting the Atlantic and
Pacific Oceans. It appeared for some time that would be the case but Panama won
the contest for the canal route. That decision by the United States along with other
factors put Zelaya and Roosevelt on a collision course. The Nicaraguan leader
became a fierce nationalist determined to supplant the United States as the most
influential government in Central America. He engaged in filibustering activity to
this end. He also cut back on concessions to U.S. business firms and began to tax
them at rates much higher than local firms. Before he left office Roosevelt and his
Secretary of State, Elihu Root, had concluded it was necessary "to clip Zelaya's
For the "clipping," Roosevelt unleashed the Navy on Zelaya. Root wished to
pressure Zelaya out of power by diplomatic channels but the President had other
ideas. U.S. Naval officers brought considerable pressure to bear on the Zelaya
government and the pressure continued when Taft became president.6 Details of
the naval pressure during the Taft era will be examined later, but the Navy was not
alone in its intrigues against Zelaya. General Edward Alexander was sent by the
United States government to arbitrate a boundary dispute between Nicaragua and
Costa Rica around the turn of the century. He concluded it was "shameful" that
America businessmen with investments in Nicaragua managed to "get our State
Department to bully poor little Nicaragua."7 Indeed, the United States even tried to
persuade Costa Rica to get rid of Zelaya for them. Both Spanish and German
officials were critical of Washington for trying to provoke hostilities between
Nicaragua and Costa Rica in order to drive Zelaya from office.8 Secretary of State
Philander Knox even suggested that the United States government would "reward"
any effort to overthrow the government of Nicaragua.9
Despite all this and more Dana Munro would only say the United States
government was sympathetic to the Nicaraguan revolution of 1909 but Washington
remained neutral.10 Most scholars have deferred to Munro's judgment.11 He ap-
pears to be the most qualified to analyze the situation. Munro had excellent
credentials as a scholar and he served the State Department in various capacities
involving the Caribbean area during the period. Who could be more qualified to
make judgment? No one has raised the issue of a conflict of interest between Dana
Munro the scholar and Dana Munro the diplomat. Munro the scholar may have
been too defensive of what Munro the diplomat was involved in as a member of the
State Department. He had his inconsistencies. For example, one scholar has
observed that Dana Munro denied the State Department ever tied to persuade
other governments to intervene for the purpose of ousting zelaya. Munro claimed
that there was only one document in government files which encouraged interven-
tion.12 However, it has been noted:
"In fact, the U.S. and Costa Rica archives con-
tained many documents for the years 1907-1909
attesting to official U.S. urging of various courses,
including the use of force, intended to overthrow
Zelaya, as well as documents proving that Costa
Rica's government had always refused to serve
as a surrogate in that project."113
On another occasion Munro contradicted himself when writing about the 1912
Nicaraguan elections. Another academician has pointed out that in one book Munro
claimed the Liberals "decided not to participate." However in an earlier work Munro
had written "the three or four thousand voters who were allowed to participate
unanimously approved the official ticket."14 As will be seen, the earlier account was
the accurate one. Such discrepancies raise doubts concerning the credibility of
As a government official at the time, Munro may have been apologetic for other
officials who had even less scholarly objectivity in the matter than he himself.
Philander Knox is a central figure in U.S. Nicaraguan relations in 1909. Knox was
the epitome of the corporate lawyers who came to dominate the State Department
at the turn of the century. Among his clients were the Fletcher family, the largest
U.S. business investors in Nicaragua. Reportedly, Knox was the "principal
shareholder" of La Luz and Los Angeles Mining Company operating in
Nicaragua.15 Munro was quick to rush to Knox's defense saying there was no
conflict of interests: "The idea that Knox was a servant of big business was hardly
supported by his own career in the public service."16 Most scholars agree.17 Walter
and Marie Scholes even go so far as to assert that "In Knox's personal papers there
is an indication that he sold a number of his holdings before entering the Cabinet
as Secretary of State."'1 No evidence is presented to support the assertion and
there is no mention of what percentage of the shares he still retained if he did sell
a "number" of such in 1909.
Conflicts of interest were not taken as seriously in those days as today. Of
course, most scholars have dismissed Charles Beard's attack on Knox based on
the politically charged senate investigations of the 1920s.19 No serious scholar has
argued Knox pursued a policy in Nicaragua solely to serve his own economic
interests, but his vested interests could have influenced his judgments. At one time,
his nephew, Drew Linard, was the resident manager of the firm in which Knox
owned stock. Indeed, Linard had a checkered career of his own involving conflicts
of interests. He had been accused of improper actions sympathetic to a revolution-
ary movement in Honduras in 1908 and was temporarily suspended from his State
Department job as consul.20 In the summer of 1909, it would appear a bit odd that
he would be sent to Nicaragua, along with two war vessels. At the time, Zelaya was
threatening to cancel concessions for La Luz and Los Angeles Mining Company.
Was it only coincidence that shortly after the 1909 revolution the chief bookkeeper
of that company, Adolfo Diaz, became the only presidential candidate supported by
the Taft administration? Diaz, as will be shown later, had conflicts of interest of his
own, such as the way he supplied money for the revolutionary movement and was
compensated for such from the Nicaraguan Treasury.
Philander Knox played a major role in the Taft administration. It has been said
that he was the President's closest adviser and to him was delegated "virtually
complete control of American diplomacy."21 Knox pursued a policy known as
Dollar Diplomacy. It was believed that dollar investments abroad could be used as
diplomatic leverage to obtain United States goals in international relations. The
Roosevelt administration had set the precedent in Santo Domingo when that
country could not pay its foreign debt and the United States set up a protectorate.
In the development of this "new" diplomacy, Knox relied heavily on a younger
subordinate by the name of Francis M. Huntington-Wilson, the ultimate dollar
diplomat. Both men exhibited the Social Darwinian bigotry of the day. As Hun-
tington-Wilson summarized the situation in Nicaragua:
"There was an educated, property-owning and
civilized small minority [in Nicaragua] that ...
made up the Conservative Party ... A lower
stratum ... made up the Liberal Party. The aim of
policy, thought I, should be to protect the small
group of the best people from being over-
whelmed, through Liberal politicians, by the
Negro and Indian elements.... 22
The Conservatives and Liberals had an old, bitter rivalry in Nicaragua and U.S.
officials estimated the former was outnumbered by the latter on a ratio of at least
five to one.23 Of course the will of the people was not a major concern of
Huntington-Wilson's who later reflected on dollar diplomacy as meaning "the
relations of the United States with the outside world shall be determined by the
pecuniary interests of a small group of financiers...."24 Indeed, the State Department
had changed dramatically under Knox from the days of Elihu Root.
"Lacking Root's patience and skill, his sensitivity
to Latin American attitudes, and his awareness of
the entrapment of an interventionist propensity,
they [Knox and Huntington-Wilson] were much
quicker to equate these goals with the economic
interest of American investors."25
Knox believed that the United States government should have the power to
intervene freely in Central American countries whenever it chose to do so. He
agreed that there should be a "Platt Amendment" type of arrangement instituted
that gave Washington unrestricted power to send troops into the area at will. After
the Spanish-American War, the Platt Amendment had given the North American
government such a right of intervention with regards to Cuba. The Secretary of
State wrote President Taft:
"There should be some conventional right to inter-
vene in Central American affairs promptly,
without waiting for outbreaks and with a view of
averting rather than quelling internal disturban-
ces. The United States should be in a position to
apply an effective remedy at any time.26
Both Knox and Huntington-Wilson had a very negative view of Latin Americans. The
latter urged the President to implement repressive military interventions south of the
border so that "the moral effect upon the whole revolution-ridden region of Central
America and the Caribbean should be greatest."27 As one scholar expressed it this
diplomat believed Latinos were "a brutish people best managed by brute force."28
Nationalism was acceptable for the United States but was not to be tolerated in
Nicaragua. The attitude was rather common throughout the State Department at the
time. The U.S. Vice-Consul at Bluefields, wrote the Secretary of State "that the
interior men holding office here are a debauched lot of greedy 'graffters,' who are
simply 'feathering their nests' as rapidly as possible.....29 Nicaragua had only corrupt
politicians, but of course the United States had loyal public servants. As will be seen,
the,way North Americans did business in Central America was at least partially
responsible for the graft that did exist and it has been argued that the end result was
a system of dependency in Central America.30
Knox pursued a policy of overthrowing these "corrupt" politicians in Nicaragua
from the first day be became Secretary of State. He ordered the withdrawal of the
charge d' affairs from Nicaragua immediately and "began to press private business
claims against the Zelaya government...."31 Had the United States been truly
neutral, as it professed throughout the revolutionary ordeal in Nicaragua, the
actions taken by the United States government would have been quite different
from what they were. Yet, many scholars have maintained that the United States
reluctantly became involved in the revolution only after the fact. The record speaks
otherwise. As a State Department official at the time later wrote, "Zelaya was
ousted from the Government of Nicaragua in 1909 by the direct action of this
Government."32 If anything, it is the reverse of consensus history. The U.S.
business interests in Nicaragua did not begin the operation of toppling Zelaya with
Washington joining the bandwagon later. Both the Roosevelt and Taft administra-
tions began the efforts to change the government in that Central American country
and the U.S. business community were merely allies, albeit eager participants.
Costa Rica and other governments would not cooperate in the conspiracy so the
United States government had to resort to other measures.
Knox believed he had good reason to drive Zelaya from power.33 As mentioned
earlier, the Nicaraguan leader engaged in filibustering activity in hopes of dominat-
ing Central America and he solicited other countries to build a canal in his country.
He cut back on concessions to U.S. investors and began taxing U.S. firms at a
much higher rate than others.34 The United States was concerned about the
stability in the region in part because of the security of the Panama Canal. But if
stability were the primary objectives of U.S. policy in the area, one is hard pressed
to explain the many occasions during which Washington promoted revolutions in
Central America. And if one argues the United States did not promote revolution in
Nicaragua in 1909, it is difficult to explain how all previously attempted coups
against Zelaya had been so easily quelled. The Nicaraguan government also had
the 1909 revolutionaries defeated until the United States prevented that develop-
"To argue ... that the United States intervened in
Central America simply to stop revolutions and
bestow the blessings of stability tells too little too
simply. The motive for Washington's policy in
Central America was not to stop upheavals, but to
promote U.S. interests."35
The friction began to come to a head in 1908 when Zelaya's government tried
to obtain a loan from the Ethelburga Syndicate of London. The United States
government pressured the British government to block the loan.36 British investors
were growing weary of Zelaya and apparently had joined the Conservatives in
Nicaragua in their efforts to drive him from power. England complained to the
United States about losses which their investors suffered in Nicaragua.37 However,
British officials were convinced that "more then 70 percent of the population" was
supporting the Liberal Party and these same officials were critical of the U.S.
intervention. The British Consul in Managua later reported that "I do not think that
even among the conservative element the intervention has been popular."38 The
German government was also critical of Washington and blamed that government
for the revolution of 1909. American journalists on the scene at the time supported
these accusations.39 Of course, Zelaya and other Nicaraguans blamed
As tensions between the United States and Nicaraguan intensified in 1909,
Washington drew up plans for a military intervention. President Taft instructed the
Navy to prevent any filibustering activities on the part of the Zelaya government.41
Roosevelt had pretty much given the Navy a free hand concerning Nicaragua and
it continued to operate without specific instruction when Taft took office. Naval
officers knew that Washington wanted Zelaya out of power and there is evidence
that many supported revolutionary efforts to that end.42 Later, in the Senate
hearings, it was revealed that "some naval officers" had promised Nicaraguan
revolutionaries of U.S. government support. When specifically asked "Well, what
would be the attitude of the American government? Would it [revolution] be sup-
ported or not?" Navy officials had replied that rebels should go ahead with their
plans because "you will get the support." On other occasions, one of the U.S.
diplomats in Nicaragua later testified that naval officers had come ashore at various
times asking key leaders in Nicaragua "Why don't you get up and get rid of
Zelaya?"43 The State Department was kept well informed by naval officers about
revolutionary possibilities. On May 25, 1909, a telegram reached Washington from
the Commander of the U.S.S. Marietta saying "Revolution is probable.... Foreign
interests have been approached to get acquiescence."44 As will be seen "foreign
interests" were more than acquiescent.
American adventurers flocked to Nicaragua hoping to participate in the impend-
"North Americans by the dozens joined the rebel-
lion, instructing the Estrada-Chamorro forces
[rebels] Th the use of machine guns, frequently
operating the modern weapons themselves.
Others commanded bodies of rebel forces in
combat. ... Among [these volunteers] . was
Captain Godfrey Fowler of the Texas National
Guard, an active-duty member of the Texas
The New York Times reported that "former members of the New Jersey Militia
Insurgent Army" served the rebels.46 These mercenaries would serve as a con-
venient excuse for U.S. dominance of Nicaragua when two American citizens were
executed by the Zelaya government. Lee Roy Cannon and Leonard Groce were
tried and sentenced to death for working in the revolution as demolition experts.
Groce had been an employee of La Luz y Los Angeles Mining Company. The two
were not new to revolutionary activity in Central America but Knox broke diplomatic
relations as the final rebuke to Zelaya. Ironically the rebels were losing the struggle
at that point and this would bring them new life.
