V rT iTr 19 Mn A T1 v d &nr n n 1 QAfR
Creative Arts Centre at U.W.I., Mona.
Photograph by kind permission of Lee Maragh.
VOL. 12. NO. 4.
Editorial Notes and Comments 1
SPANISH AMERICAN NOVEL 1940-65
G. R. Coulthard 3
SPAIN & DOMINICA
Joseph Borome 30
NON-STANDARD ENGLISH OF GRENADA
Alister Hughes 47
LINGUISTIC PROBLEMS IN BRITISH HONDURAS
Norman Ashcroft & Grant Jones 55
From the Green Antilles-Louis James 59
Jamaican Song & Story-Olive Lewin 60
NOTE ON MANUSCRIPTS
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Copyright reserved, and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden
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0. R. Coulthard
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Editorial Notes and Comments
IN RETROSPECT it has been possible to trace new lines of
development in the Spanish-American novel over the last 25 years.
G. R. Coulthard, Professor of Spanish at the University of the West
Indies has recounted and analysed the trends in Latin American fiction
which will be of interest to all readers and of particular value to
students of Latin American literature.
The Caribs of Dominica earned the reputation of being the most
redoubtable Indians in the new world, resisting all attempts by
Europeans to settle on the Island and carrying out raids on neigh-
bouring territories. The Spaniards at first protected them under the
policy of Queen Isabella, but were later forced to admit the failure
of that policy and in a hundred and fifty years were unable to establish
any real claim to the Island although using it regularly to obtain
water and fresh supplies.
With the support of a grant from the American Philosophical
Society, Joseph Barome undertook some research into the relations
between the Caribs and the Spaniards and some of his findings are
The Department of Extra-Mural Studies and the Jaycees of Grenada
in collaboration with the Canadian Universities Alumni Association
sponsored a Seminar on Grenada in a Future Caribbean Society. One of
the papers presented was by Alister Hughes of that Island who intro-
duced the subject of non-standard English as used in Grenada, and
we have obtained his permission to include his paper in this issue.
In Volume 11 numbers 3 & 4 we published a paper by S. R. R.
Allsopp on the linguistic dilemma facing British Honduras. This
provoked comment from Norman Ashcroft and Grant Jones who were
conducting a research in British Honduras at that time. We are of the
opinion that their comments will be useful and stimulating to our
Louis James of the University of Canterbury in Kent and Olive
Lewin of the Jamaica School cf Music, review two anthologies of
particular West Indian interest.
Spanish American Novel
THE OBJECT of this study is to examine a number of statements
made over the last five years (1960-65) connected with new lines of
development in the Spanish American novel. These statements either
express dissatisfaction with the established "classics", and/or affirm
the existence of a new kind of novel and attempt to analyse and define
Perhaps a good starting point would be some remarks made a
propos of Rivera's "La vordgine" by Alberto Zum Felde. In "La
vorngine", he states, "as in most Latin American fiction, even the
best, description predominates over psychology; it is in general, a
fiction lacking in depth, in this sense, because the meaning of a work,
its central axis, is hardly ever the internal process of a character, nor
a struggle of souls, nor a specifically moral conflict, (which are the
predominant features of the European novel), it is nearly always the
description of places with their atmosphere, of types, of characters
and regional and national problems. It is powerful and effective in
description of places and characteristic types, weak when it tries to
operate on the inner world of the characters. Novelists tend to look
at their characters from the outside, listen to them speak, register
their gestures, movements, expressions-but as if the writer were
essentially a spectator".1
This assessment of Zum Felde, while it contains a good deal of
truth and the recognition of certain values ("powerful and effective
in description of places and characteristic types" etc.), implies a
critical value-judgement. He is suggesting that characterization though
strong, is unsubtle and obvious, psychological problems are over-
simplified, that no moral or spiritual conflicts are involved.
It is precisely these faults that were to be corrected by the new
novelists (the critics Juan Loveluck and Emir Rodriguez Monegal, both
assign the date 1940 as a convenient starting point, as we shall see).
The main criticisms are that the novelists of the 20's and 30's
were too hampered by the naturalist-realist tradition of the late
nineteenth century European novel as far as style was concerned
and too limited by the desire to understand the relationship between
man and nature, to discover the true identity of their peoples, and
to denounce the evils of social injustice, exploitation, crooked politics
As a result, they were "swallowed by the mountains, the plains,
the mines and the rivers"2 obsessed with the intractable geography
of their regions. And it is true that the great novels of the 20's and
30's are set in remote rural areas.
However from 1940 onwards writers began to break away from this
trend, and as Loveluck puts it: "They began to achieve the substitution
of the image of a geography by one much more attractive to the con-
temporary reader: the image of man everywhere, of a man who
beyond changes of skies and constellations, can be recognized with
similar problems, anguish and desires". 3
In slightly different words the Mexican novelist, Carlos Fuentes,
says the same thing: "The Latin American writer ceases to be a pic-
turesque, regional being and places himself face to face with the human
The new novel has also tended to move its setting from the back-
woods to the cities where problems of living are more complex, and it
should be pointed out that the appearance of the really big city of
between a million and five million inhabitants is a recent phenomenon,
precipitating all kinds of problems of adjustment, integration, involv-
ing changes of values, -frustrations, discrimination, as the thousands
of people pour in from the mountains and jungles in search of a new
and better life, and while it may still be true, as the critic, Pedro Gases,
puts it, that "the heart of Latin America is in the country", it is equally
true that a constantly growing percentage of the population lives in
the big cities. Loveluck refers to a new Latin American man who
'struggles in the new whirlpools (voragines,) which are the cities, or
loses his way in his own mental labyrinths which are more dangerous
than the worst 'green hells' "s.
Summing up the main features of the new novel, Loveluck notes
(1) A constant technical and stylistic experimentation, closely tied
to American reality, but free from narrow regionalism. The models
he names are Kafka, Mann, Joyce, Faulkner, Huxley, Gide and
(2) A tendency to speculative metaphysical literature.
(3) A technical mastery and an abandonment of exaggerated docu-
mentalism and angry denunciations. The violent erruptive tone,
the political note have diminished.
(4) The prototypism of the characters, i.e., characters powerfully
drawn but flat, one-faced, very often abstractions representing a
social type have given way to a more careful, detailed and subtle
analysis. And he concludes that the picture-post card type of litera-
ture of picturesque types and scenes has given way to the search
for broader interpretation of contemporary man. 6
The Uruguayan critic Emir Rodriguez Monegal argues very much
along the same lines as Loveluck. He claims that in the work of the
"established novelists", i.e. Giiraldes, Gallegos, Azuela, etc., American
nature and landscape so dominated man, so crushed and moulded him,
that the human individual disappeared. But he suggests that the centre
of gravity has shifted from the Paimpa and the cordillera to the big
city. There has been a glut of rural novels, "those epics of campesinos
and gauchos-with their two-dimensional characterisation, their 'ldocu-
mentary", all-too-mechanical structure"7. The new novelists combine
an acute social and political awareness with a remarkable subtlety, a
personal engagement with sensitivity to other, transcendental
Rodriguez Monegal draws a dividing line in 1941, the year in which
Ciro Alegria's "El mundo es ancho y ajeno" was awarded the first prize
as the "best Latin American novel". The Argentine jury gave its second
prize to a novel by Juan Carlos Onetti, "Tierra de nadie", which he
describes as "the agonized image of an urban civilization in rapid
transformation" Although he admits that "El mundo es ancho y ajeno"
is possibly the better novel of the two, he states it was the last of
in genre: In its adhesion to an out-moded narrative technique, to
an over-simplified intellectual schemata, Algeria's novel suddenly
seemed anachronistic" B
It should not be imagined however that the new novel as described
and clearly approved of by Loveluck, Fuentes, Rodriguez, Monegal, etc.,
has been accepted and acclaimed with equal enthusiasm by all Latin
American critics. Many Latin American critics indeed feel that the
Latin American novelist should not allow himself to be lead into dis-
plays of technical dexterity in the wake of foreign models, whether
European or North American, or experiment in terms of "roman
objectif", the anti-novel, or engage in metaphysical, existentialist or
quintessential psychological studies of the Latin American scene, just
to be fashionable. This view is strongly and clearly expressed by
Manuel Pedro Gonzales in "Crisis de la novela en America". "Between
1910 and 1940", he writes, "we produced the most original and robust
novelists and our 'most all-embracing narrative expression. The in-
fluences which can be discerned in all of them have been assimilated
and turned into personal procedures. Nearly all avoid imitation be-
caure they aspire to creating original work and reflecting the values
of their environment. And from the same article: "Over the last few
years there has been a noticeable urge to renew the technique of
novel-writing. In other words, originality is being sought by means of
round about ways and tricks. The desire to renovate is praiseworthy
up to a point, but it is not enough. 'This is not workable or valid either,
if writers, as they have done up to now, merely copy or imitate European
or North American formulae. Nothing original or vigorous can spring
from such passive aping of foreign Imodels. The obsession with
technique, which is so fashionable in Latin America, seems to me a
frivolous pursuit of novelty rather than creative genius. The attempt
to find originality by resorting to technique is a clear admission of
creative impotence" 9
Other critics such as Pedro Gases think that nature is still the
major factor in Latin American life, in spite of the growth of the cities.
Man is formed, made or broken by it, but always dominated by it, and
nature is the main protagonist. The American novelist has changed
the concept of the genre" 10 This is exaggerated and perhaps out-
moded view of Latin American literature, especially stated as a sort of
absolute dogma, which is what Gases does. On the other hand, the
problems created by man's relationship with his natural environment
have not just disappeared over-night, and in all fairness to the "new
novelists" it should be emphasized that they are far from having for-
gotten this. (Obvious examples are Carpentier's 'Los Pasos perdidos",
Jos6 Maria Arguedas' "Los rios profundos", and "Todas las sangres";
and many others).
Another line of criticism, or at least of suspicion of the experi-
mentation of the new novel comes from the Marxist-Leninist critics
who encourage the writing of "revolutionary" novels. The Cuban critic,
J. A. Portuondo warns against the imitation of foreign, "bourgeois'
models, the obsession with surrealism, literary fashions, "empty formal-
ism", cultural snobbishness". 11 But he admits the need for renovation
and concern with new techniques: "To repeat day in and day out, on
any pretext for the entertainment of the people, without care or plan
the same ingenious patterns, however "popular" they may be, does
not contribute to the aesthetic education of the masses or to a
strengthening of their ideology. Neither will the exclusive cultivation of
form, pure experimentation in ways of expression. The artist
ought to strive to look for and find new modes of expression, which
correspond completely to the novelty of the content" 12 And, although
this problem presents itself in a particularly acute form in Cuba where
there is a great deal of heart-searching as to how the maintenance of
high literary standards and revolutionary content are to be combined,
Cuba is not the only Latin American country which is producing "revo-
lutionary" novels (see for example the Bolivian Jesi~s Lara's 'Surumi",
(1943), Yawar-Ninching, 1959, or Miguel Angel Asturias' "Week-end in
Guatemala" 1956, etc.)
I must also be remembered that many Latin American writers and
critics do not think in terms of anything like aesthetic values. The
writers referred to in Pablo Neruda's "Los poetas celestes", his "Gidistes,
intelectualistas, rikistas, mistenizantes, falsos brujos existencial-
istas", the pale worms in the capitalist cheese, the escapists, are not
all poets by any means.
What is certain is that the Latin American novel is not stag-
nating in a routine of repeating the formulae of the "novela de
la tierra", "novela indigenista", or the "novela de protest social",
paradigmatically. The American background, not only of the cities, but
of the sierras, pampas, and llanos, is still there. Social, racial and
economic problems are still dealt with. But the "Pasos perdidos" of
Alejo Carpentier, represents a deeper penetration into the spirit of
primeval America than La vorigine". "Los rios profundos" and "Todas
las sangres" of Jos6 Maria Arguedas examines the psychology of the
Indians and mestizos of the mountains of Peru, 'more sensitively and
probingly than Ciro Alegria's "El mundo es ancho y ajeno" and such
novels as "La Regi6n mis transparent" and "La muerte de Artemio
Cruz" by Carlos Fuentes, represent immersions into the structure and
psychology of post-revolutionary Mexico hitherto not afforded by the
At the same time, it is impossible to preconize one single technique.
The technique of fine psychological analysis is certainly not appro-
priate for dealing with large sections of Latin American reality. As
Juan Goytisolo points out: "The psychological novel had chosen as
its radius of action a very limited sector, not to say a tiny sector of the
human species: the very bourgeoisie of which it was the daughter,
and from which, due to its origin, it could not separate itself. The
psychological analysis which our forebears indulged in is only conceiv-
able in very limited environments, where people with money and edu-
cation, have the capacity, time and material means with which to
observe themselves. Applied to other sectors, for example, simple-
minded people, prostitutes, market women, salesmen, for whom the
delicate problems of the spirit have never existed, because they can-
not afford them, such a technique is not workable." 13
In fact, for dealing with all but a minority of educated middle-
class people (and how deceptive such places as Buenos Aires, Mexico
City, Lima, etc., can be), the behaviouristic approach applied delib-
erately, or spontaneously, appears to be a valid approach. To
claim that Latin America is predominantly inhabited by a highly
self-conscious, articulate majority simply is not true, and writing into
the characters this kind of mentality is a distortion. Again to quote
Goytisolo: "Man has always sought in art the means of expressing
himself more fully. For this reason, the objective novel, based on a
synthetic and real appreciation of his behaviour, has become, whether
people like it or not, the only effective way of writing novels in our
In a recent conversation with the author of one of the best-known
and most widely read Spanish American books, the Ecuadorian, Jorge
Icaza, he remarked a propos of a recent study of the Oedipus Complex
in one of the stories from his "Barro de la sierra" (Mountain Mud),
that apart from not being aware of any such thing, the psychological
study was quite out of place in dealing with the reality of many
parts of Latin America, and he added "Not only the people, but the
land itself, has not settled into any stable, set patterns. You visit the
same place and the mountain has vanished and the river which has
changed its course, is nowhere to be seen" While his best known novel
"Hausipungo", 15 one of the most widely read novels in Latin America,
presents :a simple picture of the miserable plight of the Indian "hausi-
pungero" (tenant farmers) in Ecuador, living in squalor, filth and
ignorance, and the callousness, brutality and scorn with which they
are treated by the "cholos" (half-castes) and whites, a picture of
horrific,, shocking and photographic realism, his later novel "El chulla
Romera y Flores", 16 is a much more complex presentation of Ecua-
dorian society, focused on the struggling, choloo" (often illigitimate)
of the lower middle-class. These people will not do the heavy manual
work normally reserved for Indians, to whom they consider them-
selves superior, but at the same time find it hard, indeed almost im-
possible to break into the enchanted circle, the powerful world of the
rich, established oligarchy, which runs the country.
In his main character, Romero y Flores, the pride and arrogance
of his white father, an impoverished "aristocrat", and the humility,
passivity, fatalism, readiness to humliate himself, and run in feai
from the rich and powerful, characteristic of his 'mother (she as a
servant of his father whose illegitimate son he is), alternate and
clash in the most painful and disconcerting manner. Anger and
impetuous bombast, (a hall-mark of the white father), will suddenly
collapse into lack of self-confidence or an abject urge to run away
and hide. The book contains a very convincing analysis of the lower-
middle class 'mentality, psychology and behaviour: its fraud, fawning
and creeping, bullying and corruptibility, its fear and resentment of
power and authority, and its desire to possess them, use and abuse
them, its bitterness and envy, above all its basic self-scorn. Although
the book is supremely realistic in detail and speech, many scenes are
imaginatively symbolic and his use of a chorus of comment is almost
poetic in force (the scene of the upper-class cock-tail party where
he has gone to throw his weight about as a government tax-assessor,
but is unmasked for what he is, the illegitimate son of an Indian
servant girl, arouse a chorus of disgust and scorn, or the chorus of
the poor neighbours, when he is being pursued by the police in an
hallucinatory flight through the alleys, slums, gulleys and brothels of
Another significant line of development is what the Cuban novelist,
Alejo Carpentier has called "lo real maravilloso", usually translated
into English as "magic realism" Like many Latin American novelists
he has felt the need to break away from the "nativismo", their ex-
aggeratedly typical fiestas, their inevitable fights between the men,
their rustic love-affairs, and their equally inevitable final conflagra-
tion, and edifying and adrmonitory warning" 17 He had at first found
a solution in surrealism, "the chance encounter o.f a sewing machine
on a dissection table", but had felt that this was a matter of tricks
and sleight-of-hand. 18 It was during a visit to Haiti in 1943 that he
had experienced the existence of an everyday reality impregnated with
the "marvellous" But then he realized that this was not just a Haitian
phenomenon. This magic realism was as alive in the history of the
"Conquest of Mexico" by Bernal Diaz del Castillo as it was in many
other happenings, at the same time "real and magic", including the
Cuban Revolution. It was present at "every step in the lives of the men
who wrote dates in the history of the Continent (of America) and
whose descendants still bear their names. From the searching for the
Fountain of Eternal Youth, the Golden City of Manoa-to the sensible,
practical minded Spaniards who set out from Angostura in search of
El Dorado and Francisco Menendez roaming Patagonia in quest of
the Golden City of the Caesars" 19 He also found this "real marvel-
loso" in the dancing and ritual of the Santeria (voudou) of Cuba, the
Faustic presence of the Amerindian, the Revelation of its comparatively
recent discovery and, its fertile mixture of races, and its unexhausted
Furthermore, "magic realism" does not preclude criticism of social,
political and economic reality. Although "magic realism" may seem
a somewhat vague term (all literary labels tend to be), Seymour
Menton gives a succinct description otf it as "the juxtaposition of scenes
and detail of intense realism with completely fantastic situation".20
It is clearly demonstrated in Carpentier's own "Reino de este
mundo" (The Kingdom of this World). This is an account of events
leading up to the Haitian slave up-rising and expulsion of the French,
and culminates with an imaginative description of Henri Christophe's
reign. All is seen in one life-time through the eyes of an ex-slave,
Ti-Noel. The Haitian slaves do not believe that their victory over the
French will be due to military strategy and warfare alone, but that
mysterious spirits are involved. When Macandal is burned alive in
Cap-Haitian, the Negroes, who regard him as a powerful witch-doctor,
do not believe in his death. How can Macandal, who is capable of turn-
ing himself into a fly, a centipede, a white ant, a tarantula, a bird
or a bat, be captured and put to death by the French? They knew he
would escape, and in fact, in a state of collective delirium, actually
saw him take flight out of the flames.
