o r.4- 4 o. 1
Masculinity and Dancehall
From Object to Subject: The Affirmation of Female Subjectivity in Quince
Duncan's La Paz del pueblo (1978) and Kimbo (1989)
The Manifestation of Tawid The Muslim Heritage of the Maroons in Jamaica
"Ninguno es Cubano." Cuba- My Reflection
Martin J. Schade S.J.
Half the Story The uses of History in Jamaican political Discourse
Eric Williams' Inward Hunger. the Caribbean as a Microcosm of World History
Proverbs and African Oral Tradition An Examination of Selected Novels
by Earl Lovelace
Two Poems by Alister Hughes
VOLUME 45, No1
(Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.)
Editorial (in English, French and Spanish) iii
Masculinity and Dancehall 1
From Object to Subject: The Affirmation of Female Subjectivity in Quince 17
Duncan's La Paz del pueblo (1978) and Kimbo (1989)
The Manifestation of Tawid: The Muslim Heritage of the Maroons in Jamaica 27
"Ninguno es Cubano." Cuba: My Reflection 41
Martin J. Schade S.J.
Half the Story: The uses of History in Jamaican political Discourse 62
Eric Williams' Inward Hunger: the Caribbean as a Microcosm of World History 78
Proverbs and African Oral Tradition : An Examination of Selected Novels 95
by Earl Lovelace
Two Poems by Alister Hughes 101
Book Reviews 103
Books Received 108
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS 110
INFORMATION FOR CONTRIBUTORS 111
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Index available. The journal is abstracted by AES and indexed by HAPI
This issue of Caribbean Quarterly contains articles which reflect not only
the diversity of the region but also the interconnectedness of the wide-ranging
cultural phenomena which gives the Caribbean distinctive form and purpose.
Jamaican DanceHall is the topic of concern in Jarret Brown's article
"Masculinity and DanceHall" specifically the complexities of gender-relationships
as a reflection of masculinity. He explores the issue of homophobia, and the
behavioral manifestations of both tenderness and sexual pain, the former as a
non-masculine trait the latter as a p: .,itive sign of masculinity in DanceHall genre.
Paulette Ramsay's essay "From Object to Subject: The Affirmation of Female
Subjectivity in Quince Duncan's La Paz del Pueblo (1978) and Kimbo (1989) "
also examines gender relations but from the perspective of literary manipulation of
male and female relationships in the work of the Costa-Rican Writer Quince
Duncan. According to Ramsay, Duncan's writings are concerned with the asser-
tion of female subjectivity and the wider issue of self-formation and sovereignty.
Two articles address topics of socio-religious significance for the region.
Sultanna Afroz' article "From Moors to Marronage: The Islamic Heritage of the
Maroons discusses a far too little researched field the influence of Islam in the
Caribbean. She examines the political and social structures of the Maroons from an
Islamic perspective and posits that marronage as initiated by the Spanish Maroons
was a form of Jihad or Holy War waged against the obscenity of slavery. The
essay by Martin DeSchade "Ninguno es Cubano. Cuba: My Reflection exam-
ines the re-emergence of religious practice in Cuba and the reaction of the Cuban
people to the visit of the head of the Catholic church in 1996. In analyzing the
historical factors, the author lays the blame for the socialist and totalitarian path
taken by Cuba firmly on the foreign policy of the United States. He argues that this
was the only option available for the self-survival of the Cuban people.
"Half the Story: The Uses of History in Jamaican Political Discourse"
by Anita Waters examines how pc'.;cians hzve used Jamaican history in their
electoral discourse to emphasize their programmic intentions. Waters concludes
that primarily history's task was to create an identity for the people of the Carib-
bean, but it later became important to view history as the channel to bring about
social and economic reform to enable the region ( and in this case, Jamaica) to
take its place on the world stage. She states that historical discourse has moved
from the centre to the periphery, from the village and personal to the global and
public arena. Frank Knight's essay is in a similar vein "Eric Williams' Inward
Hunger: the Caribbean as a Microcosm of World History, he examines Eric
Williams' view of the multi-cultural Caribbean as a microcosm of world history.
Williams' often controversial political actions are examined in order to demonstrate
the significance of his having developed a Caribbean perspective of world history.
The final article by Elsa Rogers, Proverbs and the African Oral Tradition: An
Examination of Selected Novels by Earl Lovelace examines the works by the
Trinidadian writer Earl Lovelace in order to determine the extent to which the
African oral tradition has influenced his use of proverbs.
Poems by Alister Hughes, the Grenadian journalist and book reviews
complete the issue.
Les articles publics dans ce numero du Caribbean Quarterly non seule-
ment refletent la diversity regional mais aussi ses liens 6troits.
Le theme du 'Jamaican DanceHall' (la salle de danse jamaYquaine) qui est
debattu dans I'article de Jarret Brown, intitule "Masculinity and DanceHall" (La
masculinity et la salle de danse), porte tout particulierement sur les complexities
des rapports homme-femme en tant que reflexion de la masculinity. II explore la
question de I'homophobie et les comportements a la fois indicateurs de tendresse
et de souffrance sexuelle. Le premier de ces traits est perqu comme n'6tant point
masculin tandis que le deuxieme comme signed positif de masculinity dans le genre
de DanceHall. De meme, I'essai de Paulette Ramsay "From Object to Subject:
The Affirmation of Female Subjectivity in Quince Duncan's La Paz del Pueblo
(1978) and Kimbo (1989)" (De I'objet au sujet: L'affirmation de la subjectivity
feminine dans La Paz del Pueblo (1978) et Kimbo (1989) de Quince Duncan)
examine la representation du sexe dans I'oeuvre de I'6crivain costaricien, Quince
Duncan, mais de la perspective de la manipulation litteraire des rapports entire
homme et femme. D'apres Ramsay, ses oeuvres de Duncan traitent de I'assertion
de la subjectivity feminine et du problem plus general de I'auto-formation et de la
Deux articles abordent des sujets d'ordre socio-religieux d'importance
pour la region. L'article de Sultanna Afroz intitul6 "From Moors to Marronage:
The Islamic Heritage of the Maroons" (Des Maures au Marronage: L'heritage
islamique des Marrons) p6netre un domaine peu documented I'influence de 'lslam
en Caraibe. Elle examine les structures des Marrons d'une perspective islamique
et elle declare que le marronage, A ses debuts avec les Marrons espagnols, etait
une forme de Jihad, ou Guerre Sainte, menee contre I'obscenite de I'esclavage.
L'essai de Martin DeSchade "Ninguno es Cubano. Cuba: My Reflection" (Per-
sonne n'est Cubain. Cuba: Ma reflexion) examine la re-emergence des pratiques
religieuses a Cuba et la reaction du people cubain a la visit du chef de I'Eglise
Catholique en 1996. Dans son analyse des facteurs historiques, I'auteur met en
cause la position socialist et totalitaire qu'a fermement pris Cuba en politique
exterieure vis-a-vis des Etats Unis. II maintient que c'etait la seule option possible
garantissant I'auto-survie du people cubain.
"Half the Story: The Uses of History in Jamaican Political Discourse"
(L'histoire tronquee: Les utilisationj de I'histjire dans le discours politique en
Jamaique) d'Anita Waters examine comment les hommes politiques ont utilise
I'histoire jamaiqaine dans leurs discours politiques pour faire valoir leurs intentions
de principle. Waters conclut que la tache primordiale de I'histoire a ete de career une
identity pour le people de la CaraTbe, mais que plus tard, on a dO concevoir
I'histoire comme moyen necessaire a la realisation de reformes sociales et
economiques permettant a la region (et dans ce cas, la JamaTque) de prendre sa
place a I'echelon mondial. Elle affirmed que le discours historique est passe du
centre a la p6ripherie, du village et du personnel au mondial et au publique. L'essai
de Frank Knight est dans le meme esprit "Eric Williams' Inward Hunger: the
Caribbean as a Microcosm of World History" (La faim interieure d'Eric Williams:
La Caralbe comme microcosme de I'histoire mondiale); il examine la vue d'Eric
Williams sur la Carafbe multiculturelle represented comme microcosome de I'his-
toire mondiale. Les actions politiques de Williams qui, bien souvent, ont souleve
maintes controversies y sont examinees afin de demontrer I'importance d'avoir
developpe une perspective carafbeenne de I'histoire mondiale. Le tout dernier
article ecrit par Elsa Rogers "Proverbs and the African Oral Tradition: An
Examination of Selected Novels by Earl Lovelace" (Les proverbes et la tradition
orale afriquaine: Un examen de romans choisis de Earl Lovelace) examine les
ouvrages de I'ecrivain Earl Lovelace afin de determiner jusqu'a quel point la
tradition orale afriquaine a influence son utilisation de proverbes.
Des poemes d'Alistair Hughes, le journalist de la Grenade, et des
compte-rendus litteraires viennent complete ce numero.
Este nimero de Caribbean Quarterly incluye articulos que reflejan tanto
la diversidad como la interconexion de la region.
Jarret Brown en su articulo Masculinity and Dance Hall (Masculinidad y
Dance Hall) trata el tema del Dance Hall* jamaicano, en particular las compleji-
dades de las relaciones de genero como reflejo de la masculinidad. Investiga el
tema de la homofobia y las expresiones de ternura y dolor sexual en el compor-
tamiento. Ve el primero como una caracteristica no masculine y el ultimo como un
seal positive de le masculinidad en el genero del Dance Hall.
El articulo de Paulette Ramsay titulado From Object to Subject: The
Affirmation of Female Subjectivity in Quince Duncans La Paz del Pueblo
(1978) and Kimbo (1989) (Del objeto al sujeto: La afirmaci6n de la sujetividad
feminine en La Paz del Pueblo (1978) y Kimbo (1989) de Quince Duncan
tambien examine el tema de genero desde la perspective de la manipulacion
literaria de las relaciones entire hombres y mujeres en la obra del escritor costar-
ricense, Quince Duncan. SegOn Ramsay, la obra de Duncan enfoca la declaraci6n
de la sujetividad feminine y el tema general del autodesarrollo y la soberania.
Este nOmero incluye dos articulos que tienen relevancia religiosa y social
para la region. El articulo de Sultanna Afroz sobre From Moors to Marronage:
the Islamic Heritage of the Maroons examine un tema poco investigado la
influencia de Islam en el Caribe. Examina las estructuras political y sociales de
los Cimarrones desde la perspective de Islam y argument que el cimarronaje tal
como lo iniciaron los Cimarrones Esparioles fue una forma del Jihad o Guerra
Sagrada contra la indignidad de la esclavitud. El trabajo de Martin DeSchade
Ninguno es Cubano Cuba: My Reflection (None is Cuban. Cuba: My Reflection)
examine la reemergencia de la practice religiosa en Cuba y la reacci6n del pueblo
Cubano a la visit del lider de la Iglesia Catolica en 1996. Al analizar los factors
hist6ricos, el autor culpa de modo decisimo la political exterior de los Estados
Unidos por la direcci6n socialist y totalitaria seguida por Cuba. Argumenta que
esta era la unica opci6n disponible para la sobrevivencia del pueblo Cubano.
Half the Story: The uses of History in Jamaica Political Discourse La
mitad de la Historia: Los Usos de la Historia en el Discurso Politico Jamai-
cano por Anita Waters examine la forma en que los politicos han utilizado la
historic de Jamaica en sus discursos electorales para destacar su programaci6n.
Waters concluye que la tarea primordial de la historic fue establecer la identidad
del pueblo caribero. Mas adelante, Ilego a ser important contemplar la historic en
su funcion de canalizadora de la reform socioecon6mica (y en este caso Jamaica)
para ubicarse en el escenaric mundial. Afirma que el discurso historico se ha
desplazado desde el centro hacia la periferia, desde lo aldeano y lo personal hacia
lo global y lo public. El trabajo de Frank Knight sigue mismo hilo Eric Williams
Inward Hunger: The Caribbean as a Microcosm of World History (El Hambre
interno de Eric Williams: el Caribe como el Microcosmo de la Historia
Mundial). Examina la perspective de Eric Williams de que el Caribe multicultural
es un microcosmo de la historic mundial. Se analizan las acciones political de
Williams a menudo controversiales para manifestar la importancia del desarrollo
desde una perspective caribeha de la historic mundial. El articulo final de Elsa
Rogers, Proverbs and the African Oral Tradition: An Examination of selected
Novels by Earl Lovelace. (Los proverbios y la Tradicci6n Africana Oral: Un
Examen de Novelas Seleccionadas de Earl Lovelace) examine las obras del
escritor trinitario Earl Lovelace para determinar hasta que punto la tradicion oral
africana ha influenciado su uso de proverbios.
Los poemas de Alister Hughes, el periodista granadino y resehas de libros
completan el numero.
*Nota del traductor Dance Hall es una forma popular de baile jamaicano
Masculinity and Dancehall
"Language represents an attitude toward reality,
and toward others and the limits of our world is
the limit of language."
Ted Chamberlin, Come Back To Me My Lan-
Caribbean politics, culture and society are inextricably bound by and linked
to a colonial history and memory that frames and codifies the socio-cultural and
political behaviours. The colonial history and memory are composed of competing
discourses, that are margin and centre and these mediate the cultural diversity that
defines the Caribbean experience. Part of the legacy of colonialism is evident in
the pluralistic landscapes and the attendant cultural diversity that defines the
Caribbean experience. The presence of the various ethnic groups : Africans,
Indians, Chinese, and Euro-West Indians reflects a hybridity that is consistent with
the nature of post-colonial cultures. This hybuidity is part of the definitive texture
that gives meaning and difference to Caribbean culture, aesthetics, literature, art,
and geography. Helen Tiffin in her essay "Post-colonial Literature and Counter-dis-
course," argues that "post-colonial cultures are inevitably hybridized, involving a
dialectical relationship between European ontology and epistemology and the
impulse to create or recreate independent local identity" (Ashcroft et al. 95). This
'dialectical relationship' is problematized even further by a patriarchal discourse
that privileges masculine interpretations of the relationships and experiences which
characterize the way writers, poets, intellectuals, singers and politicians address
contemporary issues concerning race, class, gender, and politics.
Language use is the conduit of this dialectical relationship in the Caribbean
and as such it assumes a very political role in the life of the peoples especially
those who speak patois1. For the peoples in Jamaica, the locale that will be the
focus of this paper, this marginalized dialect, seen by many as a corruption of the
English Language and viewed by earlier British inhabitants as the language of the
uncivilized (see Chamberlin 68) is the definitive speech for the underclass. Patois
is only one of the many media that is politicized by writers, poets, singers and
politicians to subvert dominant ideologies and advance commentaries on both the
social and political inequalities within the society, with the intent to interrogate the
Eurocentric discourse that acts as a background to their experiences. It is a very
rich socio-cultural discourse that expresses dramatically the lived experiences of
the working class populace. Patois has a performative quality that is an integral
part of its orality a brash expressionism that challenges the conservative values,
sensibilities, and ideas of middle-class Jamaica. It is this orality that gives the
words and/or expressions a unique quality that ties its meaning, to not just context
but sound. The grounded orality and performance is one of the factors, which
distinguishes its use from that of Standard Jamaican English. The communal use
of patois makes it a medium that houses the tensions that temper the relationships
among the different social classes, ethnic groups, genders, political factions, and
even religious groups. Interestingly, the language, in so far as it makes cultural
representations, is constructed and used in such a way that it others women and
various categories of men. The users of this dialect rely on the power of the "word"
to situate them in a position of privilege within the dominant discourse.
The dialect is used by many who, through their interactions with each
other and descriptions of each other, consciously or unconsciously, perpetuate
patriarchy as a mode of male domination. For instance, the way some male
artistes in the dancehall community in Jamaica describe the female body, sex, and
other categories of men and the way some female artistes respond to this descrip-
tion or even describe themselves, can be seen as a direct result of the patriarchal
views that pervade the society. Sometimes there are descriptions or actions by
both male and female in this community that are not intended to convey sexist or
discriminatory meanings, but because of where the descriptions are coming from,
it carries hidden meanings in them. Patriarchy then looms large because it acts as
a meta-narrative that interacts iteratively with micro-narratives, social milieux and
lived experiences. Indeed, masculinity as a subset of patriarchy is nuanced differ-
ently within these smaller realities of ethnicity, social class, and communal beliefs
are important adjectives that impact on its meaning. As a cultural activity and an
action, dancehall music is influenced by the dominant ideologies that are implicit in
language use in the Jamaican society and as such its practice of patriarchy and its
definition of masculinity and femininity differ from other communities within the
society. Women, as a small percentage of this community, because of their lack of
agency or autonomy, sometimes pander to the dishes of this male "crowd" and are
often viewed as complicitous in perpetuating male domination. Yet, there are those
females who act in this way to penetrate the male dominated space to subvert the
dominant ideologies and achieve agency.
The purpose of this paper is to examine how dancehall music, as a locale
defines register and that those who participate in the action of this locale make up
a speech community. This speech community is constitutive of self-conscious
socio-cultural and lingui..; masculine codes that are at the heart of what I describe
as patrichology. By this mean an instructive and constructive masculine system
of beliefs that shape th. Afay members of the society act and think about them-
selves and others who re different. It spea;:s from a heterosexual and sexist
position of power an( iias the ability to name things, construct identities and
produce stereotypes -. out women and sex that render the female body as a site
for violence and sad -.ic pleasure.
I will inve gate how sex as the thematic focus in the songs of two
dancehall artiste. one female and one male, define and promote a certain brand
of masculinity w' ;h is premised on the notion of sexual prowess as masculinity. I
will examine the descriptions of the sex act in the content of the songs to highlight
how cultural ,atrichology has shaped the male psyche and consciousness to
believe and accept that sex is a violent act. I argue that dancehall community
through its music and male domination promotes the belief that inflicting pain on the
female body is the signature sign of pleasure. Furthermore, I examine how female
artistes respond to this patrichology. Are they resistant to this masculine discourse
or are they complicit in perpetuating it? Is the use of patois a subversive engage-
ment ofpatrichology? In order to lay the ground for providing answers to these
questions, I will now examine the way language functions, why it is a useful and
powerful medium for those who use it and how the speaker and the locale of the
speaker affect the meaning of the word.
Luce Inigaray argues in her essay "Linguistic Sexes and Gender," that
men's appropriation of the hlnguistic code attempts to do at least three things:
1.prove they are fathers;
2.prove they are more powerful than mother woman;
3.prove they are capable of engendering the cultural domain as they have
been engendered in the natural domain of the ovum, the womb, the body of the
woman (Cameron 120).
Working under the assertion presented by several critics whom I will refer to in this
paper that language is a patriarchal structure, Irigaray's propositions impose on this
discussion a set of expectations that are integral in men's conduct, treatment and
description of women. Dale Spender states that language is man made and
implies that there is a patriarchal order that is realized in this construction. She
argues "males, as the dominant group have produced language, thought, and
reality." She adds that from this position of privilege,
they (men) have the potential to order the world to
suit their own ends, the potential to construct a
language, a reality, a body of knowledge in which
they are the central figures, the potential to legiti-
mate their own primacy, and to create a system of
beliefs which is beyond challenge (so that their
superiority is 'natural' and 'objectively' tested.)
The group which has the power to ordain-th
structure of language, thought and reality has the
potential to create a world in which they are cen-
tral figures, while those who are not of their group
are peripheral and therefore maybe exploited
Spender is identifying the component parts of the dancehall music as a
speech community that has the potential to do all these things because of the
"privileged and highly advantageous position" (97), which the community occupies.
As part of the functional dynamic of this patrichology is its ability to name and thus
give meaning and reality to things and people. The ability to name is a mark of
power and autonomy that drives the politics of gender in dancehall music. The
ability to name the female body as other or as nothing gives control to the male
signifier. Spender says, "naming is the means whereby we attempt to order and
structure the chaos and flux of existence which would otherwise be an undifferenti-
ated mass. By assigning names we impose a pattern and a meaning which allows
us to manipulate the world (97). She goes on to point out that naming as a process
can pervert one's vision of something as it is a biased and deliberate process that
has its "origins in the perspective of those doing the naming rather than in the
object or event that is being named" (98). Allan Johnson argues that "for women,
gender oppression is linked to a cultural devaluing of femaleness itself. Women are
subordinated and treated as inferior because they are culturally defined as inferior
as women" (20). Johnson's definition of oppression as, "a social phenomenon that
happens between different groups in a society; ... a system of social inequality
through which one group is positioned to dominate and benefit from the exploitation
and subordination of another" (20) addresses what I find to be a passive activity in
dancehall music. I describe it as "passive" because it is my belief that this
domination is not fully understood by those who engender it and as such they are
as much victims of the system they are representing as much as the groups who
are exploited by their actions or words. I aim to combine Irigaray's three proposi-
tions with Spender's argument that language is man-made and Johnson's notion of
female oppression as a social construct to review, critique and contextualize Buju
Banton and Tanya Stevens' lyrics. First I will examine masculinities as they exist in
According to Linden Lewis, any analysis of the Caribbean male has to
establish a distinction between hegemonic masculinity and other subordinated
forms of masculinity. He implies in his argument that subordinated from of mascu-
linity within the Caribbean spring form hegemonic masculinity, which refers to:
an orientation which is heterosexual and decid-
edly homophobic. It prides itself on its capacity
for sexual conquest and ridicu'es those men who
define their masculinity in different terms.
Hegemonic masculinity often embraces misogy-
nist tendencies in which women are considered to
be inferior. Departure from this form of masculin-
ity could result in the questioning of one's man-
This definition of masculinity adequately describes the way masculinity functions
on the Jamaican socio-cultural landscape. This definition, offered by Lewis, char-
acterizes the linguistic activities and cultural philosophies evident in Jamaica's
dancehall community. This brand of masculinity functions as a charismatic voice
that objectifies the woman and her body as a site of sadistic pleasure in the sex act.
In this case sex becomes a ritual for asserting, initiating and producing manhood.
This kind of ritualistic processing of masculinity echoes David Gilmore's idea that
manhood is a rite of passage that males have to pass through2. Indeed, this
definition of masculinity prompts one to think that masculinity as a socio-cultural
construct echoes anthropologist Robert Levine's definition of masculinity as an
"organization of cultural principles that function together as a guiding myth within
the confines of our culture"'(Gimore 21). Within the dancehall community, mascu-
linity is an 'organization of cultural principles' that instruct its subjects primarily
through the songs that are produced by the artistes, both male and female. These
songs are the medium that expressly promote masculinity as being "irrevocably
tied to sexuality" (Kimmel 126). The explicit content of these songs what Jamai-
ca's conservative upper class criticizes as "slackness"3 describes sex and women
as important ingredients in masculine behaviour.
The songs that come out of the dancehall, especially during the 1970's and
80's reflected a culture of slackness. DJ music is described as slack because of its
move away from its beginning roots in social, political and historical themes to lewd
and loose descriptions of the female body in the act of sex. Much of the criticisms
on dancehall music fail to address the level of gender "foulplay" that characterizes
its discourse. There is also very little critical examination of the way the discourse
transfers male dominance onto the body of the female to exercise power and
initiate manhood. Carolyn Cooper briefly addresses aspects of gender in dance-
hall music in a chapter eight of her book Noises in the Blood: Orality, Gender, and
the Vulgar Body in Jamaican Popular Culture. Here she notes that DJ music is a
subversive and rebellious culture that challenges middle-class sensibilities with its
vulgar expressionism. Cooper offers an argument in support of this kind of expres-
sionism. She feels that DJ slackness,
can be seen to represent a radical, underground
confrontation with patriarchal gender ideology
and the pious morality of fundamental Jamaican
society ... For slackness is potentially a politics of
subversion... it is not mere sexual looseness
though it certainly is that. Slackness, is a meta-
phorical revolt against law and order; an under-
mining of consensual standards of decency. It is
the antithesis to Culture. (Cooper 1993)
While it is undeniable that dancehall music functions as a metaphorical
revolt against law and order in Jamaica, it is also fair to observe that dancehall
music, which has its roots in patrichology, advances a set of beliefs that marginal-
izes the female, promotes violence as control and privileges only violent hetero-
sexuality. Additionally, one should assess the subversive role of these songs
against the background of the dominant ideology's power to allow this subversion.
Allan Johnson appropriately points out "every social system has a certain amount
of 'give' in it that allows some change to occur, and in the process leaves deep
structures untouched and even invisible. Indeed the give plays a critical part in
maintaining the status quo by fostering illusions of fundamental change and acting
as a systematic shock absorber" (14). Therefore Cooper's exposition on the orality
of the music identifies the self-conscious masculine tone of the speech community
but does not elaborate or address seriously the limiting boundaries that Jamaican
patrichology impose upon women and homosexual men.
Cooper's study must observe more carefully that patriarchy is "complex
and its roots run deep" and as such one has to be very careful that one is not
focusing on the "symptoms" rather than "root causes". Cooper further confronts
the issue of sexual/gender relations by suggesting that some of these songs
"celebrate the economic and sexual independence of women, thus challenging
conservative gender ideology that is at the heart of both pornographic and funda-
mentalist conception of women as commodity, virgin and whore" (143). However,
Cooper fails to underscore a fundamental point in her argument which is the idea
that 'economic and sexual independence' is governed by and regulated by a
dominant ideology that still refuses to identify women as equals. The discussion of
the songs by Buju Banton and Tanya Stevens, two DJs in the dancehall industry,
takes Cooper's discussion a step further and focuses on gender relations and male
domination in the dancehall community.
Buju's "Gal fi Beg" seems to be the anthem for manhood. The idea that
woman has to experience immense pain is identifiable in the title of the song. The
title also highlights the hierarchical relationship that exists between the two indi-
viduals, male and female woman as 'beggar' and male as 'provider.' In this case
nale is synonymous with power and authority, superiority and strength. The social
stigmas that are inherent in the identity of 'beggar' that the female is relegated to
are also echoed, as a beggar implies a person who is low in social status and
therefore is dependent on others to survive. The idea that as a beggar one has no
choicee but to accept what one is given is also present in this title. "Begging" can be
hus understood to be not only a description of what the female does but also who
;he is and a marker for the place she occupies in hierarchy of domination. These
general themes are also expressed in the rest of the song.
3al fi beg
3kin dem out pon yuh hood4 'ead
;ink yuh hood deeper
Aek she rail and beg
3al fi beg
anytime yuh hol' dem in yuh bed
'ock dem up high
\nd sink yuh third leg
Aek she pap out every strawn of hair
:rom offa yuh 'ead
'raap5 up yuh back
\nd gwaan like a teggereg
f yuh don't know di lizard
Jse di backshot instead
(uh nuh fi ruff up di punany
(uh run it red...
There is an unmistakable violence that is not only obvious in the meaning
)f the words but also in the "sound" of these words. The invocation of pain is
present in the words "rail" and "beg7' as such a performance should require that the
-nale as "giver" be asked to stop. Thus "beg" here is a complex signifier of
subordination and place. The male DJ names the woman as a "beggar" and thus
a weak and disabled participant in the act of sex. Furthermore she is bothered by
the use of "rail" as this conjures up images of a horse that is terrified of something
that poses a threat to its life or security. Applied to the female in this song, it implies
that she has taken on the qualities of an object, a subhuman person. She is no
longer identified as a woman and therefore her feminine qualities are suppressed
and she is now a thing that is easier to be controlled.