Long before breaking diplomatic relations, the State Department had been
changing personnel in Nicaragua as a rebuke to Zelaya. In 1908 the Roosevelt
administration sent John Gardner Coolidge to be the new Minister. After only a few
months he resigned recommending no replacement as a rebuke to the Nicaraguan
government. That left John Gregory as charge d'affairs and as one scholar has
observed "If ever there were a diplomat in the wrong place at the wrong time, it was
Gregory."47 He not only had a anti-Zelaya history behind him, but was extremely
bigoted towards Latin Americans:
"The Latin upon encountering the Saxon reveals
extreme sensitiveness and a consciousness of
inferiority,... it would seem to be almost criminal
for those who are stronger, morally and physically
to permit conditions to exist as they are found
In the summer of 1909 Knox sent his nephew, Drew Linard, to the diplomatic
mission in Bluefields, Nicaragua. His adventures have already been discussed but
it is significant that the State Department replaced Linard with Thomas P. Moffat.
Linard had already been in trouble for his role in a Central American revolution and
he could not be permitted to repeat his mistakes in Nicaragua. So in the fall of
1909, Linard was replaced by Moffat and it is probably no coincidence that in the
fall of 1909 the revolution against Zelaya begins. If one is to believe Moffat, he is
the godfather of that revolution.
Senator William E. Borah (Republican Senator from Idaho) was the leading
critic of U.S. involvement in Nicaragua and he insisted that Moffat was responsible
for the revolution: "From the record it is as clear as the noonday sun that Mr. Moffat
was entirely familiar with and a part of the organization of the revolution of 1909."49
Indeed Moffat gave Knox a three-day advance notice of when the revolution would
begin.50 Reportedly, Moffat had financial investments of his own in Nicaragua.51
He later bragged that he was often referred to as the "revolutionary consul"
because everywhere he was sent revolutions occurred after he arrived. And yet
there are scholars who would have one believe that Knox was unaware of this fact
when he assigned Moffat to his post! He said that John Martin, the resident
manager of La Luz y Los Angeles Mining Company, took him aside and told him his
"career would be enhanced if he supported Diaz for President of Nicaragua...."52
Moffat later wrote Knox rather defensively that the rumours he had control over the
revolutionary leader in Nicaragua were greatly exaggerated and then he inadver-
tently lent credence to such a charge:
"He [Juan Estrada] ever looked for advice and
sustaining. Some have been so ungenerous as to
say that all he accomplished was initiated or dic-
tated by me. This is far from the truth. While I
have been his advisor and friend and have ever
found him amenable to advice, still I have ever
observed that he is alert to questions and prob
[sic] any suggestions that might be offered ere he
Little wonder the revolutionaries "wisely chose Bluefields on the Miskito coast to
start a revolution."54
The revolutionaries and Bluefields were also linked together because that was
the centre of activity for the U.S. investors in Nicaragua. In 1894 Lewis Baker,
Washington's Minister to Nicaragua and Costa Rica, described Bluefields as "the
most prosperous ... within the five Central American States" and "American to the
core." He also estimated that 90 to 95 percent of all foreign investment in
Nicaragua was American by 1894.55 American investors were not united concern-
ing the revolution but most supported it. The role of the United Fruit Company is not
easily explained. United Fruit was probably the most powerful U.S. firm in Central
America. However, it had much greater investment in other parts of the area than
in Nicaragua. Apparently, the instable political conditions is that country led United
Fruit to limit its land holdings to only 193,000 acres of undeveloped land. Com-
petitors controlled the banana business in Nicaragua.56 On the other hand, United
Fruit owned 51% of the stock in the Bluefields Steamship Company which was one
of the largest businesses in Nicaragua at the time of the revolution.57 Zelaya had
granted that steamship company exclusive freights to transport bananas on the
Escondido River, where all the banana trade was located.58 Reportedly the firm
paid the Nicaraguan government $15,000 in gold annually for that concession and
Zelaya was paid $10,000 a year privately.59 This monopoly basically brought the
planters to ruin by 1909 and produced the major problem between Zelaya and most
U.S. business investors.
In May of 1909, Zelaya placed the Escondido region under martial law after the
planters began violent protests against the Bluefields Steamship monopoly. They
formed a Planters' Association representing some 400 firms in order to negotiate
differences with the company. However, the firm refused to mediate the dispute so
the planters went on strike boycotting the transport company and appealed to the
United States government for assistance. Drew Linard reported to the State
Department that the planters demands were reasonable.60 However, repre-
sentatives of Bluefields Steamship Company also appealed to Washington for aid
and U.S.S. Tacoma was dispatched for patrol duty in the area.61 It is not too difficult
to understand why the Bluefields Steamship Company aided Zelaya during the
revolution while virtually all other foreign business interests supported the rebels.
Juan B. Estrada was the governor of the district in which Bluefields was located
and an excellent candidate for leading the revolution against Zelaya, according to
Drew Linard. In July 1909, Estrada notified the American consul in Bluefields that
he needed $50,000 and 2,000 rifles as well as the "disinterested moral support of
the United States" in order to bring about a coup d'etat.62 Estrada had already been
assured of the support of the American business community and had in turn
promised to end the Escondido River monopoly as well as make other concessions
to foreign interests.63 U.S. Naval officers were supportive of Estrada and glad to
have found a man who would "get rid of Zelaya."64 Estrada sent Salvador Castrillo
to Washington for aid and he notified the State Department that there "are several
of us ... who are prepared to do anything" in order to drive Zelaya from power. The
emissary reportedly claimed he was well aware that such a venture could only be
successful "by turning a key in Washington."65 They keys were apparently easily
turned in the State Department for Knox had delusions that the Estrada revolution
represented "the ideals and the will of a majority of the Nicaraguan people. . ."66
Estrada apparently made all the right moves. He asked that Thomas Moffat be
appointed Consul-General to his government and even though official recognition
was not provided by the U.S. government it was obvious whom Washington
supported. Huntington-Wilson informed a group of Central American ministers that
Zelaya's defeat would be the best for the area.67 Knox took steps which all but
recognized Estrada by allowing rebels to maintain a blockade of San Juan del
Norte in November of 1909. Zelaya's troops had captured the town and Estrada's
forces seemed to be doomed to defeat before the U.S. action injected new life into
the rebellion once again. At the same time, Huntington-Wilson made another
attempt to persuade Central American countries to support the revolution. The
meeting bore fruit because Thomas Moffat reported that Guatemala sent aid to the
"two consignments of arms and ammunition are
expected to arrive within twenty-four hours, one
simply coming from New York direct, one fur-
nished by President Calerera of Guatemala.
There are five thousand arms and one million
rounds of ammunition expected in the consign-
It has been estimated by U.S. government sources that Estrada received at
least a million dollars in aid from U.S. business investors.69 While professing
neutrality, the American government did nothing to prevent this aid from reaching
the rebels. In fact, at least on one occasion it interceded to make sure the aid was
received by Estrada. The Puerto Perlas, a U.S.-owned ship registered in
Nicaragua, was on its way delivering arms when it was seized by Honduras for
violating its neutrality. Washington threatened to seize the boat by force if the
Hondurans did not release the vessel with its cargo as a result the aid ended up in
Estrada's hands.70 Estrada received his 2,000 rifles he insisted upon to initiate the
revolution and much more. In November, Moffat reported to the State department
that on one occasion 1,100 rifles and 300,000 rounds of ammunition were
delivered from New Orleans and then on another occasion 2,000 rifles and 300
rounds of ammunition came from New York.71 There were many other such
reports; so the aid was plentiful.
In the fall of 1909, the United States made it very clear that Estrada's rebellion
had more than just the material support from North America. When Knox broke
diplomatic relations with the Zelaya government there was much debate in the
State Department over the way diplomatic ties were to be served. One member of
the department suggested that the note making the formal break should be detailed
concerning specific American grievances but vague concerning the general objec-
tives of Washington. The solicitor's office insisted that nothing in the note should
mention the "ultimate purpose" of the United States government which was remov-
ing Zelaya from power.72 If Washington had not been so determined to hide its
involvement in the revolution such concern over wording of the dispatch ending
relations would not have been necessary. The note itself was not typical of
communications breaking off diplomatic relations. Knox revealed much about the
"ultimate purpose" when he accused Zelaya of being "a blot upon the history of
Nicaragua."73 The "blot" was being erased by the United States. It is interesting to
note that in its official history of the affair, the State Department would only say the
revolution "was partially financed and supplied by the other countries of Central
America [all of which did not contribute] and by foreigners whose interests had
recently been prejudiced by certain inimical concessions."74 The department is the
master of understatement. In the private manuscripts a member of the department
later concluded "without the support of these firms [foreign business companies],
that revolution would never have terminated successfully."75 The report could have
stated that without the support of these firms and U.S. troops, the revolution would
Zelaya resigned in mid-December, 1909, hoping to prevent a full-scale occupa-
tion of his country by the United States. He had previously offered to submit the
question of his rule to an international commission and if it concluded he was
detrimental to Nicaragua, he would leave. Washington ignored the offer and
eventually a protectorate was established which apparently was the objective all
along. When the distinguished doctor, Jose Madriz succeeded Zelaya, the United
States opposed him also. President Taft informed a special emissary from Mexico
that the United States considered Madriz a follower of Zelaya and he would not be
recognized by his government.76 The rebels continued their struggle against
Madriz into 1909 with no more success than they were having against Zelaya.
Once again when the government forces would be at the point of victory over the
rebellion, the United States government intervened and saved the revolution from
doom. When Nicaraguan government forces were at the point of taking Bluefields
in early 1910, the United States sent in troops with the old proverbial excuse being
that they were there "to protect American lines and property." The colourful Major
Smedley Butler later said that publicly the United States government professed to
be neutral but in fact government forces were informed that they could not fire upon
rebels while Estrada's forces were allowed to open fire upon Madriz's troops.77
U.S. military leaders were much more candid about the role of Washington in
the revolution. Rear Admiral Kimball referred to U.S. businessmen in Bluefields as
"concession-hunters" who were only supporting the revolution because of profits.78
"Old Gimlet Eye" Butler resented being what he considered to be a soldier for the
investments of American enterprises. He knew that the Taft Administration wanted
its own puppet government in Nicaragua. Later on when it became difficult to
accomplish that goal he wrote his wife:
"I practically took command of the Government
Army, about 4000 men and have been issuing
instructions to Chamorro [government's military
leader] all day this move of mine must not be-
come public for I really have no authority for such
a course but it is the only way for this Government
to win and the State Department, I surmise, is
anxious that it [the Conservative Government]
should continue in power."79
Madriz fell from power in August 1910, and Estrada began what he thought was his
government in Managua. Quickly, it became obvious that Nicaraguans had lost
control over their government. As Harold Denny expressed it, that day "began the
American rule of Nicaragua, political and economic."80
By this time, U.S. control over that Central American country became quite
formalized. The Taft Administration sent Thomas C. Dawson as a special emissary
to Nicaragua in October 1910. He already had experience in setting up U.S.
protectorates because Roosevelt had sent him to do just that in Santo Domingo.
Dawson managed to bring all the key leaders in Nicaragua together (Juan Estrada,
Emilliano Chamorro, Adolfo Diaz and Luis Mana). The agreement reached stipu-
lated the abolition of Zelaya's monopolies; the establishment of a claims commis-
sion; and the creation of a customs receivership. Dawson was instructed to arrange
for elections but when he observed that Liberals would easily win, he reported back
to Washington that elections would be "impracticable."81 It should be noted that
Nicaragua's finances were fine until the revolution itself. As one scholar expressed
it, the "Estrada government could not resist the greed of its members and sup-
porters any more than it could reject the demands of the United States."82
Ironically, Estrada proved no permanent solution for the United States despite
the fact it had practically put him in power. State Department officials in Nicaragua
reported that the new Nicaraguan leader was "a man of strength and ability with
however, one great weakness: drink." It was also added that his close association
with U.S. interest made him unpopular in Nicaragua.83 He had problems with the
partisan politics of his country. He was a Liberal and the Conservatives were
hungry for power and the party of choice among foreign investors and U.S. officials.
His Minister of war, General Luis Mena, was a leading member of the Conservative
Party which controlled the Assembly. That legislative body eventually stripped
Estrada of all power and General Mena began to compete with Estrada for control
of Nicaragua. Estrada dissolved the Assembly and had Mena arrested but the U.S.
Legation interceded on his behalf and Estrada was doomed. U.S. officials said
Estrada resigned and left the country "thinking he no longer had the support of the
United States."84 It was becoming more and more dubious as to whom was really
in control of Nicaragua.
The U.S. dominance came with a huge price tag. The Nicaraguan treasury was
totally depleted. As previously noted, the government's finances were in relatively
good shape until the revolution. Those who had financed the revolution wanted
compensation and "systematic looting of the treasury began."85 The U.S. business
community received at least $400,000 immediately with the new Nicaraguan
government making the argument that these people could not wait for due process
"These gentlemen had staked their wealth and
their honor on the revolution and . it was not
possible for the Government to leave them penni-
less until the Mixed Claims Commissioner should
be ready to consider their claims."86
Adolf Diaz, Estrada's vice president and president after Estrada resigned, was paid
$63,000 from the treasury because he had "contributed" that amount to the revolu-
tion the source of his "contribution" was probably U.S. businessmen since Diaz
made a salary of some $20 to $25 a week! From January 1 to September 22, 1911,
U.S. government officials estimated the Nicaraguan government spent some
"$1,000,000 in gold" to compensate expenses for the revolution.87
In May, 1911, Diaz succeeded Estrada as president and the next month the
United States tightened its grip on that Central American country with the Knox-
Castrillo convention. The convention provided for a loan to Nicaragua, secured by
its own customs receipts to guarantee its repayment. Basically, the North American
investors of Brown Brothers and J. and W. Seligman were loaning Nicaragua its
own money and charging interest. Although the convention was never approved by
the U.S. Senate, the loan was implemented and eventually the Bryan-Chamorro
Treaty (1919) would provide U.S. bankers with control of 51% of the stock in the
Nicaraguan National bank and also the same control of the country's rail and
steamship lines. U.S. officials controlled customs collection and the protectorate
was completed. However, Diaz had enormous problems because he lacked a
political powerbase and popular opposition to "our" Nicaraguan became more and
more intense. Despite U.S. officials insisting that the "majority of people are
satisfied with President Diaz" there was considerable evidence to the contrary.