Then came the megalomaniac madness of Henry Christophe, con-
structing his fabulous (even its ruins today are awe-inspiring) fortress,
La Citadelle, at the cost of hundreds of lives, while surrounded by the
paraphernalia of an eighteeenth century Euoopean court he plays out
the comedy of a "civilized" courtly life, grotesque, terrible and pathetic.
In his "Siglo de los luces" (entitled "Explosion in a cathedral" in
its English translation) he offers ostensibly a novelized biography of
the French revolutionary figure, Victor Hugues, and the two people
drawn into his orbit. It is, in fact, a vision of society in a state of
crisis, one of the greatest crises of modern history, the French Revo-
lution. The theatre of the crisis here, however, is not France itself,
but the West Indies, Cuba, Haiti, Guadeloupe and French Guiana. It
mirrors the collapse of old, established values and the upsurge of new,
and at times, apparently contradictory ones. The staggering transitions,
the advances and retards of the French revolution, are seen making
a violent, traumatic impact on the colonial world. All is there, the
power of rhetoric, principles and ideals of freedom and happiness on
the world, fervour, but also cruelty, ruthlessness, dishonesty, self-
deception, and finally disenchantment and cynicism. The symbol of
the painting, frequently referred to "Explosion in a Cathedral", is used
to convey symbolically the shock of the expected shattering of and
apparently static order of things. The painting represents a cathedral
at the 'moment of breaking, just before it crashes down "the apoca-
lyptic immobilization of a catastrophe", as the author puts it. There
is also embedded in the book a theme which constantly preoccupies
the author-man's happiness on earth, the search for the lost garden
of Eden, the earthly paradise, or for personal-even momentary
happiness. It is to be found in love, excitement and adventure, change,
in the wonderful shapes and colours and sounds of nature (if one can
perceive them), and also the search for a collective happiness in a
"better world" Perhaps this is what filled so many people with
enthusiasm in the French revolution. His hero Est6ban, the young
Cuban, whose imagination is fired by the rhetoric and charismatic
power cf Hughes, is finally disillusioned and weary after his fruitless
search. It is his sister, Sofia, who keeps repeating, "one must do
something" Here again one sees Carpentier's tendency to myth-
making, the search, the constant failure, but the need to continue
searching. Estkban's words towards the end of the book are signifi-
cant "Let us beware of words which sound too fine; of Better Worlds
founded on words. Our period has died from an excess of words. There
is no other Promised Land but the one man can find in himself."21
In his best novel up to the present, "Los Pasos perdidos" (1953),
he proposes the dichotomy Europe-America. Of Cuban-European
parentage (like Carpentier), his main character has been brought up
to believe that everything European is superior. His father, a musician,
has instilled into him the principles of nineteenth European idealism,
symbolized for him by Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and when he
goes to Europe after his father's death, he is dazzled and enthralled
by the music, architecture and painting of the Old World. He visits
Europe, however, at the time of Nazism and he realizes there is some-
thing hollow and false, and after his experience of the war, and
hearing German concentration camp guards singing the .famous chorus
from Beethoven's Ninth (Freunde, schbner, Gotterfunker, Tocher aus
Elysium), the symphony and all it stands for become odious to him.
As a child he had been horrified by stories of violence and executions
during the Mexican Revolution. His father, a Manicheist in his own
way, had claimed that these were manifestations of American bar-
barism, and he saw the world as a battle-field between the light of
recorded (European) culture, and the darkness of original animality
(America), an Evil from which Beethoven's Europe had freed itself.
This darkness had its last redoubt in fact in the "Continent of little
history" But compared with the highly organized efficient slaughter-
machines of the Germans, Pancho Villa and his "dorados" seemed to
have been making wholesome, human gestures.
After the war he finds himself leading a hum-drum life writing
music for commercials and living a marital life of pure routine. He
is offered the opportunity of going to the tropical interior of Peru
to look for some very primitive musical instruments for the local
museum and tired of his empty "intellectual" circle decides to escape,
accompanied by his sophisticated mistress Mouche, a showy, empty
culture addict. The backwoods of America are a tremendous revelation
to him. First the Andes, then the incredible vegetal architecture of
the Amazonian jungle. His spirit is gradually fired by a spirit of the
marvellous, of magic, of adventure, and he compares his expedition to
the Odyssy or the chronicles of the first Spanish conquistadors and
explorers. In the unmapped heart of the jungle he is doing in fact
exactly what they did and he is filled with the same sense of magic
enchantment. In the settlement founded by the Spanish gold and
diamond prospector, El Adelantado, he falls in love with an Indian
girl, who becomes his mistress (he is thoroughly disgusted with
Mouche), and decides that he is not going to return to the super-
ficialities and hollowness of "civilization" He will lead the simple,
material life of the Indians whom he finds far from 'primitive":
'Nothing could be further from their life than the absurd concept
of the "savage" The superb precision with which they shot an arrow
into fishes in a back-water, the choreographic perfection with which
another put a blow-pipe to his mouth, the concerted technique with
which that group of people gradually covered the wooden frame-work
of a house they were making with fibres, revealed to me the presence
of a human being who had become master in the totality of occupa-
tions made necessary by the theatre of his being.-Here at least, there
would be no useless occupations like those I had been engaged in for
so many years. 22
He finds the instruments which were the object of his expedition
and decides to send them back, but not return himself. However, the
overpowering urge to write a musical composition to communicate his
experience, for he feels that at last he has something to communicate,
grows in him and absurdly, he runs out of paper, he cannot write
it down. So he returns to Europe, having been "rescued" by a search-
party, divorces his wife, and after many difficulties comes back to
take up his life in the jungle. But in the few short months everything
has changed. The settlement is in ruins, the priest is dead, killed by
a warlike tribe of Indians, Rosario has married and has disappeared,
the Greek Yanes, who carried a copy of the Odyssey around with him
and read out passages aloud is half-demented with anxiety, having
discovered a diamond mine. There is nothing left for him, he has
*foresworn Europe and civilization, but his American Eden has vanish-
ed like a dream, swallowed up in the arbitrary, chaotic, creative and
destructive indifference of the jungle.
The book is rich in subtle counterpoint: the music and architecture
of Europe, impressive, monumental, but deceptive, a cerebral super-
structure built over dark instinctive drives and sinister, destructive
forces: the music and natural architecture of America, of ingenuous
and natural appeal, a more apparent chaos, but full of magic and
mysterious beauty, is also undermined with traps, deceipts and frus-
trations. Again, the myth of the search for happiness in this world,
At this point it becomes necessary, indeed inevitable to make a
brief reference to the Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges (b. 1899), for
although he is a short story writer and critic and not a novelist, he
has had a wide-spread influence on the style and concept of what
literature is on many of his contemporaries, both in the River Plate
countries. Argentine and Uruguay, and further afield. He is indeed
regarded by many as the most original writer Latin America has so far
produced, and is often quoted from by foreign writers (i.e. non-Latin
Americans). The main subjects of his stories are the labyrinth, the
nature of the universal God, the nature of the infinite, the meaning
of time, symmetrical patterns of events, the occurrence of miracles.
He is a vastly erudite 'man not only in world literature, but also in
philosophy, metaphysics, theology and the beliefs of the more eccen-
tric sects of various religions.
His "characters", although many of his stories have no characters,
are often scholars, philosophers, theologians, writers. Nothing of their
private, intimate lives is ever revealed. There is a dryness, extreme
precision and deliberate economy in his carefully chosen words and
a great use of abstract terminology, normally confined to the vocabu-
lary of the theologian, philosopher or litterateur. These elements have
led him to be accused of dehumanization, over-intellectualization and
sophistry, and many of his stories tend to baffle, and even enrage read-
ers conditioned to the plain fare of simple chronological realism. Far
from being a cold and dehumanized, calculating literary chess player,
at the core of much of his work there lies a profound human anguish.
As the Argentine critic, Enrique Anderson Imbert puts it very aptly:
"Instead of shouting out his anguish like the existentialists, Borges
prefers his suspicions. His greatest suspicion is that the world
is a chaos and in this chaos man is lost as in a labyrinth".23
Typical stories are his "Three versions of Judas", in which a
theologian stumbles across the proof that the Saviour was Judas
and not Christ. This is God's great secret and nobody takes any notice
of this astounding revelation, or "The Library of Babel", an infinite
library, minutely described, infinite, but full of books in a language
that nobody can understand, although many spend their whole lives
looking for a catalogue which may contain the key to the interpreta-
tion of the other books. Clearly this is an allegory of the absurd chaos
of the universe. "The Lottery in Babylon" is a lucid fantasy in which
he describes the workings of a lottery, started in Babylon as a usual
sort of lottery with prizes for the lucky. But it is gradually made more
and more complex in its working until everybody, willy-nilly, is in-
volved in it. It gives not only prizes, but also punishments, however
the elaborate scheme on which it is worked is secret. It is in fact
a symbolic allegory of fate, destiny.
In such a way he intellectualizes the basic problems of life, and
his work is a gigantic effort to translate metaphysical matters into
concrete terms, but in a veiled, discrete way (Borges, it has been
claimed, is afraid of emotion), he has a profound sympathy for man
in his human condition, and there is a sense of pathos, muted, barely
visible, in much of his writing. However, he makes no concessions to
the average reader and to a large extent will remain a "writer's writer".
In the Latin American context, Borges set his face firmly against
regionalism, nativism, or cultural nationalism, against what in fact is
a deeply rooted tradition, almost amounting to a prejudice, namely
that it is in some way the duty or mission of the Latin American writer
to write about the local scene-its landscape, people, their social and
economic relations, and psychology. As we have seen, even Carpentier,
opposed as he was to the stereotyped, over-worked "rural" novel,
nevertheless suggests that his magic realism is perhaps distinctively
Latin American: "But I realized", he wrote in the preface to the
"Kingdom of this World", "that this pervading presence of magic
realism was not a unique privilege of Haiti, but the heritage of the
whole of America, where *a full account of all its cosmogonies, has still
not been .fully established".24 Borges refers to some of his early
works which have a markedly Argentine setting as "aprocryphal ex-
ercises in local colour-which I cannot even think of without feeling
If, as Juan Loveluck claims, the centre of gravity of the Latin
American novel is shifting from the jungles and mountains to the
cities, it is not surprising to find the first attempts at writing urban
novels with all the perplexities and strains of urban life coming from
such large urban conglomerations as the River Plate cities of Buenos
Aires, and Montevideo, from Lima and Mexico City and Havana.
One of the first to venture into this field was the compatriot and
contemporary of Borges, Eduardo Mallea (b. 1903), a restless, tormen-
ted observer of his country's development into a people with a spirit
and purpose. It is impossible to make even passing reference to all
Mallea's works, but his '4Ciudad Junto al rio inm6vil" (1936), a set of
short stories linked by the thread of a similar experience of Buenos
Aires is a good example of his writing. The city Buenos Aires, assumes
an almost metaphysical dimension in this work. In his introduction:
"Dialogue in a street", he writes: "Let us go into the city. What a
strange desert, stretched out along a strange river. The atmosphere
is harsh, the people are not connected by words, but by a heavy mute-
ness-I mean real words". 26
Although there is a variety of characters, the connecting thread
of loneliness, isolation, futility, incomprehension, and sterility is in
all of them. The city is seen as dominated by meaningless noise and
bustle, a vulgarity that passes for "joie de vivre", and basically a crude
There is no satisfying human communication. Some of his
characters have nervous break-down, like Ana Borel, who finds her
life so sterile, her husband and circle of friends so insensitive and
shallow, that she falls into a state of morbid withdrawal. Jacobo Uber
is overcome by a sense of uselessness, and finally drowns himself, in
an escape from himself and his sense of futility. In "Conversation", a
man and wife are talking, but the "conversation" is dead, each turned
in on themselves, they cannot communicate. Mallea makes great use
of the inner monologue and the description of the city-its streets,
bars, restaurants, plazas, shops, etc.
Another River Plate novelist, Juan Carlos Onetti, gives a gloomy,
depressingly pessimistic view of life. Most of his novels and stories are
set in a small river-side town (Argentine or Uruguayan side of the
river? it is difficult to say) of Santa Maria. It is industrious, provincial,
dull. The atmosphere of the town and the river are ever-present (how
often it is raining, drizzling or misty). Santa Maria is utilitarian in
the extreme, dingy and vulgar, also prurient and hypocritical. The
characters are moved by envy, lust, a desire for excitement, for the
forbidden fruits, a low-pitched material success which will lead to what?
-more food, wine, more expensive prostitutes, some public standing
and influence, for what they may be worth in such a place. His main
characters are overwhelmed by a sense of futility, they are cynical,
disabused, and in some cases deeply imbued with the basic absurdity
of the human condition. One of his recurrent characters, (the same
characters tend .to reappear in a number of the novels), the town doctor,
Diaz Grey, has reached rock-bottom of this feeling of futility and
absurdity of his own life, of all life and thinks of "God, for a moment
bending over the Diaz Grey case, sustaining me with his indifference,
his benevolent amazement" 27 He has lost all faith, conviction, all motiva-
tion of life. He despises his profession, and people he cures or fails
to cure he sees as ridiculous. He is doing nothing. "To know who I
am. Nothing, zero, an irrevocable company, a presence for other people.
Forty years of life wasted, which is just a manner of speaking, as I
cannot conceive of life as anything else".28
Onetti's anti-hero, Larsen (alias Juntaca.dveres-an Argentinism
for a pimp), is equally disabused, cynical, but in a curious way more
positive than Diaz Gray. It has always been Larsen's ambition to "be
somebody" After a brief period of hopefulness and illusion in his
youth, he has decided that a solution is to be a pimp, or if possible, run
a brothel. This he achieves in Juntacadiveres" for a short time, but
he is forced to close it as the result of a moralityt" campaign organiz-
ed by the local priest and a sex-starved, half mad local woman (who is
having an affair with a youth), who organize the local school-girls to
write filthy anonymous letters to the wives and fianc6s of the men
who frequent the house of pleasure. There is something unwholesome
about the "morality" campaign, which make Junta's enemies quite as
vile as he is, a revolving combination of prurience, hypocrisy, the fear
that this is an escape from the insidious flatness of the life of the
town, a fear that somebody might find even momentary happiness.
Onetti's main novel to date "El astillero" (The Shipyard) very
rapidly prepares the reader for a Kafkaesque allegory. The place is
still Santa Maria, the main character, Larsen, who after his defeat
over the brothel, returns, physically and psychologically at the end
of his tether. To his surprise he is appointed General Manager of a
shipyard which he soon discovers, really does not exist. There is a
"ship-yard", but it is a junk-heap where no business has been trans-
acted for years. There are other employees, an administrative and
technical manager. They live in a hovel constructed out of pieces of
old ships, and like Larsen are paid large, but completely imaginary
salaries. Money is, in fact, obtained by selling of the junk as scrap
periodically. The owner, a "financier", Jeremias P6trus and Company,
Ltd.", maintains the fiction (does he believe it any more than Larsen
believes in the reality of his highly paid job as Managing Director?)
that when certain complications are settled, he will receive three
hundred million pesos, and the Company will return to its former
prosperity. They all go through the motions of running the business,
and Larsen enters with great zest and apparent conviction into the
spirit of the game. He sits at his desk every day, goes through files,
often twenty or thirty years old, dealing with ships which no longer
even exist, consults his staff, talks of reorganisation in a very busi-
ness-like way. He even starts an absurd courtship with the daughter
of the owner (she is mad), presumably on the sound business principle
of marrying the boss' daughter, marrying into the firm. He keeps up
the pretense of self-assuredness, calm, patience, confidence, "being
in the know", even of loyalty to the company. A crisis is precipitated
when one of the (never paid) employees, who possesses some of Petrus'
bogus bonds, gets the old man jailed. Larsen decides that this is un-
ethical and sets out to find the man and if necessary shoot him
(Larsen always carries a revolver and is given to muttering "I can
always put a bullet in my head".) However, the punishment is not
necessary as the man has fallen into the river and drowned. Larsen
becomes demented and dies, a death he had been expecting and indeed
Larsen's (and one feels Onetti's view of life) is expressed in the
following quotation. "All one can do is precisely this: anything, do
one thing after another, without interest or meaning-. One thing
then another, then another, without it mattering whether they turn
out well or badly, without it mattering what it may mean. It was
always like that: it is better than touching wood or getting oneself
blessed; when misfortune realises that it is useless, it begins to dry
up, it comes loose and falls away".29 In a sense Larsen, in all his
degradation assumes almost heroic proportions, heroic in his constant
struggle to find something positive and meaningful. He fails, as Onetti
suggests, everybody does, indeed his message is the total failure of
any connection between people, to understand each other, themselves and
their destiny. As Mario Benedetti points out: "His attitude is not
destructive, not even destructive." Onetti merely gives, passively, his
observations, his versions, cruel and bitterly resigned, of the world
he is thrown in contact with. 30
The reader has always the impression that his characters are
trapped, condemned to a particular destiny. In youth there is love,
there is a possibility, apparent possibility of happiness: "Love is won-
derful and absurd, and incomprehensively, can visit any kind of soul
But there are not many absurd and marvellous people, and those who
are, are only so for a short time, in their early youth. Then they begin
to accept and are lost."31
Onetti might be described as an existentialist in his attitude on
the absurdity of life; the anguish and nausea of his characters have
a clear existentialist ring about them. In style he is highly eclectic and
moves from realism and flash-backs to poetic evocation, from interior
'monologue to statements and explanations of his characters, assum-
ing the role of the omniscient novelist. "The ship-yard" certainly has
a symbolic dimension. Again to quote Benedetti: "Onetti moves from
the particular (Larsen), to man in general, but then returns to the
particular, and the Man becomes at the same time all men, every man,
including Onetti". 32
Onetti's works certainly do not belong to the anti-novel trend,
although there is a baffling, hallucinatory quality to some of them, for
example, Larsen's relations with the mad daughter of Petrus. But on
the whole his books are easy to read and lie within the established
framework of the novel, although his meaning is not always immedi-
ately obvious and his characters are complex and confused. The
confusion, however, is often a part of the characters, who do not
understand themselves, other people or what is going on or why. Like
most people they are given to self-deception, attitudinizing and in-
Another outstanding novelist of the '50s and '60s, is the Peruvian,
Jos6 Maria Arguedas. His world is that of the Peruvian Andes and his
constant subject is the relationship between the millions of non-
Westernized or Hispanicized Indians, who have preserved their language,
Quechua, and many of their pre-conquest attitudes, and the Euro-
peanized Peruvians. Many other writers in the period 1920-40, in Peru,
Ecuador and Bolivia had written about the horror of life in the Andes,
the poverty, heartless exploitation, and indeed frequent physical
cruelty and scorn with which these semi-slaves had lived since the
days of the Conquest. Indeed, their condition was in many cases worse
than that of the African slaves, as described in literature by such
writers as the Cubans, Ernesto Suarez Romero, Mario Zambrana and
Manzano, for whereas the African slaves cost money and were valuable,
the Indians could be had .free, and if killed or worked to death, there
were plenty more where the first came from. The so-called "indigenista"
novel had set into a pattern of types and situations-brutal, overbear-
ing landowners, always with the law and the army on their side, in
case of trouble, and oppressed, pathetic, down-trodden Indians whose
pent-up resentment would occasionally flare up into revolt, useless in
any practical sense, because they were always punished, often massacred
when the government sent out troops or police to "restore order."