Luce Irigaray qualifies this "othering' as part of the culture of male domina-
tion. She points out that "living things, the animate and the cultured become
masculine; objects that are lifeless, the inanimate and uncultured, become femi-
nine. Which means that men have attributed subjectivity to themselves and have
reduced women to the status of objects, or to nothing" (Cameron 121). Tricia Rose
also confronts this issue in Black Noise by pointing to a similar treatment of women
by black male rappers. She says black male rappers express profound fear and
hostility towards black women in their works in effort to control them. She asserts
that "male sexist narratives often involve devaluing and dominating black female
sexuality and sexual behaviour" (171). Buju's naming and or labelling of the female
as a "teggereg"6, "horse", and "donkey" echo not only the subhuman identity of the
female but the relegation of the female identity, to another class of signification that
introduces latent constellations of meaning onto her body. He is "devaluing and
dominating" her sexuality and sexual behaviour. She becomes ultimately a thing to
be "ridden" and treated with stolid emotional control. The designation of "pickney"7
suggests that she is servile, malleable and dependent. Consequently, the violence
that is inflicted onto her body is justified in the eyes of her male counterpart, her
Inflicting violence onto the female body represents a vulgar and gory
display of power relations. Patriarchal sexuality joins sexuality with control, domi-
nance, and violence. Sexuality is viewed and understood in terms of power and
male privilege and this power and male dominance is routinely conceived in
[violent] sexual terms (see Johnson 152). Violence for the male is the signature
expression of his manhood. It means sexual prowess and a personal sense of
gratification, not necessarily the female, as it is a foregone conclusion that pleasure
for the female means pain. Thus the appealing nature of the female's identity in
Buju's song supports this notion and takes away the ability of the male to "feel
sorry" or "have mercy" on the "gal pickney." The absence of emotion from the male
is yet again part of the masculine ethics that guide his behaviour and the construc-
tion of his identity. He has to be careful not to "feel" the pain of the woman as it will
signify that he is in some ways weak and therefore feminine. "Being masculine,"
Johnson says "is not about being unemotional; it is about acknowledging or
expressing only those emotions that enhance men's control and status" (64). The
use of the verbs "jam,"8 "stab, "sink", and "ruff up"9 all conjure up pain and
discomfort. Tied to this is the desire to make the woman "bawl like a horse."
"Bawling" is juxtaposed with "horse" and the two connote different sets of inscrip-
tions on the female identity. This loud, public display tied to the identity of a horse
complicates the identity and helplessness of the female. The "horse" is a mascu-
line symbol in Jamaican dancehall culture that symbolizes the "strength" of the man
and his ability to show stamina, that is to "stay long" in the sex act.
The DJ's naming of the female as the "animal/the horse" in this case, once
again emphasizes the notion that naming "is a powerful ideological tool ... an
accurate pointer to the ideology of the namer (Cameron 97) and that language
when used by the group that holds power has the option, the ability and power to
defer the meanings of a word and create new meanings. Naming is an act of
power and the imposition of a name on an object, person, or thing, invests the
"namer" with unmediated ccitrol over this object person or thing. Clearly, the noun
horse does not carry the same symbolic echoes 'or the female as it does for the
male. By naming the horse female, it, she come to signify powerlessness, weak-
ness, domination. During slavery the act of naming a slave by a Master was an
important psychological manipulation that was aimed to suppress the slave's
original identity and impose a new one with a new set of meanings. This act makes
the slave hate his new identity, his new self, as he does not recognize in this new
self, agency or freedom; he is now the property of his Master. Johnson's argument
about the misogyny affects women is analogous to what 'naming' does to the slave.
He says, "misogyny is especially powerful in encouraging women to hate their own
femaleness, an example of internalized oppression. The more women internalize
misogynist images and attitudes, the harder it is to challenge male privilege or
patriarchy as a system"(39). Buju, in effect makes the woman his property by
The command by Buju, "Yuh nub fi ruff up di punany 10 / Yuh fi run dat red"
projects a tone of misogyny. The suggestion is that it is not enough to be just
violent (ruff up) in the act of sex, one must also "draw blood." The desire to have
blood, "yuh fi run dat red", explains the nature of aggression directed at the female
and points to the male's desire to 'injure' the female and thus further subjugate her.
This hostility is also seen in, "So she bawl and kick/ so yuh sink di buddy."11 The
act of "sinking" the "buddy" everytime the female "bawls" implies a punishment for
some wrongdoing but it is ironically a way the male rewards himself for getting a
"sign" from the female that she is "enjoying" the act and that his manhood is intact
and secure. This image of misogyny also implies that there is intent, maybe
subliminal, on the part of the male to metaphorically kill the female and what she
represents. This ironically suggests that the female has certain powers that have
to be contained or eliminated. The fear of rebellion runs deeply through the psyche
of the male and he is playing on the attendant philosophy that every oppressive
system depends to some degree on subordinate groups being willing to go along
with their own subordination (Johnson 1997). The reference to and reliance on
"stone", "brush", and "gungo"12 examples of aphrodisiacs bear out his points.
It is must be noted that the Jamaican male prides himself on his ability to
perform without the aid of any performance enhancers. Therefore, the idea of
misogyny gains prominence here because it fits the notion that this woman is an
undeclared threat to his masculinity. The idea is that her "powers" are so strong
that ordinary male strength cannot contain her, so metaphysical help is sought.
The performance of the male is given a boost and his propensity for violence is
therefore increased to virtually "kill" the female. Johnson notes, that
"misogyny plays a complex role in patriarchy. It
fuels men's sense of superiority, justifies male
aggression against women, and works to keep
women on the defensive and in their place" (39).
The invocation of manhood is evident in the final line of the song; "yuh no
fi mek nuh young gal/ come laugh after yuh." This line helps explain the oppressive
behaviour of the male and makes clear that his acts towards women are driven by
a fear of emasculation. Masculinity has to be performed to be real or for it to be
authenticated and proven that it is a manifest part of male identity. "Masculinity
must be proved, and no sooner is it proved that it is questioned again and must be
proved again constant, relentless, unachievable, and ultimately the quest for proof
becomes so meaningless that it takes on the characteristics, as Weber said, of a
sport" (Kimmel 122). Buju is highlighting the fact that "fear" is at the heart of all
masculine behaviours. The fear that other men will unmask him as a fraud, a
weakling who could not perform during the sex act. The fear that other women will
hear about his 'non-performance' and publicly shame him. This fear is his weak-
ness and Buju is implicitly acknowledging this weakness as part of the identity
(crisis) of the Jamaican male. He is afraid that the woman will see his weakness
and will exploit. As such he overcompensates with violence to render the female
body helpless in order to give him the illusion that he has power over his own fear.
This fear is centrally positioned within Jamaican gender politics, which is driven by
the constant fear of being laughed at by a woman. This represents a public erosion
or negation of masculine identity and because of the value placed on sexual
prowess, a man's reputation is at stake every time he takes a woman into his bed.
The negation of his sexual prowess will label him a sissy or a "batty man"" and by
extension this invokes signs of weakness and emasculation.
The fear of being called a "batty man" in Jamaican society runs deep in the
construction of male identity as the homosexual other becomes the negative that
feeds heterosexual male identities. As such feminine behaviour is condemned in
males and is seen as a "flag" identifying one as being gay. As such Jamaican
males exaggerate "all the traditional rules of masculinity, including sexual predation
with women," (Kinnnel 133) extreme sexual violence against the female, sexual
promiscuity, and boastful stories about sexual conquests and prowess. "Homo-
sexuality is gloriously vilified in graphic excremental imagery in dancehall music
(see Cooper 142). A male artiste's public vilification of homosexuality asserts his
heterosexuality and masculinity. Linden Lewis states that "given the machismo
imbued in hegemonic masculinity, the level of hostility directed toward homosexu-
ality is not surprising. It is not surprising precisely because homosexuality in the
Caribbean undermines and fundamentally contradicts hegemonic masculinity.
Thus Shabba Ranks' "Wicked in Bed" is a public display of his masculinity and
heterosexuality and he must make it clear that as a man who is "bad and wicked
Inna fim me14 bed
Mi don't wan' Fred
Don't wan' Tony,
Mi don't wan' Ted
Mi naw promote nuh maama15 man
All maama man fi dead
Pam, pam 16, lick a shot inna di maama man 'ead.
The identification of the homosexual male as a "maama man" invests feminine
qualities in him. For Shabba, the "maama man" is to be not only bothered but also
"fl dead." Kimmel's Freudian analysis of masculinity as the 'flight from the female'
explains Shabba's fear and his ultimate reason for naming the homosexual male a
"maama man". He sees in this male the qualities of a woman. "Masculine identity,"
Kimmel asserts "is born in the renunciation of the feminine, not in the direct
affirmation of the masculine, which leaves masculine gender identity tenuous and
Female DJ, Tany2 Stevens expresses and exploits the fra ility of this
masculine identity by showing that "language gains the power to create the 'socially
real' through the locutionary acts of speaking subjects" (Butler 115), is reflected in
Stevens response to the dominance of patrichology in the d incehall speech
community. She employs language to carry out a direct penetration of male
hegemony and institute female presence as whole, feminine, woman and in power
and with power (see Kimmel 125). ';ne uses code-switching as a tool to exercise
autonomy as a female both in the description of the sex act and in describing the
female as an active participant in this act. She reifies the bedroom as a place
where femaleness is not suppressed, but expressed, not challenged but feared, not
questioned but confirmed, not mauled and cauterized but treated with dignity.
Thus sex becomes a medium for subverting masculine dominance and discourse
and challenging existing identities that have been imposed on the female body.
And she names and writes and signifies a set of signs that compel a dialogue with
masculine discourse a dialogue that is aimed to establish equality and justice and
shared power starting in the bedroom.
If yuh see mi a flex 17 wid three different man
One a dem a half and two quarter
So dem add up to one.
Yuh might think seh mi flex like a skettel bomb 18
But di three a dem fraction
And dem add up to one.
Stevens is hereby representing a brand of female agency that is not
consistent with Jamaica's conservative expectation of the woman or the masculine
ethos' relegation of her to a place of exclusion and absence. She is invoking a
sense of female autonomy that is indivisible from her new visions for her sexuality
and how that sexuality should perform. She exercises a new-found independence
and identity that is not hinged on masculine representations of her womanhood.
Stevens redefines feminine behaviour and sexuality to mean power to act
and demand what one wants for the purposes of self-fulfilment. She is not con-
cerned that conservative patriarchal society might think of her as a "skettel bomb"
because she can "flex with three different man". She is not indicted or under
scrutiny as a slut, whore, promiscuous or fallen woman. In this subversive text, the
accused is the male whose masculinity is shown as fragmented and wanting. What
is attendant here is a serious inversion of masculine ideology. Stevens has placed
the male in the position of the female as a fraction, a fragmented discourse. She
has adopted the language of the group that has power and uses this ability to
code-switch to assume agency. Her exercise of agency turns the politics of gender
upon itself to expose the myth that surrounds masculinity as a monolithic construct.
The notion that it takes three men to be equal to one man has serious
implications for dominant or hegemonic interpretations of sex, sexuality, gender
and the masculine exercising of power. And treating the male as a fraction
weakens the imperialism of patrichology and its philosophy of exploitation of the
weak. Furthermore, the male is emasculated as female appropriates language to
create her identity as the socially real. She is no more the silent object but the
speaking subject questioning, challenging and exposing "truths." Autonomy and
independence are the qualities that are obvious in her ability to construct her own
signs and her own argument for her actions.
Stevens attacks the belief that "pain" is an integral part of sex.
Gadafi this is not a pain thing
And this is not a boas' to yuh fren
Dem down di lane thing
A jus' di works baby.
She is now talking back to an earlier discourse that imposed certain beliefs
concerning sex and women in the society. By naming the male in this instance, she
is publicly exercising authorial control. She is engaging in self-determination, and
sexual and self-representation. She is now the signifier who is critiquing the role of
the male during the sex act and by extension the foundation on which the mascu-
line ideology is perpetuated. She also highlights the action of the male as incom-
petent evident in the description of each man as a "fraction." The tendency for the
men to boast about his sexual piuwess or performance is unmasked on the
grounds that this action is excessive and pretentious.
Stevens is aware that the practice of patrichology projects women as "a
kind of currency that men use to improve their ranking on the masculine social
scale" (Kimmel 129). By problematizing this practice in masculine performance,
she disrupts the masculine assertions of power through speech. Thus she silences
a tradition of male dominance that privileges the word and position of the male
Using the metaphor of a "ninja bike" Stevens makes demands not only on
the male caucus but the society at large.
Mi want a man wid a big ninja bike fi mi ride pon
Mi noh want no flim flam19
weh noh have di right gear
Bounce mi whole night pon you divan
Gi mi di right slam
'Cause da gal yah nuh care.
The female here has taken on an identity which is larger than life and which erases
the identity of helpless victim from her. She now demands "a man a big ninja bike
fi ride pon". The appropriation of "rice" is anot;ler example of code switching that
she is using to exercise agency. She appropriates the use of ride from a masculine
discourse which uses it to objectify the female as sub human. By naming the man
as an inanimate thing, the female has taken power away from him and has
rendered him useful only if he has the "right gear" to give the "right slam '. The
meaning of "right" is in keeping with her freedom to choose how she will handle her
sexuality. It is not be controlled or punished and she expresses it as part of her
femininity and not a separate entity. Tricia Rose finds this kind of freedom in black
female rappers as well.
By and large, black women rappers are carving out a female-dominated
space in which black women's sexuality is expressed... They affirm black female
working-class cultural signs and experiences that are rarely depicted in American
popular culture. Black women rappers resist patterns of sexual objectification at
the hands of black men and of cultural invisibility at the hands of the dominant
American culture (170).
Stevens cautions the male,
Before you make anodder speech,
Mek sure yuh bike can reach,
Cause me nuh want yuh pick mi up
Fi carry mi go Negril
An' bruk21 down a Treasure Beach.
Steven's is making is asserting, as one in control, that she will give in to masculine
dominance and accept any promise of sexual gratification, "carry mi go Negril" if the
man cannot fulfil the promise, "bruk down a Treasure Beach". By cautioning the
male that before he makes another "speech" she is silencing his position of
privilege that the male occupies in society which gives him the freedom to say
anything because he does not have an authority to answer to.
The linguistic privilege that was prior to this subversion that sole propriety
of the male is now reversed and the female is disrupting and troubling the manipu-
lation of the word by the male. As an autonomous signifier/subject she has the
power to "interrupt" and instruct the male recipient/addressee to listen and take her
seriously. Maleness is not synonymous with power anymore and in order to be
taken seriously, "before you make anodder speech" he has to demonstrate that he
can provide the service that she demands. She does not see herself as the
"uninvolved" or the outsider. Her independence will not tolerate his version of "sex"
as she too is involved. She also involks the female community to laugh at the male
who is shamed by his inability to function under her terms.
Laugh after dem
Cause a time dem waste
Wi fling 22 dem outta di race.
The Caribbean has a cultural code of shaming. It is a continuation of an
African tradition that women in certain tribes in Africa use to reprimand their
husbands by publicly "telling on" or chastising them. In Jamaica, men are terrified
of this act of emasculation. This act of shaming is to publicly establish that the
individual is an infidel. The person is by extension silenced and demoted in the
eyes of other men and women.
Finally, the notion of hyper-masculinity is a constraining force that impris-
ons Jamaican men. Their desire to prove true to aspects of hegemonic masculinity
forces them to set up ideals that are unachievable. This is what Buju is asserting
as a 'norm' in his song "Gal fi beg" and what Stevens is criticizing in her song "Ninja
Bike". The representation of hyper-masculinity produces a dysfunctional and dis-
eased definition of masculinity. The men who subscribe to Buju's masculine
politics are in a constant battle with themselves, other men and the broader society,
to prove that they are more powerful than women, or that they do not possess
feminine qualities and therefore are not batty men. The female body becomes
instrumental in the exercise of a masculine rite of passage. Language thus
becomes a deliberate component in or accessory to the methods of oppression and
subjugation that women and homosexual men experience. Female artistes' such
as Stevens use language as a tool to disrupt hegemonic discourses to simultane-
ously facilitate alternative representations of the female body. This exercise and
performance of agency becomes integral for the undermining, inversion and sub-
version of the outcomes ofpatrichology.
1. Patois is a regional dialect that is largely spoken by the lower class of peoples in the Caribbean. In
each island it varies from ethnic group to ethnic group. In Jamaica for example it varies from
oarish to parish, Ms way of speaking is thought to be a corruption of the English Language be-
cause t uses expressions, words that are not recognized in the English Language or have coun-
terparts in the English Language.
2 David Gilmore, Manhood in the Making: Cultural concepts of masculinity (New Haven: Yale Univer-
sity Press, 1990), 12-14.
3. Slackness in this context refers to the explicit and often lewd descriptions in the songs of the DJs.
This lewdness is characterized in the "vulgar' or public detailing of the sex act and lurid descrip-
tions of the male or female genitalia or other body parts. Slackness is in the context of music is
thus understood in opposition to Culture-a more conservative view of society.
4. "hood" is one of many synonyms in the dialect for penis.
5. Means to scratch violently.
6. This is used to describe a person who is rough, uncouth or troublemaker.
7. This means child or children.
8. This means 'to stick forcefully.'
9. This means to 'treat harshly.'
10. One of the many synonyms in Jamaican dialect for vagina.
11. One of the many synonyms for the penis.
12 These are three popular aphrodisiacs that men use in Jamaica.
13. A derogatory term that is widely used by heterosexuals to describe homosexual men in Jamaica.
Many women also use the term to embarrass men who bwhave or act effeminat. It is also used
to drive fear in young boys to assert their masculinity from an early age.
14. Means my or mine.
15. This is another derogatory term that refers to homosexuals. It is used to also describe men who
are quarrelsome or who love to argue with women. Men who curse "trace" women are also de-
scribed by this term.
16. These homophonic words that represent the sounds made by a gun.
17. Used this way, flex, means to have a relationship with some one. It also means to hang out with
or spend time with someone.
18. This refers sexually promiscuous woman.
19. This is a phrase which means inferior or low in quality.
20. Slam" refers to sex which transcends the boundaries of the mundane sexual experience. It im-
plies a very explosive engagement.
21. This means to break. In this case is it means to malfunction.
22. To throw forcefully and with vengeance.
Chamberlin, Edward J. Come Back To Me My Language. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993.
Cooper, Carolyn. Noises in the Blood : Orality, Gender, and the 'Vulgar Body of Jamaican Popular
Culture. London: Macmillan Publishers, 1993.
Gilmore, David. Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of masculinity. New Haven: Yale Univer-
sity Press, 1990.
Inigaray, Luce. "Linguistic Sexes and Genders". The Feminist Critique of language, A Reader. Ed.
Deborah Cameron. London: Routledge, 1998. 119-123.
Johnson, Allan G. The Gender Knot.- Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy. Philadelphia:Temple Uni-
versity Press, 1997.
Lakoff, Robin. "Extract From Language and Woman's Place". The Feminist Critique of Language, A
Reader. Ed. Deborah Cameron. London: 1998. 242-252. Kimmel, Michael S. "Masculinity as ho-
mophobia: Fear, Shame, and Silence in the Construction of Gender Identity." Paper presented
at The Construction of Masculinity: Towards a Research Agenda Conference. Conference or-
ganized by The Centre for Gender and Development Studies, University of the West Indies, St.
Augustine, January 1I 1 3,1996.
Lewis, Linden. "Constructing Masculinity in the context of the Caribbean". Paper presented at Iglh
Annual Caribbean Studies Conference, Merida, Mexico, May 23-28, 1998.
Tiffin, Helen. "Post-colonial Literatures and Counter Discourse". The Post Colonial Studies Reader.
Eds. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin. London:Routledge, 1995.
Rose, Tricia. BlackNoise. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1994.
Spender, Dale. "Extracts From Man Made Language". The Feminist Critique of Language,A Reader.
Ed. DeborahCameron. London: 1998.93-99.
From Object to Subject:The Affirmation of Female Subjectivity
in Quince Duncan's La Paz del pueblo (1978) and Kimbo (1989)
One of the basic premises of feminism is that the relation between men
and women is essentially a power relation in which women have less power than
men.1 This feminist position is essentially an embracing of Simone de Beauvoir's
development of Sartre's thesis that each being establishes itself as Subject or Self
by defining other beings as Object or Other. De Beauvoir argues that it is man, the
male, who views himself as fundamentally different from the female and has
relegated woman to the position of Other in order to establish himself as Subject or
Just as for the ancients there was an absolute
vertical with reference to which the oblique was
defined, so there is an absolute human type, the
masculine.... Thus humanity is male and man de-
fines woman not in herself but as relative to him,
she is not regarded as an autonomous being....
She is defined and differentiated with reference to
man and not he with reference to her, she is the
incidental, the inessential as opposed to the es-
sential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute, she
is the Other2
In this paper, we will examine the literary manipulation of two male/female
relationships by the Afro-Costa Rican writer Quince Duncan, so as to determine
how he responds to this feminist notion of male supremacy and its manifestations.
We will begin with the author's re-narrativization of the sexual relationship between
the slave master and the slave woman. The analysis of the depiction of this
relationship allows us to explore the author's approach to a well-established
paradigm of power relationships. It is useful to begin with this historical model, as
perhaps the author's response to this relationship will be an indicator of how he
views the notion of the female's lack of agency within male/female relationships.
Traditionally, the dominant image of the slave woman in this relationship is
that of the passive, helpless victim of racism, sexism and 'classism'. This image
from the time abolitionists argued that the slave woman was the "innocent
victim of the unholy lust of callous and brutal white men."3 The slave master is
presented predominantly as the lustful, lascivious white male who unscrupulously
decides that one of the roles of the slave woman is to perform sexual duties.
Contemporary scholars such as Angela Davis and Bell Hooks denounce
the relationship, although not on the basis of the moral principles which were
advanced by the opponents of slavery. Davis, for her part, contends that the
relationship underscores the fact that the black slave woman's oppression was
based on gender as well as race, given her dual role as slave and mistress to the
white slave master. 4 bell hooks is of the view that the sexual exploitation of black
female slaves was more demoralizing and dehumanizing than racist exploitation.5
Without doubt, the sexual subordination of slave women represented a
natural extension of the general pov'wr of white oer black. Moreover, the sexual
relationship between white master and black female slave, provided a good illustra-
tion of the extent to which the social construction of gender parallels the racial
situation. The female was, as Davis argues, marginalized and exploited on the
basis of race and gender.
The sexual relationship between the slave master and the slave woman
appears in the secondary narrative strand of the novel La paz del pueblo. The
historical setting for this section of the work is early post-emancipation Jamaican
society. The slave woman/slave master relationship is portrayed primarily through
the use of flashbacks in which different characters recall this aspect of plantation
life during slavery. The exploration of this relationship reveals that the author has
had recourse to the historical facts and highlights his concern for some of the
paradoxes and ambiguities of Caribbean slavery.
In keeping with the historical reality, the novel's discourse of difference is
narrated in gendered and racial terms. The slave master is depicted with certain
traits with which the slave master in this relationship is typically associated. He is
adulterous and unscrupulous and continues the tradition started by his father of
indulging in a sexual relationship with the slave woman, exploiting his dominant
position as master. He is racist, as is demonstrated by his insistence that despite
Mamy's refinement she is still "una negra" (La paz del pueblo, p. 47). The conde-
scending tone in which he makes this declaration forcefully emphasizes his percep-
tion of Mamy's social, racial and gendered Otherness.
Mamy is depicted as performing dual roles as slave/servant and concu-
bine. She has spent her life serving the Moody family for two generations. Mamy
has therefore been property and the source of sexual fulfilment to the Moody men
serving simultaneously at one point, as concubine to both father and son.
The relationship may be viewed as unfolding on two levels which both
create the impression that the notion of exploitation of the female slave is more
complicated than is normally believed. On the first level the author focuses both
on Mamy's undeniable victimhood as well as on her responsibility in the situation.
The implication that Mamy is not merely a passive victim in the situation is first
conveyed by her conversation with another servant:
... desde nina tuvo la fineza de apartarme... -LTe
apart de que?
De los otros esclavos, porque yo era demasiado
linda para andar asi entire tantos brutos.(La paz
del pueblo, p. 138).
Indeed, there is no indication that Mamy objected to being separated from her own
people but instead the suggestion that she enjoyed this preferential treatment,
especially in light of her use of "brutos" to describe the other slaves. Moreover, the
term "fineza" implies a feeling of approval of the actions of her master as well as
what seems to be her sense of pride in her beauty.
The idea that Mamy is not merely a victim in the relationship is also
intimated by a combination of narrated monologue and Mamy's own declaration:
... lo habia mimado amn antes de la muerte de la
senora, haciendo de el un hombre entire rato y
rato cuando lograba escaper de sus ocupaciones
en la casa y su romance con el amo. Les fui fiel
a los dos....(La paz del pueblo, p. 138).
It seems therefore that while we cannot deny that Mamy has been sexually
exploited, we can also infer from her perceptions of her relationships with father
and son: "Les fui fiel a los dos," that there is complicity on her part.
The description provided by Kingsman Moody when he reminisces on the
scene in which he discovers his father and Mamy locked in a passionate embrace,
also suggests that Mamy is an active participant in the relationship with her white
master. The scene which he recalls, conjures up a picture of Mamy which also
seems to contest the notion that the relationship between slave master and female
slave was always solely one of white oppressor and black victim. The picture he
paints is one in which Mamy seems to be also actively enjoying this sexual
los dos con los ojos cerrados, como si estar asi,
desnudos, les hubiese causado una felicidad in-
descifrable....(La paz del pueblo, p. 127)
The relationship which exists between Mamy and Kingsman Moody may
be regarded as being almost incestuous. This is so because Mamy nurtured and
reared the young Moody as a boy. The following excerpt underscores the way in
which Mamy develops from being a maternal figure in Kingsman Moody's life to
Si senorito ...6 que desea?
6Puedo poner mi cabeza aqui?
Hubo un largo silencio y una tension infinita por-
que desde niho el ponia su cabeza alli y nunca
habia solicitado permiso si ella no se equivocaba,
era el primer brote de la masculinidad definitiva....
Lo tom6 en sus brazos, mi pobre muchachito
acomodandole la cabeza en sus regazos con
incomensurable terura, y los bes6, los dos tem-
blando....(La paz del pueblo, pp. 47-48)
This portrayal of Mamy is one which helps to emphasize the notion of her role as
an accomplice and even confirms the power she has in her complicity. Here, she
is personally aware of the "mother/son" relationship between them, but accepts
what she regards as a cue for his readiness for sexual initiation, and willingly takes
him under her tutelage.
Moreover, her claims about the relationship with young Moody which is
constructed in empathic active form "Yo, hice de 61 un hombre," (La paz del
pueblo, p.139), indicates that, whereas Mamy is regarded by her masters as Other
or Object, she redefines her image as Subject and Agent. Furthermore, the
gloating tone with which she makes this assertion, suggests that she takes pride in
her dominant role as sexual initiator of the white male rather than laments her
status as a victim. The use of the first person narrative form seems to be the
authors attempt to create a feminist voice that underscores the feeling of self-as-
sertion, and minimizes the male author/male voice as the main signifier of the text.
The author, however, develops the relationship to another level so as to
focus our attention on Mamy's motives for playing such an active part in this
relationship. As the work unfolds on this level, we recognize that Mamy has all
along been fully conscious of the framework of triple oppression in which she
operates and consequently, has carefully resorted to complicity as a strategy for
survival. Through his focus on Mamy's thought processes, the author reveals that
her seeming affection has been cunningly used for her own purposes. She has
outwardly conformed to the sexual demands of the slave master while exploiting
the situation to avenge the cruelties and ignominies she has suffered as a woman,
as slave and as a black person.