More honest U.S. officials admitted that the "natural sentiment of an overwhelming
majority of Nicaraguans" was hostile to Diaz and the United States.88
When Knox made a goodwill tour of Nicaragua in 1912 he was met with
anything but goodwill from Nicaraguans. That year the United States supervised
elections but allowed only supporters of Diaz to vote! With the opposition not
allowed in the ballot box, there was no lack of opponents on the battlefield.
President Taft came to the conclusion that he had another situation "analogous to
the boxer trouble in China." Huntington-Wilson urged Taft to send in the army
because the navy was "too neutral." Business investors pleaded for military inter-
vention but Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, persuaded the president not to use
the army.89 However, the Marines and the Navy were more than adequate to
"protect" Nicaragua, as Smedley Butler wrote his wife, it was "terrible that we
should be losing so man men ... all because Brown Bros. have some money down
here."90 American military forces allowed "no fighting" that threatened the Diaz
government or American lives and property. Even Munro admitted that this inter-
vention "marked a turning point" for the United States because never before 1912
had "American forces... actually gone into battle to help suppress a revolution."91
The United States left a legation guard in Nicaragua for the next couple of decades
in order to formalize the control it obviously sought from the beginning.
In the face of all this evidence, it would be difficult to argue the United States
was not responsible for the Nicaraguan revolution that drove Zelaya out of power.
The administration of Theodore Roosevelt began the struggle to "clip Zelaya's
wings" but Taft completed it. Dana Munro's account is inconsistent and biased. The
Conservative Party in Nicaragua was the minority party and yet the United States
brings it to power and sustains it in power. Philander Knox, his nephew, as well as
some State Department employees, had vested interests in the success of the
revolution but probably would have pursued dollar diplomacy any way because of
their conviction that protecting national interests and economic investments were
one and the same thing. Those scholars who have argued the primary motive for
U.S. policy in Nicaragua was stability for the canal area92 are hard pressed to
explain why Washington supported revolution in Central America. Revolutions
promoted anything but stability. The North American investors financed the revolu-
tion, but everyone knew that the Washington government was controlling matters
behind the scenes. As events both before and following the coup d'etat against
Zelaya make very clear, the United States sought control over Nicaragua and
control was the end result.
1. For example see Dana G. Munro, Intervention and Dollar Diplomacy in the Caribbean
1900-1921 (Princeton: Princeton University, 1964), p. 163. Hereafter cited as Munro, Inter-
vention. Also see David Healy Drive to Hegemonvy The United States in the Caribbean
1898-1917 (Madison: Univers of Wisconsin, 19) D. 153. Hereafter cited as Healy,
Hegemony. Also see Whitney P. Perkins, Constraint o Empire: The United States and tle
Caribbean Intervention (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1981), p. 25. Hereafter cited as
Perkins, Constraint of Empire.
2. For example see Thomas Walker, Nicaraaua, The Land of Sandino (Boulder, Colorado:
Westview 1986), p. 17. Hereafter cited as Walker Nicaraqua. See also Karl Bermann Under
the Big Slick: Nicaragua and the United States Since 1898 (Boston: South End, 1986), p.
145. Hereafter cited as Bermann Big Stick. See also Charles Beard The Idea of National
Interest(Chicago: Quadrangle, 1934, 1966), pp. 172-175. Hereafter cited as Beard, National
3. See Harrison Benjamin T., "Theodore Roosevelt and Nicaragua The Origin of Dollar
Diplomacy," Mid-America (article under-review).
5. Alvey Adee to Henry Lane Wilson, 11 March 1909 The Private Papers of the Department
of State, National Archives, numerical file 18432/12. Hereafter cited as "SD" with the
appropriate numeral or decimal file number.
6. Lester D. Langley, The Banana Wars; United States Intervention in the Caribbean,
1898-1934 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1983), pp. 57-58. Hereafter cited as
Langle~ Banana Wars. Richard D. Challener, Admirals, Generals and American Foreign
PolcyPrinceton: Princeton University, 1973), p. 294. Hereafter cited as Challener, Admirals,
7. Thomas D. Schoonover, The United States in Central America, 1860-1911: Episodes of
Social Imperialism and ImperialRivalryin the World System(Durham: Duke University, 1991),
p. 134. Hereafter cited as Schoonover, CentralAmerica.
8. Ibid., pp. 146-147.
9. Thomas M. Leonard, Central America and the United States: The Search for Stability
(Athens: University of Georgia, 1991), p. 61. Hereafter cited as Leonard, Search forStability.
10. Dana G. Munro "Dollar Diplomacy in Nicaragua, 1909-1913 "Hispanic American Histori-
cal Review38:2 (1958), p. 213. Hereafter cited as Munro, HAHR.
11. Walter V. and Marie V. Scholes. The Foreign Policies of the TaftAdministration (Columbia:
University of Missouri, 1970), p. 51. Hereafter cited as Scholes, Taft. Glen J. Kist "The Role
of Thomas C. Dawson in the United States-Latin American Diplomatic Relations, 1 97-1912."
(Ph.D. dissertation, Loyola University, Chicago, 1971), p. 408 fn. 75.
12. Roy T. Davis to Secretary of State, 31 October 1924 and Dana G. Munro to Andrew D.
White, 19 November 1924, SD 717.24 and 26.
13. Schoonover, CentralAmerica, p. 145.
14. See Perkins, Constraint of Empire, p. 34 commenting on Dana G. Munro, Intervention
D. 211 and Dana G. Munro, The Five Republics of Central America (New York: Oxford
University, 1918), p. 245. Emphasis added by Munro.
15. Al Burke, Misery in the Name of Freedom[:] The United States in Nicaragua, 1909-1988
(Rolling Bay, Washington: Sea Otter, 1988), p. 4.
16. Munro, Intervention, p. 163.
17. Theodore P. Wright Jr. American Support of Free Elections Abroad (Westport: Green-
wood, 1964), p. 165 fn. 20. hereafter cited as Wright, Free Elections. John E. Findlina. "The
United States and Zelava, 1893-1909," (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas, 19/1), p.
227. Hereafter cited as Findling, "U.S. and Zelaya."
18. Scholes, Taft, p. 51 fn. 15.
19. Beard, National Interest, pp. 172-175 and U.S. Senate, Foreign Loans, Hearing before
the subcommittee of the Committee on Foreiqn Relations, pursuant to Senate Committee
Resolution 15, 69th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington: GPO, 1927). Hereafter cited as
Senate, Foreign Loans.
20. U.S. Department of State, The Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United
States, 1908, pp. 456-470. Hereafter cited as FRUS.
21. Healy, Hegemony, p. 145.
22. F.M. Huntinqton-Wilson Memoirs of an Ex-Diplomat (Toronto: Ryerson, 1945), pp.
255-256. Hereaffer cited as Huntington-Wilson, Memoirs. See also his Private Papers on four
reels of microfilm, Ursinus College Library.
23. Memorandum "read to the Secretary by [F.M. Huntington-Wilson] at a conference on July
10, 1911 SD 817.51/168 and Memorandum from George T. Weitze to F.M. Huntington-Wil-
son, 22 June 1911, SD 817.00/1687.
24. F.M. Huntington-Wilson "The Relations of Government to Foreign Investment," The
Annals 68 (November, 1916), p. 320.
25. Perkins, Constraint of Empire, p. 24.
26. Philander Knox to William H. Taft, 28 September 1909 the Private Papers of William
Howard Taft, Library of Congress. Hereafter cited as Taft Papers of William Howard Taft,
Library of Congress. Hereafter cited as Taft Papers.
27. F.M. Huntington-Wilson to William H. Taft, 23 September 1917, SD 817.00/2003.
28. Hans Schmidt, Maverick Marine[:] General Smedley D. Butler and the Contradictions of
American Military History (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1987), p. 53. Hereafter
cited as Schmid Butler.
29. Samuel T. Lee to Philander Knox, 19 March 1911, SD 817.00/1547.
30. Walter LaFeber Jnevitable Revolutions[:] The United States in Central America (New
York: W.W. Norton, 1983, 1993), pp. 5-18. Hereaftercited as LaFeber, Inevitable Revolutions.
31. Eugene P. Trani, "Dollar Diplomacy," Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy (New
York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1978), p. 270.
32. J. Butler Wright to Frank L. Polk, 18 December 1915, the Private Papers of Frank L. Polk,
33. See article already mentioned in endnote 3.
34. Healy, Hegemony, p. 35 and Findling, "U.S. and Zelaya," p. 195.
35. LaFeber, Inevitable Revolutions, p. 39.
36. SD 5691.
37. John A. Booth, The End and the Beginning: The Nicaraguan Revolution (Boulder:
Westview, 1982, 1985), p. 24. Hereafter cited as Booth End anaBeginning. Warren Kneer,
Great Bntain and the Caribbean, 1901-1913 (East Lansing, Michigan: Michigan State
University, 1975), pp. 154-157. Hereafter cited as Keer.
38. Godfrey Hagg to Sir Edward Grey, 6 August 1912 and 3 December 1912, British Foreign
Office, 32888 ana 54926.
39. The New York Times, 18 December 1909, p. 1 quoting from the organ of the government
in Berlin, Lokal-Anzeiger. Also see Edwin Emerson, "The Unrest in Central America The
Independent67 (9 December 1909), pp. 1286-1291 and Leslie R. Hahn, "What the War in
Nicaragua Means to the United States,' Cosmopolitan (June, 1910), pp. 48-50.
40. See the interview with Zelaya in L'lndependence, 21 February 1910, cited in Charles P.
Bryan to Philander Knox, 26 February 1910, the Private Papers of Philander Knox, Library
of Congress. Hereafter cited as Knox papers. See also Maximo Soto Hall Nicaragua y el
Imperialismo Norteamericano (Buuenos Aires: Artes y Letras Editoral, 1928), pp. 38-39 and
41. Memorandum by unidentified author dated 26 November 1909, SD 6369/333 and SD
42. Challener, Admirals, Generals, pp. 295-296.
43. Senate, Foreign Loans, pp. 33-34.
44. SD, 19475.
45. Bermann, Big Stick, p. 145.
46. The New York Times, 6 December, 1909, p. 2.
47. Findling, "U.S. and Zelaya," p. 196.
48. John Gregory to Elihu Root, 20 October 1908, SD 10241/28.
49. Congressional Record 68 (13 January 1929), p. 1556.
50. Thomas Moffat to Philander Knox, 5 October 1909, SD 6369/198.
51. Elliott Northcott to Philander Knox, 30 May 1911, SD 817.00/1641.
52. Senate, Foreign Loans, pp. 32-36.
53. Thomas Moffat to Philander Knox, 25 May 1911, SD 817.00/1608.
54. LaFeber, Inevitable Revolutions, p. 47.
55. FRUS, 1894 Appendix I, pp. 289-290 and Healy, Hegemony, p. 23.
56. Frederick U. Adams, Conquest of the Tropics[:] The Story of the Creative Enterprises
Conducted by the United Fruit Company (New York: Arno, 1976), p. 217.
57. Mira Wilkins, The Emerqence of Multinational Enterprise: American Business Abroad
from the Colonial Era to 1894 (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1970), p. 286, fn. 24 and
Memorandum of the Office of the Assistant Secretary (James Bryce) undated but among the
1909 files, SD 19475.
58. Francis L. Hurt to Georqe von L. Meyer, 24 December 1909, and Drew Linard to Philander
Knox, 2 June 1909, SD 19475.
59. Healy, Hegemony p. 36. Drew Linard reported to Assistant Secretary of State, that the
private payment to Zeiaya was $20,000 per year 5 July 1909, SD 6369/T31.
60. Charles Eberhardt to William J. Bryan. 2 May 1913, SD 817.00/2260 and Drew Linard to
Assistant Secretary of State, 2 June 1909, SD 19475.
61. Bluefields Steamship Company, Ltd. to Philander Knox, 10 May 1909, SD 19475.
62. Drew Linard to Assistant Secretary of State, 5 July 1909, SD 6369/131.
63. Charles Eberhardt to William J. Bryan, 2 May 1913, SD 817.00/2260 and FRUS, 1909,
64. A. Niblack to Secretary of the Navy, 29 August 1909, SD 6369/175-177.
65. Salvador Castrillo to John Gregory, 10 May 1909, SD 19475 and Enriaue Aquino, La
Personalidad Politica del General Jose Santos Zelaya (Managua: Talleres Graficos Perez,
1944), pp. 113-115.
66. Philander Knox to Nicaraguan Charge, 1 December 1909, FRUS, 1909, p. 456.
67. Juan Estrada to Philander Knox, 14 and 15 October 1909, SD 6369/203 and SD 1257/57.
Memorandum by F.M. Huntington-Wilson, 21 October 1909, SD 6369/226.