The situation exists as a background to many of Arguedas' novels,
but his characters are complex and alive, not literary stereotypes.
The Peruvian MariAtegui thinker had pointed out that novels
about Indians were written by '"mestizos" (half-Indian, half-white)
and that the real "indigenista" novel would only be written by an
Indian. Arguedas, though not a pure Indian by blood, looked at the
world through Indian eyes. His childhood and early youth, the most
formative period of his life, had been spent among the mountain
Indians, travelling from pueblo to pueblo with his father, an iterant
lawyer. He was a Quechua speaker to a large extent, who later in his
life, through school, became a bilingual Quechua and Spanish speaker.
To him, the Indian world was -full of beauty and magic (one can
indeed speak of "magic realism" in connection with Arguedas) and
he understood that under the suffering, the scorn, the apparent
humility and hermetic withdrawal of the Indian, the old Indian soul
was alive and vibrant. He realized that the myth of the impassive,
mindless, animal-like Indian was a fiction, and for the Indian a means
of defence. His sense of oneness with the spirit of the living earth is
fully brought out, his delight in music and song, his sense of himself
in himself as apart and different from the white world which despised
and ill-treated him. Arguedas even .felt that ordinary Spanish was not
a satisfactory medium for expressing the truth of the Indian, and
although for obvious reasons. he could not publish books in Quechua,
he invented a special language for his Indians, a direct translation of
Quechua phrasing and turns of speech into Spanish. In his "'Rios
profundos",33 largely autobiographical, he tells the story of a boy
brought up into the Indian world, suddenly thrust into the alien
atmosphere of a white-man's boarding school. He is not perse-
cuted (as happens with many Indian children in similar circumstances
in other novels), but simply rejects the environment, which he finds
harsh, alien and unlovable, and withdraws into a nostalgic world of
fantasy, the world of his childhood among the mountain Indians, non-
logical, non-rationalistic, of magic and animism. The sound of an
Indian song, a few words of the language, the sight of the Indians
rioting in the town, fill him with joy and excitement. His novel "Todas
las sangres",34 presents the whole problem of Peru, as he sees it,
through a number of subtle, finely and strangely drawn characters,
who though representative, are not types. (Don Bruno, the patri-
archal Christian figure, mystical and licentious, humble and proud,
escapes any kind of categorization). Bruno is a landowner, white, rich,
of very good family, but he wants to live in an Indian world, as a
sort of Messiah. His brother has ideals of crude, materialistic pro-
gressiveness, using the Indians as cheap labour to build a truly Peruvian
capitalism. His dreams are shatttred by the intervention of an inter-
national cartel which takes his mines away from him, although he is
left a comfortable ten percent of the shares. Between them stands the
mysterious, enigmatic figure of Rend6n Wilka, a semi-educated Indian,
with an instinctive, atavistic drive to set up an Indian society on the
ancient Inca pattern, based on the deep-rooted, non-individualistic
character of the Indians, a living traditional collectivist sentiment.
Interwoven with these main characters are the Peruvian agents of
international capitalism., the greed, cruelty, hatred, and self-hatred
of the nouveau riche half-caste landowners, the "poor whites" and
mestizos of the small town, economically ruined by the changing cir-
cumstances, and precipitated into the slum ghettos of Lima.
Mario Vargas Llosa, another Peruvian novelist, has produced a
brilliant novel in his "La ciudad y los perros" (1962), which deals
with life in a military academy (this kind of military academy is very
like an English public school in many ways). His qualities as a writer
are his mastery in the interweaving of past and present, although
some of his flash-backs are confusing at the moment of reading. He
is sensitive in the rendering of the psychology of human relationships
,and contacts, fully realizing the difficulties, mistrusts, half-under-
standing, or complete misunderstanding, bewilderment, which make
up people's experience of each other.
He is also a master in the description of dramatic, meaning-
packed action (the slow development of the military exercise which
culminates with the shooting of "esclavo", the school's whipping-boy;
the fierce, bitter, silent fight in the guard-room between Alberto and
"el Jaguar", the school bully, and the even more tense and vivid scene
in which a whole section of the school beats up "El Jaguar" as a
squealer, while Alberto, the real culprit, looks on, afraid of being de-
nounced, but "El Jaguar" allows himself to be given a terrible beat-
ing without saying a word. The confused moral values of the boys,
the pathetic junior officer who tries to "do the right thing" and bring
the murderer to justice, but is punished by the authorities, who are not
concerned with right or wrong, but only appearances. All this very
substantial content, plus the author's .far from conventional presenta-
tion and skill make this one of the most outstanding books to come
out of Latin America in the last decade.
Vargas Llosa's second novel "La casa verde", (1966), is very
different. The book could almost have been written to disprove Loveluck
and Rodriguez Monegal's theses that the centre of gravity of the
Latin American novel has shifted from the back-woods to the cities.
"La casa verde" is set in the north of Peru between the desert and the
Amazonian jungle and the .forces of nature weigh heavily in the de-
termination of his characters' behaviour and destinies.
His technique is not however the straight-forward realism of
Gallegos, Rivera, Alcides, Arguedas (if indeed Rodriguez Monegal's
reference to the "two-dimensional characterisation documentary, all-
too-mechanical structure" (see note 7), are just evaluations, which is
highly disputable). The book is written in terms of objective realism
that Goytisolo refers to. The characters are simple people--police,
smugglers, prostitutes, Indians, some of whom speak no Spanish, like
Jum), and the workings of their psychologies are externalized in actions,
gestures, curses, traditional attitudes such as "machismo" and local
patriotism. They strive for money and security, in ,a medium in which
both are hard to come by honest means. Their pleasures are sex,
drinking and fighting. The novel covers the lives of several charac-
ters and at least two generations, but not in a normal chronological
development, but in ;a continuous shuffling of events from past to
present, and a view of events and relationships from the point of
view of several characters. As in "La ciudad y los perros" it is not
always easy for the reader to know who is talking or acting, or when
or where. For example, it is not until the end of the book that the
reader realizes that the harpist, Anselmo, is the father of La Chunga,
and that the blind and dumb girl he is supposed to have raped and
murdered is her mother, and has died in childbirth. Anselmo had
his club burned by enraged townspeople, led by the local priest, for
this atrocious "murder".
The overall impression of the book, in spite of the "natural"
behaviour and expression of the characters is one of great compassion
and sadness. Two generations of life in a rough, chaotic, harsh and
savage, natural and human environment; relationships between
savage or semi-savage people, and time sweeping them along like the
ever present fine sand from the desert, without love, comfort or hope.
Love is usually lust, physical possession, except perhaps in the case
of Anselmo's feeling for the mutilated, blind and dumb Antonia. The
convent in the town with the nuns trying to civilize Indian children
who are stolen from their families, to be saved, the priest talking of
sin, damnation, and hell-fires, appear basically absurd, merely teach-
Ing formulae and ritual gestures. Perhaps there is a deliberate sym-
bolism in Boni.facia (herself a "pagan" caught and brought up in
the convent), helping the newly arrived savage Indian children, lousy,
dirty, famished and terrified, to escape from the protective refuge of
the convent. None of Bonificia's motivations are explained, but she
does what she does, although she is supposed to be "civilized", out of
some obscure, sub-conscious instinctive feeling that the convent is
not the place for them, any more than it had been for her. She too
escapes, although she loves, admires and is grateful to the nuns.
Are these people "crushed and moulded by nature, until the human
individual disappears"? Crushed and 'moulded they perhaps are, by
nature, and also by the society they live in, but they are convincingly
Of the Mexican Carlos Fuentes' novels, perhaps the most widely
read is "La muerte de Artemio Cruz" It works on three planes as
Artemio Cruz remembers and re-lives his life on his death-bed. It is
in this sense the novel of a single life.
The second plane is revolutionary and particularly post-revolu-
tionary Mexico, with its corruption, brutality and sordid struggle to
get on top and keep down and crush those below. The third is a sense
of living, with Artemio Cruz looking for a meaning in his complicated
existence, from simple soldier with peasant roots, to industrial magnate
and financial manipulator in the 1960's. He is a highly self-centred
man, a master of his destiny, through violence, deceipt, his domineer-
ing nature and shrewd insight into people and their motives. His prin-
cipal aim is possession of things and people, sensual possession and
fulfilled desire. As Fuentes puts it:
"You will recognize other people, and they will recognize you, and
you know you will oppose each individual, because every individual
will be an obstacle to the realization of your desires. You will desire:
as if you wanted to desire and the object of your desire to become one
and the same thing; as if you dreamed of immediate fulfilment, in
identification as of desire and what is desired.
You will rest with your eyes closed, but you will continue not to
stop desiring, but you will Imake yours the desired - ". 35
However, a strange sensation of failure and frustration haunts his
memories. He has survived, he has touched, seen, smelled, listened,
But his wife (who he has more or less bought), hates and despises
him; his daughter is an empty-headed fool and dislikes him, his
business associates fear and mistrust him (in a long passage he
claims the basic feature of the Mexican character is this distrust, fear
and hatred), and all he can remember with real pleasure is a love-
affair with a young country girl in his early life. Regina, who he had not
bought or deceived, and whom he has possessed completely. But she
was killed during the Revolution. And his son, who he also loved, but
who was killed in the Spanish civil war. The rest is part of the multi-
form process of life, his life at a particular moment in the historical
circumstances of Mexico.
'The child, the earth, the universe", he ends, "in the three some
day there will be neither light, nor warmth nor life-just total unity,
without name and without man, space and time in fusion, matter and
energy in fusion. And all things will have the same name-no name.
But still not yet, men are still being born." 36 Of all the works discussed
here, Julio Cortazar's novel "Rayuela" (Buenos Aires, 1965) is with-
out doubt the most remarkable and the most extreme in its experi-
mentation with the novel form "The magic realism of Oarpentier,
and Arguedas; the objective manner of Varga Llosa in "La casa verde",
the existentialism and allegorizing tendencies of Onetti are completely
transcended by "Rayuela" The novelist has definitely left behind any
trace of the established novel technique which characterized the Latin
American novel until the 1940's, structured in terms of setting, char-
acters, plot and d6noument. There are characters, but they are fluid
and enigmatic, arranged "scenes", a sort of atmosphere, or rather
several sorts of atmosphere, but they are handled in such an arbitrary
disconcerting manner that to many readers it will hardly appear as
a "novel" at all.
The subject, "what the novel is about" can on a superficial level
be .fairly simply stated. The hero, an Argentine, Oliveira, is living in
Paris, in an atmosphere of highly cultured beatnikism. He has a
relationship with an Uruguayan girl, La. Maga, who has an illegitimate
child. Rocamador, from a previous relationship. He and his friends
sit around and listen to "Jazz classics" about which they theorize in
a very intellectual manner, discuss philosophy, literature, painting
etc. When Rocamador dies he leaves La Maga (or does she leave him?),
and he drifts around the world of tramps ,petty thieves and cheap
prostitutes, until he is picked up with one, drunk, dirty and is de-
ported from France (this we only learn later in the second section).
In part II, he turns up in Buenos Aires and lives with his old
friends, Traveler and his wife, Talita who have a kind of circus. They
give this up and become employees in a private lunatic asylum.
Oliveira ends up by making a complicated net-work of strings around
and across a room to prevent anyone getting to him, and is, as it were,
cornered sitting on the window-sill where he seems to be trying to
make up his mind to commit suicide by jumping out and killing him-
self. The reader expects him to do this, but apparently he does not.
The rest of the book, described as "capitulos prescindibles" (chapters
which need not be read), is a combination of flash-backs, isolated
scenes, snatches of dialogue, quotations, pseudo and aprocryphal, some
real. These are drawn from Malcolm Lowery, Octavio Paz, scientific
works, The Observer, Sunday Times, the words of "blues", etc.
The novel is full of metaphysical discussions, philosophical analysis.
At times, Oliveira appears to be in search of himself, of the meaning
of man's existence, of some even momentarily tenable position, some
great experience, a means of understanding people, but inspite of
his impressive paraphernalia of culture and action, there is no answer,
Maga is ignorant, i.e., she has not read all the books, and
"natural" she is avid for culture, but he discourages her:
"She closes her eyes and hits the centre of the target", Oliveira
thought. "Exactly the system of Zen Budism. But she hits the centre
precisely because she does not know there is a system (I on the con-
trary--- )" And when she asks him what Zen is, he replies: "Don't
learn idiotic facts: why wear glasses when you don't need them."37
Oliveira is profoundly suspicious of people, philosophy, himself, and
above all, of words: "And the illusions, they were not even illusions,
but even worse, illusions of other illusions, a giddy chain of illusions
leadisg backwards to a monkey looking at his own reflection in the
water on the first day of creation" 38
There are what he calls the "'metaphysical rivers"-I discover new
and simultaneous and alien worlds and every time I agree, it is the
worst kind of illusion. Why this thirst for ubiquity, why the struggle
against them?" 39.
Then there is the total lack of communication with other human
beings, which constantly torments him, but if he gets anywhere near
such a thing, he immediately becomes suspicious that he is deluding
himself. "Only biological and sexual optimism could hide from some
people their insularity, whether John Donne likes it or not. Contacts
in action, race, work, bed, or on the playing field, were contacts of
branches and leaves, which touch and caress each other, from tree to
tree, while the .trunks raised their irreconcilable parallels."40 There is
no otherness, scarcely an agreeable togetherness. How can one live
in this situation, but by plunging into absurdity, so as to end absurdity
itself. And this is in fact what Oliveira does: There is, for example.
the absurd scene of the evening spent in the empty concert hall,
listening to music composed by a demented avant-garde female
composer. Her music is pretentious, third-rate and boring. At the
end cf the concert, by which time he is the only member of the audience
left (out of an original eight or nine), he takes pity on her in her
abandonment and self-deception, listens sympathetically to her stupid
babblings, until she finally accuses him of trying to seduce her.
(She is old, ugly, dirty and stinks) His only comment to himself Is
"Don't let's use blasted words about it, those shining panders. It
happened like that and that is all there is to it-just let's leave
things as they are and go to bed. There was no other reason, there
can be no other reason" When much later, he returned to the memory
of that day, to a careful, precise examination, of the minutes of that
day-all that would be left would be a wind of time blowing through
it, a continuous imprecision without boundaries.41
His friend, (?) Gregovorius, comments on Oliveira's behaviour and
attitudes: "He talks in metaphors, like others are initiated into
escapism, voodoo, marihuana-smoking He suspects that somewhere
in Paris, in some day, in some death, in something, there is a key and
he is looking for it like a madman. Notice I say like a madman. That
is to say that he is not aware of looking for the key, or that the key
exists. He suspects its shapes, its disguises: that is why I speak of
He has discovered that life is not in libraries, but in life itself.
And over and over again comes this mistrust of words, throughout the
book, a denunciation of literature and philosophy (but what an
immense apparatus of multiform rhetoric he displays to demonstrate
his distrust of words).
Another scene is the long, drawn-out setting of the death of
Rocamador, Maga's child. Oliveira knows he is lying dead in his bed,
but does not disclose his knowledge meanwhile, their friends drop in,
drink alcohol, and philosophize and talk about art.
The true absurdity is that things do not appear absurd. "What is
absurd is to go to the door in the morning, find the bottle of milk
on the door-step and remain calm, because yesterday was the
same and the same thing will happen tomorrow-one must find
another way". "Give up intelligence"? asks Gregovorius, suspiciously.
"I don't know. Perhaps. Or by using it in a different way".43
On his return to the Argentine, life has become really absurd (in
Oliveira's sense), and he seems to take refuge in an effort to go mad,
which culminates in his weaving of complicated protective strings in
a room in the asylum (he is not an inmate, but one of the employees)
He is completely free, without having to account to anybody for any-
thing: he can throw in the sponge, leave the cross-roads by any road of
circumstances, claiming that it is the only, inevitable one.
Like Borges he rejects being catalogued by his nationality and
quotes at the beginning of the novel a letter from Jacques Vacher to
Andre Breton (in French) "Nothing kills a man like being forced
to represent a country" And again "in any case, it seemed an over-
facile trick to confuse historical problems with being an Argentine or
an Eskimo, with problems of action or renunciation". 44 And he pours
scorn on the middle-class Argentine concept of "culture", which is
an escape from national or other kind of reanty.