Mamy has been driven by her belief that by playing the roles of sexual
initiator and mistress to the white men she exercises power over them. Further-
more, she believes that she has now conquered all the white men in the household
to the loss and shame of the white woman. As she reflects on an incident in which
she provides sexual gratification to the white master, we are given a sense of her
feeling of power over him. The delight with which she exults in her feeling of
victory, is foregrounded by the selective use of phrases which parallel the experi-
ence with the gratification of the palate such as "masticando su triunfo" and
"saboreando su victoria":
Estaba en su carto pensado en el, masticando su
triunfo sobre la vida, saboreando su victoria...el
su juventud inexperta,ella su veganza total sobre
la casa Moody. Era reina, seguiria siendo por
much tiempo. (La paz del pueblo, p. 48)
The words "triunfo","victoria," and "venganza". clearly reveal that she had
been on a quest for vengeance. This "venganza" is the basis on which the author
establishes her complicity. Her plan to seek revenge has been carefully calculated
to undermine and dismantle the powerless/powerful binary in which she is caught
as a slave woman. She has established terms within which she complies because
she recognizes that she has no other access to revenge except within sexual
exchange. Complicity has been her way of establishing her subjectivity.
Hence, while the author does not dismiss the fact of Mamy's victimhood he
suggests that she is not a passive v,;'.im or a completely passive objectified Other,
but that she has affirmed her subjectivity in the situation. In her microcosm her
agency means power more power than ordinary slaves have.
The strategies taken by Mamy in her quest to cross boundaries and reject
her status as Object to become Subject, subvert the view taken by some historians
that the slave woman complied with the sexual demands of the slave master out of
a desire for economic gains. They speak instead, to some subtle mechanisms of
resistance or maronage which some slave women employed to undermine the
patriarchal system of slavery. Moreover, this focus on the slave woman's cunning
resort to maronage not only addresses the problem of voicelessness as it relates to
the female slave's position, but also implies the author's criticism and rejection of
the wider oppression of blacks under the system of Caribbean slavery.
The production of gender in the work Kimbo, seems to be informed by a
desire to subvert the conception of Subject as male. The female is initially depicted
as being completely under the dominance of her male partner, El Barrig6n, who
has established himself as master of her life. She is insecure and bored from
having nothing to do but serve a decorative function in the home. She is totally
submissive to her dominant husband and meekly complies with his every wish.
This female character is nameless, 'symbolizing her subordination and Otherness.
In short, she is imaged as a shadowy, "zombified" Other.
The male character, El Barrig6n, is not only powerful in physical stature, as
his name suggests, but also in terms of how he dominates and controls the life of
his wife. It is evident that he views his role as that of moulding and shaping her to
be the meek, subservient wife which he holds as the ideal. Moreover, he refuses
to accept that she has matured beyond the eighteen-year-old he married, to
become an adult, capable of making responsible decisions, as well as meaningful
contributions to the operations of the family business. Hence, matters relating to
the business are never discussed with her as he maintains that she is incapable of
comprehending the complexity of these matters which in his view, belong to the
The method of employing the reflections and interior monologues of El
Barrigon as one of the main narrative modes by which the female character is
presented, forcefully underscores the extent to which she lacks agency and power:
Recogi a esta pobre mujer cuando mas necesi-
taba de mi. Estaba confundida, golpeada por la
vida, y la Ileve a conocer el mundo conmigo. La
hice codearse con las damas elegantes de la
ciudad. Se gane el respeto simplemente porque
era mi esposa.(Kimbo p. 60)
The fact that the reader's attention is focused on El Barrig6n's assessment and
perception of his role as agent of the female character's development sharply
highlights his dominance and her alterity. Moreover, phrases such as, "la Ileve"
and "la hice" further underline the extent to which he perceives her as an object
which is totally in his control.
The author rejects the patriarchal assumptions upon which the relationship
is based by allowing the female character to develop an awareness of her position
as Other and of how her meek compliance has contributed to her own "zombifica-
tion"6. The first indication that she is dissatisfied with her life of powerlessness and
emptiness is reflected in her decision to seek medical assistance for what she
perceives to be her physical limitations, so as to be able to have a child. This is a
clear act of defiance against the wishes of a husband who, though sterile, has
hypocritically ruled that their marriage should be a childless one. She is eventually
seduced by her doctor who takes advantage of her obsession with child bearing
and she becomes pregnant with his child. The birth of the child reveals the
obsession of El Barrig6n with protecting all notions of his supremacy. He will at all
costs continue to define himself as Agent, as the one who is always in control:
... el niio naci6 y su marido dijo que era parecido
a un tio suyo y era verdad porque el medico era
primo de su marido.. Pero el marido lo sabia.
Sabia que era este,,l y nuncr Ic dijo. Y se fue
conformando porque de todos modos descubri6
que era lindo decir este es mi hijo y la gente lo
respetaba por eso. (Kimbo, p. 68)
The shift in the narrative mode, from the interior monologue of El Barrig6n
to the omniscient third person narrator, is a salient strategy which the author
employs to indicate that El Barrig6n's status as Subject is being challenged. The
reader no longer focuses on the biased voice of El Barrig6n but on that of an
impersonal narrator who effectively exposes the ulterior motives behind El Bar-
rig6n's seeming acceptance of the child.
The second situation which registers the female's developing awareness
of her position as subaltern occurs when she is faced with the difficult task of trying
to arrange for her husband's release from his kidnappers. She suddenly realizes
her inability to function in the outside world. The sense of bewilderment which she
experiences when faced with the challenge which this presents, forces her to admit
that she has led a life of total dependence and incompleteness. The author
focuses on her interior monologue to convey her struggles to assert herself:
Tengo indominables deseos de rebelarme.
Tengo ganas de mandarlo todo al diablo... Te
espero aqui reclamando la posiblidad de ser lo
que quiero ser... mujer pero no decorati-
vamente.... Seryo. Libre. Mujer pero yo. Mujer
yo. Persona yo. Mujer-persona, yo....Te espero
aqui, pensando por primera vez en mi vida que
puedo hacer el viaje... s6lo he sabido lo que es.
Todas las cuentas a tu nombre. Todo el dinero a
tu nombre. No se cuanto tienes ni d6nde lo
tienes. No se nada de las finanzas porque eso es
funci6n masculina, eternamente vedada a mi.
( Kimbo, pp. 96-97)
Despite the use of "thesis language' rather toan realistic literary discourse, the
interior monologue forcefully reveals the character's thoughts and emotions as well
as creates a powerful impression of her awakening consciousness and emergent
spirit of rebellion. The word "vedada" graphically reveals her exclusion from the
"male" domain of financial matters while the repetition of the phrases "mujer yo"
and "persona yo," is a compelling expression of the affirmation of self (or subjectiv-
It is significant that the author employs the interior monologue at this critical
stage of the female character's development This narrative tactic is unquestion-
ably a very effective and poignant method of capturing and communicating the
female character's perceptions, awareness and interrogation of her position as
Interestingly, the author later utilizes the male character himself to acknow-
ledge the transformation that is taking place in the female character. This is
achieved through the use of flashbacks in which El Barrigon reveals the previous
subservient attitude of the female:
Nos Ilievamos bien al principio. Era muy servi-
cial, muy obediente, dedicada a mi en la misma
forma en que la Santa Iglesia esta dedicada a
Cristo.Me servia fielmente. No me alzaba la voz
ni me pedia nada. (Kimbo, p. 60)
The adjectives "servicial", "obediente", and "dedicada" point tc the manner in which
those who endorse patriarchy encourage women to accept their subordination by
validating qualities such as obedience, meekness and humility.
The author, however, rejects this sexist expectation that El Barrig6n holds
by registering the female character's ultimate rejection of what it represents. At this
point we are presented with the direct speech of the female character as she
confronts the architect of her objectivity. Her decision to establish her status as
subject is no longer a thought which she contemplates in her mind, but it is now
forcefully articulated in her own voice as she rejects alterity. Her act of defiance is
explosive and violent as she expresses herself in the following manner:
Andate al carajo, Barrig6n, porque tendr;s que
hacer tu cafe de ahora en adelante, o pagar para
que te lo hagan. Porque yo voy a salir por esa
puerta manana. Es mas, voy a salir por esa
puerta ahora mismo. Y te lo juro por 61, que esta
sera la ultima vez que yo pase por este dintel.
(Kimbo, p. '44)
The repetition of "voy a salir" indicates a rejection of her passivity and her decision
to begin to actively chart the course of her life. Her defiance is an act of self-libera-
tion and self-assertion. Her declaration of selfhood dramatizes De Beauvoir's
argument that "if woman is to become a self, a subject, she must, like man,
transcend the definition, labels, and essences limiting her existence. She must
make herself be whatever she wants to be."7
The preceding analyses suggest that Quince Duncan is interested in satisfying a
feminist agenda in the depictions of these relationships. Duncan selects two
different contexts in which to "engineer female subjectivity."8 In the first situation
he re-narrativizes the relationship between the slave master and the slave woman
in an attempt to redefine or re-present the slave woman as one who has power in
In Kimbo, the author moves the portrayals out of the specific and binding
limitations of the historical context presented in La paz del pueblo, to subvert the
patriarchal assumptions upon which this fictional relationship is established. How-
ever, whereas the slave woman rejects alterity by undermining the slave master's
power through her strategic compliance, in Kimbo, the female is at best described
as taking the first bold steps in crossing the boundaries from "zombification" to
Quince Duncan's preoccupation with the affirmation of female subjectivity
bespeaks not only his consciousness of a general feminist discourse, but also
serves to situate him within the broader ideological framework of Caribbean litera-
ture. It has been noted by critics of Caribbean literature such as Michael Dash, that
Caribbean literature exhibits a long-standing engagement with the "quest for self-
formation." Dash asserts:
Active self-formation or subjectification, a major
concem of modern critical theory... is a phenome-
non which occurs with obsessive frequency in
Caribbean writing. Establishing a new authority
or authorship is one of those vital continuities in
Caribbean literature that has created the possibil-
ity of a redistribution of discourse, of representing
Indeed, Duncan's concern with female "self formation" may be viewed as an
integral and necessary part of his creative response to wider issues. These issues
involve the threat of submersion or domination, the problem of self-definition and
struggles with feelings of alienation which are experienced by minority groups in
multi-cultural societies such as Costa Rica and by groups which have been margi-
nalized by colonial and neo-colonial hegemony in the wider Caribbean region.
Through the portrayal of female agency, Duncan brings into focus the need to
challenge the Eurocentric and imperialistic attitudes of that sector of Caribbean
society which insists on imposing itself as the dominant, the 'sovereign self, and
calls for the assertion of a self-certain subject free to confer meaning on his
1. Kate Young, "The Social Relations of Gender," Gender in Caribbean Development," eds., P. Mo-
hammed, C. Shepherd (U. WI. Women and Development Studies Project, 1988) 99.
2. Simone De Beauvoir, The Second Sex trans. and ed., H. M. Parshley (New York: Vintage Books,
3. Barbara Bush, Slave Women in Caribbean Society 1650 1838 (Kingston:Heinemann Publishers,
4. Angela Davis, "Reflections on the Black Woman's Role in the Community of Slaves," The Black
Scholar 3.4 (Dec. 1971): 13.
5. bell hooks, Ain't I a Woman: Black Woman and Feminism (Boston: South East Press, 1981) 25.
6. Evelyn O'Callaghan defines zombification as "... ('flesh that takes directions from someone', Myal
(108)) results from the trauma of being forcibly rewritten by imperial discourse, and then at-
tempting the futile task of living as a subject in relation to one's scripted Otherness." See Evelyn
O'Callaghan, Woman Version: Theoretical Approaches to West Indian Fiction by Women (Lon-
don: MacMillan Press Ltd., 1993) 71.
7. De Beauvoir 95.
8. This phrase is borrowed from Evelyn O'Callaghan in Woman Version 68.
9. Michael Dash, "In Search of the Lost Body: Re-defining the Subject in Caribbean Literature,"
Kunapipi 11. 1(1989): 18.
10. Dash 18.
The Manifestation of Tawhid: The Muslim Heritage of the
Maroons in Jamaica
The process of reconquista in Spain ended with the final conquest of the
last Muslim possession, Granada 11 1492, as Columbus with his Andalusian
mariners embarked on his adventures in the Atlantic. While Christian demands for
religious homogeneity led to the forceful conversion or exile of the Muslim popula-
tion from Spain, the natives in the West Indies perished in millions due to diseases
and "cruelties more atrocious and unnatural than any recorded of untutored and
savage barbarians".1 Black slaves brought from Spain's house of Muslim captives
to work in the mines and in the production of sugar died as rapidly as the Indians,
but as they continued to be replenished from Spain many resorted to Jihad or holy
wars against the indignity of slavery. A common resistance to the slave system and
one which was perhaps the most vexing to the owners was the flight from servitude
to establish their own communities based on their tradition and culture in inhospita-
ble and inaccessible areas. They became the cimarrones or the Maroons and
Maroon communities also called Quilombos in Brazil became a common feature in
the New World plantation economy. Marronage initiated by the Spanish Maroons
became the nucleus of the Maroon society in Jamaica under the British.
The presence of Maroon societies in the New World plantation economy is
well documented. The history of the Maroons constitutes an important aspect of the
historical study of Jamaica particularly because of the British recognition of their
societies as separate entities beyond the jurisdiction of the British colonial govern-
ment and their continuance into the present. However, there is much misinforma-
tion, misconception and misrepresentation regarding Jamaican Maroons. The
Islamic heritage of the Maroons has not been studied, despite all the indications
that Blacks directly brought to the West Indies from Spain were of Moorish back-
ground and who were believed by the Spanish Government to be facilitating
marronage.2 Evidently, many African slaves who subsequently joined the Spanish
Maroons also professed the Islamic faith as they came from West and the Sub-Sa-
haran region which saw the rapid spread of Islam from as early as the tenth and
eleventh centuries. Between the tenth and the eighteenth centuries, a succession
of Sudanic Kingdoms Ghana, Mali, Kanem, Songhay, Hausaland and Dogomba -
were organized under the banner of Islam incorporating Madinka, Fula, Susu,
Ashanti, Hausa and other nations. The present paper attempts to focus on the
Islamic heritage of the Maroons and examines the political and social structures
from an Islamic perspective.
The omission regarding the Muslim background of the Maroons, like the
misrepresentations, may be due to several factors. Historians are handicapped by
the absence of written documents by the historical Maroons. The imperative of
secrecy to maintain their strategy and their marronage perhaps, precluded written
history and hence restricted knowledge of their perceived goals, their religious
beliefs, their social and cultural traditions and their economic and political struc-
tures. The uncertainty which historians encounter regarding the ethnic background
and the faith of the historical Maroons was with all probability due to the deliberate
intention to maintain secrecy regarding the Islamic belief. The Muslim Blacks knew
too well the wrath of Christendom Europe towards Islam. Spanish Islamic people
had been sold into slavery since the 13th Century as Christian Spain began to
reconquer its lost possessions from the Muslims. In addition, the hatred of the
Crusaders was fresh in the memories particularly of those who came from the
Iberian Peninsula. Many African Muslim slaves who subsequently joined the Span-
ish Maroons had experienced similar or worse experiences in the hands of the
Christian slave traders or the Christian plantocracy, aided and abetted by the
established Christian Churches.
The absence of any written history by the Maroons has led researchers to
rely on official documents, eyewitnesses' accounts and on planter historians. With
the then prevalent mentality, almost all were biased and written from their ethno-
centricity and coloured by their economic interests. Hence, the official documents
and the histories are corrupt, inaccurate, inconsistent and unreliable for the proper
reconstruction of Maroon history in Jamaica without which the history of Jamaica
Although the etymology of the word "Maroon" is uncertain Marron to the
French it is a generic term used to designate fugitive slaves from plantations in the
New World. It is commonly accepted that it comes from the Spanish Marran, a sow
or young hog. Initially, the hunters of wild hogs were called Marrans distinguishing
them from the buccaneers, who hunted wild cattle and horses.3 Consensus opinion
seem to suggest the view that it derives from the Spanish word cimarron, which
originally referred to domestic cattle that had escaped to wilderness. Subsequently,
the term is used almost exclusively to embrace runaway slaves. Cimarron and its
derivative, "Maroon" seems to be peculiarly New World terms when applied to
runaway slaves. In other words, Maroons according to the established authorities
were no less than domesticated animals or wild hogs.
Moors in the West Indies
The extensive colonial possessions of Spain created an elusive and exag-
gerated notion of the Spanish empire as a source of wealth and as a market for
goods and slaves among the European slave traders Portuguese, Dutch, English
and the French. Spain in the West Indies did not need and could not afford to buy
slaves in the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries. Spain had just regained her
sovereign rights after almost eight centuries of Islamic rule. The massive displace-
ment of population as a result of the forceful expulsion of the Moors imposed upon
the Spanish government a labour of resettlement, which stretched manpower
resources to the limit. Moorish Andalusia had to be colonized as well as the areas
which was previously uninhabited. The policy of forceful expulsion or exile of the
Moors at a time when manpower was limited worked in favour of the Spanish
government. Evidently, the export of Moorish captives to foreign slave markets
increased.4 Although it is precisely r- clear regarding the specific foreign markets,
the destination of the Moorish captives was the newly acquired empire in the New
World. Since Spain was not involved in the Atlantic slave trade, one of the policies
of the four slave trading powers was to secure a share or a monopoly in the supply
of slaves to the Spanish colonies. Hence, Spain could not have been exporting its
own Moorish or Black slaves to any foreign markets other than its own colonies
where the need for labour was so acute. The Spanish slave trade to the West
Indies thus initiated not from West Africa, but from Spain by the King of Spain on
September 3, 1503. 5
Jamaica was one of the final destinations for many of these Moorish
captives who are referred to as Black slaves from Spain. The exporting of such
Moorish captives contradicted the directives of the Spanish Crown which did not
consent to the immigration of Moors, heretics, Jews, re-converts or newly converts
to Christianity.6 Black slaves born within the power of Spaniards were allowed to
be exported, but under the circumstances of the time, Christian Black slaves in
Spain were inadequate to meet the demand. Also, many who had accepted
Christianity became crypto-Muslims and tried to reconcile the secret practice of
Islam with the outward profession of Christianity.7 To be a crypto-Muslim became
a common characteristic even among the African Muslim slaves who were force-
fully baptized by the slave owners on the plantations.8 Besides Moorish captives
who came to Jamaica and elsewhere in the New World as slaves, Moors from
Spain, were also included in the voyages of discovery and conquest. 9
The Spirit of Marronage
Given the background of the Moors who were not only once conquerors
establishing empires over three continents, but were also culturally enlightened
people, resistance to subordination or subjugation in various forms by them be-
came a common feature in the New World. Evidently, no sooner had they set their
feet in the West Indies they fought unceasingly for their freedom. The unspoiled
virgin islands in the Caribbean were to be the grounds of resistance and freedom
for many of these proud Moors through whom Europe acquired the techniques to
reign contemporary world. Many resorted to running away to the hills and forests,
as they correctly perceived that the islands were largely unknown to their masters.
Hence, they had little to fear from immediate repercussions. Within two years of
initiation of the Black slave trade from Spain to the West Indies, it had to be
temporarily suspended on the ground that the Blacks ran away and made common
cause with the Indians.10 In 1521, the Spanish government tried to contain mar-
ronage by prohibiting the inclusion of Moors in the voyages of discovery and
conquest, as they were believed to be encouraging slaves to run away. Such a
directive is indicative of the importance of the Moors as part of the discovery and
conquest entourage long after Columbus. In short, Moors also came as conquerors
and discoverers. Furthermore, it implies the existence of a Moorish Islamic com-
munity in the New World since the coming of Columbus.
Moors in Jamaica
Although the immediate response of the Blacks in Jamaica is imprecise,
slave revolts and resistance across the Caribbean would suggest that the scenario
was no different. For the Spanish Black fugitives, the topography and ecology of
Jamaica were also conducive for their hideouts and establishments. Since the
prohibition of 1521 applied to all the new territories of Spain it is likely that Spanish
Maroon communities had already been established in Jamaica by 1523, when the
first set of African slaves purchased from the Portuguese arrived in the island. The
presence of 107 free blacks substantiated by tl,e census of the island taken by the
Spaniards in 1611 further strengthens the argument that Moorish or free Black
communities referred to as Maroon communities were in existence long before the
British occupation of Jamaica in 1655. Bryan Edwards suggests that the blacks had
formed their own communities and attacked the British intermittently.11 Though
imprecise in number, a few Moors apparently, enjoyed the trust of the Spaniards as
they were left in authoritative positions in Jamaica at the time of British occupation.
Following the British occupation of Jamaica as most of the Spaniards had left the
island chiefly for Cuba, the slaves from the Spanish settlements joined the then
existing Spanish Maroon communities or formed new societies of their own. Since
the Spanish Maroons were creoles, they were for the most part the direct descen-
dants of the Moors from Spain.
Spanish Muslim Maroons
Some of the uncertainties regarding the ethnic background of the Maroon
leaders at the time of the British conquest can be clarified to some extent by an
analytical study of their names.12 Christian names given to Blacks, whether free or
slaves often had little religious significance to the persons, but they accepted them
for social approval or to avoid physical torture. The name of Don Christoval Arnaldo
de Ysassi, a Jamaican born Spaniard who was appointed the governor of Jamaica
by the Spanish King in 1655 is indicative of his Moorish origin. It is a corruption of
the Arabic word Ysassa, meaning one who enjoys political authority or in short,
ruler. Apparently, de Ysassi or Sasi as the British called him was the title bestowed
upon him for his political position. Such an appointment also demonstrates that
white Spaniards were often dependent on blacks, free or exslaves during political
and military crises, perhaps because of their superb sense of strategy and a shared
common political past. Some historians have disputed Ysassi's claim of Black
loyalty to him, although it would appear from evidence that such loyalty was not
wholly lacking.13 The Spanish lieutenant general of Jamaica, Don Francisco de
Leyba testified in Madrid in 1659 that the black settlements in the hills were
obedient to Ysassi, though tney governed themselves.14 It would seem that Leyba
and Ysassi both had a common Moorish background. Leyba is an Arabic term
meaning intelligent or lionine. His war-like and administrative qualities might have
won him this title. The Christian names, i.e. the first names of both Ysassi and
Leyba although they appear to be European Christian names, but may have meant
very little to these Spanish Jamaican leaders in their real lives since most Moors
who were under the control of the Spaniards were forcefully baptized.
Despite the numerical strength of the British with their superior weaponry,
the defensive fight put up by Ysassi's contingent was reported to have caused
heavy casualties to the British and caused alarm among the conquering forces of
the uncertainties of their hold over Jamaica. The British officers appealed to
soldiers and planters from the other islands to come to their assistance because
they feared that they would not be able to keep the place for long.15 Ysassi,
however, eventually had to flee to Cuba with most of his men in the face of stiff
British opposition and with almost no or very little Spanish assistance coming from
Cuba. Perhaps, the Spaniards in Cuba feared that military help extended to
Christopher de Ysassi might lead to the formation of an independent black state of
Jamaica and challenge the established status quo of the plantocracy in the New
Similarly, Juan de Bola, invariably called de Bolas, Lubola by the British or
Juan Lubolo by the Spaniards also appears to have been of Muslim origin. Bola, a
name common among the people or Yoruba whether Muslims or non-Muslims, in
Arabic means the "respectable". Juan de Bola was the head of one of the three
main black groups of Maroons. He commanded the respect of one of the biggest
settlements of free Blackes who were regarded to be not only guerilla warriors but
also agriculturists and were settled in the Clarendon hills. Two hundred acres of
cultivated crops, which was considered the largest single source of locally grown
food, is indicative of the high stability of the community.16 These free Blacks either
were the descendents of the first generation of Moors who came as part of the
conqueror party or directly came from Spain subsequent to Columbus. Bola has
been accused of betraying the Maroon cause to the British. Perhaps, he was a
more pragmatic Maroon leader whui realized that the stability and safety of his
settlement required a policy of accommodation with the British. The first duty of
Muslims is to maintain peace, which is the essence of Islam. The "Declaration" by
the Jamaica governor and Council, officially called "a charter to the said Negroes,"
issued February 1, 1662/3 saying, "Bola and all the Negroes...." recognized the
freedom of Bola's people with thirty acres of land to anyone eighteen years old and
above.17 This acknowledgement of the freedom of the Maroons in Bola's commu-
nity may suggest that the British did not want to unnecessarily antagonize such a
stable and self-sufficient Maroon society at a time when their first priority was
Very little is known of the head of the Karmahaly band of Maroons, Juan de
Serras. However, his name and his style of leadership are possible indicators of his
Islamic faith. Serras, a corruption of the Arabic term Sarra, meaning happiness,
complemented his style of leadership. With all the uncertainties regarding his
background, Juan de Serras may have been a Spanish creole, a creolized black,
or a Moor from Spain. Evidently, he was a man of extraordinary ability.18 Appar-
ently, he had established an efficient and disciplined organization based on a
hierarchical ordering similar to those founded by the Muslim rulers in al-Andalus
and in the early Caliphate days, rather than modelled on European feudalism.
Although a warrior himself. he carried the title of governor, like most rulers did
during the Caliphate rule. His goverrrrship also suggests that he had the authority
to govern both the civil and military aspects of his administration. The position of a
sergeant general, who was the next in command, is indicative of the importance of
the military force. Serras governed his people with consensual authority, known in
Arabic as shura or consultation. Such governance was still unknown to Europeans
but long established and practiced by the Muslim rulers in al-Andalusia for over
eight hundred years and in the Islamic world, as enjoined by the Qur'an 19 Serras
evidently recognized those with particular skills in his group and delegated func-
tions accordingly, thus suggesting an understanding of his people and their accep-
tance of his leadership.20
The policy of consensual leadership apparently made the Karmahalys
more united against their enemies, the British and other Maroon groups. Recogni-
tion of talents and his consultation with the people on their wants further helped
Serras to promote the freedom and equality of the people. His behaviour, attitude
and the importance, which he attached to his duties as sovereign towards his
subjects, speak of his Islamic roots and his knowledge of Islam.21 Far and remote
from the centre of the Islamic world and in the midst of a most brutal plantation
society, i.e., military feudalism combined with the worst form of slavery, it is most
probable that Serras's strong background and devotion to Islam had influenced his
The Karmahalys settled in the impenetrable north and north-eastern inte-
rior of the island posed the greatest threat to the British within ten years of British
conquest. The first formal declaration of war was made against the Karmahaly
Maroons and others who were called the Rebellious Negroes.22 Serras, himself an
astute diplomat and with the assistance of his appointed emissaries was able to
defuse the tense situation, and gain time to secure his position. The Council
Proclamation of 1668 gave the Karmahalys the freedom of movement to trade for
necessary provisions. The permission "to pass and repass in any part of this island
without trouble" also implied that they could deploy their people at strategic points
to challenge the British.23
The Karmahalys inhabiting mainly the eastern parishes of St. Georges, St.