68. The New York Times, 20 November 1909 p. 2 and Thomas Moffat to Assistant Secretary
of State, 17 November 1909, SD 6369/317. See also Findling, "U.S. and Zelaya" p. 214.
69. F.M. Huntington-Wilson to Franklin M. Gunther, 22 September 1911, SD 817.00/1691.
70. Bermann, Big Stick, p. 145.
71. Thomas Moffat to Assistant Secretary of State, 27 November 1909, SD 6369/365.
72. Assistant Solicitor to F.M. huntinqton-Wilson, 29 november 1909, SD 6369/342 and
Solicitor to F.M. Huntington-Wilson, 3(TNovember 1909, SD 6369/337.
73. FRUS, 1909, pp. 455-457.
74. U.S. Department of State, The United States and Nicaragua: (Lat'n American Series # 6),
75. Charles Eberhardt, Inspection Report for Bluefields 28 April to 2 May, 1913, Consular
Inspection Reports, as found in Healy, Hegemony, p. 39.
76. Memorandum of Conversation between [Enrique] Creel and President Taft, 17 December
1909, SD 6369/481.
77. Schmidt, Butler, p. 45.
78. Langley, Banana Wars, p. 61.
79. Schmidt, Butler, p. 45.
80. Harold Denny Dollars for Bullets: The Story of American Rule in Nicaragua (New York:
Dial, 1929), pp. 84 ff
81. FRUS, 1909, p. 765.
82. Perkins, Constraint of Empire, p. 28.
83. Elliott Northcott to Philander Knox, 25 February 1911, SD 817.00/1540.
84. Memorandum "read to the Secretary by [Huntington-Wilson] at a conference on July 10,
1911," SD 817.51/168.
85. Charles Eberhardt to William J. Bryan, 2 May 1913, SD 817.00/2260.
86. Franklin Gunther to the Department of State, 1 January 1912 SD, Legislative Session
6313-B28 as found in John R. McDevitt, "American-Nicaraguan Refations from 1909 to 1916,"
(Ph.D. dissertation, Georgetown University, 1954), p. 33.
87. F.M. Huntington-Wilson to Franklin M. Gunther, 22 September 1911, SD 817.00/1691.
88. George Weitzel to the Secretary of State, 9 October 1912, SD 817.00/2081 and FRUS,
1911, pp. 655-656.
89. Rudolf Foster (Taft's executive secretary) to F.M. Huntington-Wilson 27 August 1912
SD 817.00/1904; Brown, Seli man to the Secretary of State, 26 Auaust 1912 SD
817.00/1900; Samuel Weiland Co. to Philander Knox, 22 August 1912, SD 817.00/1888;
Challener, Admirals, General, p. 306.
90. As quoted in Schmidt, Butler, p. 54.
91. F.M. Huntinaton-Wilson to President Taft, 23 September 1912, SD 817.00/2003B and
Munro, IntervenTion, p. 215.
92. See Findling "U.S. and Zelaya," p. 190 and Roscoe R. Hill, "American Marines in
Nicaragua 1912-1925," Hispanic Amencan Essays, edited by A. Curtis Wilgus (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina, 1942), p. 349.
Revolution, Reformism, and the Failure of Insurrection: Political
Change and the Venezuelan Experience
JOHN D. MARTZ
I. Background: Revolutionary and Reformist Models in Venezuela
A. The Radicalism of the Trienio. The origins of Venezuela's contemporary
democratic system lie in the 1928 student protest and uprising against the storied
"Tyrant of the Andes" Juan Vincente Gomez. The "Generation of '28" mobilized
opinion against the dictator in favour of basic reforms, and continued these efforts
in and out of exile during the 1930s and early 1940s.1 Accion Democratica (AD)
was officially founded in September of 1941, and represented the major organized
force for significant change in Venezuela.2 It was the AD, under the leadership of
Romulo Betancourt and others, which provided the civilian component of the
October Revolution in 1946 which ushered in a period of far-reaching, indeed of
clearly radical change. The thee years to follow were among the most tumultuous
in national history.
While space prohibits lengthy discussion here, suffice it to say that political
democracy was spurred through the adoption of universal suffrage; a participatory
constitution adopted after lengthy and highly public debates by a Constituent
Assembly; the enthronement of extensive reforms favouring the workers and
peasants; and a series of elections in which numerous parties and candidates took
part. Social and economic reforms included formulation of an agrarian reform
programme; extensive support to education at all levels; emphases on the im-
provement of health services and facilities; and related efforts to provide a regime
of true social welfare and personal justice for all Venezuelans. While there were
failures, the successes in the short run were more numerous and, overall, the
record within the Latin American context of the 1940s was undeniably impressive.
If those who are true to the definition of the term "revolution" are to be heeded,
the Mexican Revolution was followed by that of Venezuela during the trienio; only
later would the Bolivian movement of 1952 occur, followed chronologically by the
Cuban Revolution in 1959 and the Nicaraguan twenty years later. The Venezuelan
experience from 1945 to 1948, whatever the course of events in later decades,
indisputably represented a drastic break from the past. In social and economic as
well as political terms, it was unquestionably a time of radical change. Only the
intervention of the military and a decade of dictatorship was to alter the situation. It
was to be the response engendered by this decade, moreover, which inclined
Venezuelan leaders toward a reformist and gradualistic rather than rapid and
radical approach to change.
B. From Authoritarianism to Pluralism. When General Marcos Perez Jimenez
and his coterie were driven into exile in January of 1958, returning democratic
leaders sought means to avoid the circumstances which had evolved to precipitate
the military golpe de estado of November 1948. Romulo Betancourt for the AD,
Rafael Caldera for the social christians (COPEI) Jovito Villalba of the Union
Republican Democratica (URD), and their followers subscribed to the Pact of
Punto Fijo. It specified that the signatories would place the fate of systemic
democracy above the partisan interests of their respective organizations.3 When
Romulo Betancourt won December 1958 elections and assumed the Presidency
shortly thereafter, he is displayed sensitivity to earlier experience by moving in a
gradualistic fashion toward a new and modern Venezuela, assiduously courting or
at least exchanging views with the many elements which had contributed to the
overthrow of democracy in 1948. This, however, represented an approach
eminently unacceptable to many young Venezuelans, especially given the course
of events in Cuba during this same period. The stage was thereby set for the
emergence of a revolutionary alternative to democratic reformism.
II The Revolutionary Insurgency
A. Origins and Leadership. Two events stand out as major stimulants of the
Venezuelan revolutionary insurgency. First, of course, was the example of the
Cuban Revolution, with Fidel Castro and his 26th of July Movement sweeping to
power in January 1959 and promising a new order a new model of development
not merely for Cuba, but indeed for all the Americas. Second was the dynamic of
Venezuela's 1958 uprising against the military dictatorship of Marcos Perez
Jimenez and the events which marked the return to elected government in 1959.
With the latter, young members of the respective party undergrounds joined forces
with university students to lead the street fighting which ensued. They soon found
themselves lionized by the populace, and were eager to assume important posi-
tions when ranking leaders returned to Venezuela.
As these arrived home, it was natural that they assumed leadership of the
nascent democracy. It was no less predictable that youthful ambitions suffered
under the necessity of occupying less prominent positions. Moreover, the
presumed lessons of fidelista radicalism and the promise of further insurgency
promoted among many young Venezuelan activists a sense that their impatience
should be recognized by the system. When this failed especially inside the
leadership of Accion Democratica armed protest was seen as a logical option.
This was spurred by the internal division of the AD in early 1960, which led in turn
to the eventual mounting of armed protest against the newly elected administration
of Romulo Betancourt by the movement which eventually emerged as the Fuerzas
Armadas de Liberacion Naciona (FALN). It was not until 1962 that armed insurgen-
cy actually broke out and the military, as well as the general public, realized that
guerrilla bands were in the process of formation. From January of the year the
incidence of rural violence broke out with increasing frequency.4 Guerrilla detach-
ments sprung up in a number of states. In attempting to oust a government which
was perceived as having betrayed the aspirations of the 1958 uprising against
military dictatorship, the FALN drew upon the emergent leadership of young
revolutionaries with diverse political backgrounds and outlooks. While several were
to achieve considerable prominence nationally, none were ever to gain the
dominance or centrality of a Fidel Castro or the Guevara in the Cuban movement.
By way of illustration, consider briefly Douglas Bravo, Fabricio Ojeda, Jose Manuel
Saher, and the Petkoff brothers.
Douglas Bravo, from his university days a member of the orthodox Partido
Communista de Venezuela (PCV), had shared in the 1958 uprising against the
Perez Jimenez regime and by 1961 had begun secretly organizing guerrillas
committed to armed insurgency. He was at the outset far less well know than
Fabricio Ojeda, one of the central student leaders in the uprising against the
dictatorship and, indeed, a member of the Junta Patriotica which directed the
armed challenge to the government of Perez Jimenez. Ojeda had been a leader of
the Union Republicana Democratica in terms of both electoral and organizational
strength. Although having won election to Congress in 1958, he had chafed
increasingly at the unchallenged pesonalistic authority of the URD's founder and
leader, Jovito Villalba (another of the prominent student activists in the Generation
of '28). He was to disavow the democratic approach and took to the hills in 1962 -
some months after the insurgency had begun. It is also interesting to note in
retrospect that he was among those who, unlike many other FALN leaders, insisted
that the Cuban and Venezuelan situations demanded dissimilar approaches. As
Ojeda put it,
All those who study revolutionary theory, among-
whom I include myself without modesty, know
that different situations give rise to different his-
torical process. They know that Venezuela is not
Cuba and that the Venezuelan situation and
prospects are different from Cuba's.5
A quite different background was that of Jose Manuel Saher, whose father
Pablo Saher Perez was governor of Falcon and a prominent figure in Accion
Democratic. When the internal split of the AD led to the creation of the so-called
Accion Democratica Izquierdista in 1960 later renamed the Movimiento de Iz-
quierda Revolucionaria under the intellectual guidance of Domingo Alberto Rangel
- Saher had joined the ranks of the disaffected and disenchanted. While being
captured and imprisoned some months after having joined the armed insurgency,
he provided a prime example of a relatively non-ideological revolutionary whose
objectives were couched largely in vague protests against the existing system. His
lack of faith in the newly established regime was, however, comparable to that of
others who would join the FALN.
In the case of the Petkoff brothers, doctrinal concerns and political sophistica-
tion were much more evident. Sons of parents who had emigrated to Venezuela
years before from Bulgaria and from Poland, both Luben and Teodoro were
restless and impatient critics of Venezuelan democracy. They saw it as false,
providing a facade for economic imperialism and political domination imposed by
the United States. Only drastic tactics, in their view, might alter the situation in any
meaningful sense. Consequently, the resort to arms became inevitable. While
Luben would eventually be killed, it is worth noting in retrospect that Teodoro was
among those who later returned to civilian political life, led rebellious young
Marxists out of the traditionalistic PCV in 1968, twice ran for the Presidency of the
republic, and by the decade of the 1990s was among the best-known public figures
in Venezuelan political life.
B. Tactics and Strategies In a broad general sense there was on the part of the
revolutionaries the undiscriminating assumption that the experience of the Cuban
Revolution was sacrosanct. It was felt, in far more instinctive than rational fashion,
that the model of revolutionary insurgency in Cuba provided a magical formula for
success in Venezuela. Yet the commitment to force of arms was accepted as
inevitable while, at the same time, reliance upon rural insurgency was somewhat
unthinkably adopted. An initial departure from the Cuban experience, if unrecog-
nized by the Venezuelans, was the dispersal of efforts to a number of "fronts"
cropping up in different regions. No less sympathetic and prominent an observer
than the French journalist Regis Debray complained about the notion of creating a
series of so-called revolutionary focos in different areas. As he put it,
It was impossible to supply the arms and other
equipment necessary to the guerrillas in such
widely separated zones; . Many of these at-
tempts, in which students participated almost ex-
clusively, ended tragically through lack of
experience, lack of serious military preparation,
ignorance of the terrain, and failure to keep
By the close of 1962, it was evident that the revolutionaries had not identified a
successful or even promising course of action. The stretching of limited resources
in order to launch armed attacks in different parts of the country had been a failure.
Even more importantly, however, had been a myopic refusal to comprehend the
realities of Venezuelan politics and public attitudes, as well as the character of
democratic reformism. While the dynamic implications will be further underlined in
the next section of this paper, suffice it to say that the revolutionaries were
confronted by a peasantry institutionally linked to Accion Democratica and per-
sonally loyal to the person of Romulo Betancourt. This meant that, among other
problems, the revolutionaries were generally rejected by the rural population, which
was more likely to inform the authorities of the guerrillas' presence than to provide
arms, munitions, food, and succour.
It was also evident that greater unity was a prerequisite for effective action. On
20 February 1963 the FALN was formally recognized in a document whose
adherents included pragmatic communists, idealistic ex-university students, fanati-
cal anti- establishment anarchists, utopian radicals, and even a handful of one-time
military officers. Organizational support was pledged by both the MIR and the PCV,
although the latter in particular had serious misgivings about the armed path to
power. For the orthodox Communists, there was an ambivalence over the desire,
on the one hand, of controlling or dominating the FALN and its activities, while
questioning at the same time the feasibility of pursuing the course of open violence,
which was not consistent with past traditions.7
The year 1963 was to prove decisive for Venezuelans, as it would be in broader
historic terms for both the revolutionary and reformist impulses in the nation. It
would mark what essentially constituted the death knell for armed protest and
insurgency in contemporary Venezuelan politics. This in turn was intimately linked
to the tactical and strategic choices adopted by the FALN. Such decisions, despite
the avowed organizational and doctrinal cohesion of the movement, came into
being through circuitous and fundamentally ad hoc procedures and processes.