And yet how Argentine Cortazar is himself. It would be difficult
to find in literature a more culture-stuffed novel, full of name-dropping
of writers, painters, philosophers on every page, plus quotations (in
French or English) Then there is his almost 'maniacal search for
identity, meaning and communication (so reminiscent of Mallea,
Borges, Onetti and many others) His very escape to Paris is the
traditional, time-honoured solution, not only to Argentine intellec-
tuals, but to Latin Americans in general. But perhaps this is inten-
tional, this disguised "Argentinidad", another of Cortizar's tricks, and
Oliveira is another creolee Ullyses"
With all his mannerisms, mistifications, and frantic avoidance of
the obvious, in style and content, Cortazar has created a possibly out-
The position of the Latin American novelist is no easy one and
Carlos Fuentes expressed his dilemma pointedly in a B.B.C. broadcast:
"The new Latin American novelist must be at one and the same time
a Balzac and a Butor" 45
As an artist, he is drawn to experiment with the new techniques
of the anti-novel, as against the more or less standard moulds of
realism, but it 'must be remembered that many of the novelties of the
anti-novel are not acceptable to the majority of readers, and indeed
to many critics. This should not stop writers from experimenting in
means of expression, as within ten years time or less, the anti-novel
may be perfectly acceptable, and in fact, almost taken for granted. On
the other hand, although this kind of novelist may be giving his own
true version of the "modern world" (a vague phrase at any time, but
particularly hard to apply to Latin America), and keeping the novel,
as a literary instrument, up to date, at the same time it must be
borne in mind that the Latin American novelist has great difficulty
in finding a public. This was brought out very clearly at the PEN
meeting in New York in 1965, where the Peruvian novelist, Mario
Vargas Llosa, pointed out that as a result of illiteracy and poverty
in which the majority of the population lives, even if it is literate,
the Peruvian novelist has only a small public and is exposed to a
strong pressure of moral dissuasion, that is why the literary his-
tory of Latin American is full of "desertors", exiled abroad, or
spiritually within themselves. The Venezuelan, Juan Liscano, com-
plained of the limited opportunities of publication. "It is only worth-
while being published in Mexico, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile or
Montevideo, otherwise the only solution in fact for many is exile".
Pablo Neruda supported these statements, stressing the fact that
many are writing for eighty million illiterates.46 "The corpse we carry
on our backs all our lives", as he dramatically puts it.
Many of the relatively few readers and many critics (at times for
political reasons) feel that it is the task, almost the mission, of the
novelists to set out and analyse the stresses and pressures, varied and
changing, of their countries. Julio CortAzar's "Rayuela", has been
described in the Times Literary Supplement, as "the first great novel
of Spanish America", whatever that may mean, and in an English
or French translation it will no doubt be acclaimed by English and
French critics, but how many Latin American readers are going to
have the patience to read it, let alone understand it. This, of course,
is no plea for high readibility, or easy middle-brow standards. Even
in Cuba, which has rejected the straight-jacket type of Soviet social-
ist realism, experimentation is accepted, though with certain reserves
To resume, in largely under-developed countries which in spite
of 150 years of Independence still have to struggle agonizingly to
understand themselves (and is true of comparatively developed coun-
tries like the Argentine and Uruguay), many novelists have the
nagging feeling that as committed writers it is their duty to attempt
to clarify, examine, inter-relate the various elements and strata of
their inchoate societies. The writing of Jorge Luis Borges, may be
as Anderson Imbert puts it: "a game which delights the intellectual,
but humiliates the ingenuous realist" 48 The same could be said of
Cortizar, but to what extent and how many Latin American writers
can afford to play this game? The novelist, both in Latin America
and elsewhere has other functions to perform, less spectacular, less
heroic perhaps, but equally essential.
G. R. COULTHARD
1. Zum Felde, Alberto. Indice critic de la literature hispanoameri-
cana, La narrative. M6xico. 1959, p. 234.
2. Fuentes, Carlos. 'La novela latinoamericana" M6xico en la cultural.
Supplement of "Siempre". July, 1964. Quoted by Juan Loveluck.
"Notas sobre la novela hispan.oamericana actual." Hispania, May,
3. Loveluck, op. cit. 221.
4. Fuentes. op. cit. pag. V.
5. Loveluck, op. cit. p. 223.
6. Ibid, op. cit. 224-225.
7. Rodriguez Monegal, Emir. The new novelties. Encounter, Sept.,
1965, p. 97.
8. Rodriguez Monegal. op. cit. p. 98.
9. GonzAlez, Manuel P. 'De la novela en Amkrica", Mesa Rodonda,
Caracas, vol. I. (1949). Article reproduced in Loveluck, Juan: "La
novela hispanoamericana", Santiago de Chile, 1963. p. 102.
10. Pedro Gasas: in Loveluck, op. cit. p. 99-105.
11. Portuondo, Josd Antonio. "Critica de la poca" Universidad Cen-
tral de la Villas. 1965. p. 207.
12. Ibid. p. 195-196.
13. Goytisolo, Juan. 'Problemas de la novela", Barcelona, 1959. p. 16.
14. Ibid. p. 62.
15. Jorge Icaza. "Huasipung6", Quito, 1934. (Discussion with Icaza,
16. Jorge Icaza, "El chulla Romero y Flores", Quito 1958.
17. Alejo Carpentier, "El reino de este mundo", Mexico, Prol. 1949.
18. Alejo Carpentier, "El reino de este mundo", Havana, 1964. Prol. p.X.
19. Ibid. p. VIII.
20. Seymour Menton. "El cuento hispanoamericano", Mexico, Vol. II.
p. 115. 1964.
21. Alejo Carpentier, "El siglo de las luces", Mexico. 1962. p. 273.
22. Alejo Carpentier, "Los pass perdidos", Mexico. 1963. Quotations
from Havana edition, p. 190.
23. Enrique Andersom Imbert, Historia de la literature hispano-
americana, Mexico. 1961. vol. II. p. 231.
24. Carpentier, Reino de este mundo, Havana, XIII. Prol.
25. Jorge Luis Borges, Antologia personal, Buenos Aires. 1961. Intro.
26. Eduardo Mallea. La ciudad junto el rio inmovil. Buenos Aires.
1938. p. 15.
27. Juan Carlos Onetti. Juntacadiveres, Montevideo, 1964. p. 51.
28. Ibid. p. 100.
29. Juan Carlos Onetti. El astillero, Buenos Aires. 1961. p. 77.
30. Mario Benedetti. Literature uruguaya, siglo XX. Montevideo, 1963.
31. Juan Carlos Onetti. El pozo. Buenos Aires, 1939.
32. Benedetti, op. cit. p. 93.
33. Jos6 Maria Arguedas. Los rios profundos. 1958.
34. Jos6 Maria Arguedas. Todos las sangres. Buenos Aires. 1964.
35. Carlos Fuentes. La muerte de Artemio Cruz. Mexico. 1962.
36. Ibid. p. 313.
37. Julio Cortazar, Rayuela, Buenos Aires. 1965. p. 40-41. (first pub-
38. Ibid. p. 65.
39. Ibid. p. 113-4.
40. Ibid. p. 120.
41. Ibid. p. 149-50.
42. Ibid. p. 160.
43. Ibid. p. 197.
44. Ibid. p. 31.
45. Reported in the "Times Literary Supplement", in an article "The
Southern Cross", 30th Sept. 1965. p. 867.
46. Reported in "Debate", Montevideo. June. 1965. For .a fuller report
see: "Mundo Nuevo", Paris, Nov. 1966.
47. "Times Literary Supplement" op. cit.
48. Enrique Anderson Imbert. Historia de la literature hispanoameri-
cana. Vol. II. Mexico. 1961. p. 231.
Select Bibliography In Spanish
Ciro Alegria: Novelas completes, Madrid, 1966.
Jos6 Maria Arg
Miguel Angel A
Jorge Luls Borg
Juan Carlos On
Augusto Roa Ba
as: Yawar fiesta, Lima, 1954.
Diamantes y pedernales, Lima., 1954.
Los rios profundos, Buenos Aires, 1958.
Todas las sangres, Buenos Aires, 1964.
rias: El Sevior Presidente, Buenos Aires, 1946.
Viento fuerte, B.A. 1950.
La papa verde, B.A. 1954.
Los ojos de los muertos, B.A. 1960.
La tregua, Montevideo, 1960.
Gracias por el fuego, Montevideo, 1965.
Ficciones, B.A. 1944.
El Aleph, B.A., 1949.
Calder6n: El cristo de espaldas, B.A. 1954.
El reino de este mundo, Mexico, 1949.
El siglo de las luces, Mexico, 1962.
Los pass perdidos, Mexico, 1953.
Rayuela, B.A., 1963.
Los Premios, 1965, B.A., 1965.
La coronacidn, Santiago de Chile, 1957.
Este domingo, Santiago, 1966.
La region mds transparent, Mexica, 1958.
La muerte de Artemio Cruz, Mexico, 1962.
El coronel no tiene quien le escriba,
Obras escogidas, Madrid, 1966.
Los albaiiiles, Mexico, 1963.
: Obra complete, Madrid, 1965.
etti: Tierra de nadie, Buenos Aires, 1941.
El astillero, Buenos Aires, 1960.
Juntacaddveres, Buenos Aires, 1964.
istos: Hijo de hombre, B.A. 1960.
Hijo de ladr6n, Santiago de chile, 1951.
Punta de rieles, Santiago de Chile, 1965.
Mario Vargas Llosa:
Pedro Pdramo, Mexico, 1955.
El Tlnel, Buenos Aires, 1948.
Sobre heroes y tumbas, Buenos Aires, 1961.
El tiempo de la ira, Mexico. 1960
La sangre enemiga, Mexico. 1959
La cludad y los perros, Barcelonal, 1963.
La casa verde, Barcelana, 1966.
Al fil6 del agua, Mexico, 1947
La tierra pr6diga, Mexico, 1960.
Spain and Dominica 1493-1647
ON 25 September 1493 Christopher Columbus sailed from Cadiz,
Spain, on a second voyage to the New World with seventeen vessels and
some twelve hundred men. After an uneventful ocean crossing, the
crew of his flagship the Mariagalante joyfully sighted land about five
o'clock on the morning of 3 November. As they approached closer in
the wakening dawn, Columbus summoned all hands on deck to pray
and sing hymns of thanksgiving for a short and safe journey. The sun
was up when they arrived before a lofty island, mountainous and green
to the water's edge. Columbus named it Dominica, the day being
Sunday. They sailed for more than three miles along its windward or
eastern coast looking for a harbor in which to anchor, but found none.
Pushing northward with his men to the island of Marle-Galante, which
had also been sighted, Columbus left a fully-manned caravel to continue
searching in case a return to Dominica were necessary. That very
evening the seekers rejoined the fleet at Marie-Galante. They reported
following the northern coast of Dominica, rounding its western-most
point (today's Capuchin Rock) and coming into a good roadstead
(today's Prince Rupert's Bay) where they had seen dwellings and
Columbus had heard of "savages" living on the island, during his
first voyage. 2 Now, on reaching St. Martin (Nevis) barely a week later,
he learned more. A warrior Indian whom he had taken prisoner related
that Dominica had a vast quantity of gold which its inhabitants would
willingly trade for the nails and tools needed to make their canoes. 3
Nevertheless, the magic word "gold" failed to stir either Columbus or
contemporary explorers under the Spanish aegis, to commerce or con-
quest. All hands confined themselves to occasional calls, like Columbus
on his fourth voyage, 18 June 1502. And with good reason. Finer
possibilities existed elsewhere without at least two deterrents: the
rugged nature of the island, which Columbus supposedly described by
dropping a crumpled sheet of paper on a table before Ferdinand and
Isabella, and the wide-spread reputation of its Carib islanders. The
Greater Antilles offered more in the way of gold and silver, pasturage
for cattle raising, accessible natural products in forests, and ports that
could be reached from later Spanish power centers west of the Caribbean
sea without long, difficult pushing against the north-east trade winds. 4
Moreover, they were occupied by less hostile natives than the dread
About a century before Columbus, the Caribs, according to their
tradition, had come up from the Amazon region of Brazil by way of
Guiana and Venezuela into the Antilles. 5 They found most of the
eastern islands peopled by Arawak Indians who had migrated from the
southern continent earlier and, planting colonies along the chain, had
reached Hispaniola by about 1000 A.D. as well as other points west and
north. The Caribs proceeded to a ruthless conquest. Deflected some-
what by firm Arawak resistance in Trinidad, they fell upon island after
Island, massacring the men and marrying the women who continued to
speak the Arawak language. 6 Near the rather iron-bound windward
coasts where they were less subject to surprise enemy attack, and on
open areas atop raised land, they established small settlements of
carbets (straw oval huts) invariably close by rivers, to ensure drinking
and bathing water.7 Moving ever northward they reached eastern
Puerto Rico. And they might well have spread over the larger islands
of the Greater Antilles but for the arrival of the Spaniards. s The
frustration of their expansionist drive alone was reason enough for
them to hate these particular Europeans. And hate them abidingly
they assuredly did.
Because it was so mountainous and heavily forested Dominica, or
Waitukfbuli as they called it, became an important centre of Carib
aggression and, later, of Carib refuge. 9 It was divided, like neighboring
Martinique and Guadeloupe, into a capesterre or windward side, and a
basseterre or leeward side. Each was ruled by a chief, sometimes from
the same family, who enjoyed largely advisory powers. 10 Crimes were
punished therefore not by chiefs but by the individuals or families in-
volved. While the two groups of Indians did not always see eye to
eye-those of the capesterre were said to be more cruel-they rallied
in wartime under the command of a special chief chosen to lead the
combined force of local and allied Indians. During the months of June.
July and August, and, after the hurricane season had passed, October
and November, they were joined by campaigners from as far south as
St. Vincent and sallied forth, some nine-hundred strong, accompanied
by female and boy assistants.11 Armed with bows, arrows and huge
swords they raided isles with legendary fierceness, burning what they
could not carry away and roasting alive, before devouring them on the
spot, the male captives not wanted as slaves or further eatables.
In an age of cruelty it was the cannibalism of these Assyrians of
the Caribbean that especially terrified their enemies. The early Spanish
pioneers, whom the English-inspired "Black Legend" depicted as gold-
hungry and Indian-murdering conquerors of America, dilated on this
Carib enormity. By the middle of the sixteenth century, however, the
Caribs had almost ceased eating Christian Europeans, for on one
occasion all who had dined on a Spanish friar had fallen deathly ill
or died. 12 This indigestion story went the rounds. When becalmed
off Dominica and in desperate need of wood and water, the Spaniards
took to sending ashore a friar, or a sailor disguised in gunny sack as
one, to negotiate with the natives. 13 Whether this ruse actually fooled
the Caribs is much to be doubted. They were not a stupid people and
seemed able to smell a Spaniard a mile away. Although they dropped
Christian Europeans from their diet, rumours persisted for yet another
hundred years that they found the Spaniards stringy and full of gristle,
the French delicious, and the Dutch fairly tasteless. 14 All in all, it
was the Indian captive who was destined for the stewing pot or the spit.
And when the supply ran low-human flesh was eaten only on certain
occasions such as religious ceremonials or victory celebrations-they
made prison-catching forays on enemy islands like Trinidad and
The Spaniards also lamented loudly about Carib cruelty. 15 Still,
the accounts of other Europeans, notably Pare de la Borde, C6sar de
Rochefort and Jean Baptiste Labat, in the following century and a
quarter to be sure, painted a less sombre picture. 16 None questioned
the redoubtableness of the Caribs, but they did not see them as un-
mitigated fiends. Certainly the Caribs did not eat everyone they could
lay their hands upon, like the Indians of Darien; they did not practice
scalping, like the Iroquois of New York; and they did not eat women.
Their treatment of their slaves was not infamous, and they often show-
ed compassion, even to adopting enemy orphans as their own children. 17
Their implacable hostility towards Spaniards, the first Europeans to
block their spread and disturb their world, surely also grew out of their
reading the handwriting on the wall. From the lips of Arawak prisoners
they doubtless heard of the Spanish destruction, witting or unwitting,
of the Indians of the Greater Antilles. is They resolved not to suffer
a similar fate on their own soil.
In 1514 Pedro Arias de Avila, proceeding to the governorship of
Tierra Firme and Nicaragua, left Seville and crossed from the Canaries
to Dominica with a fleet of nineteen vessels and one thousand five
hundred men, including the future historian Gonzalo Fernindez de
Oviedo. Arriving on the western shore 3 June, he disembarked with
troops, some of whom went into the forest where the Indians promptly
showered them with poisoned arrows. Despite the danger of imminent
attack, the fleet tarried for four days, taking in wood and also fresh
water from the river that flowed into the bay. 19 On reaching his post
Arias wrote to the Council of the Indies strongly urging that the island
be colonized so that ships from Spain might obtain wood and water
safely. The Royal and Supreme Council assured him that it would be
done. 20 When in January 1519 the Crown added twenty-one islands to
the bishopric of Puerto Rico to enrich it in tithes-the Bishop of San
Juan having deplored insufficient income-Dominica figured among
them. 21 But this hardly ensured its conquest. The following year,
however, the licentiate Antonio Serrano, a regidor (or councilman) of
Hispaniola, was commissioned to colonize Guadeloupe as quickly as
possible with Spaniards, Christian Indians and Negroes. Using such
resources as rents from lands, he was to erect a fort against Carib
attacks. Apparently it was expected that Guadeloupe, with Dominica
and adjacent islands as dependencies, would draw off Carib assaults
from the newly founded colony of Puerto Rico, and provide a base for
an all-out war against the Caribs in the area that would free islands
like Dominica for Spanish settlement. / Five years later, given all he
had asked for, even church bells, Serrano attempted colonization with
visions of becoming governor. He was soundly defeated by the
Inspite of the Carib peril that compelled crew members to stock up
on wood and water with arms in their hands, Spanish ships persisted
in calling at Dominica. Oviedo himself was back in 1526, accompanying
Pedro de los Rios, Pedrarias's successor. 23 The island took on an in-
creasing importance as the Spanish empire in America widened. By the
fifteen-thirties the Casa de Contrataci6n (the Board of Trade) in Seville
had laid down details for the annual fleet movements from Spain, in
order to better regulate the growing trade with central and south
America. The rules designated Dominica as a wood and water stop on
west-bound voyages. When, to ward off growing enemy attacks on
home-bound vessels, the Crown elaborated the convoy system of 1543,
perfected by Admiral Pedro Men6ndez de Avil6s between 1561 and 1564,
Dominica was established as the point after which the fleet for America
was to divide, one part heading for New Spain and the other for Tierra
Firme. 24 Desirade, which was likewise indicated, had not the refresh-
ment possibilities of Dominica, and the general tendency, therefore, was
to resort to the ill-famed Carib stronghold. 25 On 6 August 1565 the
fleet of Men6ndez, the newly appointed Adelantado of Florida, landed at
Dominica. While the chaplain, Francisco Lbpez de Mendoza Grajales,
was taking a walk along the shore and collecting shellfish for his amuse-
ment, he looked up and was startled to see three naked men descending
a hill. Thinking them Caribs he scurried back to where some of the
crew were washing their shirts in the water. All hands armed them-
selves with a half-dozen knives apiece and approached the men, only to
discover that they were survivors of a party of five Spanish sailors
rejoiced at the prospect of being rescued. 25 The trio was infinitely
more fortunate than the Adelantado's only son, Juan Men6ndez. Some
two years later he was shipwrecked in a storm off Dominica while
travelling with a fleet from Tierra Firme bearing "more than three
millions in gold, silver and pearls." 27 Not a Spanish soul survived, for
the Caribs killed every last one making it to shore. From the ships
they took for their use the iron, nails and slaves, and for their delight
the immense treasure, which they deposited in a huge cave near the sea.