Thomas and Portland, is believed to have avoided all possible confrontation with
the planters from the end of the seventeenth century until the beginning of the
eighteenth century. However, it would appear that with the coming of new African
slaves in the island, runaways from the plantations increased either taking refuge
in the Spanish Maroon communities or forming separate communities in the
neighbourhood. Clashes with the colonial authorities thus became inevitable. In
addition, slave rebels from the estates in Clarendon and St. Elizabeth developed
their societies in the hills in the leeward part of the island. Evidence suggests that
many of the runaways were of Islamic faith. Hundreds of Muslim slaves were
brought to the Caribbean from West and Central Africa.24
The Establishment of the Din of Allah or Islam Oral testimonies seem to
suggest that the Spanish Maroon leaders and the subsequent African Maroon
leaders had founded their communities to establish the Din of Allah or Islam to
guide them in this life or Dunya for the hereafter Aakirah. The terms Din and Dunya
are Qur'anic words, which form an integral part of the vocabulary of some of the
living elderly Maroons in Mooretown, Portland.25 However, the Maroons are not
aware of the significance of these terms in Islam nor of their origins.
Increasing slave rebels on the plantations and the existence of Maroon
societies as a source of refuge for the runaways led to an intensified effort by the
Colonial government upon the requests of the p~lnters for the extirpation of the
Blackes in rebellion and the established Maroon communities. Repeated attacks by
the British troops on these communities led to defensive responses or Jihad from
the Maroons ultimately compelling the Colonial authorities in Jamaica to sue for
peace and conclude treaties first with the Leeward Maroons led by Cudjoe and
subsequently with the Windward Maroons headed by Quao. The Leeward treaty
formally concluded on March 1, 1738/39 is referred to in the official documents in
various ways such as "Agreement with Captain Cudjoe Vera Copia" or as "Articles
of Pacification with the Maroons of Trelawney Town' or as "Articles of Agreement
betwixt Coll. Guthrie Lieut. Sadler and Capt. Cajoe." 26 The Treaty begins "In the
name of God, Amen" which in Quranic terminology is Bismillah, i.e. "In the Name
of Allah". 27 Historians have failed to study such a beginning from an Islamic
perspective but have researched ancient Italian practices to look for precedents.
Even the African background of the Maroons served as no indicators to the
researchers to examine one of the most dominant religions of West Africa or
Andalusian Spain, i.e. Islam and study Maroon beliefs and their institutions. All
actions of a Muslim should begin with Bismillah to ensure good and meritorious
conduct. This pious beginning undoubtedly speaks of the Islamic faith of Cudjoe
and the other leeward Maroon leaders who must have insisted upon its inclusion
before signing the agreement. Such an introduction to a treaty or contract was
never the precedent in Christendom Europe.
The Arabic names Cudjoe, meaning a shy person and his brother Ghani,
denoting self-sufficiency, further strengthens the argument of their Muslim back-
ground. Ghani is one of the attributes of Allah, the Self-Sufficient and is a common
name among Muslims throughout the world, including Muslims of Akhan origin.
Apparently, the Anglo-Saxon corruption of Ghani rather than Gyani, is Johnny.28
The names Cuffee and Quao the two Maroon leaders from Moore Town (the
windward) are also suggestive of Islamic background. Quao invariably spelt as
Quoha, Quaba, Quoba, Quaco and Quaw by contemporary authorities, such as
Philip Thicknesse, Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica and in official documents
seems to be a corruption of the Arabic word Quwah which denotes one of the
attributes of Allah, The Most Strong. Cuffee wio was the other windward Maroon
leader is also a Quranic word used to specify another attribute of Allah, The
Sufficient. These Maroon leaders referred to each other as brothers. Present
Maroon leaders claim that they were all brothers and Granny Nanny was their
The use of the term "brother" among the Maroon leaders is also indicative
of the presence of a strong feeling of Islamic brotherhood which is one of the basic
principles of Islam equality and brotherhood. Evidently, the claims made by both
the Moore Town and Accompong (leeward) groups that Nanny was the sister of
Cudjoe may imply blood-related sister or "sister" of the same faith, Islam. The terms
"brother" and "sister" are common in Islamic societies denoting a common family,
i.e. the Muslim umma /community. The value of human brotherhood is a fundamen-
tal element in the value system of Islam. Human brotherhood in Islam is based on
an unshakable belief in the Oneness and Universality of Allah, the unity of mankind
the worshippers, and the unity of religion the medium of worship.30 Historian Mavis
C. Campbell sees the usr of the term "brother" by the leeward Maroon leaders as
Ashanti tradition.31 However, they fail to take note that much of the Ashanti Empire
had come under the direct' influence of Islam as early as the tenth century.
The Maroon leaders appear to have followed the Sunnah, i.e. the tradition
of Prophet Muhammad in choosing those with the best skills, military or otherwise
for the good of the entire society. Following the tradition of the historical Maroons,
the present Maroon communities continue to have a "Chief who is unanimously
elected by the elders and is regarded to be the most righteous person in the
society." 32 Race or past social background did not have an impact on the choice
of leadership. So such was also the leadership of the Maroons based on integrity
and transparency as required under Islam.
Adoption of Islamic AadaablEtiquettes of Greeting and Meeting
Oral tradition suggests that the historical Maroons of Moore Town adopted
Islamic Aadaab (etiquettes) of greeting and meeting. Moore Town is built on land
granted by the British to Grandy Nanny in 1740. The Islamic greeting Assalaamu
Alaikum, meaning "peace be upon you" still continues as the official Council
greeting among the 26 Council members in Moore Town.33 The present Maroon
Councillors are unaware of the significance of the greeting in Islam and consider it
as a traditional greeting adopted by the historical Maroons such as Nanny and
therefore to be adhered to with respect. The existence of such a tradition leaves no
room for further argument on the authenticity of the Islamic heritage of the Maroons
of Moore Town.
The adoption of the Islamic greeting suffices to say that the historical
Muslim Maroons of Moore Town differentiated themselves from the non-Muslim
communities since the Islamic greeting is confined only among the Muslims. In
Islam, a non-Muslim should be greeted with Assalamo-Ala-Manittaba'al Huda, i.e.
"Peace be on him who performed allegiance".34 The Islamic greeting of the Council
members of Moore Town would further suggest that Granny Nanny, the great
Jamaican heroine was a Muslim. It was under her leadership that the windward
Maroons fought against the British and was granted five hundred acres of land in
the Parish of Portland for her people in 1740. After the British had reduced Nanny
Town, which was founded by her, to rubble in 1734, Granny Nanny and her people
apparently founded their community in and around Moore Town, which was then
called New Nanny Town.35 Past and present Maroons in Jamaica revere Nanny as
"Granny" Nanny. She was in a position to revoke Quao's decision and impose her
own. The acceptance of Nanny's decisions is indicative of her skills in military
strategies and political acumen. According to oral testimony, it was under the
directives of Granny Nanny that the Maroon Council was formed for the govern-
ance of the Maroons. In Islam, since it is important to take counsel, the historical
Maroon leaders formed Councils, a tradition still maintained today for the govern-
ance of the Maroon people. Furthermore, following the Sunnah, Granny Nanny
never assumed political leadership but blessed her people with her spiritual piety.
The present ethnic diversity which exists within the Moore Town maroon commu-
nity also suggests that the community by then comprised of people belonging to
different ethnic groups from West and Central Africa but professed Islam which
appears to be the unifying force. The continu:tioil of Assalaamu Alaikum among
the Maroon Councilors even today speaks of the pervasiveness of the greeting
among the historical Maroons and the unity of the Muslim Umma (community).
Although popularly called Granny Nanny, her real name according to oral
tradition was Sarah. Sarah is a Quranic term meaning "happiness". Like many
other Muslim women, such as Hazrat A'isha Hazrat Umm 'Umara, Hazrat Umm
'Atiyya, Granny Nanny or Sarah was a courageous and skillful warrior who fought
galantly for the defense of human dignity, the basis of Islam. These early Muslim
women warriors fought in battles alongside with men often protecting their fellow
men such as Prophet Muhammad.36 Apparently, Granny Nanny considered by the
Maroons as the most illustrious woman who never lost a battle with the British had
the commanding ability in the battlefield as well as the political acumen to unite the
community together. The name Nanny Town, perhaps is indicative of her leader-
ship and the respect she earned from her people. Under Granny Nanny's military
leadership the Maroons sometimes killed the entire British contingent such as at
the battle in Seaman's Valley in 1729, where 600 invading troops lost their lives.
Out of such disastrous British defeats arose myths that Nanny was a witch
Islamic Family Practices
The fragmentary evidence regarding the family structures among Maroon
communities is also suggestive of Islamic practices. Although polygamy practiced
among the Maroons has been seen by historians as an African custom, in Islam,
polygamy is allowed under specific circumstances. Monogamy is the general rule
in Islam, while polygamy is the exception, particularly in the aftermath of war when
widows or orphaned girls need protection. The Maroon communities it would
appear, had more women and children than men who were either abducted from
the plantations or escaped and was provided protection by the Maroons.37 To
contain social ills, such as prostitution and to enlarge their communities, the
Maroon men would appear to have followed the Islamic prescription which permits
polygamy but limits it to four. There is no accurate account as to the number of
wives a Maroon man had. That the Maroons despised the unlawful sexual pleas-
ures carried out in the plantations is exemplified by the severity of the punishment
meted out to those committing adultery as required under Qur'anic laws. While
adulteresses were severely punished in Cudjoe's community, in Nanny Town an
adulterer was put to death, even if it happened to be the headman. In Islam
adultery or fornication has been expressly made unlawful.39
Allahu Akbar is uttered in many of the practices of Islam signifying that man
is only a creature of Allah and that Allah is Supreme.The knowledge and the literal
translation of the phrase Allahu Akbar by the present Maroon leaders of Moore
Town testify to the community's traditional foundation in Islam.40
Jihad, both inner struggle for self-purification and the wars against slavoc-
racy resulted in recognition of Maroon rights within territorial limitations by treaties.
It is believed that Granny Nanny was not only against Cudjoe's treaty with the slave
regime but she was also disappointed with Quao for signing the treaty on behalf of
the windward Maroons.41 Granny Nanny, it would appear, was fighting to establish
the Islamic concept of freedom. Within the framework of this Islamic concept there
is no room for religious persecutions, class conflict, or racial prejudice. The individ-
ual's right of freedom is as sacred as his right of Life; hence freedom is the
equivalent of Life itself. The existence of the slave system was antithesis to the
concept of Islamic freedom. The Maroon Treaties, perhaps appeared to Granny
Nanny as the denial of the Unity cf Allah since slavocracy would still continue
outside the Maroon territory and that Maroon behaviour and policy towards other
runaways would be monitored by the slave system. However, the order of succes-
sion of Maroon leadership as stated in the Treaty, speaks of the unity and the
prevailing consensus among the Maroons.
With the signing of the Treaties, the historical Maroons were faced with a
dilemma. On the one hand, the Qur'an prohibited the breach of the treaty provi-
sions and on the other hand, runaways from the plantations had to be facilitated or
accorded shelter. Apparently, Cudjoe and Quao accepted the offer of peace and
cessation of hostilities in accordance with the Quranic commands.42
The Islamic Act of Prostration
Dallas's account of Cudjoe's behaviour during his meeting with Colonel
John Guthrie and Captain Francis Sadler when the peace offer was made is highly
unacceptable in the context of Islamic procedure which was followed but com-
pletely distorted and misunderstood by Dallas and subsequent historians who rely
on his work.43 It is highly unlikely that Cudjoe, the warrior leader who apparently,
had organized both the leeward and windward Maroons under his command to
fight against the slave system in the island would have "kissed the feet" of Guthrie.
In all likelihood Cudjoe immediately prostrated on the ground to thank Allah for the
peace offer. This is implied in the same account, which says, "The rest of the
Maroons, following the example of their chief, prostrated themselves...." In Islam,
prostration is "the highest manifestation of humility and self-surrender to Allah." 44
This posture of prostration performed by Cudjoe in glorification or seeking Divine
favours seems to have been misinterpreted and ridiculed by Dallas. It is customary
among Muslims to prostrate to express gratitude to Allah or to seek mercy,
beneficence or blessings.
In Islam, after establishment of peace with the conclusion of treaties with
the enemies, it is one of the greatest sins to violate the terms.45Although Cudjoe,
Quao and the historical Maroons are ridiculed by historians for assisting the slave
authorities for the return of runaways, it would appear that the Maroon leaders in
accordance with the Qur'anic commands abided by the treaty provisions which
guaranteed peace for their communities. Cudjoe would appear to have negotiated
well with the enemies winning for those who had fled their masters "within two
years last past" two options. On being granted full pardon and indemnity, they
could return to their masters or remain under Cudjoe's authority. Apparently,
Cudjoe worked for the freedom of all runaways within his community, Muslims and
non-Muslims in accordance with Islam.47 With reference to Muslim runaways,
Cudjoe simply applied the Islamic principle for universal brotherhood.48 It would be
logical to suggest that Muslims or those who accepted Islam remained in his
community and non-Muslims were returned to their masters for reasons of security,
peace and harmony of Cudjoe's people. In addition, Islam must have been the
criteria for extending membership to post-treaty runaways to Cudjoe's or Quao's
The argument put forth bysome historians that "there was lack of any
general philosophy of freedom..." among the Maroons can be refuted on grounds
that the Islamic concept of freedom was the basis of the Maroon struggle against
slavocracy.49 Furthermore, the tendency was not towards ethnic exclusivity as
sometimes claimed.. The Maroon communities, both in Accompong, in the Lee-
ward and in Moore Town in the Windward areas are not ethnically homogeneous,
but consists of various ethnic groups, such as /oruba, Coromantine, Hausa, Akan
and Fulani.50 Islam united the heterogeneous society to form the Muslim umma
apparently to fight against the oppressor, Bucra.51 Indeed, the unity of the Maroon
Muslim umma to fight for the cause of righteousness, piety and good conduct is the
greatest manifestation of Tawhid-the Unity of Allah.
1 Eric Williams, From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean 1492-1969 (Andre Deutsch,
1983), p. 34.
2 Ibid., p. 67.
3. Edward Long, The History of Jamaica ( 3 Vols., Lonoon: Frank Cass, 1970), Vol. 2, p. 338 n. (first
4. Armesto, Felipe Fernandez, Before Columbus, Exploration and Colonization from the Mediterra-
nean to the Atlantic, 1229-1492 (Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987) p. 58.
5. Williams, pp. 41-42.
6. Ibid., p. 41.
7. Lapidus,Ira, M. A History of Islamic Societies (Cambridge University Press, 1994) (first published ,
1988) p. 389.
8. Sultana Afroz, "The Unsung Slaves: Islam in Plantation Jamaica- The African Connection", Journal
Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, Vol. 15: 1& 2, January & July 1994, p. 161.
9. Williams, p. 67.
10. Ibid., p. 66.
11. Bryan Edwards, The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies, 2
Vols., (Dublin: Luke White, 1793), Vol. 1, p. 153.
12. The names of the Spanish and African Maroon leaders have been translated by Sheikh Musa Ti-
jani Kayode, Central Masjid of Jamaica, Kingston, Jamaica. Sheikh Tijani, a native of Yoruba-
speaking clan, teaches Arabic and Islamic Studies in Jamaica.
13. Mavis C. Campbell, The Maroons of Jamaica 1655-1796, (Trenton, New Jersey, Africa World
Press, 1990), p. 18.
14. Frank Cundall and Joseph Pietersz, Jamaica under the Spaniards: Abstracted from the Archives
of Seville (Kingston: The Institute of Jamaica, 1919), p. 81.
15. The State Papers of Jon Thurlos, 1655-1658, Vol. 4, cited by Carey Robinson, Fight for Freedom
(Kingston: Kingston Publishers Limited, 1993), p. 12.
16. S. A. G. Taylor, The Western Design: A-. Account of Crc-nwell's Expedition in the Caribbean
(Kingston: The Institute of Jamaica, 1965), pp.185-186.
17. Colonial Office (C.O.) 140/41, Council meeting, February 1, 1662/63
18. Campbell, p. 25
19 The Holy Quran, 42:38.
20. The Holy Quran, 49:13.
21. Ali, Syed Ameer, The Spirit of Islam (London: Darf Publishers Ltd. 1988) (first published 1902) p.
261; and Numani, Professor Shibli, AI-Farooq Omar the Great, the Second Caliph of Islam,
Translated into English by Maulana Zafar Ali Khan (Immad Publications, 1898) p.219.
22 C.O. 140/1, Council Meeting, August 15, 1665.
23. C.O. 140/1, Council Meeting, March 28, 1665.
24. Robert R. Madden. A Twelve Months Residence in the West Indies During the Transition from
Slavery to Apprenticeship, Vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Carey, lea and Blanchard, 1835), pp. 99-101.
25. Interview with Leopold Shelton and Milton Shelton, Maroons of Moore Town, Jamaica, August 6-
26. The national Library of Jamaica (Institute of Jamaica).
27. Hamid, Abdul Wahid, Islam the Natural way (London :Muslim Education and Librry Services,
28. Campbell, p. 46.
29. Interview with Colonel C. H. Harris, Moore Town, Jamaica, January 14, 1999.
30. Hammudah Abdalati, Islam in Focus, (American Trust Publications, 1975), p. 36.
31. Campbell, p. 62.
32. Interview with Colonel C. L. G. Harris, Moore Town, January 14, 1999.
33. Meeting with Colonel C. L. G. Harris and some Council members, Moore Town, August 7, 1994.
34. Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi, Bahishti Zewar, Tr. M. Mansoor Khan Saroha Heavenly Ornaments
(New Delhi: Sayeed International, 1997), p. 290.
35. Interview with Colonel Harris, January 14, 1999.
36. Muhammad Saeed Siddiqi, The Blessed Women of Islam (Lahore, Pakistan: Kazi Publications,
37. Campbell, p. 53.
38. Ibid, pp. 48 & 50.
39. The Holy Qur'an, 17:32.
40. Interview with Colonel Harris. Moore Town, August 7, 1994.
41. Campbell, pp. 51 & 178.
42. The Holy Quran, 8:61 & 62.
43 R.C. Dallas, History of the Maroons (2 Vols., London: T.N Longman and 0. Rees, 1803), Vol.1, p.
44. AI-Hadis Mishkat-ul-Masabih, Vol. 3, p. 284.
45. The Holy Qur'an, 23:140.
46. Campbell, p. 130.
47. The Holy Qur'an, 90:11-13.
48. Riyadh-Us-Salaheen, Compiled by Imam AbuZakariya Yahya Bin Sharaf An-Nawawi, Tr. S.M.
Madni Abbasi (New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan, 1994), p. 647.
49. Campbell, p. 131
50. Interview with Colonel Harris, Moore Town, January 14, 1999; see also C.O. 140/4, September
29, 1686. 1 Page 10 April 1, 1999
51. Bucra the corruption of the Arabic word Baqarah or cow is often used to denote the fossilization of
human beings. While the planters found comfort in being called Bucra, the Maroons and slaves
amused themselves in such mockeries. Self-sufficiency, as Sura Al-Baqarah in the Quran
states, prevents men from seeing that spiritually they are not alive but dead. So such was the
view prevalent among the Maroons and the slaves towards the plantocracy.
"Ninguno es Cubano." Cuba: My Reflection
MARTIN J. SCHADE, S.J.
"Ninguno es Cubano" is the end of a statement that is seen on billboards in
Cuba indicating that 200 million children in the world sleep in the street each night.
"Not one is Cuban." With this truth in mind I wish to offer a reflection on this
country, my understanding and impressions of her people, her leader and the
complexity of the revolution. This reflection comes from a born American, yet
naturalized Jamaican working as a Jesuit priest in Cuba for five months.
Preceding History of the Revolution
Columbus sighted Cuba in 1492 and since that first "invasion" Cuba was
owned and governed by foreigners, mostly by Spain. In 1762 the British captured
Havana from Spain but then traded Cuba for Florida the following year. In 1848 the
US attempted to buy Cuba from Spain but failed. From 1868 to 1878 the First War
of Independence took place, followed by another in 1895 to 1898. In 1898 Ameri-
cans landed at Santiago de Cuba and Spanish rule ended because of the strong
It was the US military government that controlled Cuba until their inde-
pendence in 1902. However, in 1901 President McKinley approved the Platt
Amendment to the Army Appropriations Bill that gave the US the right, among other
things, to intervene militarily in Cuba's internal affairs whenever the US decided
such intervention was warranted. Cubans were given a choice: accept this amend-
ment or remain under US military occupation indefinitely. As the lesser of two evils,
Cuba accepted this humiliation and in 1903 the US used it to obtain a naval base in
Guantanamo Bay, a disgraceful intrusion on a nation that persists even today.
The US intervention in Cuba endowed her with a series of weak, corrupt,
dependent governments. Nevertheless, on May 20, 1902 Cuba became an inde-
pendent republic electing Tomas Estrada Palma as president. Due to accusations
of fraud to obtain a second term there was unrest and President Estrada requested
US military intervention in 1906. The US held power until 1909. Another US
intervention happened in 1912 in order to put down a revolt by former slaves and
again in 1917 so as to ensure a steady flow of sugar during World War I. In view of
this political and economic history Ub companies owned two-thirds of Cuba's
farmland and most of its mines by the 1920s. With this obvious exploitation of
Cuba and the historical events in Europe at the time, the first Communist Party was
founded in 1925.
During the time of prohibition in the US (1919-1933) Cuba's tourism was
based on drinking, gambling and prostitution. With the unrest that came from a
system where few benefited, President Gerardo Machado y Morales used terror to
maintain any atmosphere of peace. In August 1933 Machado was toppled, chaos
followed and on September 4 an army sergeant named Fulgencio Batista seized
power in a non-commissioned officer's coup. In 1934 Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a
"good neighbour" policy toward Latin America, arranged for the nullification of the
Platt Amendment, but not without extending the lease on the Guantanamo naval
base for 99 years.
Batista governed as the army's chief of staff from 1934 to1940 and had a
democratic constitution drafted which guaranteed more rights. He was duly
elected as president in 1940 and won US favour by supporting the Allied war effort.
In 1944 Batista allowed free elections but his personal and preferred candidate lost.
The following two governments of Grau and Prio were corrupt, inefficient, offered
few public services and left millions of people unemployed. In 1947 Eduardo
Chibas formed the Partido Ortodoxo to fight corruption and Batista established the
Partido de Acci6n Unitaria to try to make a comeback.
On March 10, 1952, three months before the scheduled elections, Batista
staged a second military coup in the fear of an expected defeat of his party.
Although this coup invalidated the 1940 constitution, Washington did recognize
Batista's government two weeks later. These events prevented the likely election to
the House of Representatives of a young Orthodoxo candidate named Fidel
Castro. Opposition politicians were unable to unite against the dictator who main-
tained power through rigged elections in both 1955 and 1958.
After the Batista coup, a revolutionary group established itself in Havana
and on July 26, 1953 Fidel Castro led 119 rebels in an attack on Moncada Army
Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, the second largest military base in Cuba at the time.
The attempt failed and at least 70 participants were cruelly tortured and murdered.
Fidel escaped but was captured a week later and jailed, although the army chiefs
order was to shoot him immediately if found. His capture was soon known publicly
and Batista's regime had no other choice but to put him on trial. Castro, as a lawyer
by profession, gave his own defence and the summation of the trial was later edited
and released as a political manifesto entitled History Will Absolve Me. He was
sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on the Isla de Pinos, now called Isla de la
After the fraudulent elections of February 1955 Batista made an effort to
win legitimacy and popular support and freed all political prisoners in May of that
year. Fidel Castro was released and exiled to Mexico in July 1955. Remaining in
Santiago de Cuba, however, was a Baptist schoolteacher named Frank Pals who
organized, within Cuba, the underground resistance of the 26th of July Movement,
commonly called "M-26-27."
In Mexico the M-26-27 trained and equipped a revolutionary force, and on
December 2, 1956, Castro and 82 companions landed from the motor vessel
Granma at Playa Las colouradas near Niqueno in Oriente, the eastern part of
Cuba. Three days later the group was decimated in an initial clash with Batista's
forces but Castro, his brother Raul, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos
and 22 others escaped into the Sierra Maestra mountains. It was on January 1957
that the guerrilla movement grew in strength and in February 1957 a reporter of the
New York Times, Herbert Matthews interviewed Castro in the Sierra Maestra
Mountains, bringing his group to the attention of the American public for the first
time. In fairly sympathetic articles, Fidel Castro was portrayed somewhat as a
romantic hero and thus was able to win a degree of popularity in the US, limiting the
overt military support the US could provide Batisia. It was during this time that
Arthur Gardner, the ambassador of the administration of President Eisenhower,
suggested that the CIA assassinate Castro. Nevertheless, after different struggles
with Batista's forces Che Guevara captured the city of Santa Clara in December,
1958. On January 1, 1959 Batista escaped Cuba with $40 million government
funds to the Dominican Republic where fellow dictator Rafael Trujillo was ruling.
Batista died in comfortable exile in Spain in 1973.
Castro entered Havana on January 8, 1959 and on Fr.bruary 16 was
named Prime Minister. Among the first acts of the revolutionary movement were
cuts in rents and electricity rates, and racial discrimination was abolished.
In April 1959 Fidel Castro made a private visit to Washington to address a
gathering of the National Press. President Eisenhower was on a golfing holiday so
as not to meet Castro, it is therefore Vice President Richard Nixon who accused
Castro of being a Communist or under communist influence. Castro denied this,
yet later history would witness Castro describing the influence he absorbed when
studying at the University of Havana. What became obvious to Fidel from then on
was that the US was more concerned with communist influence in his government
than with the plans he had to reform Cuba. After their one-hour meeting Nixon set
in motion a process of anti-Castro subversion which eventually led to the Bay of
Pigs attempted invasion.
History after the Revolution4
With this brief history leading to the Cuban Revolution, it is important that
US Americans recall their own history and their own revolution against the powers
of England. It was the American Revolution, with its promising Declaration of
Independence, which encouraged movements of independence in colonies around
the world. Cuba wanted, as did the US, to be independent from foreign powers.
Cuba wanted, as did the US, to develop in her own way, with her own identity and
in her own direction. The people of th- USA need t" know the ways in which the US
government still prevents small countries from developing on their own because
they do not follow the "American way" of personal profit-driven capitalism. Unfortu-
nately in US history we have developed an "either-or" mentality whereby a country
is "either" with us, as a "free," capitalist ideology or against us and therefore
portrayed as a "totalitarian," communist ideology. In general, there is no middle
way in US foreign policy and international relations unless the US can benefit. The
revolution in Nicaragua is a recent example. The US used its "either/or" mentality
of "freedom fighters" to destabilize a country seeking equal distribution of wealth
with independent national identity and development. If has become clear, in my
reflection of Cuba and her history with the US, that Fidel Castro began as a
nationalist, a "Cubanist," or as some say, a "Fidelist," but gradually, due to the
antagonism and counter-revolutionary forces from the US, became a "communist."