There was not to be an organizational summit meeting, for example, at which a
major review of revolutionary methods and political conditions might take place.
Rather, there was the grudging and informal realization that things had been going
poorly for the insurrection, that popular support was minimal, and that somehow a
shift of orientation was in order.
At the most fundamental level, this meant a shift of emphasis from countryside
to city. Whatever the framework for analysis, there was no denying the fact that
revolution based in the countryside had been a failure, and there was little reason
to think that this might change in any meaningful sense. Moreover, it was evident
in a general sense that the state and regime, not to mention the coalition ad-
ministration of Romulo Betancourt, had not been seriously threatened. The revolu-
tionary reasoning which emerged had therefore to be rethought. Here too, there
was no single point of departure, but rather an impressionistic but basic shifting of
emphases. This derived from the fact, accepted intuitively rather than consciously
by most revolutionaries, that the popular strength of the regime militated against
the possibility of its ouster, especially by a Marxist alternative.
The strategic view which emerged ran basically along the following lines. First,
the revolutionary forces lacked both the popular support and the internal resources
to seize control of the state directly and to run a new administration. Furthermore,
to move in this direction would be a multi-phase endeavour requiring both time and
patience. As a first step, the legitimacy of the regime and its popular underpinnings
were to be weakened, then demolished. Once it was established that the govern-
ment could not assure law, order, and basic security for the ordinary citizens,
popular protests would further undercut its position. As turmoil and public denun-
ciation spread, it might then be expected that the military would intervene. Certainly
the historic tradition of Venezuela was rife with the influence of the Armed Forces
and the inclination to seize power from civilian forces under a variety of circumstan-
ces. Once civilian government had been displaced by the military, an increasingly
violent and repressive regime would emerge. This in turn would inevitably produce
a public reaction and, at the crucial moment, popular rebellion would permit the
assumption of leadership by radical forces. So it was that, as the revolutionaries
saw it, the existing system could be overthrown and ultimately lead to the creation
of a socialist state.
To ensure this unfolding of revolutionary strategy, it was apparent that the focus
of tactical operations would have to be shifted from countryside to city. This not
only required organizational adjustments, but also an awareness that the strength
of the government rested on the acceptance of public opinion domestically as well
as the socio-political support of external actors most importantly the United
States. The effort to discredit the democratic system in general, and the Betancourt
administration in particular, called for efforts to demonstrate an incapacity and
inability to rule. For the FALN, then, it was also important to show its own presumed
immunity to the actions of the government. This lead to a series of actions which in
some cases were designed much more for domestic and international public
opinion than they were to challenge the regime in physical terms. These in turn
constituted a defiance of the democratic reformist system. In order to place the
insurrectionary efforts in the critical year 1963 in the proper context, it is important
to understand more fully the nature of the democratic reformist impulse in
III The Reformist Alternative8
A. The Background and Setting for the 'Sixties. Whatever one's political or
doctrinal orientation, it is clear that what is customarily viewed as democratic
reformism in Latin America is best exemplified by the Venezuelan experience,
especially as championed by Accion Democratica and by Romulo Bentacourt. The
effort to secure and to nourish this vision of government and state activities can be
seen in historical terms as having centred importantly on the years immediately
following the removal of military authoritarianism under Marcos Perez Jimenez. As
such, the character of Venezuelan public affairs would be decisively affected by the
respective impact of reformist and revolutionary forces during this period. With the
former, as already noted, the origins were traceable to what was then an eminently
revolutionary impulse in the Generation of '28, later transformed into the radicalism
of the trienio and, after the ten-year interlude of persecution and repression,
reshaped by the impulses of not only Accion Democratica, but by virtually all major
democratic forces in the country, most particularly including the social christian
COPEI under Rafael Caldera, and the reformist URD with its embattled Caudillo
Without engaging in undue repetition of the earlier discussion, let us simply
recall in brief that the Pact of Punto Fijo set forth for all political organizations other
than the Marxists a series of objectives which centred on the necessity of nurturing
an enduring democratic system. This assumed a policy orientation committed to
change and modernization, but at a gradualistic pace within the context of
democratic pluralism as exemplified by a multiplicity of political and socioeconomic
forces both organized and anomic in nature. The bitter and brutal decade of
dictatorship, repression, persecution, and exile left its mark on the nation's civilian
leadership, which was determined to avoid the errors of the trienio and to proceed
with prudence toward the installation and consolidation of a lasting democracy With
the 1959 inauguration of the multi-party coalition government under Romulo Betan-
court, efforts began to introduce significant changes at a pace which would not
overtax the system.
While the revolutionary forces believed that many of the stated reformist objec-
tives were not sufficiently far-reaching, there was agreement on a number of items.
However, the question of pace and timing was at issue; in addition, the revolution-
ary mindset rejected reformist declarations as disingenuous at best, if not
deliberately deceptive and self-serving. To this, of course, was added the genera-
tional impatience of many revolutionary activists. In point of fact, their self-con-
fidence and impatience was no different from that of Betancourt, Villalba, and other
national leaders when they had entered the political arena with the Generation of
'28 more than a third of a century earlier. As the first post-authoritarian regime took
shape, it directed substantial attention to the countryside, a fact which proved the
virtual undoing of revolutionary tactics in the first insurrectionary phase.
The revolutionary analysis of conditions was disastrously misinformed as to the
state of the peasantry and prevailing political sentiment in the countryside. This, of
course, at a time when more than half the Venezuelan population still lived and
worked in rural areas. Romulo Betancourt himself had focused his early efforts
toward political recruitment and broad politicization in the countryside; from the
1930s on, this provided the setting for organizational efforts on the part of those
who would subsequently found and build Accion Democratica.9 As a result, Betan-
court forged his 1958 electoral victory through decisive margins throughout the
countryside; indeed, he was roundly defeated in metropolitan Caracas and fared
poorly in several other urban centres. Thus he came to office in the wake of a
profoundly unpopular military dictatorship, buoyed by years of travel and political
activism in the Venezuelan countryside. Accion Democratica had contributed to the
creation and building of the national peasant movement as well, which further
undergirded its credibility in the countryside.10
Agrarian reform was among the major commitments of the Betancourt coalition
government. Whatever the retrospective evaluation of its successes and failures in
later years, the fact remains that it received major financial and programmaticl
attention.11 Betancourt, "the number one campesino," visited the countryside on a
weekly basis throughout his five-year term, delivering deeds of ownership to
previously landless peasants while also inaugurating local offices of the Instituto
Agraria Nacional. He underlined his long-standing commitment to the peasantry at
a time when Accion Democratica was also in a position to reinvigorate its own links
with rural Venezuelans. All of this helped to assure the rejection, often expressed
in critical form, of the FALN and their ranks by the ordinary Venezuelan farmer and
rural worker. None of this should have been surprising to those who might thought-
fully examine the socio-political reality of rural Venezuela at the turn of the 'sixties,
but the revolutionaries especially in the early period of armed insurrection -were
more captivated by romanticized visions than by practical analyses.
B. Combating New Tactics: The Urban Conflict. By the close of 1962, the FALN
had belatedly recognized that political conditions were highly unfavourable for any
large-scale extension or continuation of their activities in the country-side. The
urban setting was clearly more promising. Thus, the revolutionary leadership opted
for a shifting and reorientation of policy. As already mentioned, this helped to
ensure a more combative situation for 1963, an election year. From the standpoint
of Betancourt and the reformist alternative, the opportunity to conduct a campaign
in choosing a new President, to be followed by a constitutional passing of power,
represented a major test of the democratic experiment. The revolutionaries, on the
other side, saw a necessity of proving their own political claims through a disruption
of the electoral process. These conflicting views, to be contested through urban
rather than rural revolutionary activity, assured that 1963 would be highly sig-
nificant for both the reformist and revolutionary models. It also promised a level of
violence and confrontation to which many ordinary Venezuelans would be ex-
The FALN attacks on the existing system were many and diverse. One tactic
was designed to ridicule the government by actions publicizing the FALN both
domestically and internationally. Thus, on 16 January 1963 they stole paintings by
Van Gogh, Gauguin, Braque, and others which had been loaned by the French for
exhibition at Caracas' Museo de Artes Bellas (they were later returned damaged).
The Venezuelan transport ship Anzoategui was highjacked in February, also
capturing international headlines in the process. And on 24 August the famed
Argentinian soccer star Alfredo di Stefano was kidnapped and held captive for two
days. In addition to stunts of this character, there was a series of actions intended
to intimidate foreign investors, most notably North Americans. In February the
Sears warehouse in Caracas was torched, at a cost of some $2.5 million. A bomb
was exploded in a restroom of the nightclub at the Hotel Tamanaco, where many
U.S. businessmen customarily stayed while in Venezuela. And there were attacks
on power stations and pipelines belonging to such multinational petroleum giants
as Mobil, Texaco, and Venezuelan subsidiaries of Standard Oil and Gulf Oil. The
deputy head of the U.S. military mission was kidnapped by the FALN on 27
November and was held for eight days before being released.
Still another tactical attempt was directed at a weakening of government
authority through measures mocking its presumed inability to provide the average
citizen more than a nominal degree of safety and security. This included periodic
bombings and bank robberies, as well as fire fights and attacks on random sites in
the urban slums. According to Debray, a well-informed if ideologically biased
observer, the aim "was to pin down the military in Caracas, to wear them out, to
divide them in order to hasten demoralization and desertion of which there were
numerous cases in the policee."2 In fact, the FALN had come to view the residents
of the barrios as prime targets in building popular support while attacking pro-
government sentiment. This took the form of increasingly violent clashes.
Talton F. Ray, an experienced observer of Venezuelan barrios in those days,
put it in the following words:
...terrorism, particularly in the cities of the
populous central states and the Federal Distict,
[took the form of] bomb scares, threatening phone
calls, daylight machine-gun robberies, intimida-
tion of barrio leaders, and the murder of
policemen and national guardsmen.13
As Ray further remarked, the fear engendered by terrorism and violence was
substantial, yet was exceeded by the "extreme sensitivity of the various police
forces" guarding against guerrilla activism. This in itself was further nourished by
the fact that the entire structure of police and security forces had been decimated
after the ouster of Perez Jimenez in response to the extreme unpopularity of the
dictator's repressive apparatus. What had replaced it was a consciously decentral-
ized system numbering many separate security organizations, poorly trained and
ineffectively linked with one another, and manned in considerable part by inex-
As the FALN continued through 1963, its own insensitivity linked to continuing
misperceptions of national politics and of public opinion created a powerful
popular backlash. The armed clashes in the slums did cost the lives of those in one
or another of the police and security forces. Many of these were youths coming
from the ranchos themselves; often policemen were residents murdered as they
returned home from work or were sitting with friends and family. Such episodes
obviously left the latter anything but sympathetic to intruders who precipitated
bombings, gun fire, and death. Highlighting the tactical miscalculations of the FALN
was the 29 September terrorist attack on an excursion train from Los Teques to the
El Encanto recreation area. Five national guardsmen were murdered, several
others were wounded, and families with young children were terrified by the
seemingly pointless raid. The result was a wave of public revulsion and denuncia-
In November the FALN committed what may have proved the final and most
devastating error. It denounced the forthcoming December national elections and
unequivocally promised to prevent them from taking place. Thus, in addition to the
familiar rhetoric about Yankee imperialism and about the alleged sellout of
Venezuelan democratic leaders to international capitalist interests, the FALN
placed its credibility as a political force directly on the line. When on 19 November
it issued a call for a general strike in Caracas, the weakness of the public reaction
- especially the urban workers should have indicated the perils of pledging to
block elections. On Sunday 1 December 1963 the magnitude of the FALN's
misjudgement became manifest.
Defying repeated threats that all those attempting to vote would be subject o
bombings and to sniper fire from rooftops, Venezuelans turned out early and in
massive numbers. Throughout Caracas lines formed in the streets two hours
before the polling places opened at 6 a.m., and by midday much of the voting had
been completed. With universal suffrage in effect, as in the previous election, 91.33
percent of registered voters went to the polls and cast their ballots. Even ranking
government leaders later conceded that while they knew the voting could not be
prevented, the turnout was not a certainty.16 It was a day of triumph for
Venezuela's fledgling democracy, and for the democratic reformist model of the
political party system. For the revolutionaries it was a devastating blow, one from
which they never recovered.
As Douglas Bravo later declared, "Very objectively it must be admitted that the
triumph of Accion Democratica(AD), supported by the oligarchy and imperialism,
was the first great defeat of the popular movement."17 Revolutionary leaders first
withdrew in silence, then engaged in an extended and unresolved debate as to the
nature of tactical and strategic failures. These lead us to a concluding examination
and assessment of the Venezuelan experience.
IV Outcomes and Lessons
The failure of insurgency reflects in no small part the unresolved internal and
doctrinal disputes which tore at the insurrectionary leadership. In the wake of the
1963 elections, explanatory and self-justifying voices were multiple. The former
youth leader of the AD and subsequently Secretary-General of the MIR, Domingo
Alberto Rangel, announced his shift to a non-violent approach. He concluded that
Venezuelan conditions were not ripe for armed struggle; since the nation was
capitalist rather than feudal, urban insurrection was preferable to rural activism.