Several years passed ere this unhappy episode came to light. 28
For decades the Caribs despoiled areas of the Indies with impunity.
Puerto Rico, a favorite target, began experiencing their assaults before
the eyes of the conqueror Juan Ponce de Leon had closed forever; saw
them four times in eight years (1554-1562); and trembled as the tempo
increased. 29 Not only did the Caribs plunder plantations, fire buildings.
rob churches, slay cattle and horses, haul away gold, silver, cassava,
maize, hogs, arms and clothing, and abduct Negroes and Spaniards for
slaves. They boldly fell upon laden vessels coming into the vicinity
during their visits, as Dofia Aldonca Manrique of Hispaniola heard to
her sorrow in 1553 when they seized one of the ships she owned off
Vieques Island and stripped it of cargo and crew.0o Local efforts to
check or chastize the Caribs proved largely Ineffectual. True, Governor
Francisco Bahamas de Luzo managed to counter them in November
1567. He had set out from San Juan to visit the new city of San German
on the Guadianilla (today's Guayanilla) river when letters reached him
relating how some eight-hundred Indians had sacked the place and
killed or kidnapped the people. Glimpsing Carib pirogues from afar
that were headed for Guayama, he anticipated their arrival by two days.
Augumenting his escort of soldiers with a handful of peasants and cow-
boys of the district, he ambushed the gaily-chattering Indians with
his twenty-strong force as they were approaching the town. Abandon-
ing prisoners and loot they fled away, but not before wounding Bahamas
de Luzo in the leg. 31 Although such surprises usually caused the Caribs
to withdraw quickly, they did not dampen Indian ardor permanently
SIn 1578 and 1579 the marauders actually came within one league of -the
capital city itself. 32 By 1580 the districts of southern and eastern Puerto
Rico where inhabitants had had to suffer the additional raids of French
corsairs were dying. The owners of two large sugar mills had abandon-
ed them, and the most fertile sites along the coast--Guadianilla.
Daguao, Humacao, Yabucoa, Maunabo-were being rapidly deserted. 33
The Crown had long tried various means of combatting these in-
cursions against Puerto Rico. While Queen Isabella lived, the Caribs
had been protected from harsh handling. In 1503, faced with their
continued resistance to Spanish penetration, she had sanctioned, not
the use of arms, but the sending of friars to Dominica and other islands
to convert them. 34 In 1511 this historic stand was reversed by
Ferdinand, ruling as regent for his demented daughter Queen Juana.
Aroused by Carib actions in Puerto Rico that had brought death to Don
Crist6bal de Sotomayor, an army lieutenant, and his nephew Don Diego
de Sotomayor, and a widely extended war to boot, he issued a cedula on
23 December. It authorized just warfare on the Caribs and the selling
of Carib prisoners as slaves in the Indies. 35 The fiat of Ferdinand
formed a solid basis for future rulers. After decreeing the New Laws
of 1542 which forbade Indian slavery, Charles V sent forth a cedula of
4 May 1547 that clearly exempted from consideration all adult male
Caribs who attacked Puerto Rico. 36 Women and boys remained vassals
under royal protection. In 1562 the still greatly harassed residents of
Puerto Rico successfully petitioned their Cabildo (or Town Council) for
a declaration of war on the Caribs of Dominica and other isles that
was proclaimed in public places on 17 July by order of the governor. 37
But they had far less fortune with King Philip II. They begged him
to allow the enslavement of every attacking Indian-man, woman and
boy-provided that the captured women and boys be paid for their
labors on encomiendas.38 Philip II would not accede. Instead, on 25
January 1569, he signed a cedula for the Windward Isles echoing the
cedula of his father, and answered Puerto Rico directly by requiring
that all captive male Indians be sent to the Audiencia (or royal appeal
court) of Santo Domingo for examination as to whether they were older
than fourteen, the dividing age between youth and adulthood. 39 Plead-
ing poverty, the distance to Hispaniola, the immediate need for slaves,
the depopulation of their beloved island owing to French and Carib
raids, his loyal subjects of Puerto Rico sought to persuade the King to
grant their governor the right to examine the Indians. Their's was a
vain petition. Shortly thereafter, however, a new angle to the Dominica
Carib situation confronted the Crown.
About 1576, during a cattle raid in the Humacao valley, the Indians
had captured a nineteen year old free Negress, Luisa Navarrete, and
conveyed her to Dominica where she became a slave to one of the chiefs.
In 1580 they took her back to Puerto Rico as a guide. At the mouth of
the Abeyno River the men paddled upstream to pillage, leaving her in
a pirogue with a strong guard of Indian women. These restless females
decided to take her ashore to hunt for crabs. Leading them to a marsh
where she claimed there were fat ones, Luisa contrived to slip away and
reach Coamo the next morning. Her story created a sensation. Not
that she was the first escapee from Dominica. In 1554, for example,
six Suaniards, after almost a year of slavery, had gotten away at mid-
night in a pirogue that the Caribs had carelessly left on the coast, and
had regained Puerto Rico. They had made the dash with some captive
Indians, after overhearing the Caribs plan a feast, during which three
Indians and one Christian were to be killed. 40 Luisa, on the contrary,
had remained for more than four years in Dominica, had been very
observant, and had discreetly asked many questions which the Caribs
had willingly answered. Appearing personally before government
authorities of Puerto Rico, she summarized the life and tribulations of
Carib prisoners. 41
They were compelled to adopt the customs of their conquerors who,
in 1580, lived in eight villages of about fifty carbets each, scattered some
two miles apart. They went about naked, their hair long and their
bodies painted with a red dye to prevent mosquito bites; after dark they
slept on the ground. Denied any meat save raw mice, snakes or cooked
Indian captives, they were permitted uncooked fish, crabs and mussels.
They toiled at agriculture, such as tobacco raising, and at fishing.
Among their more disagreeable tasks was the night-time chewing of
cassava for the making of wine. Once intoxicated by that beverage
the Indians forced their attentions on the female slaves, which exposed
them to ill-treatment, stabbing or murder by jealous Carib women.
Male slaves dreaded the religious or war victory feasts with dancing to
songs (arietos), in the course of which one of them would be killed and
flung into the sea if European or African, or eaten if Indian. All lived
in fear of their master's death, since a number of them would be slain
that they might continue to serve him in the afterlife. 42
Under the stress of slavery some captives went mad. Others turned
cannibal and performed the same rites as the Caribs. One who had
been in Dominica for two score years, when reproached by firmer-willed
Christians, justified himself by saying that he had long prayed to God
for escape and had never been helped. 43 Among the more than thirty
Spaniards and forty Negroes, male and female, was Garcia Troche, son
of Juan Troche Ponce de Leon. This piece of intelligence astonished
Puerto Rico. In 1569 Ponce de Leon, a grandson of the famed explorer,
had gone to Trinidad, determined, where every predecessor had failed,
to conquer the one island on which the Arawaks were still holding their
own against Carib settlers.44 Garcia Troche, sent by his governor and
captain general father to hunt up provisions with some soldiers, had
been captured by the Arawaks. Then, during a stoutly fought engage-
ment, the Caribs had seized him from them and spirited him away to
Dominica, after spreading the sadistic rumour that they had killed
him. 45 In Dominica he and the other captives osensibly accepted their
lot. But in 1587 they profited from the absence of many Caribs, gone
to battle on a distant island, and escaped to a mountain ridge where
they erected forts. 46 Undoubtedly the returned Caribs, though reduced
by illness and loss of lives, readily re-enslaved them. 47
More than the details of Carib life and the news of Garcia Troche
caused much eye opening in Puerto Rico. Luisa also talked of riches.
During her stay she had seen the Indians find gold, probably in the
river where Oviedo had examined some pieces in 1526. She had visited
the cave in which they stored the merchandise and precious metals
stolen on their raids, as well as the lost treasure of 1567. The pile of
silver alone, including bricks and pieces of four and eight, was so high,
she declared, that a man on horseback would be unable to see the
The Cabildo took the opportunity of her return to interrogate other
witnesses, among them a twenty-five year old Carib who had deserted
his native Dominica, and sailors who had escaped from the island of
Vieques, where they had been deposited by the Caribs in preparation
for shipment to Dominica. Forwarding two lengthy documents of
testimony to Spain, the Cabildo repeated its former pleas concerning
the Caribs. Before long the information of Luisa Navarrete was given
additional support by a ladino (or Christian) Negro who had fled
Dominica and a Biscayan who, accompanying some Frenchmen trading
at Dominica, had spoken with Garcia Troche. 48
Philip II reacted by addressing a cedula of 4 April 1587 to the
Audiencia of Santo Domingo. He called for a full enquiry into the
matter of the lost treasure and suggestions as to "the method and
manner" of recovering it. 49 But this project was lost sight of owing.
apparently, to the defeat of the Great Armada the following year, and
the consequent re-enforcement at heavy cost of the defence system of
the Indies. 50
Carib depredations-land raids and attacks on commerce-increased
concomitantly with Spain's slow decline from former greatness. Vessels
passing Trinidad and Margarita were brazenly pirated, while slave ships
coming from Guinea and Angola were cunningly lured to their ruin.
Going out to welcome these with food, water and wood, the Indians
practiced their old technique of cutting the cables and letting the ships
drift to shore. 51 There they would kill the crew, carry off the goods,
and take the Africans as slaves to themselves. By 1612, indeed, it was
estimated that upwards of two thousand African slaves were on their
Renewed efforts to temper the Caribs with Christianity failed
utterly. It was decided to reactivate Queen Isabella's fruitless 1503
expedient of despatching friars to the Carib islands where they had
been killed or driven off. In 1604, one year after six Dominican friars
had set foot in Guadeloupe only to be massacred, three arrived in
Dominica on a solemn conversion mission. The Indians murdered two
and threw their bodies into the sea. The third, Blasius, managed to
save himself by showing them how to make sails from some linen washed
up at Guadeloupe from three shipwrecked Spanish vessels, and how to
attach these to canoes to save rowing. Still, his existence was a
veritable penance. After sixteen months as a slave he spied, on 22
August 1606, the good ship Richard in which Captain Henry Challons
was heading for Virginia. Hoisting a white flag, he paddled out and
pleaded in Latin to be taken away. And a week later he was relieved
to land in Puerto Rico. 53 His recital of woes may well have roused the
locals to action, for within a few months the Spaniards gave the Indians
of Dominica "a great overthrow." 54 But to no lasting purpose.
In 1608 came a royal review of Indian affairs. While assigning the
Jesuits of Paraguay the task of converting the Guaranies, on the one
hand, Philip III decided, on the other, that the time had come for
another armed offensive against the Caribs. 55 His anxiety was under-
standable. Exhausted by defeats in Europe, hard pressed for men.
money and ships, Spain had already tacitly conceded to the French
(1598) and English (1604)-and would soon do so to the Dutch as well
(1609)-that only effective occupation, not mere discovery, gave a right
to territory in the Indies. 56 What was wanted was a feasible plan that
would enable Spain to substantiate her claims to the Carib islands by
peopling or fortifying them, thus preventing other European powers
from horning in. Past attempts and schemes offered little that was
encouraging. Such wars as General Bartolom6 Carrefio, a 1538 dis-
coverer of Bermuda and fleet inspector, had waged against the Caribs
of Dominica and Martinique, had added up to a cipher. 57 Years after,
in 1571, Captain Gregorio de Ugarte of Portugalete in Biscay had sub-
mitted three memorials for the conquest of Dominica to the Council of
the Indies through one of its members, Juan Vasquez de Arce. He pro-
posed subduing the Indians, bringing in settlers, and stationing per-
manently four boats of fifty tons and two of twenty to protect Spanish
shipping and forestall "Lutherans" from colonizing. The conqueror-
presumably himself-was to receive ownership of half the land and the
goods produced, the position of alguacil major (high sheriff) with the
inheritable right to remove alcaides (town officials) plus the usual
privileges conferred on those wh< conquered the Indies. The military
men who went out were to be encouraged to "earnest" fighting by
guaranteeing them one-third of whatever they seized, with the rest
going to the King. Of the first two hundred colonists, one-half were to
be single soldiers, and one-half married civilians. They were to be
accompanied by a priest, a member of the Theatin order, and six con-
verted Indians dedicated to work among the Caribs. One hundred
Africans slaves were to be permitted in duty-free; fifty would serve the
land cultivators and fifty would be used by the conqueror to compensate
his expenses. 58 Ugarte's ideas were not implemented, although by 1575
Spain had moved to institute patrol squadrons in the Indies, and that
of Tierra Firme consisted of two galleys doing service between Dominica
and Cartagena. 59
Presented with plans by the Casa de Contrataci6n and Juan
Gutitrrez Garlbay, General of the Fleet of Tierra Firme and New Spain,
Philip III, in a cedula of 1608, asked the advice of Sancho de Alquiza,
Governor of Venezuela. With no one knowledgeable by him in Caracas.
Alquiza delayed his reply. By 1612, as Governor of Trinidad, where
every man was constantly on the alert against Carib attacks and many
had had experiences in fighting them off, he was more than ready with
recommendations "to pacify the Caribs of Dominica, Martinique and
the other Windward Isles." 60 The governorships of Cumand, Margarita
and Guiana were to be combined into one, saving the salaries of two
governors and four royal officials; the new governor was to lead a force
of one hundred soldiers seasoned in Carib warfare, not fresh from
Castile, and Arawak volunteers from Trinidad and Tierra Firme who
were only too eager to vanquish their detested enemies; all Caribs taken
were to be enslaved; and the expense of the undertaking was to be met
with the money gained by consolating the governorships and the fifteen
hundred ducats which the King had assigned to Margarita for war
purposes. 61 Alquiza, however, was doomed to disappointment, despite
repeated applications to the King. Spain, in an uneasy peace with her
European rivals, probably had second sober thoughts as to the expendi-
ture and eventual success of the venture.
Her hesitancy contrasted sharply with a mounting Carib belliger-
ence towards Spaniards that was underscored by Carib kindness to other
Europeans who had not, as yet, threatened their security. Spanish
vessels put in at Dominica only in dire emergency, as did the very
parched fleet from Spain in 1589 carrying among its passengers Doctor
Antonio GonzAlez of the Council of the Indies. 62
\ Ships of other nations called freely at Dominica. In May 1564
Rend Goulaine de Laudonnlire arrived en route to Florida to establish
a French colony by orders of Coligny. Two Indians, each in a canoe
loaded with pineapples, approached the ship. One, hesistating for a
moment, quickly returned to land and disappeared. The other, seized
by the crew, almost died of fright until he learned that he was not in
the hands of Spaniards, who had once upon a time captured him. He
cordially invited them to trade. The next day the French went ashore,
and spent several days thereafter taking water, slaying large snakes
and exchanging trifles for pineapples. Unfortunately some of them
wandered into the woods and in disregard of Indian warnings, entered
gardens, trampled plants and approached carbets, unaware perhaps of
the jealous nature of the Caribs where their women were concerned.
Fired upon, the French hastily embarked, leaving on shore a large crowd
of Indians busily discharging arrows at them. 63 On 9 March of the
following year the first Englishman on record to touch there could find
no fresh water, though he saw some dwellings; and so John Hawkins
sailed away. 64 In 1567 Dominique de Gourges put in, Florida-bound
from France. 65 The next year, 27 March, Hawkins was back again, this
time from the Guinea coast. 66 And in 1572 came Francis Drake (about
June) and later, on 2 September, the French corsair Captain Bruneau.67
In 1585 Richard Grenville, visiting several unoccupied West Indian areas,
touched at Dominica with several ships carrying two English speaking
Indians, a bible translated into Spanish, and musical instruments in-
cluding flageolets and organs, since the Indians were supposedly fond
of music. Though it was rumoured in the Caribbean that they had
come to colonize Dominica, Trinidad and other islands in which the
King of Spain was not interested, they were only observing Spanish
defenses before reaching Virginia to plant a colony for Sir Walter
Raleigh. The accounts they sent to England induced that government
to issue sailing orders to Drake whose fleet, that very December, made
Dominica the first port of call on the famous "Indies voyage." 68
English and French vessels that anchored to refresh their crews
found the Indians well disposed to trade-to barter plantains, tobacco,
cassava bread, "potato roots" or tubers of manioc, and fruits like pine-
apples and bananas for colored beads, trinkets, glass, hatchets, knives,
saws and other tools. 69 Only when incensed at some wrong did they
retaliate with unpleasant surprises. Laudonniere's men had suffered
that experience in 1564. Two years later Alderman Wat's vessel narrow-
ly missed being taken, because the Indians were angry at the British for
seemingly nefarious acts.70 During the fifteen-seventies an offending
set of about seventy Frenchmen and a French captain were put to death
on Dominica and other islands. 71 In 1585 Drake's crew traded freely
one day, but when, the next day, a ship's captain had a trumpet sound-
ed, the Caribs' instinct of self-defence caused them to blow a sort of
horn inland and rush in a mass to the shore shooting at the swiftly
departing English. 72
Still, for all that, the Indians had short memories, except where
Spaniards were concerned. In May 1590 John White, who had passed
Dominica in 1587 on his fourth voyage to Virginia, stopped at the island
and twice visited an Indian village. Unhappily, on departing, some men
of the ship John abducted two sons of the leading chief; but they ran
away at Saint Croix (Santa Cruz) when that ship halted to take in
ballast. 73 Indian wrath must have been swiftly appeased, for the next
year Christopher Newport arrived on 4 April and traded unharmed in
Dominica for about two days. 74 A year later the Indians could hardly
have been pleased when, on 10 April, under their very noses, William
King in the Solomon and Jane Bonaventura seized a hundred ton ship
from Guinea with two hundred and seventy slaves, and proceeded to
Puerto Rico where all but fifteen of the Africans were landed. 75 Yet
the Caribs held nothing against the British. In 1595 Amias Preston and
George Sommers stayed an entire week, 8 to 14 December, while their
men traded with the Indians and enjoyed baths in the hot stream that
Oviedo had remarked near the fresh water river during his second visit;
in October Hawkins called in. 76 The following year Captain Lawrence
Kempis touched there in January without any peril. 77 Happier still
was the reception in May of George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland,
destined to capture Puerto Rico. Before sailing away on 1 June after
nine days of relaxation and refreshment, two of his captains had chalk-
ed up a social triumph. They had visited one of the Carib villages,
comprising nearly twenty huts, up a river near Rupert's Bay; had met
the chief attired "in a wide hanging garment of rich crimson" taffeta,
sporting a brass lion dangling to his chest and a Spanish sword in hand;
had eaten a meat dinner with him, and then had danced with his
daughters! 78 Later that year the gentleman-adventurer Sir Anthony
Shirley tarried from 17 to 25 October among the "kind" Indians while
his men took the hot baths. 79
So long as the French and British posed no threat to the Caribs.
they continued to enjoy restful visits, as did Thomas Masham (13 May
1597) returning from Guiana to England, Bartholomew Gilbert (17 June
1603), and George Percy (24 February 1607). so When changed relation-
ships among the European powers saw Dominica pass slowly but surely
under French influence, matters altered somewhat.