As early as October 1959 CIA-backed guerrillas counteracted the revolution. In
March of 1960 President Eisenhower authorized the CIA to train and arm a
counter-revolutionary force to overthrow the Castro government. Soon after, as is
the case in any revolution that affects the wealthy and the status quo, many judges,
lawyers, professionals, managers, technicians left Cuba. The economic problems
mounted and there were overtures to the Soviet Union to provide a balance for the
losses. The USSR agreed to send technicians to replace those that left. This
incitement led Cuba to formalize diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in May
The crises continued in June of 1960 when refineries in Cuba owned by
Texaco, Standard Oil, and Shell bowed to US pressure and refused to refine Soviet
petroleum, favouring the Venezuelan crude they had been purchasing from their
own subsidiaries at inflated prices. Two weeks later these companies were nation-
alized and Cuba had to become dependent on the USSR for its fuel. On July 6 of
the same year, Eisenhower cut 700,000 tons from the Cuban sugar quota. As a
consequence, the USSR offered to buy any sugar the US rejected. There was no
where else a small country could go when fighting against the power and ideology
of the United States. The irony of the US bullying of Cuba is that it greatly
strengthened Castro's position in the eyes of the rest of the world for he would be
seen as the defender of Cuban sovereignty against US aggression. The US is
greatly responsible for the direction Fidel Castro and Cuba took in developing as a
sovereign nation. Had the US allowed them to evolve on their own, had the US not
instilled an "either-or" mentality in its foreign policy, Fidel Castro, today, might not
be "the enemy" the US makes him out to be. Americans must remember that Fidel
Castro first went to the US after the revolution to discuss further development of his
country. In order to grasp fully what continues to motivate "the Comandante," one
needs to know the on-going destabilization and assassination attempts that were
made against Cuba and her leader.
In trying to become more independent from foreign economic dominance
the Cuban government, in August 1960, nationalized the American-owned tele-
phone and electricity companies and 36 sugar mills, including US$800 million in US
assets. The US reacted and immediately tried to push through a resolution by the
Organization of American States (OAS) condemning "extra-continental," specifi-
cally Soviet, intervention in the Western Hemisphere. Cuba responded by estab-
lishing diplomatic relations with Communist China and encouraged other Latin
American countries to throw off US neo-colonial control. The Ping-Pong manner of
action and reaction in the Cuban-US "war" has had a long history: the economic
embargo beginning in 1960, the attempted Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961, the
May Day speech of that year at which Fidel Castro publicly reaffirmed that the
Cuban Revolution was socialist. The battle continued with the full trade embargo
against Cuba in June of 1961, the expulsion of Cuba from the OAS in January of
1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, the re-establishing of the Commu-
nistic Party in Cuba in 1965, the CIA supported killing of Che Guevara in Bolivia in
1967. And so it went, until thirty-seven years later the Helms-Burton Bill tried to do
the same thing the US did in 1960, attempting to break economic relations with any
country, especially Caribbean nations, that had financial connections with Cuba.
Why the revolution? Because Cuba was being victimized and exploited by
American capitalism. Because the vast majority of Cubans wanted to develop
within their own identity and culture as a nation and because few benefited from the
resources of their own country. Can one truly argue against the intentions and
purpose behind the Cuban Revolution unless one is seeking solely the personal
profit of American capitalism? It is quite remarkable that Fidel Castro and others
were able to bring about this revolutionary change in their own country in spite of
the numerous attempts to prevent and destabilize it. It is time for the US govern-
ment to stop being the adolescent child it is in bullying a small developing country
because it has a different vision of social and political life, especially when that
vision is one which is seeking a more independent, just and equal society. It is time
that the US government stop being inconsistent in its "fight for freedom" when it has
its own long history of military aid to South American dictators. It is time that the
US government and foreign policy allow the spirit of the American Revolution to be
lived out in countries now developing with that same spirit of independence and
identity. Can the US government finally mature so as to be a wise, loving friend
who will no longer intimidate younger and different social, political and economic
visions? If not, the US will leave itself open to the fate of an empire that falls at their
own hand due to its exploitation, lack of openness and failure of acceptance of
The Revolution: Its accomplishments, its failures
By understanding the history of the revolution, one can better interpret its
full significance. The revolution's immediate and obvious accomplishments are
that Cuba was formally independent from imposed foreign rule, both political and
economical. The strong separations of economic classes, where few benefited,
ended. Equality for all Cubans was a primary intention of the Revolution and its
immediate accomplishment. After time, illiteracy was, for the most part, eliminated.
Access to education and health for all Cubans was the hope of the revolution and
also its accomplishment.
During the first decade of the revolution Cuba's economy struggled. Che
Guevara became the President of the National Bank and the inexperience of its
leaders along with the departure of many trained people ended in disorganization.
There were falls in production, declining quality and growing bureaucracy. Later as
Minister of Industries, Guevara pushed for centralization and moral rather than
material incentives for workers. Within this revolutionary move, small businesses
and holdings were nationalized, and self-employment and private trading were
banned. Even with strong Soviet aid, Cuba's economy was near disaster. Never-
theless, by 1963 more than two thirds of Cuba's farmland was now owned by Cuba
rather than by the US.
The situation improved slowly during the 1970s when a new generation of
managers and technicians, dedicated to the revolution, graduated from the free
education they received and replaced those that left. Half of Cuba's 6,000 medical
doctors left during the 60s but by 1974 there were 9,000. At the time of the
revolution there was one University, now there are over 47 institutions of higher
education. But Soviet aid did not remedy the deeper problems of Cuba's economic
planning; things were more centralized, but arbitrary decisions were still being
made. Trade with the Soviet Union increased from 65% in the early 70s to 87% in
1988. This dependency continues to cripple Cuba's economy today, calling the
people to endure the initial five-year period especial (special period) austere
programme initiated in August 1990.
In the struggle to keep the socialism of the revolution alive without gener-
ous Soviet aid, Castro and his government have moved toward tourism as a source
of foreign income indicating openness to the "free market" system of the First
World. Prior to 1993 the government legally prevented Cubans to possess US
dollars. In August 1993 the Cuban constitution was amended to allow Cubans to
hold foreign currency, to open dollar bank accounts and to spend cash dollars at
hard currency shops, called "shopping" (this is a noun and indicates the type of
store it is). In September 1993 self-employment was legalized in more than 100
trades. In August 1994, taxes on dollar incomes and profits were established and
farmers markets were opened in October of that same year. A new law was
approved in September 1995 that allowed foreign companies to operate entirely
owned businesses and to possess real estate in Cuba. The workforce, however,
was to be controlled by the Cuban state. Prior to this, only joint ventures with
state-owned companies were permitted. It is this public openness to a First World
economy and its free market system that Fidel Castro and the Cuban government
have shown their own flexibility, yet, it is now their greatest challenge in their hope
to maintain the purpose of the revolution and to keep socialism alive. With one
economy and one monetary exchange, the small salaries of the workers would be
relatively just in view of the low cost of living in such a closed system. Now that
Cuba has opened itself to the world and has an economy of US dollars within its
own economy of Cuban pesos, there needs to be a real initiative, on the side of the
Cuban government, to pay its workers higher salaries.
The result of these economic reforms is the re-emergence of two classes,
those who have access to US dollars and therefore can purchase certain goods
and those who do not have access and cannot purchase. The salaries for Cubans,
whether one's profession is medical doctor, lawyer or social service agent, are the
equivalent in Cuban pesos of $20 $40 (US) per month. With !uch salaries any
goods in a "shopping" are out of reach. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, dentists are
driving taxis because of the tips of US dollars. It is sad to witness that this has also
brought about the reappearance of prostitution whereby a woman can earn in one
evening five times what a woman working legitimately can earn in a month. It is no
surprise that young women will choose this direction when there are so few other
opportunities to advance economically.
However, personal profit cannot be the sole intention of life. I experienced
on several occasions in Cuba how people are very generous in what they do and
how they give of themselves when money is not the primary concern.
Specific Aspects of My Reflection
I ask the question: What is behind the fear of the United States that erupts
in hostility when a small country tries to develop on her own? Could not the
American government, with all its wealth and power help, rather than hinder, a
country trying to do what the US did over 200 years ago in its own fight for political
and economic independence? It is my reflection that the personal profit inherent
in a liberal capitalistic system instils in that system a fear of losing the necessary
means of gaining the capital needed for the system to maintain itself. This is why
the US capitalistic system must necessarily go out of its own national structure to
find "cheap labour" and "few taxes." When the external resources "dry up" and
the world is getting smaller and smaller the system will show its inherent flaws.
And it must then admit them. When the Cold War between the Super Powers
ended due to the seeming flaws of Soviet socialism, for example, there was (and
still is) the belief that capitalism works and socialism fails. Although it is still too
early to determine the failure or future success of socialism in Eastern Europe, it is
my reflection that socialism is far from dead. On the contrary it is developing into a
more stable, secure condition. It is in process and evolution, similar to any aspect
of our world and its history. Why is socialism not dead? Because "socialism
means breaking the blockade of private monopoly ownership of the means of
production." Cuban socialism has actually resisted the attempts by the United
States to monopolize and exploit Cuba over many years. Fidel Castro and the
Cuban government have proved through difficulties that they will struggle to the
end rather than give up their beliefs of justice and self-determination.
We want a world without hegemony, without nuclear arms, without racism,
without nationalist and religious hatred, without outrages against the sovereignty of
any country, and with respect for peoples independence and free self-determina-
tion; a world without universal models which completely fail to consider the tradi-
tions and cultures of all the peoples that make up humanity, without cruel
blockades which kill men, women and children, young people and old, like silent
We want a world of peace, justice and dignity, in which everybody, without
any exception, has the right to well-being and to life 6
This is what Fidel Castro and the Cuban people of the revolution want but
they have been and continue to be prevented from living out this desire to its fullest
because of the exploitation inherent in US American capitalism and its history of
monopolizing Cuban resources. The socialism of Cuba has survived, with its
admitted problems, despite all the predictions of its imminent downfall due to the
loss of Soviet aid. There is an inbred need to pursue other countries' economic
resources within the capitalistic system. When I am outside of the US, which is
most of the time, I find myself angry and resentful when I encounter this manner of
exploitation. Moreover, US propaganda not only justifies this behaviour but also
glorifies it, painting American leaders as "freedom fighters" and promoters of
"human rights." A clear example of the worst of US American capitalism occurred
a few years ago when George Bush's son Jeb rushed to establish a $10 billion
corporation that would "cash in" (nice capitalist words for "exploit" and "monopo-
lize") at the fall of the revolutionary government; if Cuba's factories, stores, offices,
farms, hospitals and hotels were to return to private ownership like "the good ole
days," the US would be posed to "cash in" again. This is simply unjust, exploitive
and evil. The spirit of the American Way, the generosity of many American people
should not enable the US economy and government to "cash in" on another
country's resources, to the detriment of its own self-identity and self-development.
I am not alone in my critique of US imposition. The Helms-Burton Act, in
trying to superimpose US law on external commercial activities, has already
angered countries all over the world. In an unprecedented act of self-identity, the
Organization of American States "voted nearly unanimously the US delegate cast
the lone dissenting vote to condemn it."7 Furthermore, the US's closest neigh-
bours, Canada and Mexico are contesting it as a violation of the North American
Free Trade agreement. Other allies such as Britain, France and European coun-
tries are taking it to the World Court. The US government and economic leaders
must learn from the international ground swell of criticismwhich exists when they
persist in imposing their imperialism on other countries, even on their so-called
Another element that this reflection needs to address is the criticism that
Fidel Castro does not allow for free elections and that he is a self-appointed head
of state. During the three decades the two Super-powers were playing off of each
other, Cuba was able to defend itself against opposition with the support of the
Soviet Union. What took place in Ch;le from 197n to 1973 with Allende Salvador
indicates that it is almost impossible to carry out a genuine social revolution in Latin
America with an intact military and parliamentary opposition subject to outside
manipulation by the US. Had Fidel Castro allowed the checks and balances of
modern democracy to exist in Cuba after 1961 with free elections, a free press, an
independent Judiciary, etc., his revolution would most likely not have succeeded.8
With the changes in revolutionary reforms and the gradual opening toward the free
market, the freedom of religion, internal elections, and the ability to leave the
country, "the Comandante" is demonstrating his flexibility now that the revolution
has established itself. Furthermore, Fidel is presenting and developing a different
and more organic understanding of "democracy." Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, former
Cuban Vice-President, explains the democracy of socialism.
One has to remember the words of Abraham Lincoln in his famous speech
on the subject [i.e. democracy], in Gettysburg. Lincoln said that democracy was
"the government of the people, by the people and for the people." There is no place
better than a socialist country to establish such a government. I may say that our
socialist society in Cuba has made this goal the aim of our struggle. Never before
in Cuban history had there existed a government of the people. Only with socialism
has it been possible to attain such a goal. Ours is an authentic government of the
people, based on the decisions of the majority of the population. At the same time,
it has even been admitted by our enemies that the results of Cuban socialism are
clearly seen. Cuba is an example in Latin America of equality, which contrasts with
inequality that prevails in the other Latin American and Caribbean countries.9
In this reflection on Cuba, I have come to discover more about the US and
its history of intervention, invasion and its "either/or" attitude toward US "demo-
cratic freedom." "Free elections" are sometimes about as "free" as the "freedom"
Ronald Reagan and the US government fought to have in Nicaragua through the
"freedom fighters" of the 80s, or the "freedom" in the US "free elections" in which
one needs thousands of millions of dollars to run in a campaign. As Carlos Rafael
there are shortcomings in our democracy and we
want to improve it... But what I want to tell you is
that the system that we have had is the most
democratic that has existed in the Americas, in-
cluding North America...What I want to empha-
size is that democracy is linked essentially to
socialism and will exist only in a socialist society.
Democracy is our aim, our purpose, and I am sure
that it will be supported by the Cuban population
in the future as it has been in tLe past.10
In having come to discover the exploitative relation that the US has had to
Cuba, and in the context of my own personal preference for a more socialist
economic system in which the "common good" is of greater importance than the
profit-driven dictates of US capitalism, I have come to understand better how the
revolution and its Comandante have had to consciously and seriously oppose the
many US attempts to destabilize the revolution and socialism itself. As I stated
earlier, if Castro had allowed free elections and all of the so-called "democratic"
elements in the earlier years of the revolution, the revolution and socialism would
not have taken root. It is now time, however, to let the values of socialism and the
revolution to flourish on their own. The reforms of socialist and communist parties
in Eastern European elections are an indication that socialism is not dead but
developing. This "opening up," which the government of Cuba is displaying, should
continue, but it requires that the US government allow the Cuban people to develop
on their own and within their own socio-economic political system. The US should
cease to spend millions of dollars in covert destabilizing manoeuvres. The afore-
mentioned "either/or" mentality of US foreign policy toward developing countries
needs to mature toward a more global sense of world nationality and inde-
pendence. As such, there would be a move from a myopic understanding of the
world to an appreciation of the world's complexity, thus humanizing Americans in
the process. While understanding democracy in broader terms I must comment on
the external democratic quality and social behaviour that Fidel Castro shows his
people and the world. Never, and I have lived in several foreign countries, have I
experienced a President so much with the people, for the people. In general,
Fidel's audiences are made up of all types, campesinos, students, solidarity bri-
gades from other countries whatever group has organized the event. Fidel's
speeches and public presentations are "amazing for their candour, their realistic
and often self-critical discussion in detail of how things stand for the revolution,
given all the hurdles placed before it".11 A few days before Pope John Paul II
visited Cuba, I watched and listened to Fidel Castro converse with the press for
over five hours without any sort of break. By contrast, how prepared, how planned,
how short and removed are US "democratic" Presidents' State of the Union or any
other public conference or presentation? The US's way of proceeding in public
conferences carefully selects those who are close enough to ask questions and are
paid generous salaries as they hobnob with the representatives of the very rich.
With this comparison between the US's and Cuba's way of proceeding, one can
recognize that "democracy" now needs to be understood within a broader and
richer cultural, national meaning.
A further element of my reflection is that which deals with the criticism
against Cuba's human rights. In response to this criticism I will allow Fidel Castro
to speak for himself in the words he gave in his speech of the Bay of Pigs 35th
Our independence requires struggle and sacri-
fice. Our dignity, our honour, our right to pro-
gress, our tomorrow, our future everything they
want to take away from us costs dearly. But all of
us ...who have had the privilege of feeling pride,
dignity and honour, of feeling what our country is,
of feeling all those beautiful things which are
worth fighting for, are determined to pay the price,
because we will never resign ourselves to living
The most basic human right the right to be treated as an equal is now
deeply rooted in Cuba's social soil but, like "free elections," "human rights" can be
criticized in narrow and prejudicial ways. It is a fact that many individuals were and
are held in Cuban prisons simply for voicing opinions critical of Cuba's present
leadership or for attempting to organize a political opposition. This surely needs to
be condemned but one also needs to understand the reasoning behind the govern-
ment's actions. As our brief history has shown us, Cuba is a small country which
has consistently and seriously been threatened, both covertly and overtly, with US
attempts to destabilize. People are imprisoned for political reasons in Cuba be-
cause of the "war" waged by her powerful neighbour. However, unlike many Latin
American countries, which have been politically and economically aided by the US,
(the most hideous being the recent case in El Salvador where US money paid for
the military training that murdered the six Jesuits and two women); there are no
"death squads" in Cuba carrying out extra-judicial murders and unexplained "disap-
pearances" of people are unknown. Cases of torture during detention or sexual
abuse of women by the security forces are also extremely rare, if they happen at
all. Police violence and official corruption are, if bi ug'it to public awareness,
severely punished. Compared to countries like Colurnmb "'eru, Brazil, Venezuela
and El Salvador, Cuba's human rights record is quite good.13
When considering the human rights in Cuba one must know that the
revolution is an ongoing process and that Cubans continue to benefit from it,
although in limited ways. Even after the break down of Soviet aid "not a single
school has been closed, not a single day-care centre, not a single home for the
elderly, not a single pre-school, not a single institute or educational facility, not a
single scientific centre... Not a single polyclinic or hospital has been shut down, not
one! No family doctor has had to leave his post, not one!" In this reflection on
Cuba, I have come to admire her human rights within a larger picture of overall
benefit and have begun to question the "human rights" within US capitalism. For
example, I was reflecting on how the ministries that the Catholic Church runs in
Jamaica and in the US (e.g. housing for the elderly and homeless, soup kitchens,
Homes for the mentally handicapped, etc.) are simply not needed in Cuba as they
are in capitalistic countries. The government takes care of the "needy" in Cuba as
much as possible within the US embargo. There is an abundance of doctors,
nurses, teachers, but no medicine and books, mostly because of the economic
blockade. When the US criticizes Cuba and its human rights it needs to look more
deeply into the financial institutions and the economic policies it supports and
promotes. While the International Monetary Fund attacks the human rights of Third
World countries that it does not control, does it consider the millions of people it
impoverishes through its crippling austerity programmes? Despite all its problems,
Cuba's health and educational facilities are more accessible to the average citizen
than those of many rich countries, especially the US. Basic human rights such as
these are often overlooked by human-rights activists.15
The Power of Propaganda
Never have I become more aware of the power of propaganda than on two
personal occasions, both of which dealt with the Presidents of two Caribbean
countries: Jean Bertrand Aristide in Haiti and Fidel Castro in Cuba. As a Salesian
priest, Aristide struggled for the poor of his desolate country. In May of 1990,
before elections in Haiti he came to Jamaica for a Conference of Christian Social
Teachings in the Caribbean, merely as a priest to speak at the Conference.
Listening to his charismatic talk and presentation, I wondered how the CIA, be-
cause of what he had revealed regarding the US imperialism over his country, had
not yet assassinated him. I found out later that there were indeed several assassi-
nation attempts because of his anti-imperialistic attitude toward the US. Without
entering party politics, Aristide was elected President by a vast majority because he
was for the people, by the people. What could be more democratic? In brief, he
was a man for whom I had immense respect and to read the negative propaganda
about him in the US press was simply unbelievable. He spoke the truth of what the
US had done in Haiti and for this he became the "enemy," portrayed as a heartless
murderer with burning "necklaces" (automobile tyres burning around people's
necks) used against his opposition. I just knew the man I met was not like this. Did
certain people dislike him immensely? Yes, the wealthy disliked him. Did he
become the freely elected President in a country where corruption and violence
were commonplace and where there continued to be such types of killings? Yes.
But he is not the man described in the press. People who do not know of the
situation will believe what they read for the majority of US Americans are unaware
of what goes on outside the boundaries of the USA. It was this attitude toward
Aristide that delayed the US in helping the struggle for "freedom and democracy" in
Haiti when the coup d'etat took place in 1991.
In this same way the vast majority of US Americans believe Fidel Castro is
a ruthless ideologue and dictator who abuses human rights as a daily event.
Because sensationalism is the necessary ingredient for the US press, it [the press]
is willing to defame anyone to make the story, especially when it supports the
ideology of the US "either/or" mentality. Although Fidel Castro has very real
problems and challenges in his country which he must address, I respect the man
and what he has done in bringing about national identity, justice and self- develop-
ment. I always have to hold back my emotions when I am in the US and good
people make judgmental remarks regarding Fidel. I realize immediately that they
are responding because of the propaganda given them in the press. I have,
unfortunately, reached the point where I do not trust what I read in the US press
regarding foreign countries.
Workers World in New York tells another story of US propaganda and how
truth is changed so as to satisfy a hungry clientele. Grisworld explained how Fidel
Castro was responsible for presenting a report at the Third Congress for the Cuban
Communist Party in February 1986. He gave his presentation in a very detailed
speech of five hours. Most of the material was written out -uncharacteristic of him
- and he could not resist making extemporaneous remarks very characteristic of
him. Fidel explained that he had given up smoking his signature cigars at the
request of Cuba's public health officials, who wanted him to set a healthy example
for the population even though tobacco is an important Cuban export. He also
joked about how US President Ronald Reagan had just covered the entire State of
the Union in a speech lasting about 20 minutes. Upon return home, the editor of
Workers World was eager to see if there was any coverage in the US of the
congress in Cuba. Indeed there was: about half a minute, in which the announcer
said, "Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is dying of lung cancer. He has been forced by
his doctors to give up smoking and could only speak for 20 minutes at the recent
Communist Party Congress, instead of his usual marathon harangue.16
I had to come to Cuba to see, for myself, the country that is portrayed as
"poor" and "oppressed" with "starving," "faithless" people all trying to get on the
next boat to get to the USA. Although Cuba is not wealthy and can have the
appearance of being poor due to the lack of paint on buildings and homes, I saw no
one is starving, I saw no one really poor, that is without the basics of food, clothing
and shelter. Although it may be a stark minimal existence for some, it is not a
deprived one. In general I find Cuba to be a country of spirited, generous people
who have learned to survive and grow through struggles and difficulties. In many
ways their shared condition can be their blessing, making them the strong people
they are. After all, one of my personal proverbs is: "Shun not the struggle. Face it.
It is God's gift." Although there may not be much external hope for economic
advancement in Cuba, I did not see a listless, lazy people. Everyone manages to
find their own negocio (small business), whether it is selling pizzas, selling peanuts,
or refilling cigarette lighters. And they live full lives.
From my personal perspective, Cuba is not the country that the US
propaganda conveys. I was a bit ashamed this past September when I read an
article by a fellow Jesuit and recognized how the power of propaganda had affected
him. He returned to the US after a one week visit in Cuba condemning Fidel, the
revolution and even Cuba as a place falling apart, resulting from Fidel's "dated
phobias." He went with a propagandized agenda and returned with one. He was
observing and searching for confirmation of what he had thought prior to going
(NCR article, September 5, 1998). Consequently, I have lost trust in the US press
especially when dealing with foreign countries and US foreign policy. As my
mother always would say to us, her children, "I will trust you until you give me a
reason not to trust." I have shared two personal experiences that have led me to
distrust the US press. It will be very hard to restore this loss, but revolutions can
happen and can be successful. I will try to have some hope for change.
The Time for Synthesis, the Time for Reconciliation
Cuba, as a communist country, holds to the philosophy of Karl Marx's
Dialectical Materialism. The method of Marxism is based on the dialectical process
of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The synthesis evolves to be a new thesis,
which then has its new antithesis and so on. Marx's Dialectical Materialism is the
antithesis of a previous philosophy of Georg Frederich Hegel's Dialectical Idealism.
By studying and teaching Marxism and understanding the dialectical method I
asked myself: If Idealism is the thesis and materialism the antithesis, what is, then,
the synthesis? The synthesis is what I have called Dialectical Incarnationalism
whereby spirit and matter are distinct, theoretically, but not separate; where divine
and human are distinct but not separate. My time in Cuba was a great privilege for
me because it offered me the opportunity to reflect on the superstructure required
to complete this process in concrete, social, economic and political terms. As there
is a need for a synthesis between the two dialectical philosophies of idealism and
materialism, so too, there is need for a synthesis between personal profit-driven
capitalism and state-owned (atheistic) communism. The synthesis needs to take
the merits of each and fashion them into something new, thus reconciling both the
differences and the negativity that have arisen between the opposing ideologies.17
While it cannot be denied that the positive elements of capitalism are its
"freedom" and its concern for the individual, i.e. personal profit (personal profit
without the "common good" is the problem I am addressing), the positive element
of communism is its primary concern for the state and all the people of the state.
The importance of the common good cannot be underestimated. The common
good involves all aspects of a person's life: political, economic, social, cultural,
religious, etc., which enable him or her to be a full human person. In communism,
the overriding principle is "from each according to their ability, to each according to
their need." Socialism, in the evolutionary, dialectical process, is a stage prior to
communism that states "from each according to their ability, to each according to
the work performed." The manner of life and the "way of proceeding" as a Jesuit is
"communistic" in that one works and performs according to his ability and receives
according to his need. So too, the e ,;y Christian community was "communistic" in
that "[a]ll the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his
possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had...[t]here were no
needy persons among them" (Acts 4:32-44). Fidel Castro, and the Cuban revolu-
tion itself, fought and continue to fight so as to make sure that there are "no needy
persons among them," for ninguno es Cubano. It is for this reason, primarily, that I
support the revolution and its leader. Therefore, the freedom and the concern for
the individual of capitalism and the concern for the need of all members of the state
of communism must meet and synthesize. The time has arrived and reconciliation
among the two opposing ideologies must take place for the sake of all.
Proposing a synthetic model
Synthesis of these poles would entail a political, economic and social
system that would be a form of free, personal socialism whereby an individual, a
company, a nation would make financial, social and moral decisions as freely as
possible within the limits of concern for the common good. Governments would
have the responsibility to maintain this common good. A formal committee, a
counsel, a court, a Congress, a Parliament, whatever form it takes, would be the
body within the system.which brings about the balance and the actualization of
decisions and policies which respect the freedom of the individual, while at the
same time the concern of the common good. Synthesis of these two opposing
ideologies would require the appropriate education and commitment of the people.
It would mean the conscious intention to reconcile differences. The "enemy" is not
really an enemy but merely a dialectical "other". In reconciliation both sides would
learn from, develop with, and respect the other. As such, the synthesis of opposing
ideologies enables the dialectical process to evolve in the world while appreciating,
rather than annihilating, the complexity of the human person as a social, cultural,
The Pope's Visit and Religion in Cuba
In many ways John Paul II's visit to Cuba could be seen as an attempt to
reconcile and to synthesize. In this Pope's social teachings he has criticized and
even condemned both the exploitative impulse of liberal capitalism and the lack of
freedom and of the divine context in Marxist communism. As a philosopher, and as
a citizen of a communist country prior to his election as Pope, he was fully
knowledgeable of the dialectical process. He frequently speaks of the synthesis of
independence and dependence in economic and foreign policy, stressing what he
calls "interdependence." Hence, a relationship of mutual dependence and growth
must be attained. Similarly in John Paul Il's Centesimus Annus, he makes
reference to a "third way" which synthesizes the two opposing extremes. Is it not
time for all nations and all ideologies to help rather than hinder? To be
interdependent, bringing forth the dignity of each individual, while maintaining the
common good and need of all? The Pope's invitation and welcome in Cuba by
Fidel Castro and the Cuban people indicates their willingness to move toward the
truth and the hope which John Paul II promotes in his teachings. Can the USA do
likewise? It seems that the slight easing up of the embargo by President Bill
Clinton appears to be a result of the Pope's visit to Cuba and his condemnation of
this shameful, unjust policy. Hopefully, the Clinton administration will continue to
pull back until a complete dismantling of the blockade is attained.