Ultimately, guerrilla warfare lacked historical justification in Venezuela.18 For
Bravo, in contrast, the demographic shift to the city had produced a floating
population which he did not view as urban, and thus the rural-urban dichotomy was
of limited relevance. Pompeya Marquez of the oldline Communist party urged a
multifaceted form of armed struggle, still concentrating primarily on the cities. The
PCV itself soon joined the MIR inclination to downgrade armed struggle in a May
1964 message; an end to the fighting might be negotiated with the government if
certain conditions might prove acceptable.19
In retrospect, there can be little question that the FALN's urban guerrilla cam-
paign had constituted a grave tactical error, climaxed by the El Encanto attack. This
was further underlined by the efforts of the Betancourt government, and the AD
party apparatus in particular, to politicize the urban slums while concomitantly
weakening the influence of the Marxist left. One can only be struck by the incom-
prehension of Venezuelan political reality revealed by tactical and strategic
decisions. Unquestionably, the urban focus was vastly more promising than the
rural emphasis. The pressures on the government were substantial, and there are
some who believe that only a leader with the popularity, political acumen, and
unyielding determination of Romulo Betancourt could have defended successfully
the governmental legitimacy, authority, and in a policy sense, democratic refor-
mism. Be that as it may, the Venezuelan case stands out as an extraordinary
persuasive example of the relevance of local and national conditions.
What happened in a practical sense following the 1963 elections can be
summarized briefly. Both the PCV and MIR chose to reject armed struggle; the new
government under the AD's Raul Leoni moved slowly but inexorably toward a
conciliation; following the 1968 election of Rafael Caldera for the social-christian
party COPEI, broader amnesty was decreed and implemented, and by the 1973
elections, former miristas and PCV activists were taking part actively and openly.
Although small revolutionary bands survived for years, the revolutionary insurgen-
cy had essentially drawn to a close with its goals and'objectives unrealized. Later
doctrinal and personalistic divisions led to creation of the Movimiento al Socialismo
(MAS), which eventually became first among multiple factions and parties on the
Venezuelan left.20 In general, FALN leaders returned to the existing political
system. Teodore Petkoff twice ran for the Presidency, while Pompeya Marquez
manoeuvred from his position as party Secretary-General. For better or worse,
democratic reformism was ever more deeply entrenched in modern Venezuela. In
a broader sense, then, what remains is to rethink and to recapitulate the lessons of
leftist insurrection against pluralistic democratic reformism.
Returning one last time to the broader implications of the Venezuelan case, one
cannot deny what has already been hypothesized: revolutionary insurgents must
study, dissect, and understand the nature of domestic conditions. What works in
one country may be either irrelevant or unproductive in another; the true revolution-
ary will examine and evaluate circumstances, out of which strategic objectives and
tactical methods may be designed. Venezuela was not Cuba at the close of the
1950s. Revolutionaries in the former confronted a new, anti-dictatorial regime of
great popularity, led by a skilful populistic leader, personally and politically com-
mitted to meaningful reforms; if promises might prove false, the time had been
insufficient to provide evidence. Again, Cuba and Venezuela were very different.
All of this, then, leads to a conclusion of profound significance to revolutionary
insurgencies throughout the Caribbean Basin. Local and national conditions must
be evaluated, probed, and understood; without rejecting fundamental ideological or
doctrinal beliefs, both political realities and public opinion must be heavily weighed
as they enter into realistic and pragmatic, as well as idealistic and ideological
calculations of tactics and strategy on the part of revolutionary insurgents. It is not
necessarily a dichotomous choice of revolutionary versus reformist models but
rather, an informed understanding of basic needs and demands as articulated by
and filtered through the minds of those to whom the political leadership must
answer: the members of the society and polity.
1. See Maria de Lourdes Acedo de Sucre and Carmen Margarita Nones Mendoza, La
generacion venezolana de 1928; studio de un elite political (Caracas: Ediciones Ariel, 1967);
also John D. Martz, "Venezuela s Generation of '28': The Genesis of Political Democracy,
Journal of Inter-American Studies, VI-L (January 1964).
2. John D. Martz, Accion Democratica; Evolution of a Modern Political Party in Venezuela
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966).
3. Daniel H. Levine Conflict and Political Change in Venezuela (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1973).
4. A useful factual accounting, although analytically opinionated, is Richart Gott, Guerrilla
Movements in Latin America Garden City, NewJersey: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1970.
5. Manuel Cabieses Donoso, Venezuela Okey! (Santiago: Ediciones del Litoral, 1963), p.
6. Regis Debray, "Latin America: the Long March," New Left Review (London), No. 3,
7. A treatment which provides broader historical perspectives is Robert J. Alexander, The
Communist Party of Venezuela (Stanford, Ca: Hoover Institution Press, 1969).
8. For a detailed analysis of Venezuelan politics throughout the post-1958 period by a number
of scholars, see John D. Martz and David J. Myers, Venezuela, the Democratic Experience,
2d ed. (New York: Praeger, 1987).
9. Romulo Betancourt, Venezuela; political y petroleo (Caracas: Editorial Senderos, 1967).
10. John Duncan Powell, PoliticalMobilization of the Venezuelan Peasant(Cambridge, Mass:
Harvard University Press, 1971).
11. A detailed overview of policy under the Betancourt coalition government see Alexander,
The Venezuelan Democratic Revolution; A Profile of the Regime of Romulo Betancourt (New
Brunswick, New Jersey : Rutgers University Press, 1964).
12. Debray, The Long March,
13. Talton F. Ray The Politics of the Barrios of Venezuela (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1969), p. 128.
14. News stories, accompanied by often grisly photographs, may be found in Republica de
Venezuela, Ministerio de Defensa, La agresion a Mansalva (Caracas: Imprenta Nacional,
15. The author lived and conducted research in Venezuela during much of the period under
discussion. He spoke at length with government and party officiaFs shortly after the elections
concerning the matters recounted here.
16. Douglas Bravo, Avec Douglas Bravo dans les maquis venezueliens (Paris: Francois
Maspero, 1968), p. 43.
17. Among other relevant works by the prolific Rangel, see his La oligarquia del dinero
(Caracas: Editorial Fuentes, 1972).
18. Partido Comunista de Venezuela, Mensaje del Comite Cental del PCV (Caracas: n.p.,
19. Amona his many works, see Teodoro Petkoff, Socialismo para Venezuela? (Caracas:
Editorial Fuentes, 1972), which helps to explain the division of the PCV and the emergence
of the MAS following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. An excellent history of
the MAS, its emergence and evolution, is that of Steve Ellner, Venezuela's Movimiento al
Socialismo; From Guerrilla Defeat to Innovative Politics (Durham: Duke University Press,
Frontiers Within And Without The Case Of Belize
I am taking the liberty of extending the concept of frontier from the usual context
of being a dividing line between to countries to be a focus on differentiation
between two similar entities that could be found within the same country. My
assumption is that it is necessary to appreciate such micro-level distinctions before
grappling with their application at the macro-level between two countries. Besides
it facilitates an analysis of the several parameters of differences and similarities
between two neighboring countries. The parameters on which I elaborate further
below are political, geographical, and cultural.
In 1981 Belize crossed from the political frontier of colonialism to that of
independent statehood. What does this mean to Belizeans? Very briefly the
answer to this question comes twofold. The first is to understand the importance of
being politically independent. The second is to re-formulate the parliamentary
democracy that we inherited from Britain towards the goal of greater representation
among the people.
The overall impact of independent status will take generations of BeliLeans to
fully comprehend. But it cannot come to any fruition as the legacy of dependency
has facilitated greatly our transition from being a British colony to becoming an
American neo-colony (Everitt 1987: 42-59). By offering wide ranging economic
support to a newly independent but impoverished state within a highly strategic
region, the United States has virtually nullified the potential of Belize to make
decisions about its own internal affairs as well as those affecting its foreign
Working out strategies to deal with hegemonic powers like the United States
should tighten our linkages with our two neighbours. Guatemala and Mexico.
Because they have had much longer experience in dealing with overwhelming
external pressures, we need to learn from them how they have done so while
jealously guarding their own sovereignty. This in turn will require an almost revolu-
tionary re-orientation among Belizeans from that of being an appendage of either
Britain or the United States to being fully based within the political and economic
reality of the Central America/Caribbean region.
The call for closer cooperation among Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico presup-
poses the existence of mutual respect for each other's sovereignty. The current
pretension by Guatemala toward Belizean territory will inevitably have to cease.
Fortunately, similar problems do not exist between Mexico and Belize. On the
contrary their continue to increase mutual goodwill and a variety of exchange
programmes between both countries. In brief, the effectiveness of dialogue such as
this one among social science colleagues is dependent on a complete re-appraisal
by Guatemala of its posture toward Belize.
Just as important as it is for us to reflect on the significance of being politically
independent and eliciting the support of our neighbours in the process, so is the
need for us to re-formulate within the Belizean reality the tradition of democratic
government we inherited from Britain. Unlike our neighbours we have a parliamen-
tary democracy government headed by a Prime Minister, his cabinet ministers, and
the members of his political party. The role of the party in opposition is also
embedded in the constitution to act as a constant check to the ruling pray and to
maintain itself in readiness to assume power should the need arise.
Since 1981 Belizeans have changed ruling political parties in a manner dictated
by the constitution. Taking place at the time when the entire region was embroiled
in intense political turmoil, the transition in Belize took place in a civil and peaceful
However, there still remains a great deal to be done to ascertain a more
equitable distribution of power among the masses. There is in place a highly
centralized government structure with hardly any devolution of decision-making
among local communities throughout the country. As a result, the possibility to
effect change from the bottom up is particularly non-existent. It is a trait we share
with our neighboring countries, a point that I shall develop further below.
The strengths and weaknesses of our political system affect all Belizeans. On
the other hand, there are internal distinctions among them that remain hard and
fast up to the present time. Usually, ethnicity has been the main variable of
differentiation that Belizeans and visiting social scientists focus on.
I take a regional approach in describing the patterns of differentiation mainly to
present a picture that integrates the physical environment with the people and their
means of livelihood. Furthermore, it gives a bird's eye description of the many
faces of Belize to people like yourself who are not familiar with the country.
In referring to a combination of geographical landscape, economic systems,
and cultural groups the country of Belize falls into five regions (see Fig. 1). They are
the cayes and coastal plain, northern plain, rolling foothills of the west, moun-
tainous southwest, and the rainforest of the extreme southwest. The five regions
are the heartland of segments of the national population. The ease of transporta-
tion and communication has broken the isolation among them only within the past
thirty years. As a result movement from one to another is almost like crossing
international frontiers. The following is taken from a larger description (see Palacio
The easternmost portion of the country is made of the barrier reef (the second
largest in the world), hundreds of cayes, and a swampy coastland. A mixture of
these features attracted the first British seafaring explorers making the cayes and
coastal plains the longest inhabited portion of the country. The largest metropolis,
Belize City, is located there as well as four other towns. As the greatest concentra-
tion of the country's population, its economy is based on service industries.
Fishing, a main earner of foreign exchange, has been of primary importance,
although tourism is increasingly acquiring a greater economic advantage.
The people reflect the historical mixture of races of the colonial period. They
include the descendants of whites and black slaves. Further south, the Garifuna,
who came seeking refuge from Honduras during the early 19800's, predominate.
The cayes and coastland are inhabited by the most heterogeneous mixture of
peoples compared to the other parts of the country.
International frontiers with Honduras and Guatemala fall along Belize's eastern
seaboard. The demarcation of territorial rights to maritime resources is still under
negotiations with both countries. Besides, the fishermen from both countries have
been caught illegally taking advantage of the rich fishing resources of Belize.
The northern plain consists of flat limestone based soils that today produce the
main export crop of the country, sugarcane. The inhabitants are Maya and Mestizo
who immigrated from Mexico during the Caste Wars of 1846 to 1848. While the
eastern coastal plain was experiencing decline in population and economic activity
during the 1960's and 1970's this region experienced a boom that catapulted its
population into very strong economic and political power. There are also indica-
tions that it will maintain its economic dominance in agro-industry along with some
diversification into light industry making use of labour from southeastern Mexico.
With the inevitable addition of population from Mexico, this relatively culturally
homogenous portion of Belize will remain fairly distinct from the rest of the country
within the distant future.
The rolling foothill region in the western portion of the country extends from
Bemmopan, the new capital city, to the frontier with Guatemala. Its economy is
based on mixed agricultural cash cropping and cattle. The strong centrifugal pull of
Belmopan also has affected its economic growth through the introduction of urban
services and light industries.
Like its economy, the population of the west is also mixed. Originally settled by
a spill over of peoples from the coastal plain doing timber cutting, other people
have come as refugees from Mexico and Guatemala. The latest wave of such
refugees coming from El Salvador and Guatemala have settled in scores of rural
communities. Another significant segment consists of Mennonites who have been
successful in intensive cultivation of vegetables, legumes, grains, and poultry for
use throughout the country.
The other two regions of the country, the mountainous southwest and extreme
southwest are the most frontierlike in being least developed and populated. The
mountainous southwest is dominated by the cockscomb range. Its most significant
feature is the jaguar sanctuary. As the centre of the richest protected wildfire in the
country it has the potential to be a prime tourist attraction and laboratory for the
study of tropical forest not only in Belize but also for the whole of Central America.