The second decade of the seventeenth century disclosed Spain's
inability to colonize or fortify securely all the Windward Islands. Caught
up after 1621 in a furious struggle with the Dutch, she was badly
weakened in 1625 by the destruction, through storms and Dutch cruiser
action, of the enormous fleet that Don Fadrique de Toledo had led to
victory over the Dutch in San Salvador (Bahia). Spain could no longer
stop her rivals from settling the unoccupied isles of the Caribbean. As
the French, Dutch and English swarmed over one island after the other,
she made periodic but futile efforts to thrust them off. It was a hope-
less task in the face of her progressively declining position, made worse
with the Dutch capture in 1628 of the entire treasure fleet and the
consequent damage to her failing credit in Europe. Then came the
humiliating defeat of the 1640 armada against Brazil. 81 By 1645 the
Council of War was still speaking of energetic measures for safeguard-
ing Dominica and the other Windward isles that were positively declared
to be under the Spanish crown, s2 And the following year the Council
of the Indies was approving a report of the 1645 Diocesan Synod in
Puerto Rico that listed all these islands as territory of the bishopric. 83
Nevertheless, with her striking power vanishing, Spain subtly signified
her resignation in 1647. She diverted the West Indian armada to other
By that time France had planted her flag on Dominica (1635), made
a treaty with the Indians (1640), sent in a missionary (1642), assumed
proprietorship to the point of ordering (1643) that no strangers be per-
mitted to settle there. Dominica and its Caribs were now in the hands
of new, shrewder and more sympathetic masters. But that is another
1. Samuel E. Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea, A Life of Christopher
Columbus (Boston, 1942), II, 57-58, 64, 66, 237, 324; Samuel E.
Morison and Mauricio Obreg6n, The Caribbean As Columbus Saw
It (Boston, 1964), 113-115; Samuel E. Morison, The Second Voyage
of Christoprer Columbus from Cadiz to Hispaniola and the Dis-
covery of the Lesser Antilles (Oxford, 1939), 36-40; Antonio Herrera,
Historia General de las Indias Occidentales, 6 de los Hechos de
los Castellanos en las Islas y Tierra Firme del Mar Oceano
(Antwerp, 1728), I, 38; Richard Henry Major ed., Select Letters
of Christopher Columbus with other Original Documents (London,
2. Major, op. cit., 31.
3. Ibid., 38.
4. Douglas Taylor, "The Caribs of Dominica," Bureau of American
Ethnology Bulletin (1938), CXIX, 109; Arthur Percival Newton,
The European Nations in the West Indies, 1493-1688 (London, 1933),
5. Irving Rousse, "The Carib," in Julian H. Steward ed., Handbook
of South American Indians (Washington, 1948), IV, 547.
6. Patrick Leigh Fermor, The Traveller's Tree: A Journey through
the Caribbean Islands (New York, 1951), 109.
7. Rouse, op. cit., 551, 553.
8. Alan Burns, History of the British West Indies (New York, 1965), 36.
9. Its native name, recorded by Diego Alvarez Chanca, the Sevillian
physician who accompanied Columbus in 1493, as Cayri was
actually the Arawak term for island or land in general-that is
.Kaera. The word Carib derives from Calinago or Calino, meaning
a valiant man, which the conquering Carib used to distinguish
himself from the Arawak. Columbus corrupted it first to Caribal,
which became also Canibal, and then to Carib. (Taylor, loc. cit.,
Herrera, op. cit., IV, 13; Rouse, op.cit., 549.)
10. Taylor, op. cit., 115.
11. Expediente y Informaci6n Hecha en la Isla de Puerto Rico sobre
los Dafios y Perjuicios que Hicieron los Indios Caribes de la Isla
Dominica, 1558-1580, (MS), Archivo General de Indias, Sevilla,
Patronato, lega jo 179, nirmero 4-this depository is abbreviated
hereafter as A.G.I. These approximately 130 folios consist of
testimony taken in Puerto Rico concerning Carib raids.
12. Diego de Salamanca, Memoria cerca de la Isla Dominica, 1587,
(MS), A.G.I., Santo Domingo, legajo 172. An exact copy of this
document in the British Museum (Add. MS. 36314) bears the
attributed date 1574. In A.G.I., however, it is attached to a report
of the 30 May 1587 meeting of the Council of the Indies that is
endorsed on the back, "Treating the matter of the discovery and
population of the Island of Dominica together with the account
which the Bishop of Puerto Rico gave of it and of the treasure
which is said to be there." Fray Diego was named Bishop of Puerto
Rico in 1575, arrived in San Juan in August 1577, and returned
to Spain ten years later. (Luis Diaz Soler, Historia de la Esclavttud
Negra en Puerto Rico, 1493-1890 (Madrid, 1960), 61, says he resign-
ed to return home, though it appears he returned home to resign,
for his successor was not named until May 1588.) The report of
the Council of the Indies mentioned above states that information
was required of the Bishop of Puerto Rico "who was here", mean-
ing in Spain; and the Bishop in his paper states, "since I am in
Spain." All this makes it difficult to accept 1574 as the date ofl the
document which is reprinted, but without any date, in the Boletin
Htstorico de Puerto Rico (1923), X, 214-216.
13. Morison, Life of Columbus, UI, 68; Morison and Obreg6n, op. cit.,
14. Fermor, op. cit., 114.
15. Douglas McRae Taylor, The Black Caribs of British Honduras (New
York, 1951), 16, holds the interesting Idea that the Spaniards
derived well-nigh all their opinions on the subject from those
gentle victims of the Caribs, the Tainos. Nevertheless, the Expedl-
ente, previously cited, is replete with firsthand details of Carib
cruelty that was experienced, not passed on by hearsay.
16. Taylor, Caribs of Dominica, 110.
17. Fermor, op. cit. 114-115; Taylor, loc. cit.
18. Burs, op. cit., 46.
19. Herrera, op.cit., IV, 7; Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo y Vald6s,
Historia General y Natural de las Indias, Islas y Tierra-Firme
(Madrid, 1851), I, 199; Pascual de Andagoya, Narrative of the Pro-
ceedings of Pedrarias Davila in the Provinces of Tierra Firme or
Castilla del Oro (London, 1865), 2. Thomas Southey, Chronological
History of the West Indies (London, 1827), I, 120, says they did
not see any inhabitants.
20. Colecci6n de Documentos Ineditos relatives al Descubrimiento,
Conquista y Organizaci6n de las Antiguas Posesiones Espaiiolas de
Ultramar (Madrid, 1885-1932), XV, 50. This work is abbreviated
hereafter as C.D.I.U.
21. C.DJ.U., XIV, 17; Memorial of Damian L6pez de Haro, Bishop of
Puerto Rico to the King, c. 1644, (MS), British Museum, Add. MS
22. C.D.I.U., XIV, 20; Coleccion de Documentos Indditos relatives al
Descubrimiento, Conquista y Colonizacidn de las Posesiones Es-
paiiolas en America y Oceania (Madrid, 1864-1884), XXII, 179-183-
cited hereafter as C.D.I.A.; Southey, op.cit., I, 148; [Fredric W. N.
Bayley], Four Years' Residence in the West Indies during the years
1826, 7, 8, and 9 by the Son of a Military Officer (London, 1833), 648;
Alfred Martineau and Louis Philippe May, Trois Sticles d'Histoire
Antillaise, Martinique et Guadeloupe de 1635 a Nos Jours (Para,
1935), 18. Serrano's original commission dated 5 July 1520 is in
A.G.I., Indiferente General, legajo 415. The year is not 1526 as
found in C.D.I.A., XXII, 179; nor 1570 as noted in Martlneau, loc. cit.,
where the commission is handed out by Diego Columbus (1480?-
1526) who was governor of Hispaniola 1509-1523. Using 1570 as the
date both Martlneau and May, and Maurice Satineau, Histoire de
la Guadeloupe sous l'Ancien Regime, 1635-1789 (Paris, 1928), 5, put
Serrano's defeat in 1575.
23. Oviedo, loc. cit.
24. Clarence H. Haring, The Buccaneers in the West Indies in the
Seventeenth Century (London, 1910), 20; Ernesto Schafer, El Con-
sejo Real y Supremo de las Indias (Sevilla, 1935-1947), II, 370-371;
Ernesto Schafer, "Comunicaciones Maritimas y Terrestres de las
Indias Espafiolas," Anuario de Estudios Americanos (1946), II,
970-977; Newton, op. cit., 52-53.
25. Herrera, op. cit., IV, 13-14.
26. Woodbury Lowery, The Spanish Settlements within the Present
Limits of the United States, Florida, 1562-1574 (New York, 1959),
151. Since the Adelantado's ship itself bypassed Dominica, neither
Bartolom6 Barrientos, Pedro Menendez de Avilds (Gainesville. 1965)
nor Gonzalo Solis de Meras, Pedro Mendndez de Avilds (Deland,
1923) mention the Dominica incident.
27. Cedula, 4 April 1587, (MS), A.G.I., Santo Domingo, legajo 868.
28. Meris, op. cit., 68, has Juan Men6ndez lost in a storm off Bermuda.
The Carib's accidental haul is all the more impressive in view
of a significant fact. Between 1567 and 1627 no treasure was
captured from the Spanish fleets. (Newton, op. cit., 82.)
29. Newton, op. cit., 27; Expediente, 1562, A.G.I. As early as 1529 the
Caribs battled against the city of San Juan itself, and in 1530
wiped out the hacienda of Don Crist6bal de Guzman in Daguao
(Soler, op. cit., 36), a deed that remained in the minds of men into
the next generation.
30. Expediente, 1558, A.G.I.
31. Expediente, 1567, A.G.I.
32. Expediente, 1580, A.G.I.
33. Expediente, 1573, 1580, A.G.I.
34. Woodbury Lowery, The Spanish Settlements . 1513-1561 (New
York, 1959), III; Clarence H. Haring, The Spanish Empire in
.America (New York, 1952), 49.
35. C. Jesse, "The Spanish Cedula of December 23, 1511, on the Subject
of the Caribs." Caribbean Quarterly (1963), IX, 26-29; Instituto
Hispano-Cubano de Historia de Am6rica, Catdlogo de los Fondos
Americanos del Archivo de Protocolos de Sevilla (Madrid, 1930),
36. Jer6nimo Becker, La Politica Espaiiola de las Indias, Rectiflcacfdoes
Iistoricas (Madrid, 1920), 243, 303; Expediente, 1562, A.GI.
37. Expediente, 1562, A.G.I.
38. Expediente, 1564, A.GI.
39. R. Men6ndez Pidal ed., Recopilacidn de Leyes de los Reynos de las
Indias (Madrid, 1943), II, 205; Expediente, 1573, A.GI. The
Spaniards with respect for wind direction called all the Lesser
Antilles from the Virgin Islands to Trinidad the Windward Isles
(islas de barlovento), since they were in the teeth of the wind that
blows from the northeast and east. They called the relatively pro-
tected islands off the coast of Venezuela the Leeward Isles (islas
de sotavento). The illogical nomenclature which the British assign-
ed these islands Imore than two centuries ago has never been
40. Expedlente, 1562, A.G.I.
41. Expediente, 1580, A.O.I.
42. In March 1766 an Indian burial monument was dug up in Dominica.
With it were a gold-tipped iron javelin and other gold objects.
(Southey, op. cit., I, 388.) Whether it was Arawak or Carib in origin,
record does not reveal.
43. Expediente, 1580; Diego de Salamanca, Memorla, A.G.I.
44. Pierre Gustave Louis Borde, Histoire de I'lle de la Trinidad sous
le Gouvernement Espagnol (Paris, 1876-1882), I, 134; Gertrude
Charmichael, History of the West Indian Islands of Trinidad
& Tobago, 1498-1900 (London, 1961), 22. Juan Troche Ponce de Leon
applied in 1568 for the commission while in Spain. He sailed 27
October 1569 from San Lucar, and arrived at Trinidad 21 Decem-
ber 1569 'to a conquest which Fray Miguel Diosdado who accom-
panied him, saw as completed by January 1570. (Diosdado to the
King, 15 January 1570, (MS), British Museum, Add. MS 36314.)
Diosdado could not have been more wrong, as subsequent events
showed. As to Juan Troche: Borde pronounces him both "a creole of
Santo Domingo" and a probable relation of the great Juan Ponce de
Leon; and presumes that he died in Trinidad. But the Expediente,
1580, twice terms him. "vezino desta gibdad." And so he was, being
"vezino y alcaide y contador" of Puerto Rico. (Aurelio Tio, Nuevas
Fuentes Para la Historia de Puerto Rico (San German, 1961), 248.)
He died not in Trinidad but in Puerto Rico in 1590 and was buried
in San Josd church, then called Santo Tomas de Aquino.
(Eugenio Fernandez Mendez ed., Crdnicas de Puerto Rico, 1493-1797
(San Juan,, 1957, 109.)
45. Diego de Salamanca, Memoria, A.G.I.
46. Ibid; Tio, op. cit., 542.
47. As to Garcia Troche's later life nothing is known. (Tio, op. cit.)
Whether he ever escaped from Dominica is anyone's guess. The
researches of Aurelio Tio shed light on other members of the Ponce
de Leon ,family such as Luis, son of the conqueror, whose fate is
usually put down as unknown by American authors like Lowery,
The Spanish Settlements . 1513-1561, 160, and Irving B. Rich-
man, "Juan Ponce de Leon," Dictionary of American Biography
(New York, 1935), XV, 57.
48. Diego de Salamanca, Memoria, A.G.I.
49. Cedula, 4 April 1587, A.G.I.
50. Newton, op. cit., 111.
51. Salcedo de Nerva to the King, 16 November 1627, (MS), British
Museum. Add MS. 36320. In 1564 the Indians had cut the cables at
night, of a caravel becalmed off Dominica. (Richard Hakluyt, The
Principal Navigations & Discoveries of the English Nation (Glasgow,
1903-1905), X, 25.)
52. Sancho de Alquiza to the King, 11 February 1612, (MS), British
Museum, Add. MS. 36320.
53. Henri de Noussanne, La France Missionaire aux Antilles, Guade-
loupe-Martinique-Trinidad (Paris, 1936), 17; Southey, op. cit., I,
290; Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgrimes
(Glasgow, 1905-1907), XIX, 285-287. Rene Marie Charles Poirer,
Relation de 1'Etat du Diocese de Roseau dans les Indes Occidentales
Faite a Sa Saintete Notre Saint Pere le Pape Pie IX, Heureusement
Regnant, 1861, (MS), Biblioth6que Nationale, Manuscrits Frangais
9325, regards him as the first missionary to Dominica.
5-1. Purchas, op. cit., XVIII, 404.
Vera Brown Holmes, A History of the Americas from Discovery to
Nationhood (New York, 1950), 332.
56. Newton, op. cit., 123, 126-128.
57. Memorial Dirigido al Rey, por el General Bartolome Carrefio con
Fecha 6 de Mayo de 1563, Manifestando los Sevicios Hechos a S.M.
en. la Guerra que Hizo a los Caribes delas Yslas dela Dominica
y Mataliflo, (MS), A.G.I. Indiferente General 2004. Carrefto who
had served as fleet inspector for twelve years without salary and
had made thirty-three round trips to the Indies, was asking in
1563 for financial compensation. His pleas must have fallen on deaf
ear:, icr he submitted another memorial 17 April 1565 reiterating
the wars fought against the Caribs of Dominica and Martinique
because of their damage to Puerto Rico. (Martin Fernandez de
Navarrete, Biblioteca Maritima Espaiola (Madrid, 1851). I, 209.)
Although the 1563 'memorial has the Dominica war in its descrip-
tive title, not cne word of that war is in the memorial itself.
58. Tres Memoriales del Capitan Gregorio de Ugarte Presentadas A Su
Magestad sobre la Conquista dela Dominica, y su Importancia, 1571,
(MS), A.G.I., Patronato, legajo 18, nilmero 11. Copies of the Ugarte
memorials in the Navarrete Collection of the Museo Naval, Madrid,
have been given the date 1550. Yet Navarette himself (op. cit., I, 601)
says they bear no date and are warnings about the necessity of
challenging an expedition the French were reportedly preparing
with fifty ships and twenty thousand men. In 1571 all talk in
France was of a war with Spain which materialized the next year.
(James Westfiall Thompson, The Wars of Religion in France, 1559-
1575, the Huguenots, Catherine de Medici, and Philip II (Chicago,
1914), 443.) Ugarte's 'memorials, however, do not mention France
at all, and deal with the Dominica problem. His appeal was appar-
ently framed to fit in with the early Spanish policy of avoiding the
appointment of governors and officials who had to be paid from
the royal treasury, by giving a patent to an adelantado who would
found a colony largely at his own expense land bear the cost of
salaries for officials such as alcaides. (See Haring, Spanish Empire,
59. Newton, op.cit. 83; C.D.I.U. XIV, 277.
60. Sancho de Alquiza to the King, 13 June 1612 and 20 April 1613,
(MS), British Museum, Add. MS. 36320, speak of "pacify," a verb
Philip II had insisted on substituting for "conquer."
61. Sancho de Alquiza to the King, 11 February 1612, (MS), British
Museum, Aad. MS. 36320. Attempts at combing positions had been
made previously. Thus Antonio de Berrio, named governor of
Trinidad in 1591, was likewise governor of Margarita. (Charmichael,
62. C.D.I.U., XIV, 296. Of course time brought a change. In 1731, when
the Caribs had greatly diminished in numbers and begun to desert
the leeward coast in flavour of incoming French settlers, a Spanish
ship stopped at Dominica for wood and water and then sailed
away for Jamaica without having been in the least molested.