It is worth clarifying Cuba's formal position regarding religion. Prior to the
revolution, 85% of Cubans were nominal Roman Catholics with 10% practising.
affluent class. The largest Protestant denomination prior to the revolution was
Baptist. Cuban Protestants were usually of the poorer classes and were granted
fewer privileges. They consequently had much less to lose in the revolution.
There were about 700 Catholic priests in Cuba prior to the revolution,
mostly from Spain. Afterwards, some 140 were expelled for reactionary political
activities and another 400 left voluntarily. The others were able to continue their
ministries unhindered. There are now about 220 priests in Cuba, the majority still
Church services were never prohibited in Cuba after the revolution. In
matters of church attendance, the general policy of the government is "live and let
live." There has never been religious persecution in Cuba although the separation
of church and state is quite clear. Consequently, the Nationalization of Education
Law of 1961 transferred control of Catholic and other private schools to the
government. In July 1992, there was an amendment given to the constitution
guaranteeing freedom of religion in Cuba, yet with restrictions that do limit prosely-
tizing beyond church walls.
Such laws indicate that Fidel Castro is not the suppressor of religion the
US propaganda makes him out to be. His book, Fidel & Religion, offers his more
complete position. When he was a student at a Jesuit College (secondary level),
he is said to have questioned why there were no students of colour. At that time,
Catholics were of the affluent class that would come to lose most in the revolution.
The hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has an unfortunate history of racism,
allying with the elite and promoting the status quo in poorer, developing countries.
Hence, one can understand Castro's policies toward the traditional Church when
he was bringing about revolutionary changes. This is all old and irrelevant history
now that John Paul and Fidel Castro have embraced each other.
It need be said, however, that the challenge of the Church in Cuba today is
to educate the people in faith and morals. I am saddened to have learned of the
number of routine abortions among young people. Although faith is alive in Cuba,
it is alive without solid education in the principles of faith and morals, or in the
Church as a whole.
When speaking of religion in Cuba, I must make reference to two powerful
cultural events: santerla and La Virgen de la Caridad. Santerla is the most popular
religion in Cuba. It is a blend of African spirituality brought over during the time of
slavery and Roman Catholic saints and devotions. The African slaves would
disguise their deities and their spirituality behind the practice and devotions of their
Catholic owners. What emerged is a Cuban hybrid. If one wants to know Cuba,
one must know about santerla. For me, that is a reflection for another time.
A second strong powerful cultural influence in Cuba and which I have more
personal knowledge and experience is devotion to the Patron Lady of Cuba, La
Virgen de la Caridad, The Virgin of Love. Whilst in the Province of Matanzas, La
Virgen made her annual visitations to every small town and community. From my
foreigner's perspective, I experienced La Virgen de la Caridad as bringing unity,
faith, hope and love.
As a naturalized Jamaican immersed in Jamaican culture, I was made to
recognize by the Papal visit and the devotion to La Virgen in Cuba certain cultural
differences between these two countries only 90 miles apart. Jamaica is mostly a
Protestant Christian country with a majority of people in evangelical and Pentecos-
tal churches. The most significant dividing aspects between Catholics and Protes-
tants (including the indigenous, quasi-Christian religion, Rastafari), are Mary and
the Pope. People without a proper understanding of the position these two figures
hold in the Catholic Church maintain a false belief that Catholics worship Mary and
the Pope. It is this lack of education that brings about religious antagonism. In
Cuba, the Pope and La Virgen brought about a unity among divisions because La
Virgen unites Cubans, regardless of denomination or faith, and they were brought
together by the Pope.
Personal Final Reflections
As I have stated earlier, it has been through this reflection on Cuba,
ironically, that I have actually discovered more about the US and its history of
intervention and exploitation in Cuba. Consequently, I have come to understand
better how Fidel Castro and the revolutionary movement have had to fight consis-
tently a "war" in order to bring the intentions of the revolution to actualization. As
one can assume, my reflection indicates a support of Comandante Fidel Castro
and the revolutionary process. Now that the revolution has established itself, it can
now develop and grow with a greater openness and flexibility. Within this develop-
ment, there are very important issues which need to be addressed. In conclusion,
I would like to clarify those issues if the revolution is to have its continued impact
and success in Cuba as a nation.
The two economies, the Cuban peso and the US dollar, and the two
socio-economic classes, those with US dollars and those without, can no longer be
separated. It is contrary to the revolution to be divided as such, and the division is
becoming larger. In the early 80s there was a "parallel market" in Jamaica which
was similar to that which has evolved in Cuba. The government in Jamaica, at that
time, quickly realized the country could not exist as such and therefore made the
Jamaican dollar the only official money exchanged. Whatever Fidel Castro and the
Cuban government have done since 1994 to bring the value of the Cuban peso
from 120 pesos to 1 US dollar, to 20 pesos to 1 dollar, which is the exchange rate
today, they must continue what they have been doing so as to have the peso and
dollar equal.18 With this increase in the value of the Cuban peso, the salaries need
to meet the cost of living on an international level. In that Cuba has opened itself up
to the First World through tourism, it needs to pay salaries so that Cubans can
purchase those goods needed for a moderate living. Related to this, there cannot
be a preferential concern for tourists over Cubans. This is contrary to the revolution
and its original intention. Although I could understand "Why?" from my experience
in Jamaica when she renewed tourism in the early 80s, I was surprised when I
discovered that Cubans could not enter hotels, Jeaches, resorts, etc., which are for
tourists. This must change for it appears to be a return to a way of Cuban life
existing prior to the revolution, which is exactly what the revolution intended to
To give genuine validity to socialism and the revolutionary government,
now that it is established, Cubans must be able to have the opportunity to come
and to go with greater ease. Similarly, there should be the occasion for differences
in opinion, and therefore different, political parties with broader "free elections."
With these elements in place, the socialism of the revolution would prove itself;
rather than making it seem as if it is imposed, the revolution can be seen as
The way in which Cuba can develop in this free, democratic way is if the
United States allows Cuba, and her government, to do so in their own way. To
bring about a reconciliation and a synthesis both sides need to be open. The reality
is that neither, alone, can work when all people and all nations are considered. The
freedom in a democracy (free elections) and an economy (free market) need to be
maintained, but the "common good" of socialism must not be lost. When the US
brings its capitalism to the world, it must ask the question, in respect and in justice,
"What does our economic decision and US cultural expansionism do for us and for
the people, the country and culture into which we move?" I see the issue so clearly
in Jamaica as US companies such as KFC, Burger King, McDonald's, TCBY,
Baskin Robbins, US TV, US commercials, US Tourism, etc., etc. "invade" a
country and its people. The world is becoming smaller and smaller so that a model
that creates a dichotomy of "independence" and "dependence" can no longer bear
fruit. Rather there must be a movement of "interdependence" whereby both
nations develop in and through the help of the other. It is here that I believe the
United States must begin to develop in its foreign policy and economic decisions. It
is here that Cuba can be more open to the challenges and benefits of the free
market economic system and a free elections democracy.
Finally, I would like to say that I would follow the government of Cuba, and
her leader, because the revolution's entire purpose and intention, with all of the
flaws and imposed struggles, is to make sure that each day, those among all the
children in the world sleeping in the streets, "not one is Cuban," "Ninguno es
Notes and References
1. 200 millones de ninos en el mundo duermen hoy en las calls. Ninguno es Cubano.
2. I was actually bom in Tokyo, Japan but by American parents, hence, my American citizenship.
3. For historical dates and information I have used two books: Cuba and the United States: A Chrono-
logical History by Jane Franklin, Ocean Press, 1997, hereafter cited as Cuba/US; and a small
book, Cuba by David Stanley, Lonely Planet Publications, 1997. Hereafter cited as Cuba.
4. The fact that the US trades with a "totalitarian" country like China shows the irony of some of the
5. Deldre Griswold, given in her Preface in Cuba at the Crossroads, Fidel Castro (Ocean Press: Mel-
boure New York) 1996, p. 10.
6. Fidel Castro to the United Nations, October 1995.
7. Fidel Castro, Cuba at the Crossroads, (Ocean Press: Melbourne) 1996, Preface, p. 9.
8. Cuba, p. 29. Hereafter cited Crossroads.
9. David Deutschmann, Cuba, socialism and the 'new world order": An interview with Cuban Vice-
president Carlos Rafael Rodrlguez, (Ocean Press, Melbourne) 1992, p. 20.
10. Ibid., p. 21.
11. Crossroads, Preface, p. 2.
12. Crossroads, p.148.
13. Cuba, p. 36.
14. Crossroads, p. 169.
15. Cuba, p. 36.
16. Crossroads, pp. 4-5.
17. From the encouragement of Cuban friends I sent a letter to Fidel Castro requesting a meeting.
This is a part of the reasons I want to talk with him. This part of the letter translated into English
explains my position. "Moreover, if possible, I would like to show and explain, very briefly, my
theology called Dialectical Incarnationalism. I studied and taught Marxism, and after under-
standing the dialectical method, I thought, 'If the Dialectical Idealism of Hegel is the thesis, and
the Dialectical Materialism of Marx is the antithesis, which Marx says, what is the synthesis of
this process. The synthesis is Dialectical Incarnationalism in which spirit and mater are distinct
but not separate, in which the divine and human are distinct, but not separate. Like in Marxism,
there is a superstructure, in Dialectical Incarnationalism there is also a superstructure. I am re-
flecting during my time in Cuba, a communist country, the elements of my system and those of
the Marxist system. I believe strongly, like you and the Revolution, that socialism is not dead but
is developing. The fundamental elements in the superstructure of Dialectical Incarnationalism is
love, freedom, transcendence, the dignity of the individual person and the common good. With
these elements I am trying to imagine a political, economic and social system. Perhaps we can
share our ideas."
This part of the original letter in Spanish: "AdemBs, si es possible, me gustarla mostrarle y explicarle,
muy brevemente, mi teologla, se llama "Encamaci6nalismo Dial6ctico." Estudi6 y ensene Marx-
ismo, y despu6s de entender el m6todo dialectico, yo pens6, LSi el Idealismo Dial6ctico de
Hegel as la tesis y Materialismo Dialectico es la antltesis, lo que Marx dijo, que es la slntesis de
este process? La slntesis es Encamacl6nalismo Dial6ctico en lo que el esplritu y el material
son distintos, pero no son separados, en lo que lo divino y human son distintos, pero no son
separados. Como en el Marxismo hay la superestructura, en Encamaci6nalismo Dial6ctico hay
tambi6n una superestructura. Estoy reflexionando durante mi tiempo con ustedes en Cuba, un
pals comunista, los elements juntos en mi sistema y el sistema del Marxismo. Creo con much
fuerza, como usted y la Revoluci6n, que el socialismo no es muerte, sino que se esta desarrol-
lando. Los elements fundamentals en la superestructura de Encarnaci6nalismo Dial6ctico
son el amor, la libertad, la transcendencia, la dignidad de cada human (individuo) y el bien
comdn. Con estos elements estoy tratando de imaginar un sistema politico, econ6mico y so-
cial. Tal vez, podemos compartir nuestras ideas."
18. There is actually a third type of money in Cuba. Pesos which are equal to the US dollar. Once
one uses pesos, it is easy to know the difference. Nevertheless, this seems to indicate Castros
desire to have the actual Cuban peso equal to the US dollar.
Half the Story: The uses of History in Jamaican political
One irony about the West Indian island nation of Jamaica is that while its
geographical boundaries are nature-given and unambiguous, the boundaries of its
history are nebulous and elusive. Centuries of colonialism and Plantation economy
left Jamaica a society'sharply divided on two closely related issues, race and class.
Among the segments of the population actively competing to define Jamaica's
history are the descendants of its founding groups: the vast majority whose fore-
bears were enslaved Africans, and the small minority, Europeans and others who,
or whose ancestors, voluntarily emigrated to the West Indies to find their fortunes
or make a living.
The formation of Jamaican society from these distinct segments allows a
number of options in framing the history of Jamaica. Is it merely a chapter in British
history? Is it an episode in the exploits of British and other European adventurers
and imperialists, such as William Penn, Henry Morgan and Governor Eyre? Might
it be cast instead as a continuation of Dahomian and Yoruban history, a develop-
ment in the chronicles of the Coromantee, Mandingoes, and other peoples of
Western Africa? Is it a history of a people emulating British culture and eventually
maturing into an independent Parliamentary democracy? Or is it a history of
African resistance against British domination and oppression, led by individuals like
Paul Bogle, Sam Sharpe and Marcus Garvey?
The problems of defining national history became especially pressing
when Jamaica was granted independence in 1962. The leaders who inherited
political power then were faced with the task of determining Jamaican history's
borders, scope and starting point. Absent here was a war of national liberation like
those that gave citizens in many new nations a sense of collective national history
and destiny that was like "cement ... mixed with blood and anger" (Fanon 1963;63).
This paper explores the ways that Jamaican political leaders rewrote their
nation's past in the first two decades of independence. Did they revise history to
build national unity or to strengthen the segments that divided the society? When,
for politicians, does Jamaican history begin and what frames did leaders select in
which to display Jamaican history? Does political discourse over the decades
indicate a shifting perspective on Jamaica's colonial past? Were the ways that the
political parties used history tied to the parties' programmematic concerns and
It is not the purpose of this paper to survey or criticize historical scholarship
about Jamaica, but rather it will focus on the ways scholarly histories, as well as
histories from other sources, made their way into political and social discourse.
The public presentation of history is the focus of a growing body of anthropological,
sociological, and historical literature (for example, Lyman 1978, Fraser and Butler
1986, Breen 1989, Norkunas 1993, Leon and Rosenzweig 1989, Horton and Crew
1989). These writers argue that segments of society, divided along an axis of
class or ethnicity, often express their contention and conflict in the struggle over
control of the public historical narrative.
A problem unique to post-colonial countries that have gained inde-
pendence without a national liberation movement (Lindsay 1975) is the need for its
leadership to dissociate its political power from that of the colonial power structure.
Nettl wrote that the newly independent nations' leaders face a paradoxical task:
"The need for continuity with the past ... coupled with the desire for maximum
dissociation from it." (1967, 205) This is especially true for leaders who have
negotiated independence from the metropolitan power after a period of "training"
for self-govermment (Munroe 1972, 29) that led them "away from creative activity
and toward emulative behaviour" (Munroe 1972, 34).
One way of accomplishing the task of dissociation is the rewriting of a
nation's history. Bernard Lewis suggested that a former colonial territory may try
"to rewrite the past first, to reveal the imperialists in all their well-concealed
villainy, and second ... to restore the true image of the pre-imperialist past which the
imperialists themselves had defaced and hidden" (1975, 96-97). Richard Melanson
suggests that the way leaders present their nation's history is an important part of
the process of legitimizing their current policies. Politicians, he wrote, "lace their
public utterances with a variety of historical references, including background
contexts, trends, anecdotes, analogies, parallels and lessons. Together these
pronouncements constitute an official or 'declaratory' history" (Melanson 1991, 27)
What is the likely content of Jamaican declaratory history? William A.
Green suggests that there is a pattern of two main approaches to Caribbean
history. One is that of 'imperial' historians, who see the cultural tensions between
segments of Caribbean society as "an enlightened and complex culture struggling
to subdue an unenlightened and primitive one in exceedingly difficult circum-
stances"(1993, 33). While he avoids clearly espousing the "imperial historical"
approach, he writes that it has certain advantages, such as its ability to see
Caribbean history in global perspective (1993, 36). The second approach to
Caribbean history is what he calls the "creolization" approach, in which Afro-Carib-
bean culture is, as he put it, elevated to a position of equality in a bipolar struggle"
in which "the island people," as, Green calls Africans in the Caribbean, resist the
domination of "their former imperial overlords." As exemplars of this approach,
Green cites Peter Wilson (1973), Monica Schuler (1980) and Lucille Mathurin
(1975). He argues that the creolization approach 'has enormous value in modem
political terms;" in other words, that this is the declaratory history of choice for
Caribbean politicians in early independence.
However, Green questions the Creolization approach's "merit in historical
terms." He names four grounds of criticism: First, it treats resistance as universal
and strong. Second, it asserts a homogeneous culture of Afro-Caribbeans' from
one island to the next. Third, it suggests that the Caribbean would have enjoyed
positive consequences from a dismantling of the plantation system immediately
after emancipation. And finally, it focuses too much attention on internal tensions,
"not tolerable for the British West Indies where society was profoundly, perpetually
and inescapably shaped by forces external to it" (1993, 36). 1 will return to these
four criticisms later in order to see if they are as true of Jamaican politicians'
declaratory history as Green believes they are of the Creolization approach in
This article explores Jamaican partisan declaratory history, focusing espe-
cially on those times when parties' communication with the public was most intense
and inclusive, namely elections, during the first two decades after independence.
During this period, Jamaica went from its independence government led by the
Jamaica Labour Party, through its experiment with democratic socialism, led by
Michael Manley's People's National Party, and finally to a conservative, pro-capital-
ist government in 1980 led by the Jamaica Labour Party under Edward Seaga's
leadership. The time period has proven to be a rich site for inquiry into issues of
national identity formation, ideological change and the political economy of post-
Table One: Election Results 1967-1980
Year Winning Party Party Leader Opposition Party Party Leader
1967 JLP Donald Sanoster PNP N.W. Manley
1972 PNP Michael Manley JLP Edward Seaga
1976 PNP Michael Manley JLP Edward Seaga
Edward Seaga PNP
One of the new frames of history used in the political discourse of the
period was borrowed from the Rastafarian perspective, along with the Rastafarian
symbols that were used in electoral politics (Waters 1985). Interestingly, both the
Rastafarians and the most Anglophilic of Jamaicans had in common the fact that
they sought historical grounding for Jamaica outside its territory: in Africa and in
England respectively (Nettleford 1972, 44). The Rastafarians' view of history
provides a fine illustration of Lewis' formulation about rewriting history with the aim
of revealing the villainy of imperialism. When the Europeans enslaved Africans,
Rastas say, they also stole African history. This history was misunderstood and
mistranslated, either deliberately or because of European ineptitude, and this
shoddy translation is what is known as the Bible. Because of the mistranslation,
Rastas believe that in that book, only half the history is told. Haile Selassie's
reputed ancestor, the Queen of Sheba, foretells this when she encounters King
Solomon and remarks, "The half was not told to me." Hence, the title of this paper.
In exploring politicians' presentations of history, to say that they tell half the story is
generous. Most political frames of history, it seems, tell much less than half the
The data on which this research is based were obtained in field research
during 1980-82 from reviews of 228 newspapers published near the four election
times, including Daily Gleaner, the Star, the Daily News, and Abeng, documents
obtained from the political parties, numerous formal and informal interviews with
Jamaican respondents, and personal observation of a number of party confer-
ences, festivals and informal political events.
Jamaica's first general election as an independent nation was not "critical"
(Key 1955) in that it did not involve mdjor realignments of voter categories. Clearly,
however, Jamaica's two political parties were in transition from the leadership
which founded the parties in the wake of the 1938 labour struggles to the new
younger leadership that would lead Jamaica in its first two decades of inde-
pendence. The Jamaica Labour Party, which held onto the government in this
election, was formally headed by Donald Sangster, but the JLP's charismatic
founder, Alexander Bustamante, was the party's informal leader and retained
control over the JLP's mass organization, the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union.
The People's National Party was still headed by its founder, Norman Washington
Manley, while Manley's son Michael was on the ascendancy as a trade union
In 1967, neither party was particularly reflective about the history of the
nation. The most urgent messages centred on the present; escalating political
violence conceded leaders of both parties, who publicly called for peace.
The most striking feature of the declaratory history of this election period is
the use of personal histories, reminiscent of the distinction that Breen (1989)
makes in his study of East Hampton histories between the "micro-histories" or
family histories and the "macro' or community history. The birthdays of the two
founding leaders, Bustamante and NW Manley, are observed; their birthplaces are
restored; a celebration marks the 25th anniversary of the date that Busta (as he
was known) was released from prison by British authorities. Seaga, the rising star
of the JLP, in a speech at the celebration keyed the important moments in
Jamaican history to Busta's role in them: the first elections of 1944, the federation
referendum, when the JLP led the anti-federation movement, and the inde-
pendence year (1962) elections. (Weekly Gleaner, [hereafter, WG] 2/15/67, 26).
There were numerous references to Jamaica's British heritage, but few
were negative or critical. One occasion that might have provided an opportunity to
frame Jamaica's history as a conflict between the British and the African-Caribbean
sectors was the anniversary celebration of Busta's release, but this opportunity was
carefully avoided. Instead, it was noted that Busta's release was "not accompanied
by any wave of hatred against the British or the governor" (WG 2/15/67, 25).
Likewise, a reprinted article from the Miami Herald called the Parliamentary system
the "heritage of centuries of British rule" and Jamaica's "strength as it approaches
the most important election in its short history" (WG 2/15/67, 7).
Still in use at the time was the language of the "theory of maturity" (Toure
1960) or "preparation" (Schaffer 1965), in which political independence was with-
held from colonies awaiting their acceptance of British institutions, at which point
they were deemed "mature" enough for self-government, or "tutulary" democracy.
Buying freely into this form of discourse, a Gleaner editorial asserted that this was
the first election in which Jamaica could prove itself "responsible."
However camouflaged by parliamentary para-
phernalia, Britain stood in previous elections as
the ultimate guarantor of the grant of poll... This
[election] is the test ... which separates the men of
independence from the boys of 'chip on the shoul-
der' colonialism (WG 3/1/67, 17).
Ken Hill and Edwara Seaga offered the only deviations from this common
historical frame. At a public meeting in Kingston, Norman Manley noted that the
JLP government seemed to be travelling "the same colonial road." On the same
platform, Ken Hill, representing the left wing of the PNP and one of the group
called the 'Four H's" who were expelled from the party in 1952 and later reinstated,
was a bit more strident in his anti-colonialism:
The issue is whether we shall continue to move
under the shadow of British colonialism or
whether we will change Jamaica into a free Ja-
maican independent society a society in which
equality of opportunity for all people will become
the household word and the street cry of the
masses." He urged that Jamaicans who want to
be "free from the grosser aspects of a dying colo-
nialism should vote PNP (Daily Gleaner, [hereaf-
ter, DG] 2/17/67, 15).
One respondent noted that the JLP never used Afro-Caribbean cultural
references except under the influence of Edward Seaga. Seaga, a Boston-born
child of Syrian-Jamaican parents, studied sociology and folklore at Harvard Col-
lege, and had done fieldwork among the Revivalists, where he gained their admira-
tion and became a consecrated shepherd of the Revivalist cult (DG 10/5/80, 15).
He had become a member of parliament in 1962, and Minister of Development and
Welfare thereafter. He used his post to launch a cultural development program-
meme that reframed history significantly.
Seaga's pre-1967 accomplishments were highlighted in several distinct
JLP advertisements. Among them were the recovery of the remains of Marcus
Garvey, the Jamaican Black Nationalist who had died in England and had been
buried unceremoniously. Seaga arranged for Garvey's bones to be exhumed and
returned to Jamaica, where he had a monument built for the new grave in Kingston.
Seaga took credit for the founding of the National Hero's Award, and for the
elevation to the status of National Hero of Paul Bogle and George William Gordon,
heroes of the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865. The two advertisements that featured
these accomplishments were virtually the only references to Jamaica's history of
resistance against slavery and other British institutions.
The late 1960s brought a major challenge to the paradigm that framed
Jamaican history as one of British heritage and gradual preparation for self-rule. In
this context, it is not surprising to find a historian behind one of the most dramatic
outpourings of frustration and anger in Jamaican history. Walter Rodney, the
Guyanese historian who had studied in England and Africa, was appointed a
lecturer in African history at the University of the West Indies. There he had openly
espoused black power ideology and brought students together with community
activists and Rastafarians. In October, 1968, the JLP government decided to ban
Rodney from returning to the island from a conference (Thomas, 1982). Rodney's
students protested the decision with a march through Kingston, inciting demonstra-
tions along the way. Fifty buses were burned, fourteen major fires were started,
three persons were killed and numerous others injured.
While he was still at UWI, Rodney had proposed teaching African history in
West Indian schools, a proposal echoed by Michael Manley in his first budget
speech as the new party leader in 1969:
We are still trapped in the legacy of our history ...
An epoch of brainwashing in a white-oriented so-
ciety has left scars which, however unconscious,
mar the inner assurance with which black people
accept their own norms of beauty and excellence.
I propose the teaching of African history and of a
realistic reinterpretation of Jamaican history as
standard elements of our school curriculum to
help undo the damage of the ages and set our
present attitudes in a framework of historical
truth.(PNP Document; 1969 Budget Speech).
The task of reformulating history was accomplished in part by the members
of a collective called Abeng, which published a newspaper of the same name. The
Abeng was a cowhom bugle used for communication among Maroon warriors
during their wars against the British plantation owners in the eighteenth century.
The contributions of the Maroons to Jamaican history were never mentioned in the
1967 election period; they clearly did not fit the frame of political "maturity." In
contrast, Abeng stressed the Maroons, Marcus Garvey, and slave resistance.
Parallels were drawn in its pages between repression in the days of slavery, when
plantation owners outlawed slaves' drums, and the propensity of the JLP to ban
even mildly critical reggae songs from radio airplay. Although the organization did
not last long, former Abeng members went on to play influential roles in the PNP
and other organizations.
By the time of the 1972 election period, the new framework for Jamaican
history was clearly emerging in PNP materials, but was not as overtly articulated as
one would expect. Instead, the PNP exposed the contemporary rifts in Jamaican
society as parallels to Biblical history. Michael Manley chose a term that had
significance both to Protestant Jamaicans and to Rastafarians when he called
Jamaica under the JLP, "Babylon" (DG 2/7/72, 1). To his followers, Manley was
Joshua and Prime Minister Hugh Sheirer was the Pharaoh.
The ILP, in contrast, still utilized the framework of personal or micro-his-
tory. Again, Busta's release from prison thirty years earlier was recognized, and
the election date was set by the JLP at three days before Busta's birthday, in order
to deliver him a present of a JLP third term. The election date turned out to be
Edna Manley's birthday, and she got the gift as well.
One JLP advertisement brought into focus another event that could be
seen as a starting point in Jamaica's history: its "discovery" by Christopher Colum-
bus. The ad compares the JLP government's performance since 1962 with the
"five hundred years of government" that preceded it (DG 2/16/72, 11), as if that
were one undifferentiated political institution.
By 1976, the PNP government headed by Michael Manley had reaffirmed
its commitment to Democratic Socialism, re-established friendly relations with
Cuba, levied a stiff tax on bauxite, and challenged the development path espoused
by the International Monetary Fund. Manley's government had furthered the
revision of history in 1975 by naming two new National Heroes: Nanny, a Maroon
folk hero known for resistance against the British, and Sam Sharpe, who led a
rebellion in 1830 that deeply shook the slave-hulding world.2
These two new heroes figure significantly in PNP materials for that year.
For example, an advertisement about women's rights under the PNP government
proclaims, "in the name of Nanny and all our brave foremothers who began the
struggle for our freedom, let us not turn back now..." (DG 12/14/76, 26). The PNP
held rallies in the newly renamed Sam Sharpe Square (WG 11/23/76, 6). These
two heroes were not stressed in JLP materials.