Located in what is often termed as the forgotten district the extreme southwest
has heavy tropical rainforest, a shallow soil base and low to very steep hills. The
population consists of mainly Kekchi Maya who migrated from the neighboring
departments of Guatemala and continue to do so under the heightened threat of
political violence within the past two decades.
Notwithstanding its geographical distance from the centers of large population,
the extreme southwest is the source of main staples consumed throughout the
country. They are rice and beans. The cultural tradition of the Kekchi also provides
a wellspring for anthropological research that could inform the rest of the country
on the success of millennia of adjustment to the tropical rainforest.
Cultural Frontiers through Migration
Whereas the above description focuses on groups within their own ecological
niches, almost all Belizeans have experienced the renewed impact of migration,
particularly within the past thirty years. Census counts frcm 1960 to 1990 reveal a
national population with a high birth rate and high rates of immigration and emigra-
tion. The effect is a high proportion of people who are adjusting to relatively large
outflows and inflows with extensive ramification on their socio-culture.
Those emigrating come mostly from the highly concentrated urban communities
in the cayes and coastal plain and end up in the United States. They establish a
pattern of gradual transition whereby for several years they make visits to and from
the United States while leaving behind others who rely on cash remittances. During
the process several persons are figuratively caught on both sides of a frontier
between the United States and Belize. Remittances together with the rising expec-
tations generated among dependents also place them partly in Belize and partly in
the United States. The result is a cultural dichotomy that engulfs large proportions
of Belizeans, who are found in almost all the urban communities.
Since the establishment of Cancun and a vibrant industry in parts of Yucatan
dependent on English-speaking tourists, hundreds of Belizeans from the Corozal
and Orange Walk districts have left to work there. The pattern of cultural dichotomy
described for Belizeans in the United States and their dependents left behind may
also apply to them. So far I know of no study done on Belizeans in Yucatan or other
parts of Mexico.
Those immigrating consist of several nationalities of settlers/speculators includ-
ing Taiwanese, citizens of the Peoples Republic of China, and Hong Kong; Indians
and Americans. The vast majority, however, are refugees from Central America,
mainly Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Government estimates that there
are about 30,000 of such persons being both registered and unregistered refugees.
The refugees have only been in Belize for a relatively short period since 1980.
On the other hand, studies reveal that the vast majority do not want to return to their
own countries (Palacio 1990). Agro-industry, the main earner of foreign exchange
for the national economy, is dependent on them for field labour. On the other hand,
Belizeans have had to adjust to them as new additions to the national population.
The newcomers are infact in the transition phase of becoming de facto Belizeans
even if their legal status may be otherwise. The concept of cultural dichotomy that
I attributed to Belizeans leaving for the United States is also applicable to them.
In summary, the scope of migration has an effect among Belizeans those
leaving permanently, and those becoming citizens comparable to that of crossing
frontiers and accommodating one's life to that reality.
Social Science and Frontiers the case of Belize
In this essay I have used the concept of frontiers as a heurisic device to arrive
at the micro-level context of differentiation. The exercise has exposed some
descriptive information on the peoples of Belize that in itself is useful to persons
who do not know the country; or having heard of its small population and land mass
may have dismissed it as a diminutive and homogenous entity. In fact, Belize is
small but has many parts.
In this section I make brief extrapolations on areas of investigation for social
scientists in the three countries in keeping with the theme of this symposium, "Tres
Fronteras y Un Destino".
Firstly on the question of regions it will be productive to research the extent to
which the diagnostics of inter-country regions cross international frontiers. Earlier
we saw that there are at least three regions of Belize that border with Guatemala
and one with Mexico. We need to compare the people and their way of life who find
themselves within one region but on opposite side of an international frontier. This
way we could explore whether the international frontier is an independent variable
that determines how people react to similar micro-envirbnments. Such an exercise
would be a prerequisite for the planning of joint international projects designed for
the benefit for people along the frontiers.
The topics of political structure and migration have been studies separately in
the three countries. My brief reference to them is by way of introducing to col-
leagues what I consider to be two areas in the social sciences of paramount
importance to Belize. Obviously, the time is right to share methods of study and
invite scholars from one country to study in another to increase the cross-fertiliza-
tion so necessary for the development of science.
With respect to political structure my main concern is to explore the levels of
participation by the masses within stratified levels of government. Although Belize
has a form of government different from Mexico and Guatemala, my assumption is
that in all three countries the scope for the participation of the masses remains
limited. More specifically the following are some topics that need further study:
various types of local government and the range of their authority
the incumbents of local government and their social/economic rank viz a viz
other members of the community
methods of articulation with higher forms of government
methods of effecting changes to enable greater participation
mechanisms of generating political consciousness and participation
the role of the institutions of learning and research in the above process.
With respect to migration there is a need to further study the phases of transition
that I mentioned earlier among those affected by emigration and immigration. Is it
possible to analytically pinpoint the phases of cultural dichotomy generated by
emigration and immigration to better address the demands of the people affected
in Belize and other countries? Another way of asking the question is to explore the
types of social infrastructure that can be developed among people affected by
migration. In looking at possible solutions, the inadequacy of response by govern-
ment and non-government organizations at least in Belize needs to be high-
lighted. Neither has regarded migration as a major dynamic in population is one
that has not yet been addressed. In looking at possible solutions the following are
topics to be addressed.
the lag in adjusting in one society to another and the mechanisms those
affected put in place
the pressures on the whole society
the special case of refugees and displaced persons
the special case of older persons and dependents in Belize left behind by
The final impact of this symposium lies in sharing among ourselves from a
cross-disciplinary approach what are our perspectives on our respective countries.
My own direction has been to suggest a foundation on which we could build some
studies. A periodic review of the process during subsequent meetings among
social scientists in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico will be very much in order.
Everitt, J.C. 1987 "The Torch is Passed: Neocolonialism in Belize", Caribbean Quarterly"Vol.
33, Nos. 3 & 4, p. 42-59.
Palacio Joseph 1989, "State and Development of the Atlantic Coast of Central America the
Belize Segment". Manuscript submitted to CSUCA, San Jose, Costa Rica.
Palacio, Joseph 1990 "Socio-economic Integration of Central American Immigrants in
Belize". Mexico. SPEAR by Cubola Productions.
French Guiana Introduced to Paris in Creole 110 Years Ago
The publication of the novel Atipa1 in 1885 did not seem to have made an
impact on either the French media or the Caribbean literary circles of the period,
although there was every reason for it to have done so. The publication in Paris
during the nineteenth century of a novel written entirely in creole, without an
accompanying translation, was a rather important event.
What is the true identity of Alfred Parepou? Based on the hypotheses that have
been put forward to date, one could wonder whether it isn't a certain Meteyrand,
author, politician and renowned grandson of Ceperou, the famous "Indian" hero of
the anticolonialist movement, or a certain Alfred Saint-Quentin, another Guyanese
writer, who had already introduced creole in writings published in France in 1872.2
Doubt surrounded the very existence of the book, which had been out of
circulation for almost a century. Relentless efforts by the linguist Marguerite Saint-
Jacques Fauquenoy turned up a copy in the Library of Congress in Washington,
which led to its re-publication in fax form by UNESCO in 1980. Since the literary
community in Cayenne was quite restricted during the previous century, it is difficult
to believe that the author thought he could keep his identity a secret from his peers.
This Canadian researcher was nevertheless convinced that the author was Pierre
Felix Athenodore Meteyrand, a bourgeois mulatto form Cayenne, renowned for his
opinions which were considered subversive by the authorities and who would
therefore have opted to publish his works under an alias, to avoid any repercus-
sions associated with a publication criticizing both the colonial administration and
his compatriots. Furthermore, the rapid disappearance of the book is explained by
a probable, yet hypothetical, clandestine printing of a few dozen copies.
The matter is still unresolved, although Meteyrand is the name most often
mentioned by critics and historians.
Due to complications which we can well imagine, the manuscript was trans-
ferred several times between Paris and Cayenne. Consequently, as the author
points out in postscript, a few minor errors could not have been avoided, since
Parisian editors did not necessarily have a mastery of Guyanese creole. On the
other hand, given the period during which the book was written, it was difficult to
conceive that the spelling which appeared in the printed text was not based on the
French language. Nevertheless, these errors were identified and corrected in the
final edition which was published in 1987.
The reader will be hard pressed to identify an intrigue running through the
twelve chapters of the book. With the exception of Atipa, there is no real link
between the chapters: they in fact paint a series of pictures of local customs, in
particular those of the local Cayenne communities, during the second half of the
nineteenth century. The main character Atipa, nicknamed Lorime, is a worker in the
gold mines who has made several trips between Guyana and the metropole, via
Martinique and Brazil. While on vacation for a few weeks in Cayenne, he meets
with many of his acquaintances, but more particularly with his friends.
Each chapter describes one of his meetings which often occurs at the market or
in a bar, in the street or at the home of one of the characters. The daily life of the
people of Cayenne is presented with biting humour and tenderness. This book is
also a collection of "memorable accounts" of a good man of the people, through
which the author is able to criticize the shortcomings of his surroundings (cultural
integration, bovarism with regard to the French, insignificance of politicians...),
recall the "good old days", and relate stories, songs and the latest gossip.
In Lettres creoles (Letters in creole), Patrick Chamoiseau and Raphael Confiant
have made use of the "terniary model" for the chapters which have been arranged
in a rather mechanical fashion:
Atipa has a chance meeting with a friend in the
"[he] suggests that they go to a bar for a drink or
go for a walk in La Crique, a popular area of
"[he] discusses with him life in French Guiana at
that time [...]
"- Dialogue, which accounts for 80% of these
chapters, dominates the descriptions on one
hand, and the narrative on the other3"
This process recalls that used 20 years later by Justin Lherisson, the Haitian
novelist, a process referred to by Pradel Pompilus as the "literary interview":
[...] a style created by Lherisson or rather one which he transferred to literature
[...] The interview is a simple humorous story, for a listener or, more often, for an
audience gathered under the trees in the rural areas or in a public place"4
It should be noted that dialogue and creole play an important role in Lherisson's
narrative. To this end, Fanketienne, during an interview in the summer of 1986,
pointed out to me that the lack of dialogue in most of the Haitian novels published
before 1950 may be attributed to the fact that the novelist quickly loses his flair,
when he attempts to make his characters who usually speak only in creole,
communicate in French5
On the Question of Pseudonyms
Whatever the author's true identity may be and in spite of Marguerite
Fauquenoy's thesis, the question concerning the author's decision to publish under
a pseudonym remains unanswered. Pschoanalysis could certainly shed some light
on this but some observations of the style used also need to be made. A com-
parison of the syllables ATIPA and Alfred Parepou reminds us of the process of
metaplasm. In fact, if we remove both the first and last syllables of the eponym
Atipa, we immediately recognize the first syllables of the patronym Alfred PArepou.
This does not however contradict Ms. Fauquenoy's thematic analysis which sug-
gests a complementarity between water and land, "atipa" being the name of a fish
and "parepou" the name of a tree.
Nevertheless, most of the characters in the novel are usually referred to by their
nicknames: Atipa (a variety of edible fish) for Lorime, Bosobio (joker) for Bagasse,
Totie (turtle) for Zephirin and so on. What could therefore be said about the
Parepou? The question remains: Why the use of the pseudonym? This was
perhaps quite simply a means by which the author could relate more closely with
his text by introducing himself as one of the characters, preferably as the protean
and omniscient narrator. The short-story style is also obvious here.
From Oral Tradition to Novel Writing
Although the subtitle "Roman guyannais" (Guyanese novel) refers to a specific
literary genre, Raphael Confiant emphasized the difficulty in categorizing this "first
creole contribution in novel form from the Caribbean region"6. In fact, no progres-
sion is noted in the seemingly interchangeable chapters:
"Alfred Parepou has therefore written a novel
which cannot be classified as any of the tradition-
al literary genres or even modern typology. It is a
sort of cross between a creole story, a short play,
a short story and journalistic writings, all of which
include elements characteristic of the novel. The
Western literary genre to which Atipa may be best
linked would be Platonic dialogue. [...] it finds its
place [...] in the universal genre of "emerging
ethnic novels" which are present during the early
states of all literary movements7"
Let us not forget that when this novel was being written, there were no estab-
lished norms regarding creole writing. It was therefore up to the author to determine
the form of expression which he considered appropriate to his work. The com-
plexity and range in structure of the novels that were fashionable at the time8
appeared to have been unsuitable for the oral traditions of the Caribbean. Parepou
chose a less complex model, the story, and, having removed the main charac-
teristics such as the role of fantasy, dramatization necessary for the quest, an
accumulation of adventures, suspense, emotion associated with discovery, rhyth-
mic scansion, didactic intent, moral or philosophical observations etc. retaining
only the clause, and gave it a new status that of a chapter.
The final words of the narrator, after which the novel ends, help us to under-
stand the entire novel:
"Lendimain, Atipa pati, pou Mannan.
Mo fache li pati si vite, pace si li te rete,
Cayenne, pi longtemps, nous te ke anpprendne,
pi beaucoup zaffar. Mo bin que so zanmi ye la; a
qui raconte mo, tout ca mo dit zote, ladans live
la". pp. 227.
("Atipa left for Mana the following day.