(Orgeville to Minister, 16 February 1731, (MS). Archives Nationales,
Paris, Colonies Cs A 42.)
63. Hakluyt, op. cit., IX, 3- 4.
64. Elizabeth Donnan ed., Documents Illustrative of the History of the
Slave Trade to America (Washington, 1930-1935), I, 51; Calendar
of State Papers, Colonial, 1730, no. 421.
65. Lowery, The Spanish Settlements 1562-1574, 326.
66. Donnan, op. cit., 68.
67. Newton, op. cit., 88; Captaine Bruneau, Histoire Veritable de Plusi-
eurs Voyages Adventureux et Perilleux Faits sur la Mer (Niort,
68. Relaci6n que Di6 Dn. Hernando de Altamirano de una Poderosa
Armada Ynglesa, 1585, (MS), Museo Naval, Madrid, Navarrete
Collection; Hakluyt, op. cit., VIII, 311, X, 110.
69. The callers invariably mentioned the commodities traded. Thus
Bruneau (op. cit., 72-73) wrote of "cassave et parades," meaning
bread and certain large roots, while the anonymous author of R6cit
du Voyage que J'ai Fait aux Indes Occidentales Avec Monsieur de
Cahuzac, 1629, (MS). Bibliotheque Nationale. Paris, Collection
Margry, Nouvelles Acquisitions Frangaises 9323, carefully noted
down "fruits de pays comme ananas et bananes.'
70. Hakluyt, op. cit. X, 478.
71. Expediente, 1580, A.G.I.
72. Julian S. Corbett, ed., Papers relating to the Navy during the Spanish
War 1585-1587 (London 1898), 14.
73. Hakluyt, op. cit., VIII, 409.
74. Ibid., X, 184.
75. Southey, op. cit., I, 213.
76. Hakluyt, op cit., X, 215, 228.
77. Ibid., X, 478-479.
78. Purchas, op. cit. XVI, 55.
79. Hakluyt, op. cit. X, 272.
80. Southey, op. cit., I, 229; Purchas, op. cit. XVIII, 331, 404.
81. Newton, op. cit., 141, 147, 149; Clarence H. Haring, Trade and Navi-
gation between Spain and the Indies, in the Time of the Hapsburgs
(Cambridge, 1918), 118-119.
82. Council cf War to the King, 27 February 1645, (MS), British
Museum, Add. MS. 36327.
83. Carlos Calvo, (Coleccion Completa de los Tratados, Convenciones,
Capitulaciones, Armisticios y Otros Actos Diplomaticos de Todos
los Estados de la America Latina . desde el Aiio de 1493 hasta
Nuestros Dias (Paris, 1862-1866), I, 169.
84. Haring, Trade and Navigation, 253.
Non-Standard English of Grenada
THE ISLAND of Grenada, now accepted as English-speaking, was
once entirely French, and there still remains residual spoken evidence
of Creole. Small sections of the population also have a knowledge of
Spanish as a result of trade and other contacts with Spanish-speaking
territories in the region. It must be emphasised that this article is
not concerned with 'the use of any recognized language per se, and, in
identifying words and phrases absorbed from foreign sources, the
criterion has been that users of these words and phrases have no
knowledge of the language concerned, and no awareness of the
Examination of Grenadian speech indicates that two vocabularies
are in use. Generally speaking, the first may be regarded as 'formal'
and is evident when the speaker is on his best linguistic behaviour;
the other is 'informal' and for use on more relaxed occasions. How-
ever, such a division of use is an over-simplification, -for the 'informal'
vocabulary is not a complete dialect and depends on the 'formal' for
speech structure. Further, among the folk, I the 'informal' vocabulary
will be evident on both formal and informal occasions while, at the
other end of the educational scale, traces of this vocabulary will creep
into the most formal of occasions.
A basis for careful study is not provided by the terms 'formal' and
'informal', but more precise classification is possible if the division is
made into 'Standard-English' and 'Non-Standard-English' For the
purposes of this paper, the standard English vocabulary is taken as
being recorded in the Fifth Edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary of
Current English published in 1964. Non-standard English-that with
which we are now concerned-is that considerable number of words
and phrases which have been adopted from foreign languages, preserved
from Old English and expanded by innovation.
In tracing obsolete English words, the Third Edition of the Shorter
Oxford Dictionary on Historical Principles, published in 1962, has been
taken as the authority. With reference to words contributed by languages
other than English, publications and authorities are referred to in the
The first linguistic influence which affected Grenada was that of
the pre-Columbian inhabitants, Amerindian tribes such as the Caribs
and Arawaks. These people became greatly reduced in numbers and no
longer a political force shortly after the island was first colonised by
Europeans in 1650,2 but some of the traces of their language are said
to remain in such words as a-ju-pa, 3 tit-e-re and ma-boo-ya. 4 The first
-usually shortened to ju-pa--is a thatched hut while the word tit-e-re
(sometimes tre-tre) refers to that swarm of delicious small fish caught
at the mouths of our rivers. Ma-boo-ya, the Carib word for 'evil spirit',
is associated with more than one location of sinister appearance, 5
and the word has been enshrined by the science of zoology as the name
of a genus of lizards. 6 The unavailability of Father Breton's 17th
century dictionary of the Carib language has prevented a closer study
of words which may have originated in that tongue, but it is understood
that another such dictionary has been or is being compiled and its
publication will greatly assist the identification of words of Carib
From 1650 until 1762, the French were in unbroken possession of
Grenada, and, even after the island finally became a British possession
in 1783, many of the French settlers continued to live here.7 It must be
noted too that during the French occupation of the island for the
years 1779 to 1783, and again at the time of the insurrection of 1795/96,
the dominance of the French and the exaggerated frenchness of these
periods, born of hostility to the English, must have had considerable
impact on the speech of the slaves and on that of the new Englislh
colonists. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that French has made
so great an impression on the language of the Grenadian. The literal
translation of .faire is heard frequently in everyday speech. People make
messages. Women 'make babies and it is not unusual to be told that
someone is making a dance. One of the first words learned by the
Grenadian child is ah-fus, and it will be found tacked to the head of
many a phrase to denote extreme.
It is the French a force (extremely), and, in his 1963 calypso,
'Robbery with V', the Mighty Sparrow makes typical use of it
when he sings, "Hiding the judges' name, hh fun's 'they feeling
shame" 8 The young Grenadian is likely also to become uncomfortably
acquainted with bet-roog, a tiny red insect which lives in grass and
causes an irritation when it burrows under human skin. The derivation
from French, bete rouge, a red beast, is obvious. In the building trade,
before digging trenches .for foundations, the constructor will erect the
bata boards. These are lengths of timber nailed to posts driven into
the ground and so laid out as to show the outline of the proposed
building. The derivation would seem to be from the French, batard,
meaning similar or resembling. 9 One word which has had its meaning
extended is but-tids. Originally, it applied only to the child's game
of marbles and is the term used for the payment of a penalty per-
mitting continued participation in the game. The meaning now in-
cludes the making of an excuse, so that a friend may accompany a
man home to but-tuds to his wife for his lateness. It is possible that
but-tuds originated from the French legal term, deboute which indicates
dismission or nonsuit. An injury to which Grenadians are subject is
the '.fallen' boo-shit. The bo&o-shet has never been accurately located,
but, said to be situated somewhere in the vicinity of the chest. it will
'fall' if one attempts to lift too heavy a load. The word derives from
the French, brechet, the breast bone or sternum, and a curious remedy
is given by the folk for this injury. Two bits of garlic tied in a knot of
cf hair at the top of the head will soon have a fallen boo-shet back in
An extensive study of African language survivals in the New World
has been made by Professor Herskovits, o1 and Grenadian speech is
further proof of his findings. Before carrying a load on his head, the
Grenadian places a circular pad of straw or cloth on his crown, and this
he calls a cata. The word, no doubt, has a connection with the verb katk,
which, in the language of the Twi tribe of Ghana, means to cover or
protect"1 Among the folk, leprosy and coco-bay are synonymous and
this is a direct survival of Kokobe, the Twi word for the same disease. 12
There is yet another Twi word current in the non-standard-English
vocabulary of the Grenadian. Prapra, in Twi, means to gather up,13
and, in Grenada, to appropriate your neighbour's property is to pra-pra
During the latter part of the 18th century, in the interests of her
developing industries and the need to secure markets for her manu-
factured goods, Britain found it necessary, as an elaboration of her
Acts of Navigation, to pass the Free Port Acts. 14 One effect of this
legislation was to allow selected British West Indian colonies to trade
with foreign territories in certain specified commodities, and, im-
portant from the language viewpoint, this trade was permitted in
foreign vessels. When Grenada was created a Free Port in 1787, it was
with a view to trade with the Spanish Main s and, for some thirty
years, this trade developed, flourished and eventually declined when
changing conditions reduced the importance of the Free ports. 16 The
linguistic footprints of these Spanish traders are still distinguishable
in the Grenadian il-p-gat and cha-pit. Both words stand for a
leather-soled slipper with a woven-twine top and the first is derived
from the Spanish, alpargata, a hempen sandal, while the second is
from the same language, zapato, a shoe. Also a legacy from the Spanish
Main is the interesting word, hay-fay. Directly from the Spanish, jefe,
chief or leader, the Grenadian hay-fay is used with derogatory over-
tones of important people. When they came to do business, the
Spaniards brought with them something of their culinary art and
their escabeche, pickled fish, is now the exotic caveched 17 fish of the
Some English words, long classified as obsolete, remain current in
our non-standard-English vocabulary. In the "West Indian" newspaper
of Grenada, on February 14th, 1963, there appeared a news story of
a lad who had been shot in the leg 'above the knee' The lad is reported
to have said, something happen to me foot" This appellation for
any part from the hip joint to the toes is common in Grenada, but
according to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, the latest recorded use
of the word foot in the sense cf the whole limb is the year 1661.
Similarly, to the Grenadian, hand refers to ine whole arm, a usage
which has been obsolete since 1751. Schoolboys are admonished not to
cog in examinations, i.e., not to gain an advantage by looking at the
papers of their mates. Cogging in the sense of cheating was last
recorded in 1683. Up to 1768, in the use of Standard English, a man
was said to be keeping when he maintained a mistress. Both the word
and the practice are still current in Grenada. The wife who discovers
that her husband has been keeping is likely to take a lag at him. Trans-
lated into Standard English, this means that, either verbally or
physically (perhaps both!), she will attack him. The derivation of the
phrase hangs on the word lag, preserved in English dialect and mean-
ing a barrel stave.
Following the emancipation of the slaves in 1838, planters experi-
enced great difficulty in finding labour and, between the years 1839
and 1849, immigration of Maltese and Portuguese was encouraged as
a remedy. Not many people of these nationalities accepted the invita-
tion to work in Grenada, the experiment was a failure and no linguis-
tic influence has been traced to them. In 1857, the first East Indians
were brought to the island as indentured labourers. 18 The total number
cf these persons taking up residence, while numerically much greater
than the Maltese and Portuguese, has never represented any consider-
able percentage of the population. They have, however, contributed to
the non-standard English vocabulary. A well known East Indian dish
is b'a-ge, a weed of the Amaranthus family which is used as a spinach. 19
The derivation is from the Hindustani, bhaji, greens. Not so well
known but a favourite of the East Indian population (and those who
have been fortunate enough to be initiated) is co-rl-le. This is the
rough-skinned bitter fruit of a vine which, when carefully prepared
and cooked with garlic, curry and salted fish, is an unusual and
Apart from the use of obsolete English and words contributed by
foreign languages, succeeding generations of Grenadians have proved
themselves adept at coining words and phrases and, modifying
standard English to meet their linguistic needs. The word drogher is
standard and means a West Indian coasting vessel, a slow heavy craft;
no corresponding standard verb is listed. To the Grenadian, however,
to perform a tedious task of carrying is to dr5ge. A curious change of
meaning is associated with curry favour, which, in Standard English
means to ingratiate oneself. In the Grenadian meaning, to level a
charge of curry favouringg is to accuse of favouritism.20 Another phrase
worthy of note is, many happy returns. According to Standard English,
this is a part of the phrase, many happy returns of the day, and is a
birthday or festival greeting. In Grenada, however, in response to
the wish of "Happy Birthday", one is likely to be told, many happy
returns. It would seem that the good wishes which one has expressed
are being happily reciprocated. Until recently, little use was made of
the Standard English word, cummerbund, the waist sash of men's
evening dress. More popular 25 years ago and still in use today is goh-re
(or gUh-re), the name deriving from Sir John Gorrie, a Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court of Trinidad who introduced the fashion from
India. 21 The word lime, defying all efforts to pinpoint origin, has been
current at least since 1940. It is a verb and, originally, was restricted
in meaning to standing around idly near to some function to which
one was not invited. 22 The word has lost none of this meaning but
has been extended to cover being idle anywhere, and especially on
street corners. 23 Liming is now even something of a cult with its own
standard of dress. 24 Coming straight out cf the imagination is crox-e,
the teenagers' adjective for anything which does not meet their
approval and especially for 'old fashioned' parents. Crbx-e presents
an irresistible mental picture of father frog, sitting on the edge of his
stagnant pool and croaking disapprovingly at the modern world.
The islands of the Caribbean have close historical relationships
and are united by so many cultural ties that it would be impossible
to develop a non-standard-English vocabulary which was not shared
in some part by other islands. In the Eastern Caribbean, Grenada
has her closest links with Trinidad. The populations of the two
islands are kept in such close touch through newspapers, radio, trade
and travel, that they share a large common non-standard-English
vocabulary and may be regarded as a single linguistic entity. Barbados,
with no influence of French settlers, still shares the Grenadian crapo,
a frog. 25 (French crapaud) This island has also developed mattie,26
an anglicized version of ma-de-vin, the Grenadian word for lesbian.
(French ma divin) In wide use in Grenada, as in Trinidad, Barbados,
Jamaica and, no doubt, many other islands, is the word jook27 which
means to prick or pierce. In Trinidad, this word has developed one
step further. An accidental prick-such as from a nail or pin-becomes
a jobk, while, if one is deliberately attacked with a pointed instrument,
one has been choked. 2B In both Grenada and Jamaica, bessy down
means to bend down, while in Grenada and Barbados, humbug has no
connection with the standard meaning of fraud or deception; to
humbug 30 someone in these islands, is to thwart their desires. From
the Twi language, Jamaica has adopted the word foo-fdo which,
both in Africa and in Jamaica, is the name of a dish made from
pounded yams, cassavas, plantains, etc. 31 In Grenada, this meaning
has been lost but, no doubt because the dish was originally associated
with slaves, anything which is considered inferior is labelled foo-foo.
Another connection worthy of note refers to a dish prepared by the
East Indians of Grenada. The 'bitter' cassava is used and some of the
harmful prussic acid in this tuber is intentionally retained. This baked
preparation, called bang-bang, is said to cause a distended mid-section
and 'must be connected with the Jamaican bang-belly, 32 a protruding
stomach. Language similarities are not confined to the English-speak-
ing islands, and Grenada and Barbados share with Martinique the
reputedly Carib word can-a-re, 33 which is a large earthenware pot.
Grenada and Martinique have sha-ben,34, a person of colour with
white skin and coarse blonde hair. Grenada, Trinidad, Barbados,
Martinique and Jamaica all call the banana a fig, while, with the
possible exception of the last named, to varying degrees throughout
these islands, the conch is known as lam-be.
With a pattern of thinking developed over three hundred years of
colonial rule, Garenadians have been inclined to regard anything not of
the metropolitan country as foo-fo6, and this legacy of attitude,
handed down from generation to generation, includes standards of
dress, items of food, manufactured articles and language. Despite the
humidity and discomfort, men's jackets remain the outward sign of
formality. Irish potatoes constitute a higher symbol of status than
locally-grown sweet potatoes and, the products of developing local
industries, equal in quality and lower in price, still experience severe
competition from the imported article. With reference to language,
the Grenadian child has but to utter the word jook or some other non-
standard word or expression, and his parent or teacher will take such
a lag at him that he will forever be convinced of the "undesirability" of
While it is not expected or hoped that a language will emerge
which will replace standard English, it is regrettable that the colour
and expressiveness of these words should be limited to the speech of
the uninhibited folk and to those occasions when, linguistically, the
educated Grenadian is slumming. However, the emergence of West
Indian literature making use of these words and phrases is one step
towards acceptance and indications are that greater understanding
will, in time, lend dignity. As an example of this, it has been found
that, standing without explanation, the word ca-bob-say, meaning
delapidated, is given no status but, when it is discovered that it is
derived from the French, cabosser, to bump or bruise, its associations
do not appear to be so disreputable.
Meanwhile, despite the prejudices born of our history, in conrtinu-
ing to thrive and expand, the non-standard-English of Grenada pro-
vides a strong link in the linguistic chain which unites our scattered
islands of the Caribbean.
Consonants b; ch (chin) d; dh (dht-the) g (go) h, j; k; 1; m;
n; ng (sing) nng (finger); p; r; s (sip) sh (ship) t;
th (then); v; w; y; z; z; zh (vizhn vision)
Vowels a, e, i, o, u, oo. (mate, mete, mite, mote, mute, moot)
a, e, 1, o, u, 6o. (rack, reck, rick, rock, ruck, rook)
ar, er, or, ur. (mare, mere, mire, more, mure)
ar, er, or. (part, pert, port)
on (as in French, onze)
ah, aw, oi, oor, ow, owr, (bah, bawl, boil, boor, brow, bower)
Frederick G Cassidy, commonalty of country and city cultivators, labourers, small
artisans, domestic servants, and so on Jamaica Talk. Page vii
2. The Grenada Handbook & Directory 1946. Pages 20 & 21
3. Christian Crabot & Jean Delaplace. ique. Guide de la Marti ique 1960. Pages 137 & 141
4. Kevin Arihur, Tales of the Islands, in Advocate newspaper (Barbados) Sunday,
July 2Bth, 1963.