Meanwhile, Edward Seaga had become leader of his party, and was able
to assert his framework of history more forcefully in JLP propaganda during the
1976 election campaign. For example, a two-page JLP ad mentions Seaga's role
in returning Garvey's remains to Jamaica and in founding the National Hero
Award's (DG 11/28/76, 8-9) Seaga also mentioned thes- accomplishments in
public speeches (e.g. DG 11/29/76, 18).
The election materials for 1976 clearly articulate the alternative framework
for Jamaican history that calls attention to the resistance that enslaved Africans
called forth against the British oppressors. For example, a PNP press release
alluded to the Maroons, Bogle, and Garvey, and equated their struggles with the
Land-Lease programmeme that the PNP had effected.
It is clear in fact that references to slavery served as declaratory history for
the controversial land-lease programme. In ;. public speech, Manley puts the
Land-Lease programme into further historical context. According to a Gleaner
report, Manley said that he was personally grieved whenever he thought of the
period of emancipation, during which thousands of sons and daughters of slaves
took to the hills ... to escape the plantation system. For years they had stood on the
hills, looking down on the flat land, most of which were idle, wondering when would
they have a chance to obtain some of those lands to farm. Mr. Manley said he felt
proud to know that at last, the same lands were now being passed on to these
hillside farmers, whose ancestors had worked them for centuries without reward.
(DG 11/29/76, 10).
An unofficial pro-PNP pamphlet in discussing the slogan of the JLP, "Turn
Them Back" asserted:
'Turn them back' is the slogan of the JLP. This
slogan is not new. This slogan was used against
Nanny ... Bogle ... Garvey ... Sam Sharpe. It
means turn them back to slavery, to be bought
and sold like cattle like our forefathers ... back to
the days when land was for the privileged and
poor black people could only occupy hillside land
... If you were white, everything was alright, if you
were browr, you could stick around, if you were
black, you had to stfad back.
In another speech, Manley called the 1976 election the "decisive moment
in the history of our nation," and spoke of the inevitability of change, putting the
PNP alongside other movements for change, including the slaves' struggle against
oppression, and the struggles of Paul Bogle, Marcus Garvey, Busta and NW. (DG
11/29/76, 18; see also WG 11/30/76, 6).
The PNP accused the JLP leaders of being "tools of the clique" that fought
against Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle, and Marcus Garvey (PNP Notes for canvassers,
1976). Also, Manley equated capitalism with slavery. (DG 12/13/76, 2)
While not as consistently, JLP materials sometimes echoed this theme. A
release by candidate Bobby Marsh includes virtually the first overt reference to the
period of slavery by the JLP: "In 1838 the sounds of FREEDOM rang throughout
Jamaica they were the joyful cries of our ancestors shouting 'freedom from
slavery.'" He claimed that the JLP is continuing the struggle by Bogle, Gordon,
Garvey and Busta. (DG 12/9/76, 21) At another meeting, JLP candidate Barlow
Ricketts asked the audience if they wanted to "go back to the old slavery system
whereby the ownership of land were (sic) denied them?" (DG 12/14/76, Half the
History page 159). Likewise, a Young Jamaica (JLP) advertisement combines
religious symbols with historical references to slavery: "For freedom Christ has set
us free, stand fast therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (DG
"Freedom" was a catchword often used by both parties, but for the JLP it
was a primary slogan. It sometimes inferred freedom from slavery, but by 1976, it
more often connoted freedom from communism or socialism (e.g. DG 12/9/76, 21;
DG 11/24/76, 27).
The personal history that was so key in previous elections is not as evident
here, except in a negative way. Seaga claimed that there had been many defec-
tors from the PNP, because "this PNP is not the PNP that they knew and were
brought up in under Norman Manley" (WG 12/7/76, 4). A pro-PNP columnist noted
that there was "no evident connection with the traditional JLP of the Bustamante
period" (DG 12/6/76, 12).
William Green characterizes the Creolization approach as myopic, unable
to see historical events in a global perspective. In contrast, the way history was
used in the 1976 election begins to focus attention on global conflicts where such
attention was missing in previous elections. At the opening of a cultural centre,
Prime Minister Manley contextualizes the Creolization version globally:
And culture in the Eurocentric meaning of the
term has really been the privilege of the rich ...
The privileged in the society because of their ex-
posure to the solid diet of foreign culture, had
been conditioned in their belief that only the music
and art of Europe was worthwhile. And the chil-
dren of the poor, with minimal exposure to any
form of artistic endeavour, have had one more
reason to feel themselves at the bottom of the
ladder. So we can see where the colonial experi-
ence has placed us as a people. All colonial
nations have suffered the same fate, and all have
been subjected to the cultural brainwashing of the
colonial masters. (WG 11/23/76)
Similarly, Manley defended his statements of support for Cuba by pointing
out that "All third world countries share a common experience of domination ...
Consequently, we are all determined never to be dominated by any outside source
in the future" (WG 12/14/76, 18).
Curiously, in another speech Manley claimed this domination only dated
back one hundred years (WG 12/21/76, 8).
The signal feature of the 1980 election was violence; more than 750
people, including one candidate, were killed in election-related shootings. In the
urgency of the gun-fever and the drama of the Evangelicals' provocative predic-
tions of communist terrors should the PNP win, there seemed to be precious little
time for pondering Jamaican history.
Each party claimed Marcus Garvey's heritage as its own (DG 10/16/80, 7).
The JLP, claiming that the PNP was a communist party, unearthed and repeated
anti-Communist statements Garvey had made during the 1930s when the Reds in
Harlem competed for members with his own Universal Negro Improvement Asso-
ciation (DG 10/19/76, 21).
The other party's intentions were akin to slavery, both parties averred. A
pro-JLP columnist claimed that the PNP represented "tyranny more certain and
more efficient than that of the slave-master in plantation days because the PNP
will always be subsidized by very rich Communist foreigners" (DG 10/5/80, 10). A
PNP ad asking for contributions said, "We must pay for our freedom others are
paying to enslave us" ( Daily News, 10/3/80, 8).
The PNP continued to evoke the National Heroes, claiming that Nanny's
slogan was the same slogan that the PNP used: "No Turning Back"( Daily News,
10/13/80, 4). A PNP ad claimed that Nanny had fought against "fascism' and
claimed that PNP programmes continued the struggles that the national heroes
began: "Today we say with pride tnat through mne programmes of democratic
socialism the government of the PNP has kept faith with our heroes to see that their
efforts are being fulfilled, their dreams are being realized, and their mission being
accomplished ... The PNP's mission today is the stand firm, and to pursue ... the
programmemes which our heroes started and which the PNP upholds" ( Daily
News, 10/16/80, suppl.). The Maroons themselves had been evoked so often that
they felt the need to issue a statement that they were "not interested in dealing with
any political party whatsoever" (DG 10/1/80, 2).
In a reflective discussion of Jamaica's twentieth century history, Michael
Manley remarks on what might be called "Jamaican exceptionalism": why was the
national movement in Jamaica not the emotional centre of struggle that it was in
India or in the African colonies? Manley attributes this exceptionalism in part to the
seeming Jamaicanness of the local elite. The peasantry "blamed the local plan-
tocracy alone for the bad conditions that created the Morant Bay uprising and for
the brutality with which it was crushed" (Manley 1975, 204). In contrast, the British
as a fount of justice to which one could turn in
extreme difficulty... [Since the Morant Bay Rebel-
lion] Jamaica had been ruled exclusively by the
Queen's representative ... and it had been con-
cluded that the Queen's rule was Kinder than that
of the local plantocracy! (Manley 1975, 204).
The representatives of the Queen doubtless encouraged the myth that the
local planters were the exploiters of the disfranchised black masses of Jamaica and
that the British were, as James Loewen says of the Mississippi "aristocracy," "Good
men doing nothing" (Loewen 1988, 120).
An example of this same reasoning can be seen in a Rastafarian plea to
the Queen. A group of Rastas sought an audience with the British ambassador to
plead their case.
The Rastas say that with the dissolution of Parlia-
ment, the Queen is not fully responsible ... [and]
should use this authority, before it is terminated
by the republic, to have her local representatives
delay no further the granting of 'a Bill of Repatria-
tions for I and I those descendants of the emanci-
pated African slaves so desirous.' (Daily News
In summary, over the period 1967-1980, there is a distinct shift in the way
Jamaica's history is portrayed in the public discourse of political life. In the early
years of independence, an uncritical acceptance of the British heritage is evident,
accompanied by a sense of preparation for independence and acceptance of
British institutions. At the same time, personal history was of great importance;
history served as the context of biographies of leaders. In the nex' decade of
independence, a shift toward a more critical perspective on British ,'olonialism is
emphasized. Heroes of resistance movements were increasirg!y celebrated,
sometimes with the help of Biblical aliegory, but firlally, directly and overtly.
This new approach to history was clearly consistent with the programme-
matic needs of the PNP during the 1972-1980 period. Attention to resistance to
slavery served as declaratory history to justify the land-lease programme in 1976;
pointing out the commonalities in the histories of post-colonial nations was a basis
that legitimate forging alliances with these nations.
Is Green correct that the politically useful view of history is the one which
emphasizes resistance and dualism in Jamaican society? It is true that this was
the direction of change in political discourse. But I would argue that it is not as
simple as Green makes out. It might be helpful to look again at the grounds Green
has for criticizing this framework.
First, he says that the "Creolization" approach treats resistance as univer-
sal and strong. He suggests that some slaves declined to join the rebellion led by
Sam Sharpe. But if every social pattern to which exceptions were found were to be
discarded, there would be little left of social science. Social history should seek
probabilistic patterns of action, and cannot expect universals.
Second, Green claims that Creolization asserts a homogeneous culture of
Afro-Caribbeans from one island to the next. He says there were differences in the
proportion of African-born slaves in specific age categories from island to island.
Social distinctions can always be found. What enslaved Africans had in common
from island to island may be more important in determining the future of their
societies than their differences are.
Third, Green says that the question Peter Wilson asks, namely "should
metropolitan values and their institutional accompaniments be rejected by modem
West Indians?" is "the equivalent of asking should the plantations have been
dismantled in the aftermath of slavery?" This is hardly the only possible manifesta-
tion of that question, and even if it were, there can be no firm answer to the 'what
Finally, Green says that the Creolization framework focuses too much
attention on internal tensions, "not tolerable for the British West Indies where
society was profoundly, perpetually and inescapably shaped by forces external to
it" (1993, 36). He writes,
Having identified a bipolar struggle between Afro-
Caribbean people and the Euro-Caribbean oligar-
chy, [the Creolization historians] are compelled to
acknowledge that the terms of that struggle were
constantly being altered by forces external to it. It
would be futile to argue that such external forces
were in league with either the Afro-Caribbean cul-
ture group or the planter elite.
Here, I would argue, Green seriously understates the power of the planter
elite. While the planter class may not have had its interests served at every turn, it
is wrong to suggest that these external forces somehow randomly favoured now
the planter class, now the former slaves. The planter class was often enough the
beneficiary of British decisions that Terry Lacey could write:
[The plantocracy] held sway economically, so-
cially and politically for three hundred years dur-
ing which the economic, social and political elites
of the island were virtually coterminous and the
Colonial Office generally content to let the plant-
ers run things their own way. (Lacey 1977, 22).
The empirical evidence also contradicts Green's idea that a Creolization
approach is more parochial. As the PNP developed its more contentious view of
history, it acknowledged global exigencies more than the older framework of
history, rather than less as Green would predict.
In conclusion, it seems clear that the needs that history served in the early
years of independence had changed profoundly by the time that Jamaica was
becoming a participant in global coalitions like the Non-Aligned Movement and the
International Bauxite Association. At first, history's task was, in Norman Manley's
words, "to create a national spirit with which h we could identify ourselves as a people
for the purpose of achieving independence on the political plane" (DG 12/15/76,
12-13). By the time of the fourth post-independence election, the task had
changed, to one of social and economic reform, and to Jamaica's finding its place
in the world community of nations.
1. See for example, Harrison (1988), Bell and Robinson (1979), Stone and Brown (1977, 1981), Beck-
ford and Witter (1980), Singham and Singham (1973), Manley (1982), Stephens and Stephens
2. In the case of the new national heroes, the PNP solicited a scholarly foundation for its revision of
declaratory history. Edward Kamau Brathwaite, under the auspices of the Agency for Public In-
formation in conjunction with the 1977 National Heritage Week Committee, published an informa-
tive history of Nanny and Sam Sharpe (1976).
Beckford, George and Michael Witter, Small Garden ... Bitter Weed (Morant Bay: Maroon Publishers,
Bell, Wendell and R.V. Robinson, 'European Melody, African Rhythm or West Indian Harmony?
Changing Cultural Identities among Leacers in a New State,' Social Forces (September 1979).
Brathwaite, Edward, Nanny, Sam Sharpe and the Struggle for People's Liberation (Kingston: API,
Breen, T. H., Imagining the Past: East Hampton Histories (Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley
Fanon, Franz, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press 1963).
Fraser, Gertrude and Reginald Butler, "Anatomy of a Disinterment: The Unmaking of Afro-American
History" in Susan Porter Benson, Stephen Brier and Roy Rosenzweig, Presentining the Past: Es-
says on History and the Public (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986).
Green, William A., "The Creolization of Caribbean History: The Emancipation Era and a Critique of
Dialectical Analysis," in Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, editors, Caribbean Freedom: Soci-
ety and Economy From Emancpation to the Present (Kingston: lan Randle Publishers, 1993).
Harrison, Faye V., "The Politics of Social Outlawry in Urban Jamaica," Urban Archeoology 17 (Sum-
Horton, James Oliver, and Spencer R. Crew, "afro-Americans qnd Museums: Towards a Policy of In-
clusion," in Warren Leon & Roy Rosenzweig, History Museums in the United States: A Critical
Assessment (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989).
Key, V. O., "A Theory of Critical Elections" in Journal of Politics 17 (1955): 3-18.
Lacey, Terry, Violence and Politics in Jamaica: 1960-1970: Internal Security in a Developing Country
(Totowa, NJ: Frank Cass, 1977).
Leon, Warren & Roy Rosenzweig, History Museums in the United States: A Critical Assessment (Ur-
bana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989).
Lewis, Bernard, History Remembered, Recovered, Invented (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
Lindsay, Louis, "The Myth of Independence: Middle Class politics and Non-Mobilization in Jamaica,
(Kingston: Institute for Social and Economic Research, 1975).
Loewen, James, The Mississippi Chinese., Between Black and White (Prospect Heights, lllinois:Wav-
eland Press, 1988).
Lyman, Stanford M., 'The acceptance, rejection, and reconstruction of histories: On some controver-
sies in the study of social and cultural change" in Richard Harvey Brown and Stanford M. Ly-
man, editors, Structure, Consciousness, and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
Manley, Michael, Jamaica: Struggle in the Periphery (London: Writers and Readers Publishing Coop-
erative Society, 1982).
Manley, Michael, A Voice at the Workplace (London: Andre Deutsch, 1975).
Mathurin, Lucille, The Rebel Woman in the British West Indies During Slavery (Kingston: Institute of
Melanson, Richard A., Reconstructing Consensus: American Foreign Policy since the Vietnam War
(New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991).
Munroe, Trevor, The Politics of Constitutional Decolonizatiun: Jamaica 1944-1962 (Kingston: Institute
for Social and Economic Research, 1972).
Nettl, J.P., Political Mobilization (London: Faber and Faber, 1967).
Nettleford, Rex, Identity, Race and Protest in Jamaica (New York: William Morrow, 1972).
Norkunas, Martha K, The Politics of Public Memory: Tourism, History and Ethnicity in Monterey, Cali-
fomia (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993).
Schaffer, B., "The Concept of Preparation," World Politics 18 (October, 1965): 42-67.
Schuler, Monica, 'Alas. Alas. Kongo': A Social History of Indentured African Immigration into Ja-
maica 1841-1865 (Baltimore, 1980).
Singham, A.W. and N.L. Singham, "Cultural Domination and Political Subordination: Notes toward a
Theory of the Caribbean Political System," Comparative Studies in Society and History 15 (3)
Stephens, Evelyne Huber and John D. Stephens,"'Capitalists, Socialism and Democracy: An analysis
of business attitudes toward political democracy in Jamaica," Comparative Social Research 12
Stephens, Evelyne Huber and John D. Stephens, "The Transition to Mass Parties and Ideological
Politics: The Jamaican Experience Since 1972, "Comparative Political Studies 19(4) (January
Stone, Carl, and Aggrey Brown, eds., Essays on Power and Change in Jamaica (Kingston: Jamaica
Publishing House, 1977).
Stone, Carl, and Aggrey Brown, eds., Perspectives on Jamaica in the 1970's (Kingston :Jamaica Pub-
lishing House, 1981).
Thomas, Clive, "Walter Rodney and the Caribbean Revolution" in Edward A. Alpers and Pierre-Michel
Fontaine, editors, Walter Rodney, Revolutionary and Scholar: A Tribute (Los Angeles, Center for
Afro-American Studies, 1982), 119-132.
Toure, S., Independent Guinea: Articles and Speeches (Moscow: 1960).
Waters, Anita, Race, Class & Political Symbols: Rastafari and Reggae in Jamaican Politics (New
Brunswick: Transaction Press).
Wilson, Peter J., Crab Antics: The Social Anthropology of English- speaking Negro Societies of the
Caribbean (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973).
Daily Gleaner (DG), Weekly Gleaner (WG), Daily News (DN).
Eric Williams' Inward Hunger: the Caribbean as a Microcosm
of World History
Eric Williams, who led Trinidad-Tobago to independence and originated
the Williams' Thesis on the history of Caribbean slavery, also has an unrecognized
significance as an interpreter of global history. At its simplest, Williams' world-view
holds that the economically dependent, politically and culturally divided Caribbean
should be seen as a microcosm of the struggle for an economically just, politically
confederated, multicultural world. This article analyzes Williams' often controver-
sial political actions, his major historical works, and his autobiographical explana-
tions of his outlook with a view toward demonstrating this unrecognized
Williams was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in 1911, the son of poor
Catholic parents only two generations from slavery. His father, a government
postal worker, was determined that Eric, the oldest of 12 children, should become
a physician or attorney and strongly encouraged his son's academic achievements.
Williams mastered Latin, French and Spanish as well as the British and European
history necessary to win scholarships for secondary school, where he was tutored
by, among others, W. D. Inniss and C. L. R. James. In 1931 he won the colony's
scholarship to Oxford, but his decision to study History and become a teacher like
his mentor, Inniss, disappointed his father. His years at Oxford coincided with the
great debates over the future of the British Empire, which led to the Round Table
Conferences, the Statute of Westminster, the Ottawa Agreements, the India Act,
Gandhi's and Nehru's anticolonialist speeches at English universities, and the
challenges posed by Communism and Fascism. Williams was interested in the
rising tensions in his native Caribbean, whereas his professors were generally
enamoured with the Myth of Empire and resistant to impending changes. Williams'
argument that Aristotle and other classical authors were reactionaries caused
quarrels with his tutors, but he graduated with a First in History in 1935 and was
encouraged to stay on for further work rather than return to Trinidad to teach. He
tried for an Oxford fellowship, failed for what he thought were infuriatingly racist
biases, and then turned to a research assignment leading to the doctorate, which
he received in 1938.2
Williams' doctoral thesis, The Economic Aspect of the Abolition of the
British West Indian Slave Trade and Slavery, led him to the insights for his most
famous work, Capitalism and Slavery. But a professorship was hard to find in the
world of the Depression and impending war. Williams considered Japan, Siam,
and India, even writing to Gandhi, and also tried for an appointment at his old
secondary school in Trinidad, only to be told he was over-qualified. He finally
secured an appointment at Howard University in Washington, D.C., which he later
described as the "Negro Oxford," to teach world history and comparative politics.
His teaching of world history enhanced his global perspective because he could not
find a suitable textbook and had to rely on copies of source documents which
evolved into a three-volume anthology:
I showed the evolution of humanity through rec-
ognized historical periods. The student was able
to see American democracy against the back-
ground of the city state of the ancients with its
direct democracy. The descendants of Negro
slaves saw American slavery, reconstruction and
Jim Crow in the context of the Aristotelian ration-
alization of slavery and the detached, nonracial
observations of Cato, Varro and Columella. The
evolution of ideas, the growth of the scientific
spirit, the role of religion, literature and society,
science and technology, the interaction of social
sciences and humanities the students were able
to see something precise, definite, concrete, of
the evolution of civilization.
Still, Williams was dissatisfied, considering the course "too western in its
orientation," with too little of science and technology and of music and painting.
While at Howard Williams also began his movement toward a political
career. Howard faculty members like Ralph Bunche in Political Science and Alain
Locke in Philosophy (an Oxford graduate who reminded Williams of W. D. Inniss)
were well connected with the New Deal administration. Since Williams had, at
Locke's suggestion, already taken up research on the entire Caribbean and trav-
elled in 1940 to the Spanish- and French-speaking islands, he was selected to do
research for the Caribbean Commission set up by the Allies to study the future of
the Caribbean. He then moved inexorably toward his destined future as leader of
an independent Trinidad-Tobago. In 1955 he formed the People's National Move-
ment, and became Chief Minister in the newly autonomous government the follow-
ing year. From that time to his death in 1981 he was Trinidad's foremost political
figure, a fixture in Caribbean and Commonwealth politics, and a leader in Black
Williams wrote history extensively during both his professorial and political
careers. He soon became, along with his former tutor C. L. R. James and others,
one of the pioneers of the history of the Black Caribbean. While at Howard, his
major works were The Negro in the Caribbean (1942), the fruit of the research
suggested by Alain Locke, and Capitalism and Slavery (1944), which is among the
masterpieces of Black nationalism. Both books called for an end.to colonialism.
Back in Trinidad, Williams published History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago
(1962), British Historians and the West Indies (1964), Inward Hunger: The Educa-
tion of a Prime Minister (1969), and From Columbus to Castro: The History of the
Caribbean- 1492-1969 (1970), among numerous other works. Intellectually as well
as politically, then, Eric Williams was among those who redefined Black lives and
in the process revised world histories in the period after World War II. His treat-
ment of slavery as a global economic (rather than racial) phenomenon and his
pragmatic socialism as Prime Minister prevailed in the Caribbean in the era when
the Commonwealth became multicultural and continued to be widely influential
even into the period of Castroism and Black Power.4
From the time of The Negro in the Caribbean on Williams' focus was
always the whole Caribbean as microcosm of the entire world. His theme has been
the powerlessness which gives rise to poverty. Greed makes these twin evils,
powerlessness and poverty. And until the Caribbean, the whole Caribbean, can
overcome its divisions its various languages, its racial divides, its allegiance to
different outside political entities, its ideological differences the dependency will
continue, as will the poverty. The Caribbean needs solidarity among the majority
poor in order to overcome the legacy of the rich few. This legacy is most easily
seen in slavery, the ultimate in powerlessness and poverty arising from greed.
Slavery represents the worst the class system can do. And it leaves its scars for
centuries in poverty and dependency. It eventually results in ideological scars as
wel in a culture of defeatism, in false ideas of inferiority and superiority. Class
differences, born of a time when Red people and White were indentured along with
Black, have become race differences through the centuries of Black slavery. And
race differences have reinforced the class differences, keeping the poor Blacks of
the British and French islands divided from the poor Whites of the Spanish islands,
hence without power and in poverty.5
Moreover, the whole world sees the same phenomena: powerlessness
and poverty making some races and nations doubt themselves, power and wealth
making others exalt themselves. Whereas Britain and the United States have
become rich and proud, the Caribbean peoples are poor and timid a situation only
solidarity can remedy. Asian and African nations are even poorer and also in
mental slavery which should be considered an invitation to a larger solidarity. But,
says Williams, at long last the poor world's self-doubt has started to lift, and
liberation has begun. Dependency and poverty must be eliminated, and the
uprooting of these weeds is Williams' life work. His political actions have followed
these themes. His writings, from the famous Capitalism and Slavery near the
beginning to the more comprehensive From Columbus to Castro near the end,
have retraced the same lines: Rule by one people over another is evil; need in
some groups results from greed in others and is also evil; co-operation is neces-
sary to overcome these evils. Williams called this vision of co-operation his "inward
hunger." Caribbean historians now often call it the "Williams Thesis".6
Capitalism and Slavery, Williams' historical evidence for his vision, ap-
peared at the end of World War II and lit up the Black Caribbean's previous mental
bondage to European histories. Its first sentence sounds a clarion call for decolo-
nization: "When in 1492 Columbus, representing the Spanish monarchy, discov-
ered the New World, he set in train the long and bitter international rivalry over
colonial possessions for which, after four and a half centuries, no solution has yet
been found." The Spanish and Portuguese, leaning on the Pope's authority, failed
to thwart the British, French, and Dutch, just as these latecomers, harp though they
may on the doctrine of Progress, will fail to thwart the freedom of Caribbean
peoples. Moreover, Williams contends that Adam Smith, "the intellectual champion
of the industrial middle-class with its new-found doctrine of freedom," simply had
things wrong: Free, incentive-driven, get-ahead, get-property labour was not al-
ways more profitable than slave labour; the gentry's power-mongering was not
always the sole cause for slavery. Columbus had set off cut-throat, world-wide
competition. Sugar, cotton, and tobacco colonies provided most of the margin of
profit for the colonial nations. There was not enough free labour in the tropics for
the takeoff into the large scale plantation system required for these commercial
crops. So slavery was profitable in the plantation colonies in the early stages.7
According to the Williams Thesis, Adam Smith's free labour can be more
profitable only in the food-production, small-manufacturing colonies of the Ameri-
can far north and much later in the slave areas, when "by importation of new
recruits and breeding, the population has reached the point of density and the land
available for appropriation has been apportioned. When that stage is reached, and
only then, the expenses of slavery, in the form of the cost and maintenance of
slaves, productive and unproductive, exceed the cost of hired labourers." In other
words, Adam Smith's mercantile heroes have been just as prone to indulge in slave
labour as the nobility. Modem history is not the saga of the middle class liberating
humanity from the aristocratic oppressors and their drones, the serfs and slaves.
Constitutional liberties and property incentives will not be enough. As slavery has
ended only because of economic change, so in the end colonialism will yield only
for the same reason.8
The crucial issue for Williams is the capitalist rivalry creating a New World
slavery, rather than the enslavement of Blacks alone: "Slavery in the Caribbean
has been too narrowly identified with the Negro. A racial twist has thereby been
given to what is basically an economic phenomenon. Slavery was not born of
racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery. Unfree labour in the New
World was brown, white, black, and yellow; Catholic, Protestant and pagan."