I am sorry that he left Cayenne, because had he
stayed a while longer, we would have learned a
lot more. I get on well with his friends. It is they
who have tau ht me all that is recounted in this
book" pp. 124)
Regarding the Translation
It is probably not pure coincidence that the "Heritage Year" has already selected
Michael Lohier's 1972 translation for the new bilingual edition of this novel. Lohier,
a renowned narrator, was able to reconstruct stories from his native land for the
benefit of amateurs, for those who read Guyanese creole and other francophones,
as well as for future generations1.
To overcome some difficulties which were due, inter alia, to the development of
the language, many words and passages such as songs and proverbs were
retained in French. This in no way affects comprehension since the vocabulary list
given at the end of the book allows the uninitiated reader to "participate" in the
Acceptance of the Novel
Should the initial cold reception of the novel be attributed solely to the mystery
surrounding the author's identity? The lack of response could also be explained by
the low status of the vernacular, although existing publications by Alfred de Saint-
Quentin had set an important precedence. Before any conclusions can be made,
other issues, especially those concerning the editorial policy of the Auguste Ghio
Publishing House and the type of contract signed with Parepou, would need to be
examined. Without wishing to speculate too much, I would like to make two
In 1885, the status of creole spoken in the French West Indies and French
Guiana could easily be compared with the status of other regional languages of the
vast colonial empire. Moreover, following the introduction of 1854 of felibrige, this
type of literature from French Caribbean region was no longer a novelty in Paris.
During the decade of 1880-1890, the following books, inter alia were published:
Nerto (1884), a short story by Frederic
Li fiho d'Avignon [The daughters of Avignon]
(1885), a collection of poems by Theodore
Lou tresor dou felibrige [The felibrige
treasure] (1885), French-Provencale diction-
ary by Frederic Minstral;
La reino Jano [Queen Jeanne] (1890), a
tragedy by Frederic Mistral.
We should not, however, lose sight of the fact that these texts were also
accompanied by a French translation, which facilitated their wider distribution.
Moreover, the above-mentioned books had been written by authors who were well
known in the literary circles of Paris and who had left no stones unturned in
guaranteeing the success of their publications. For this reason, Mistral had, long
before the publication of Mireille, been introduced to Lamartine, who later com-
pared him to Homer and devoted almost 80 pages of Cours familiar de literature to
him [Simple course in literature] (1869). This recognition in Paris at the highest
level had therefore set the stage for the future.
The second observation is the contempt of metropolitan France in the
nineteenth century for literature, among other things, from the "islands". Despite
repeated efforts from both sides of the Atlantic, and despite the loyalty shown by
Caribbean writers to the "City of Lights", their work remained unknown and some-
times even blatantly ignored. Naturally, a few French writers had not adopted this
attitude, but were however unable to bring about any changes. While literaturess in
French from overseas" and other foreign literatures were accepted and later
became famous, including Saint-John Perse and Rene Maran, neither the West
Indian nor the Mascarenian could make the same claim, if he was not willing to
reject his origins.
Having never enjoyed the great fortune experienced by the felibrige, Alfred
Parepou had very little chance of holding the attention of the Caribbean people who
tended to accept the trends set in Paris. Moreover, Cayenne never, and to date still
has not, enjoyed the popularity which enabled Saint-Pierre de la Martinique or
Port-au-Prince to claim to be the cultural centres of the region.
Nevertheless, Atipa which was written during a period when few scholars could
envisage the future of creole as a language, and in particular as a literary language,
is both a testimony and an important milestone. As Felix-Lambert Prudent notes11,
this novel deserves to be considered as "a birth certificate", because it is a
foundation novel for the creole language in much the same way as the Strasbourg
Oaths and the Canterbury Tales.
1. Atipa. Roman guvanais. Paris: Ed. Auguste Ghio; 1885, 228 pages. Re-publication: a)
1980, Paris: Ed. Caribeennes; Collection by UNESCO representative works. Bilingual
version. Preface by Auxence Contout; Presentation by Felix-Lambert Prudent; Translalion
by Michel Lohier. 228 + 126 pages. b) 1987, Paris: Ed. L'Harmattan/G EREC. The 1980 edition
was used for this work.
2. Alfred de SAINT-QUENTIN: Introduction a I'histoire de Cavenne, followed by Recueil de
contest, fables et chansons: Antibes: 1872. Re-publication: 1989, Cayenne: CEE, 205 pages.
3. Op. cited, pp. 100-101.
4. Pradel POMPILUS: "Permanence de Justin Lherisson" Conjonction No. 143, May 1979,
5. The success of Dezafi(1975), first Haitian creole novel and of the French version Les affres
d'un defi( 979) was remarkable. In September 1986, while I was preparing my doctoral thesis
on diqlossia in Haitian novels, I was able on two occasions to meet Francketienne who warmly
greeted me. During our first interview, he spoke to me about his native language:
"[creo'e] allows me to be more spontaneous. In creole novels, I do not feel alone
because the word has a local flavour. However, when I write French novels I feel all
"This is why I think that the use of these two languages in novels, including those written
by Alexis, is unnatural and is is for this reason that there is little dialogue. Quite often,
the characters who belong to a certain social class do not speak".
6. I h&ve underlined these letters.
7. Raphael CONFIANT: "Ati#a". Encyclopaedic dictionary of the West Indies and French
Guiana, supervised by Jack Corzani. Fort- de-France: Desormeaux edition 1992. P. 245.
8. This was influenced by Balzac, Flaubert, naturalists and colonial novels.
9. Translation by Michel LOHIER.
10. Michel LOHIER: Legendes et contest folkloriques de Guvane. Cayenne, 1960. Second
edition in 1980, Paris: Ea. Caribeennes, 250 pages. Preface by U. Sopnie. Layout by Robert
Vignon. Design by Roland Monpierre. As with Parepou's novel, a collection of stories by
Lonier has been republished by the "Heritage Year" Committee.
11. In "L'Emergence d'une literature creole aux Antilles" Antholoqie de la nouvelle poesie
creole. Caraib&, Ocean Indien. Paris: Ed. Caribeennes/ACCT, 1984, pp. 20-26.
C.L.R. James on Cricket as Art
By his own admission, C.L.R. James has "made great claims for cricket"
(James 1963, p. 191). He goes on to claim, further, that cricket is an art form. More
specifically, he defends the following theses: (1) that cricket is a dramatic art akin
to the theatre, dance and opera; (2) that cricket is a visual art; and (3) that the
philosophical quest for a definition of art would be aided if it included sports and
games. In this essay I wish to examine James's arguments in the light of some
ideas in philosophy of art.
First, I shall consider the claim that cricket is a dramatic art. James admits that
cricket "does not allow that representation or suggestion of specific relations as can
be done by a play or even by ballet and dance" (James 1963, p. 194). He also
admits that "Sir John Gielgud in three hours can express adventures and shades in
human personality which are not approached in three years of Denis Compton at
the Wicket" (James 1963, p. 192). He admits, too, that cricket is not unique and that
all games may be dramatic. His aim is to describe those characteristics of the game
which, in his view, identify it as dramatic art.
According to James, the drama of cricket is to be found in two characteristics of
the game. First, the game
is so organized that at all times it is compelled to
reproduce the central action which characterizes
all good drama from the days of the Greeks to our
own: two individuals are pitted against each other
in a conflict that is strictly personal but no less
strictly representative of a social group. One in-
dividual batsman faces one individual bowler. But
each represents his side (James 1963, p. 192).
Conflict between individuals and groups is seen as the traditional stuff of
drama. James also believed that fundamental relations such as those between the
individual and the group, parts and wholes, one and many, leaders and followers,
representatives and those they represent are built into the structure of the game.
He claimed that cricketers begin with these relations while other sports and arts
have to aim at them. These relations, he thinks, are important in life, and cricket,
like drama, is founded on them.
James describes the other characteristic of the game as follows:
The second major consideration in all dramatic
spectacles is the relation between event (or, if
you prefer, contingency) and design, episode and
continuity, diversity in unity, the battle and the
campaign, the part and the whole. Here also
cricket is structurally perfect. The total spectacle
consists and must consist of a series of individual,
isolated episodes, each in itself completely self-
contained. Each has its beginning, the ball is
bowled; its middle, the stroke played; its end,
runs, no runs, dismissal. Within the fluctuating
interest of the rise or fall of the game as a whole,
there is this unending series of events, each
single one fraught with immense possibilities of
expectation and realization (James 1963, p. 193).
Here James describes the dynamic relationship between the heart and
body of the game. He seems to be saying that just as a play is made up of a series
of events, each of which is significant for the drama as a whole, cricket is similarly
made up of a series of episodes each of which is fraught with significance for the
total game. There is dramatic tension between the unity of its structure and the
diversity of its possibilities. The game is so structured that there is drama in every
The gist of James's argument, as I understand it, is this: if the kind of conflict
which he describes and the links between event and design as characterized by
him are present in both the drama of the stage and cricket, it is unfair to regard the
former as art and to deny this status to the latter.
It is true, I think, that conflict is an important element of drama and perhaps all
sport, including cricket. It is James's contention that conflict is a drama-making and
an art-making characteristic. The structural similarities between cricket matches
and plays which he describes also show considerable insight. But the most impor-
tant question that arises, it seems to me, is whether or not the differences between
cricket matches and plays are more important than the similarities. The differences
that James himself admits to "specific relations" (James 1963, p. 194) or "shades
in human personality" (James 1963, p. 192) may be the characteristics which
warrant a distinction between the two, with artworks being the kinds of things that
are better able to explore and communicate such features of human experience.
I turn now to his reasons for regarding cricket as a visual art. James has been
influenced by the formalist theory of art, especially by the writings of Bernhard
Berenson. Berenson describes visual art as 'significant form,' a phrase made
famous by Clive Bell (1984). It is not at all clear from his writings what Bell means
by this mysterious phrase. Berenson's meaning, as interpreted by James, is that
the term refers to 'tactile values' and sense of 'movement' (James 1963, pp.
196-197). By 'tactile values' Berenson means "the corporal significance of objects"
(James 1963, p. 197). James interprets Berenson as claiming that tactile values
can make a painting life-giving and life-enhancing to someone who views it. James
contends that cricket can also do this for spectators, but he does not develop this
argument. He is more interested in cricket and sense of movement, and it is to his
exploration of this idea that I now turn.
James (1963, p. 197) quotes Berenson as saying that an artist can extract the
significance of movements from an athletic event like a wrestling match. James
argues that in the case of cricket "the significance of movement" is present without
the intervention of an artist; significant form is present in its "most unadulterated"
form (James 1963, p. 198). For James, what aestheticians call significant form in
visual art is what cricketers call style. He quotes Steele's definition of style: "no
flourish, but the maximum of power with the minimum of exertion" (James 1963, p.
199). In his view, significant form, or style, is "the perfect flow of motion" (James
1963, p. 202). According to James, our quest for the perfect flow of motion comes
from our nature as human beings. Our survival depends on "effective physical
activity" (James 1963, p. 203). Consequently the perfect flow of motion will always
be sought. This quest is universal and is found in the work of children and primitive
people. It is part of the process by which our humanity is achieved and maintained.
James argues that the
basic motions of cricket represent physical action
which has been the basis not only of primitive but
civilized life for countless centuries. In work and in
play they were the motions by which men lived
and without which they would perish (James
1963, p. 204).
His conclusion is that the notion of significant form is as central in cricket as it is
in the visual arts. He feels that it is therefore inconsistent to regard one as art while
excluding the other.
The expression 'significant form' is, in my view, an empty phrase that one may
fill with whatever one likes. James, inspired by Berenson on art and Ernest Haas
on bull-fighting, has filled it with the notion of the perfect flow of motion, and has
applied it in an interesting way to cricket. James succeeds, I think, in linking this
notion both to real life and cricket. His point is that cricket, like art, has its source in
real life, and that this is a way in which the two can be fruitfully compared.
There is no uncontroversial answer to the question: what is art? It is one of the
central questions of aesthetics and has been given many traditional as well as
contemporary answers. Weitz has argued that works of art have no essence and
that art therefore cannot be defined (Davies 1991, pp. 4-22). But in spite of Weitz's
arguments the quest for a definition of art continues.
The formalist theory of art which has clearly influenced James although he
does not use the term is one of the traditional definitions.
There is also evidence of the influence of another traditional theory on James's
thought. This is the expression theory the view that art is the expression of
emotion. James admits that there are limits to what cricket can express; according
to him it "cannot express the emotions of an age on the nature of the last judgment
or the wiping out of a population by bombing" (James 1963, p. 206); these are
things which artworks can express. But James insists on the expressiveness of
cricket from the point of view of both players and spectators.
In the case of players he claims that cricketers "are always players trafficking in
the elemental human activities, qualities and emotions attack, defence, courage,
gallantry, steadfastness, grandeur, ruse" (James 1963, p. 194). It is easy to
imagine the emotions which may be the basis for activities like attacking and
defending, for courageous, gallant or steadfast behaviour and even ruse or the
achievements which may give a player a feeling of grandeur.
I find the view that a cricketer can express his emotions through his playing
convincing. Before reading James I described a character in one of my stories as
It was well-known that Vincent did poorly at
school. But put a bat in his hand and he was
transformed: he became expressive, confident
and masterful. He said things with his bat that he
could not put into words (McKenzie 1991, p. 22).
With regards to spectators James claims that in viewing cricket, like in viewing
art, what matters "is not finer points but what everyone with some knowledge of the