5. A dangerous cliff at Gouyove and a small uninhabited island off the dependency
6. Garth Underwood, Reptiles of the Eastern Caribbean, Department of Extra-Mural Studies.
The Grenada Handbook & Directory 1946. Page 23 (1763) & Page 28 (1795)
8. Mighty Sparr Colypsoes to Remember (20 Hils of 1963). Page 10
9. George Bell & Sons, Gasc French Dictionary.
10. Melville J. Herskovits, Myth of the Negro Past.
Frederick G. Cassidy, Jamaica Talk. Page 83 cotta
12. Frederick G. Cassidy, Jamaica Talk. Page 131
13. Frederick G. Cassidy, Jamaica Talk. Page 149
14. Francis Armytage, The Free Port System in the British West Indies. Page 2
15. Francis Armytage, The Free Port System in the British West Indies. Pc"; 58 & 59
16. Francis Armytage, The Free Port System in the British West Indies. Chapter VII
W. O'Brien Donovan & E. Cochrane, West Indian Food Recipes. Page
18. The Grenada Handbook & Directory 1946. Page 45 (1857)
19. R. O. Williams & R. O. Williams Jnr. Useful & Ornamental Plants of Trinidad & Tobago.
Pages 64 & 65
20. Pierrot Grenade, Picong, article in Evening News newspaper (Tri idad) Wednesday, Jan-
uary 8lh, 1964.
21. Caribbean Quarter:y Vol. 4, Numbers 3 & 4. Page 197
22. Evening News newspaper (Trinidad) Tuesday, October 1st, 1963. Young Limers at a P-O-S.
Fete, news story with photograph.
23. Mcgee, In the Courts Today, article in Evening News newspaper (Trinidad) Wednesday,
October 23rd, 1963.
24. Mitchie Hewitt, Don't Ignore that Dark Shades Gang, article in Advocate newspaper (Bar-
bados) Sunday, August 111h, 1963.
25. Frank A. Collymore, Notes for a Glossary of Words & Phrases of Barbadian Dialect. Page 28
26. Frank A. Collymore, Notes for a Glbssary of Words & Phrases of Barbadian Dialect. Page 56
27 Frank A. Collymore, Notes for a Glossary of Words & Phrases of Barbadian Dialect. Page 49
Frederick G. Cassidy, Jamaica Talk. Page 146
28. Mcgee, In the Courts Today, article Evening News newspaper (Tri idad) Tuesday,
October 1st, 1963.
29. Frederick G. Cassidy, Jamaica Talk. Page 147
30. Frank A. Collymore, Notes for a Glossary of Words & Phrases of Barbadian Dialect. Page 47
31 Frederick G. Cassidy, Jamaica Talk. Page 192
32. Frederick G. Cassidy, Jamaica Talk. Page 138
33. Christian Crabot & Jean Delaplace, Guide de la Martinique 1960. Lexique. Page 138
Frank A. Collymore, Notes for a Glossary of Words & Phrases of Barbadian Dialect. Page 26
34. Christian Crabot & Jean Deloplace, Guide de la Martinique, 1960. ique. Page 138.
35. Frank A. Collymore, Notes For a Glossary of Words & Phrases of Barbadian Dialect. Page 37
Frederick G. Cassidy, Jamaica Talk. Page 351
Chrislian Crabot & Jean Delaplace, Guide de la Martinique 1960. Lexiqce. Page 139
R. O. Williams & R. O. Williams Jnr Useful & Ornamental Plants of Tri idad & Tobago.
M. G. Smith, Dark Puritan. Pages 81 & 107
36. Joan Wrigley, Cooking for Fun, article Sunday Guardian newspaper idad)
Aug. 4th, 1963.
Ian Gale, Cabbages & Kings, article in Advocate newspaper (Barbados) Sunday, 19th
Christian Crabot & Jean Delaplace, Guide de la Martinique 1960. ique. Page 140.
"Linguistic Problems in
NORMAN ASHCROFT and GRANT JONES
WHILE carrying out research in different parts of British Honduras,
our attention was recently drawn to an article by Professor S. R. R.
Allsopp: "British Honduras-The Linguistic Dilemma" (1965). There
are several problems raised by Allsopp, some of which we believe are
oversimplified and therefore misleading. Our observations have con-
vinced us that the language variability and speech situations in British
Honduras are far more complex than Allsopp's conclusions indicate
and that there is need for research into the social linguistic problems
of the country. In this paper we will briefly point out the shortcom-
ings in Allsopp's remarks, indicate some of our own observations, and
offer some suggestions for research.
British Honduras has an area of approximately 8,800 square miles
and a population of about 110,000, nearly 47 per cent of which will be
under the age of fifteen by 1970. Operating within this relatively small
population are several language traditions which include, English,
English based Creole of the general type spoken in the Caribbean,
Spanish, Carib, Yucatecan Maya, Mopan Maya, Kekchi Maya, German
spoken by the Memonltes, and to a lesser extent Chinese and Leban-
ese. The official language of the country is English, and It is taught
as the primary language in all the schools. However, in the every-
day speech habits, "Creole" is spoken by the majority of the people.
The exceptions, we believe, are most notable in the Maya communi-
ties and in many Latin communities in the north where Spanish is
more frequently spoken.
Allsopp's thesis is that "Creole is, in British Honduras more than
in any other English-based Caribbean territory I know, the language
upon which the nation really and wholly depends for complete inter-
person communication ibidd: 56)." He puts forth evidence which
would contradict Waddell's (1961) belief that Spanish will eventually
emerge as the primary language of the country. While admitting the
growing influence of Spanish *from the border areas, Allsopp still
maintains that "English or Creole is the accepted medium of com-
munication everywhere and it is these that I and those travelling with
me used everywhere and at all levels in the Hispanicized regions
(op. cit: 58)."
It is hard for us to either agree or disagree with this view, as
Allsopp leaves two major factors unclarifled: first, is the meaning of
terms such as Creole and Creolized English-Allsopp criticizes the
British Honduran census for failing to distinguish Creole .from English,
yet he fails in a similar manner by neglecting to clarify his use or
uses of the term "Creole." Second, is the social situations in which he
considers his argument relevant. For example, he claims that "Creole
is the sole 'mechanism of contact and perhaps the chief personal indica-
tion of national entity between the Spanish speaking Mestizo in the
North and the Carib-speaking Negro in the South ibidd: 56);" or that
"Creole is the common tongue recognized and used for all oral com-
munication throughout the country ibidd: 55)." In view of his pre-
vious remarks that "English or Creole is the accepted medium of
communication everywhere," it becomes important that a definition be
offered, unless we are to infer a self-contradiction. While we believe it
necessary to distinguish between "broad" or "deep" Creole as spoken
throughout the Caribbean and "standard" English, in British Honduras
there is need for a further clarification. For instance, there is appar-
ently a continue of English-based speech, ranging from "broad"
Creole through a form of Creole modified in the direction of English,
a more or less English with a Creole accent, to a standard English. An
individual will speak at different levels of the continue according
to his position in the society, his education, and the social situation
in which he finds himself. Allsopp may be aware of this, but by gloss-
ing over its importance, he tends to create a false picture of local
speech habits. Perhaps the problem is due to his approach in the field,
which he hints at as follows: "I found no difficulty in communicating
freely wherever I went, using my own Guianese brand of Creole
ibidd: 55)." At which "level" did he speak, and did he also shift "levels"
in different speech situations?-he must have, for we believe that in
many of the "Maya" communities, "broad" Creole is unintelligible and
that Spanish or a form of accented English is used to communicate
The language the informant uses with the investigator in a region
of such linguistic variety as British Honduras, certainly is not an
accurate indicator of communication between native speakers, even
though it might be suggestive. This would apply not only in distinguish-
ing levels of Creole-English speech alone, but also in accurately
describing language use between speakers with Spanish, Maya, or
other linguistic backgrounds and those with Creole backgrounds. As a
stepping off place for a sociolinguistic description of British Honduras, it
is necessary to accurately delineate the various speech communities
in existence. The second step would be to describe the mechanisms of
communication between the various communities.
To claim that either Creole or English is the sole linguistic means
of tying together these diverse communities is to oversimplify what is
a complex situation. A serious study of this problem would have to
take into account a number of social and cultural factors which Allsopp
ignores. The speech situation must be, as in any sociolinguistic study,
the primary focus of research, the nature of the situation where repre-
sentatives of different speech habits are conversing must be described,
and socially relevant features of the actors or speakers must be taken
into consideration, as should the relationship between cultural and
Organized research on these questions would allow one to describe
situations in which one or another language is likely to be used.
Although we have both observed that in various parts of the country
some form of English (rather than Creole) is commonly used across
linguistic communities, we wish to avoid making an all or nothing
statement. The following random observations are indicative of the
kinds of data needed: In the North, certain Spanish-speakers avoid
using Creole (though they probably learned it as children), boasting
that they-as a group-speak the best English in the country and use
only English to non-Spanish speakers. Conversations have been heard
in shops between Mestizos and East Indians where each speaker con-
versed in his own language-Spanish and English-and understood the
other. Some middle class adult Creoles avoid speaking Creole both to
each other and to non-Creoles in many different situations. In the
North, older generation speakers of Maya are likely to speak Creole
to the English speaking outsider, while the members of the younger
generation normally will converse in English. To the West, Spanish
has influenced the Maya vocabulary and in communicating with out-
siders either Spanish or English is used. There is apparently little
knowledge of Creole. In several Maya communities in the extreme
south of the Colony, Spanish and Creole are generally unknown and
English is spoken to non-Maya speakers. These examples are sketchy
and a detailed study of this complex situation is badly needed.
Allsopp, S. R. R., 1965, "British Honduras-The Linguistic Dilemma,"
in Caribbean Quarterly V. 2; Nos. 3 and 4
Waddell, D. A. G., 1961, British Honduras-A Historical and Contem-
porary Survey, Oxford University Press.
Barbara Howes From the Green Antilles.
edited and introduced by Barbara Howes.
(New York, Maomillan, 1966). $6.96 U.S.
SO MANY anthologies of West Indian writings have been pub-
lished in the last two years that any new collection, especially if it
contains no new writing, has to make a very strong case for itself.
What kind of a case is offered by this one edited by Miss Howes?
Well, it is beautifully produced, and contains more good bedtime
reading than the average collection offered in the normal way to a
casual reader. But we readers of the Caribbean Quarterly are entitled
to ask for a bit more than this. Is the literary standard really high?
Does it tell us more about the achievement of Caribbean culture, and
the way it is going?
The unique point about this anthology is that it spans not only
Caribbean literature in English, but that in French, Dutch and Spanish
as well. It starts off with a useful, if rather slight, introduction as
to how the island predicament affects the island writer, and one sails
on into the main body of the work with high hopes. The high hopes
are sustained in the English section which springs few surprises,
although it unearths an early D. H. Lawrence-influenced story by
Mais, 'Listen, the Wind' and an attractive piece, unknown to me before,
by Daniel Samaroo Joseph. The strengths of the section are some
fine short stories by Naipaul, Vic Reid, Hearne, Selvon and a repre-
sentative extract from Lamming's In the Castle of my Skin. Miss
Howes has sensibly concentrated on short stories, compact in them-
selves. With the later sections, which naturally arouse the greatest
interest, a sense of disappointment grows. One first suspects some-
thing is wrong when one notices that writers like Vic Reid and Selvon
get two lengthy sections each, while French writers of international
importance such as St-John Perse (if one is going to acclaim him as a
Caribbean poet) and Aimm C6saire get short single extracts. This is
nothing against Reid and Selvon, but is this really in proportion? Even
more curious, Jacques Roumain and Leon Damas don't get mentioned
at all. The choice is equally erratic in the Spanish section. One soon
realises that Miss Howes is mainly concerned with providing a 'good
read' when one discovers that the introductions to the various sections
make little real attempt to assess and compare the respective Carib-
bean linguistic cultures-a useful note on Barbadian dialect, for in-
stance, appears in the Dutch section. It is true that she quotes Jose
Vasconcelos mourning that Jamaica fell into English not Spanish
hands, 'for if it had remained Spanish it would be a nation like Cuba,
Santo Domingo, or Mexico'; the point being that British colonialism
was economic, the Spanish, cultural. But this interesting comment,
thrown out and dropped, is much too simple as it stands. It is further
irritating to find that one has to hunt through an alphabetical index
to find out which writer came from where-there is a difference
between Cuba and Mexico, or Haiti and Guadeloupe, as important as
the link of common language.
Accepting that Miss Howes has lost a valuable opportunity, one
finds a number of items one is glad to have pointed out to one. Puerto
Rico comes out particularly strongly, with Pedro Juan Soto's moving
account of a mother sending her mentally deficient son to an Insti-
tution, (The Innocents') and Juan Bosch's whimsical ghost story
about a man who dies, sees how ugly his soul is, and thinks better
of it, returning to his body, ('The Beautiful Soul of Don Damian').
Emilio S. Belaval, originally from San Domingo, now in Puerto Rico,
contributes a somewhat hysterical but vivid account of maternal
passion pitted against the poverty that destroys the baby, "The Purple
Child". The prize for the most ambitious story goes to the Paramaribo-
born Albert Helman with "My Monkey Weeps" A pity this account of
a man's destruction of a monkey pet in whom he recognized so much
of his own animal nature, degenerates into over-overt moralising. A
good Christmas present, this book, but what a missed chance.
University of Kent at Canterbury.
Walter Jekyll (E.d) Jamaican Song and Story
(2nd ed., New York Dover Publications, 1966) $2.50 U.S.
JAMAICAN Song and Story by Walter Jekyll is valuable not only
as an authentic collection of Jamaican folklore, but as an absorb-
ing account of the island as seen by an educated .foreigner in the early
years of the 20th century. Walter Jekyll must have been a very un-
usual man. He had a warm interest in learning about the Jamaican
peasants' beliefs and customs at a time when people were generally
regarded as mere tools in the sugar industry, and he was obviously
charming and sincere enough to win the confidence of these labour-
ers who only a short time before would have been his slaves. He was
a man who respected ideas and practices even though they were strange
to him, so his work can be trusted.
Jekyll divided his book into four sections-Annancy stories, Digging
songs, Ring tunes and Dance tunes. More than half the book deals
with Annancy stories and their attendant songs. These were collected
at a time when they were a regular feature of the after work period,
and were faithfully written down in the language and style of the
story tellers. Jekyll has in most cases done a fine job in transcribing
the songs, which so often follow the speech rhythms that they are
more like recitatives than melodies. He has taken great care to try
to convey the correct dialect sounds by phonetic spelling, and often
supplements these by explanatory notes. Not only are many of these
stories entertaining reading for the general public, but they are also
a gold mine for anyone who aspires to write for the Jamaican stage.
The Digging, Ring and Dance tunes are more familiar to present
day Jamaicans than the Annancy Stories, but are never the less dis-
appearing at an alarming rate. This collection is therefore invalu-
able to anyone interested in folklore as a study in itself, or anyone
who wishes to use it as a source in creative arts.
The tunes may at times seem different .from the versions that we
know, but this is not surprising. Often the syncopations are complex,
and if written exactly as they sound, would be difficult to interpret
by any but an expert musician. Again, the rhythms vary not only
from one part of the country to another, but often from verse to verse,
and because this type of variation may also take place with the
melodic outline, the author has found it wise to write the tune in its
simplest form. In many songs, European tunes have been taken and
set to topical words with little regard for the accepted liaison in
accent between words and music. Jekyll realized this and worked out
most of the songs quite satisfactorily, but his tendency to use too many
bar lines, though making the music easier to read, overemphasises the
misaccentuation. To hear singers in remote areas even now is to realize
how often they sing to very slow beats. They fit a large number of
quick notes in speech rhythm between widely spaced accents. Trans-
cribing such tunes certainly presents a problem, and Jekyll's solution
of subdividing bars 'may be best front the musician's point of view.
Village happenings are the subject of most of these songs, and the
incidents are recounted with typically robust humour, but some refer
to aspects of life in old Jamaica-the sound of the bell to summon
and dismiss workers, the revelry of British soldiers, comments of
women waiting for their men to return from Colon, etc. On paper
some of the songs give a curiously incongruous effect, joining earthly
Jamaican word with neatly phrased European tunes. But in perform-
ance when fiddlers, fife players, drummers and others play by ear and
constantly embellish the tunes in their own styles, the effect is thor-
All through the book, there is much to interest the student of
language. One sees words from many parts of the world-France('oui,
oui madame'), Spain ('combolo'), England ('mickle, tanner'), North
America ('dude') and Africa (afoo, masoo') to name only a few. There
is the frequent and characteristically Jamaican use of onomatopoeia-
'cock a crow coo-coo-ri-co', 'the itty, itty, hap' of the three legged
horse, the hawk's 'twillinky twing ping ya' and the unconsciously
poetic use of repetitions heard even now in rural Jamaica-'is come I
come', 'him laugh, him laugh', 'cry, cry baby'
Jekyll has made copious notes throughout. Though he sometimes
misunderstands terms used, e.g., 'dirty pot', which is children's play
cooking, and misinterprets some of the sentiments expressed, his
notes on subjects like obeah and marriage customs of those days show
a surprising depth of information. In addition to his own notes, there
is a thorough and scholarly essay by Alice Werner on the African
influence as shown in the Annancy stories, as well as appendices by
C. S. Myers and Lucy Broadwood on the African and English motifs
in the Jamaican folk tunes.
Prefaces by Louise Bennett, Rex Nettleford and Sir Phillip Sherlock
also enrich this new edition.
Jekyll's Jamaican Song and Story is certainly the largest and
most useful collection of Jamaican folklore to date, and deserves a
place in the library of everyone who is interested in Jamaica and her
Jamaica School of Music.
SELECTED BOOK LIST-VOL. 12 no. 4
R. B. Davison:
Robin Winks (Ed.):
R. L. Williams:
Sangster's Book Stores, Jamaica
Black British Immigrants to England
Published for the Institute of Race
Relations by Oxford University Press,
The Botanic Gardens of Jamaica
Andre Deutsch Ltd., London, 1966
Jamaican Song and Story
Dover Publications, New York
The West Indies, Their People and
Hutchinson, London 1965
Methods and Sources of the National
Statistics of the Leeward and
Institute of Social & Economic
Research, U.W.I., 1966 $1.00 (W.I.)
Anthology of Orthopaedics
E. & S. Livingstone, 1966
Spottiswoode, Ballantyner Co. Ltd.,
The Historiography of the British
Duke University Press, 1965
The Supply of Essential Skills
In Less Developed Countries
Institute of Social & Economic
Research, University of the West
Indies, Jamaica. ....