Slavery, in Williams' view, must be seen as all the more outrageous because it has
been a universal threat. The work of the Indians on the Caribbean and Mainland
plantations was exploited until many died of disease and mistreatment with
consequent labour shortages. The indentured Whites f -m English prisons or
Salzburg slums could escape and pass for freedmen in c.lour and custom and
could not be had in sufficient quantity to meet the labour demand anyway. The
consequence was enslaved Black plantation labour in the New World: "Here, then,
is the origin of Negro slavery. The reason was economic, not racial; it had to do not
with the colour of the labourer, but the cheapness of the labour. As compared with
Indian and white labour, Negro slavery was eminently superior." Therefore: "The
Negro, too, was to have his place, though he did not ask for it: it was the broiling
sun of the sugar, tobacco, and cotton plantations of the New World." Vast tracts of
frontier land did not create free labour by free people, not for a very long time.9
Instead, the profits from slave labour flowed to Europe for three, then four,
then five centuries. After three centuries of broiling sun, the Industrial Revolution
and the middle class revolt were produced. The plantations had sweated out the
profits from cheap African labour to bring the manufacturing economy of the North
Atlantic into existence. Factories, with "free" labour, had become more profitable
than slave plantations. Economic warfare had, after the American Revolution led
to increased industrial competition, taken on a new form, Adam Smith's free
enterprise, including free trade. The West Indies plantations had become a feudal
anachronism, an expensive drag on economic expansion, a mercantilist barrier to
industrial-style progress. The abolition of the slave trade, then of slavery, came
about under these conditions because capital could produce higher profits in the
new industries of the Midlands and New England.10
The West Indian planters, and later their American and Cuban and Brazil-
ian counterparts, resisted the tide of emancipation but were only able to secure
some compensation for themselves. The European and New England propagan-
dists trumpeted the moral advance gained by the Abolitionists, from Bishop Wilber-
force down through all his followers falsely, according to Williams. Slavery in the
New World ended, just as it had begun, for economic reasons: Greater profits were
now to be had without slavery, and the slaves were "freed" (without being compen-
sated) to rival each other and newly arrived Asians in declining, low-profit-margin,
increasingly competitive, raw-matenal-producing economies. The Abolitionists'
moralizing was just so much eyewash to cover the flight of capital into industry and
the abandonment of former slaves to new victimization. The fourth and fifth
centuries of Black toil in the Caribbean sun were therefore spent, Williams sug-
gests in the conclusion to Capitalism and Slavery, in making profits for London
magnates rather than for local masters. Otherwise, little had changed: not the
too-great population density created by slavery on islands which could not feed so
many, not the emphasis on low-wage primary agriculture, not the poverty and lack
of progress, not the racism following in the wake of economic and political subordi-
nation. Colonialism, Williams had said in The Negro in the Caribbean and now
reiterated, would have to go before genuine improvements could be expected.11
Needless to say, Capitalism and Slavery was a sensation at a time when
the fate of European empires hung in the balance. A considerable academic
debate blew up over Williams' mistrust of the humanitarian and juridical initiatives
featured in Frank Tannenbaum's Slave and Citizen (1947), with the path to post-
war decolonization as the underlying issue. Williams himself had already moved
from contemplation to action, however. On released time from his Howard profes-
sorship, he had turned to researching the future for the Caribbean Commission, the
Washington think tank established in the Destroyer Deal by the Americans and the
British and later joined by the French and the Dutch. Almost from the beginning
Williams was in tension with the British representatives on the Commission: over
the republication of The Negro in the Caribbean by George Padmore in England;
over Williams' remarks recapitulating the arguments of Capitalism and Slavery
during a lecture tour of the Caribbean; over his constant criticism of British favour-
itism toward West Indian expatriates in London on the planning bodies. This was
nevertheless the time, Williams later said in Inward Hunger, that he decided not to
return to Howard or accept a position at Fisk University to study African-American
issues but rather to concentrate on Caribbean problems, return to the West Indies,
and work for a Caribbean federation.12
Williams' political career has likewise embodied his multicultural and global
concerns. Despite the controversies surrounding him, Williams secured the posi-
tion of Deputy Director of Research on the Caribbean Commission staff and was
posted to Trinidad. He had already devised education proposals in consultation
with John Dewey, including criticisms of the schemes of a British planning group for
a University of the West, Indies, and was soon formulating politically sensitive
economic and political reforms at a steady rate. His publications and lectures not
just his two books, but also his studies of Nigeria and Kenya, his work on West
Indian education, and his research on economic dependency continued to draw
fire as well. And in May, 1955, Williams was dismissed by the Caribbean Commis-
sion. He then formed the People's National Movement, the party which was soon
to make him Chief Minister, then Prime Minister of an independent Trinidad-To-
bago and one of the leaders of world-wide decolonization. His campaign in the
elections of 1956 was an unusual one, consisting of "lectures" to massive crowds
in a so-called "University of Woodford Square." But the PNM's People's Charter
was a clear statement of Williams' prescriptions for overcoming the agonizing
history of the Caribbean: independence for Trinidad-Tobago, a Caribbean federa-
tion, Dominion Status for the federation in the Commonwealth, economic and
social reforms, etc.13
Trindad-Tobago's independence occurred largely through Williams and
the PNM. But liberation, Williams' immediate aim, came without federation, his
larger goal. Britain's post-war Labour government, building on the granting of
universal suffrage to Jamaica in 1944, accepted the evolution of the Caribbean
colonies but doubted their viability as mini-states and therefore called a conference
on federation at Montego Bay in 1947. The result was a report recommending
federation to another conference in London in 1953. By that time most of the
Caribbean colonies, along with British Guiana and British Honduras, had "received"
new constitutions granting local government but with veto authority remaining in
London. Trindad's new constitution, with a Trindadian Chief Minister as head of
government, went into effect in 1950. The aim of the British Colonial Office, given
the ethnic conflicts in the wake of Indian and Pakistani independence and the
strategic challenge posed by Egypt's claims to the Suez Canal, was clearly slow
evolution of the so-called Crown Colonies of the New World and of Africa toward a
changed relationship to the Commonwealth. This go-slow policy was all the more
evident when Churchill and the Tories returned to power in 1951 at the height of the
Cold War. Nevertheless, the African nationalists, at their head the Kenyans in the
British Empire and the Guineans in the French Empire, continued to press for
independence, as did the Caribbean nationalists. The rise of Castroism in Cuba
from 1953 to 1959 seemed, meanwhile, to increase the importance of the De-
stroyer Deal bases which Britain had leased to the Americans in 1940. This was
the situation Williams inherited when the PNM won the elections of 24 September
Also in 1956 the West Indies Federation was agreed on at a follow-up
London Conference, and in the wake of the Suez Crisis the African nations were
likewise moving toward independence. Williams, Norman Manley of Jamaica, and
Grantley Adams of Barbados led the way toward independence-within-a-federa-
tion, while British Guiana and British Honduras sought national independence
despite the others' holding the federation open to them. The Federation Labour
Party won the 1958 federal elections, and Sir Grantley Adams was elected Federal
Prime Minister. Williams and Manley had to choose between subordinate federal
positions or national leadership because of a provision of the Federal Constitution
forbidding joint office-holdirg, and both chose the national arena, leaving the
Trinidadian and Jamaican delegations weak vis-a-vis the smaller islands' repre-
sentatives. In addition, many citizens of the larger islands with stronger economies
feared immigration from poorer islands. The Jamaicans had even less incentive to
remain federalists than the Trinidadians once Port of Spain had been chosen as the
The West Indies Federation, the first step in Williams' vision of co-opera-
tion in the entire Caribbean area, collapsed almost immediately. Manley and
Williams held their nations firmly in the pro-federation coalition during the 1958
elections despite strong opposition at home. But Williams, who had supported
Manley for an honorary degree at Howard nearly two decades before, parted
company with him over the question of powers of the central government. Manley,
pushed by anti-federalist Alexander Bustamante at home, forced Prime Minister
Adams to make concessions on federal taxing powers, on size of national delega-
tions, and on other issues. Williams, who had won election in Trinidad only after
the Constitution was completed, wanted stronger, not weaker, federal powers.
British policy was meanwhile being transformed by the independence of individual
African nations, starting with Ghana under Kwame Nkruma in 1957. This opened
the way for the Caribbean nations, led by Jamaica in 1961, to chose individual
nationhood. Williams, who had joined other Caribbean nations in insisting on
bringing governmental power home once he became Chief Minister, resisted
dissolution of the federation, even considering for a time a small federation solution
of Trinidad and the smaller islands. Yet in the end all, including Trinidad, chose
independence or enhanced Crown Colony status instead. So Williams emerged as
Prime Minister of an independent Trinidad-Tobago in 1962 but was still working
toward a federation of former British colonies as a prelude to an all-Caribbean
Williams' later works, History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago (1962)
and From Columbus to Castro (1970), showed the persistence of his original vision.
His history of Trindad-Tobago, written to celebrate independence at the suggestion
of a colleague, extended his arguments in Capitalism and Slavery concerning
poverty and powerlessness into the 20th century and described a programmeme
for democracy and development. His approach can perhaps be best illustrated by
his account of "the contribution of the Indians" who were brought to the Caribbean
late in the last century to compete with the emancipated slaves. The East Indians,
starting as indentured servants, achieved, said Williams, what the plantation own-
ers had denied to indentured Whites in the early centuries and to emancipated
Blacks until the 20th century ownership of their own land. The East Indians thus
made the necessary breakthrough toward a modem nation by bringing a real end
to feudalism. Trinidadians have since been trying, according to Williams, to bridge
the gaps of class and caste left by an unjust past. Williams' ambitious development
programme what he once called "empirical socialism" should be seen in this
context. Trinidad was playing catch-up, Williams thought, because of its distorted
past and dependent present. Greed and powerlessness remained to threaten
Trinidad's future and required cooperation with others in dependency. Yet Williams
was no believer in a global Marxist advent, having once criticized C.L.R. James for
neglecting the interests of the West Indies "for the absurdities of world revolution."
Williams' own policies were, he said, the end result of good education, hard effort,
devotion to others, and democratic live-and-let-live. In short, Williams hoped that
Trinidad could bridge the gap between the evolving, multicultural Commonwealth
at the global level and Castroism at the Caribbean level. 17
From Columbus to Castro and Trinidad's policies indicated that Williams
understood, indeed shared, many of Fidel's early aims, such as reducing depend-
ence on foreign economies, overcoming the problems left by the plantation system,
and escaping involvement in others' defence arrangements. From Columbus to
Castro, which rivals Capitalism and Slavery as Williams' masterpiece, again chron-
icled his leitmotif of one Caribbean history rather than many. The tragedy of
seemingly unending division, Williams pointed out, was continuing into the 1970s:
political instability; constitutional quarrels; "an appalling degree of economic frag-
mentation"; and, with the rise of the Cold War, ideological differences. The United
States was blamed for over-reacting to the Castro revolution and driving Cuba into
the Soviet orbit. Fidel was criticized for accepting a new, and worse, dependency.
Williams, like Nehru and De Gaulle, apparently sought creation of a Third Force to
counter the rival super-powers of the Cold War. He visited Cuba early on to urge
restraint but also argued against blockade and isolation. He supported the free
trade area established for the West Indies and appealed for a Caribbean-wide
extension. He applauded Third World leaders who opted out of the Cold War. And
above all he, like Nehru and others, pressed for the new, multicultural Common-
wealth insulated from the heat of ideological conflict.18
Cold War issues were the context for From Columbus to Castro, and
Williams treated two in particular. First, he rejected Castroism as a model for
Caribbean economic and political development. The Cubans, he said, had been
pushed by United States hostility and their own economic folly into an aggressive
totalitarian ideology and a Russian dependency which, though less likely to last
than the previous American dependency, was infinitely less beneficial than Carib-
bean solidarity would be. Between the Puerto Rican model, which since Luis
Munoz Marin had drifted toward absorption by the United States, and the Cuban
model, also without a natural Caribbean economy and polity, stood the Trinidadian
model, aimed at pragmatic national development and, eventually, convergence
with a prosperous Caribbean confederation of twenty million people. Only the
Cuban successes in education, health care, and race relations deserved emula-
tion. Second, Williams refused to choose sides in the Cold War, either in his
actions or his writings. He forced re-negotiation of the 1941 Destroyer Deal base
agreement in Trinidad, nevertheless allowing the United States Navy use of the
Chaguaramas base for seventeen more years under new terms. He also pushed
the British government toward recognition of independence for the remaining
colonies, especially Guyana, but sought associate status for Trinidad in the Euro-
pean Economic Community when Britain finally joined. And in various other ways
Williams advanced Trinidad's live-and-let-live policy in contrast to both Fidel's hope
that the Cuban Revolution could be "exported" and to United States over-reactions
in, for example, the Dominican Republic.19
From Columbus to Castro was no doubt more influenced by ideological
divisions within Trinidad than Williams cared to acknowledge. Williams' self-de-
scribed "moderation" on Cold War issues was the occasion for conflict with the left
wing of the PNM, led by C. L. R. James. This explains Williams' animus toward
James, who was removed as editor of the PNM paper and eventually expelled from
the party. From Williams' perspective, Cold War extremism, left or right, only
sowed more division in Trinidad and the Caribbean. But Williams, though he
welcomed recognition by the Soviet Union and Mao's China, had said Trinidad
would always stay "West of the Iron Curtain," and in the Guevarist years Trinidad,
along with Barbados, joined the Organization of American States. The existence of
Castro sympathizers in Trinidad, son-t of whom visited Cuba, provoked Williams in
1966 into condemnation of Cubans' attempts to export their Revolution: "Go out
and finish up with this Marxist ideology, which goes to Havana, Cuba, and dares to
sit down and take part in subversive resolutions against the lawful government of
Trinidad and Tobago. To hell with Castro.... We don't interfere with Castro's affairs,
and Castro has no business setting up any revolutionary organization in order to
interfere with and disrupt the normal development of Trinidad and Tobago." De-
spite being forced, as he saw it, to take sides in this manner, Williams continued to
hope for a middle way in Trinidad and the Caribbean.20
From Columbus to Castro thus ended with Williams restating his credo:
"Given its past history, the future of the Caribbean can only be meaningfully
discussed in terms of the possibilities for the emergence of an identity for the region
and its peoples. The whole history of the Caribbean so far can be viewed as a
conspiracy to block the emergence of a Caribbean identity in politics, in institu-
tions, in economics, in culture and in values. Viewed in historical perspective, the
future way forward for the peoples of the Caribbean must be one which would impel
them to start making their own history, to be subjects rather than objects of history,
to stop being the playthings of other people.... Viewed in this light, the present crisis
in Latin America should be seen as a desire on the part of the Latin American
countries to complete the process of realizing themselves a process which started
with the Wars of Independence against Spain in the nineteenth century. What
today appears to the inhabitants of the metropolitan countries to be xenophobia
and irrational nationalism in the Third World is more often than not the outward
manifestation of this quest for self-realization." The Caribbean as microcosm for a
world needing to restrain power and greed clearly remained Williams' theme to the
end of his last major work.21
Any assessment of Williams' importance in Black, Caribbean, and world
history is made more difficult because in his last years his dream of a just,
confederated world slipped away and he came to be seen as "conservative" by a
new generation. The Cold War, the latest global tug of war to engulf the Caribbean,
seemed to escalate with each passing year, exaggerating the area's divisions once
again. The promise of a sane socialism, though it appeared to function reasonably
well in oil- and bauxite-rich Trindad-Tobago, seemed to evaporate in much of the
Third World, leaving a neo-colonial North-South gap with attendant conflicts. Wil-
liams' vision was of a united Caribbean microcosm able, because its heritage of
slavery was the worst that greed and power-lust could produce, to show the way
toward freedom for the macrocosm. The uniqueness of the Caribbean led, in his
mind, to a catholicity which saw the overcoming of economic injustice as the open
sesame for all. Later, he saw the dream receding because of racial and religious
as well as social differences even in Trinidad.22
His nation, albeit still governed in the 1970s by the People's National
Movement and positioned for steady development, was enveloped in racial and
religious strife. Black Power adherents with their ayes on colour in the Americas
and on Africa as the motherland, were increasingly vocal in Trindad and throughout
the New World, while Hindu separatists and Islamic fundamentalists were on the
rise in Trinidad. Williams had been shocked earlier by the virulence of opposition
to the North American civil rights struggle and by the racism aroused in Enoch
Powell and others by West Indian migration to Britain. He saw such White hatreds
in the New and Old Worlds and in southern Africa as the latest fruit the white-tribe
Germanism espoused at the height of imperialism by 19th-century historian J. A.
Froude. But Williams' route to racial harmony for his mixed nation, his mixed
region,,and his mixed world through economic progress was being questioned by a
younger generation whose focus was more anthropological and cultural. The
younger generation's central question implied Afrocentrism: Why not concentrate
on the history of Black people? Williams did not ask what Yoruba culture survived
in Afro-Americans, Afro-Caribbeans, and Afro-Brazilians as the new generation
did. Given such changing attitudes, the Caribbean in general and Trinidad-Tobago
in particular resembled Williams' desired harmonious confederation less and
Williams was by this time clearly conservative compared with Fidel, Black
Power advocates, and religious separatists. Yet near consensus on the continuing
importance of Williams' "radical" reinterpretation of both Caribbean slavery and
British democracy has remained. And indeed, the Williams Thesis that slavery was
a global economic phenomenon (undeniably a Marxist construct) was his touch-
stone from before Capitalism and Slavery in 1944 to beyond From Columbus to
Castro in 1970. His theme of escape from the economic dependency of colonial-
ism and the psychological dependency of nationalism or racism always put him at
one with most Marxists. In addition, his critique of British historians, which began
at Oxford and continued through British Historians and the West Indies in 1964, has
been an indispensable counter to the contradictory notion of an imperial, White-led
democracy. The empire-worship of Carlyle and Froude, also Acton, has stood as
naked bias since Williams' analysis, though he apparently did not comment on their
foremost disciple, Winston Churchill 24
Williams as anticolonialist among other famous anticolonialists was the
image he most relished. It is worth remembering that Williams began his Oxford
education arguing with his tutor, R. Trevor Davies, about the "reactionary" nature of
Greco-Roman politics and of the Anglo-Saxon folkmoot so beloved by Froude.
Williams always offered what he viewed as a radical critique of traditional Western
Civilization, indeed of all traditional civilizations, European or Asian or, for that
matter, African. Williams traced his own radical project as historian and politician
in part to his having heard Nehru's famous speech before the Indian Majlis at
Oxford in 1935. His sympathies were with the Nehru of Glimpses of World History
(1935), whose creed he took as his own. In his A Tribute to Nehru (1964), he
explained: Nehru had analyzed British imperialism in his country and had achieved
"intellectual decolonization" emancipating Asia from European history, putting
Asian history "in its world context," and placing "the history of India in true perspec-
tive. Said Williams of Nehru: "I saw in Nehru principally a historian turned politician
[who was overcoming] the dominant European history, written of Europe and for
Europe, to impress colonials in particular." Williams obviously saw himself doing
the same for the Caribbean.25
All that said, Williams' role in writing the history of Africans and African-
Americans was indeed problematical. On the one hand, he produced an early and
eloquent defence of the Black republics of escaped slaves in Capitalism and
Slavery and had a hand in achieving both Caribbean and African decolonization in
the 1950s and 1960s. He belonged to the take-off generation of Black history and
worked with Locke and Bunche in education, with Manley and Nkrumah in action,
and with Woodson and Diop in the journals. On the other hand, he criticized two
other Trinidadians famous for their contributions to Black history, George Padmore
and C.L.R. James, who, he claimed, had "deserted the West Indies" for Africa and
world revolution, respectively, just as so many others had deserted in the brain
drain to Europe and North America. Apparently, Williams held the standard Marxist
view that race and nation are divisive illusions, products of class conflict, a view
most evident in the Williams Thesis, which avers that enslavement preceded
That Williams' view changed little on matters of race and culture is evident
from the conclusion of History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago: "Together the
various groups in Trinidad and Tobago have suffered, together they have aspired,
together they have achieved. Only together can they succeed. And only together
can they build a society, can they build a nation, can they build a homeland. There
can be no Mother India for those whose ancestors came from India.... There can be
no Mother Africa for those of African origin, and the Trinidad and Tobago society is
living a lie and heading for trouble if it seeks to create the impression or to allow
others to act under the delusion that Trinidad and Tobago is an African society.
There can be no Mother England and no dual loyalties.... There can be no Mother
China ... ; and there can be no Mother Syria or no Mother Lebanon. A nation, like
an individual, can have only one Mother. The only Mother we recognize is Mother
Trinidad and Tobago, and Mother cannot discriminate between her children. All
must be equal in her eyes...... His hope for Trinidad-Tobago, as for the Caribbean
and the world, was multicultural.27
Williams' statements on Black Power in From Columbus to Castro should
be read in this context: As Black Power made headway "in the United States in its
fight for Black dignity," it set off "racial tension, black versus brown and white" in the
Caribbean, just as Hindu-Muslim tensions in India and Protestant-Catholic tensions
in Ireland reverberated there and raised "another cloud over the future. In this
bleak picture the only bright spot is the apparent success in Castro's Cuba with the
full integration of the black population into his society. That would seem to mean,
for instance, that Padmore should not over-emphasize Africanism once liberation
has occurred and that James should not see world revolution as an abracadabra
for racism and nationalism.27
Williams may always have been a humanist as well as a socialist, so that
only the emphasis changed in the years of anticolonial struggle. His own later view
was that he was both with the struggle for economic and political justice necessar-
ily turning into a struggle for self-realization after decolonization. Inward Hunger
summed up Williams' life work by comparing it with Ulysses' recurrent hope in
Dante's Divine Comedy that he "Could conquer the inward hunger that I had/ To
master earth's experience, to attain/ Knowledge of man's mind, both good and
Williams thus finished only a short distance from where he began, with
what might be called a Second Williams Thesis, viz., that economic justice can lead
to racial, national, and cultural solidarity. This second thesis holds that while
divergence of races and cultures always occurs before creation of a just economic
order, convergence can sometimes occur afterward as was happening in Fidel's
Cuba and, Williams hoped, in Trinidad-Tobago, then in the entire Caribbean, and
finally at the global level through such agencies as UNESCO. But judging from the
perorations of Williams' later works, he no longer believed that economic justice
would be enough by itself to bring solidarity. In his youth Williams had closed with
animadversions against Yankee imperialism in The Negro in the Caribbean and
with scope for humanitarian reformism in Capitalism and Slavery. But British
Historians and the West Indies ended with a call for West Indian historians to
answer their British counterparts so as to add mental to material freedom, while
The History of the People of Trindad-Tobago concluded with Zephaniah 3:20: "For
I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back
your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord." And From Columbus to Castro said
this: "Once there is true integration among all the units of the Caribbean (excluding
Puerto Rico for reasons mentioned above), and once all the vestiges of political,
economic, cultural and psychological dependence and of racism have been re-
moved from the Caribbean, then and only then can the Caribbean take its true
place in Latin America and the New World and put an end to the international wars
and inter-regional squabbles which, from Columbus to Castro, have marked the
disposition of Adam's will. To his socialist economics Williams had by the 1970s
added humanist ethics, though of what sort is unclear when he can talk simultane-
ously of taking Communion and of controlling the commanding heights of Trinidad's
economy. Perhaps in the era of Marxist Humanism his stance was not unusual.28
Williams may always have been a humanist as well as a socialist, so that only
the emphasis changed in the years of anti-colonial struggle. His own later view
was that he was both, with the struggle for economic and political justice necessar-
ily turning into a struggle for self-realization after decolonialization. Inward Hunger
summed up Williams' lifework by comparing it with Ulysses' recurrent hope in
Dante's Divine Comedy that he "could conquer the inward hunger that I had/To
master earth's experience, to attain/Knowledge of man's mind, both good and bad".
Williams, by his own description, had evolved from an anti-colonial socialist into a
humanist engaged not only in a quest for economic justice but also in a divine
comedy of intellectual and ethical progress toward a confederated, multicultural
world order modelled on his Caribbean homeland. In so evolving he continued to
represent his generation and his region in redefining world history in terms of
1. Barbara L. Solow and Stanley L. Engerman, eds., British Capitalism and Caribbean Slavery: The
Legacy of Eric Williams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) is an excellent collec-
tion of essays on Williams 'thought as applied to the Caribbean. See notes 6, 24, and 29 be-
low. The closest contemporary parallel to Williams' global multiculturalism as presented here is
undoubtedly Nehru's world-view (see note 25 below), followed by Jose Vasconcelos' raza cos-
mica thesis (which Williams does not me.nion). A lat.: parallel exists in Ali Mazruil's global con-
2. Information on Williams' life comes, unless otherwise noted, from his autobiography, Inward Hun-
ger: The Education of a Prime Minister (London: Andre Deutsch, 1969). Williams covers his
early years in Chaps. 1-4, pp. liff.
3. Ibid. Chaps. 5-15, pp. 57ff. The quotation is from p. 59. It would be interesting to see Williams' an-
thologies for the teaching of world history published if they still exist.
4. Williams explains the origins of each of his works at various points in Inward Hunger. The works
are taken up in context later in this article.
5. Williams' multicultural approach to the Caribbean and the world from the outset is probably clearest
in The Negro in the Caribbean (New York: Negro Universities Press, 1942), especially Chap. 9,
"The Future of the Caribbean," pp. 99ff. His immediate concern in this book is that British imperi-
alism not be replaced by "Yankee imperialism and the almighty dollar" (p. 109).
6. For clear statements of the importance of Williams for Caribbean history see Solow and Engerman,
"Introduction," and Richard B. Sheridan, "Eric Williams and Capitalism and Slavery," in British
Capitalism and Caribbean Slavery, pp. 1ff and 317ff.
7. Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (New York: Russell & Russell, 1961 [Copyright, 1944]), Chap-
ter 1, "The Origin of Negro Slavery," pp. 3ff. The quotations appear on pp. 3 and 5f.
8. Williams' critiques of Adam Smith occur throughout Capitalism and Slavery, especially at 4ff, 51ff,
85ff, and (most importantly) 107. The quotation appears on pp. 6f.
9. Ibid., pp. 4ff, with the quotations on 4, 7, and 19.
10. Ibid., Chap. 2, "The Development of the Negro Slave Trade," pp. 30ff; Chap. 3, "British Commerce
and the Triangular Trade," pp. 51ff; Chap. 4, "The West India Interest," pp. 85ff; Chap. 5, "British
Industry and the Triangular Trade." pp. 98ff; Chap. 6, "The American Revolution," pp. 108ff; and
Chap. 7, "The Development o' British Capitalism," pp. 126ff. The famous passage on Adam
Smith, p. 107, again deserves special notice.
11. Ibid., Chap. 8, "The New Industrial Order," pp. 135ff; Chap. 9, "British Capitalism and the West In-
dies," pp. 154ff; Chap. 10, 'The Commercial Part of the Nation' and Slavery," pp. 169ff; Chap.
11, "The 'Saints' and Slavery," pp. 178ff; Chap. 12, "The Slaves and Slavery," pp. 197ff; and
Chap. 13, "Conclusion," pp. 209ff.
12. Inward Hunqer, pp. 70ff, 77f, and 86ff. Williams summed up hs attitude toward his Caribbean
Commission service as follows:...I had emerged as one of the best-known spokesmen of colo-
nial peoples everywhere and the champion of colonial nationalism, utilizing the Caribbean-and
not merely the British West Indies as the exemplification of my thesis. I deliberately sought to
go outside the narrow British West Indian boundaries" (p. 100).
13. Williams covers his role in the independence of Trinidad & Tobago in both Inward Hunger Chaps.
16-20, pp. 131ff and in History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago (New York: Praeger,
1964(Copyright, 1962]), Chaps. 15-16, pp. 215ff.
14. Inward Hunger, Chaps. 21-24, pp. 173ff.
15. Ibid., especially pp. 187ff.
16. Ibid., Chaps. 26-27, pp. 274ff. Though the point here is to analyze Williams' own approach to Car-
ibbean history as a component of global history, one can easily confirm his facts and compare
his approach with a contemporary British metropolitan account such as J. H. Parry and Philip
Sherlock, A Short History of the West Indies (3rd. ed.; New York: St. Martin's, 1971).