Caribbean Identities

Identity

The identities of the Caribbean are multifaceted as a result of size, linguistic, socio and cultural diversities.   This is as a result of the physical, geographical, cultural, political, historical, etymological, historical and economic zones.  However, the main characteristic of the Caribbean is rooted in a plantation economy, which is still evident among the region today as many territories are still dependent on a single commodity:  agriculture, petroleum, natural gas and human resources to earn foreign exchange.  For example Jamaica relies on bauxite, Trinidad relies on natural gas, St. Vincent relies on bananas, and Barbados relies on tourism.  The important point to note, however, is that countries that economies are based on a plantation system are still dependent on imperialist states and hence their identities are always shifting to cater to the demands of these super powers.

The Caribbean is made up of 4 sub-groups:

  • The larger Island States which is also known as the greater Antilles – These countries are Cuba, Haiti and Dominica Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico;
  • The smaller Island states which are also known as the lesser Antilles Anguilla – These countries are Antigua, Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, The Virgin Islands and Trinidad and Tobago;   
  • The mainland states – Belize, Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname; and
  • Dependent territories.Identity.png

The historical and sociocultural identities have been synchronized because of colonialism.   Enslaved persons were forced to adapt to the ways and beliefs of the colonizers through the adaptation of their language and religion.  The main languages are English, Spanish, French, Creoles and patois.  The religions are predominantly Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Rastafarian.  Many countries still practice voodoo.  With the movement of people the Caribbean also has a hybrid of ethnicities and hegemony.  These include persons who are West Indian, Afro Caribbean, Indo-Caribbean, Asian-Caribbean and White-Caribbean.  Though many countries are predominantly black, the minorities are still the moneyed class and the majority of the region still has a rigid and stratified society whereby several pluralist communities have been formed.

There are many festivities and carnivals in the Caribbean.  The music is fused with a blend of African and European beats. Some of the popular genres include rhumba, salsa, zouk, reggae, calypso and merengue.  The dynamics of lyrical expression of the people have seen other genres such as basement soca and sweet soca.

Many societies in the Caribbean are homophobic against persons whose sexuality is not aligned with heterosexuality.   A number of this aversion is expressed against homosexuals in the lyrical expressions by Jamaican artist: Buju Banton, Vibes Kartel, Sizzla Kalonji and Queen Africa are only but a few.  However, with the advocacy of social media it can be safe to suggest that homosexuals, or the derogatory names such as “bulla”, “batty man”, “lesbian”, “wicker” and “fish”, are “tolerated” as they are still having challenges in the acceptance of their sexual preference.  Religious principles are the key defense for them being excluded and many countries still have buggery laws on their statute books.

Most of the countries of the Caribbean have a stable democratic political system.  However, despite many of them would have gained independence in the 60s and 70s their economies are still vulnerable.  As a result they rely on metropolitan countries for financial aid.  For example, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago have all had to enter into an IMF programme.  Additionally, some of them have not totally detached themselves from Great Britain as they still recognized the British monarchy as the constitutional Head of State.

There were several failed attempt to merge the Caribbean into a single market and economy as far back as the West Indies Federation but because of insularity and nationalism the only successful organization are the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), University of the West Indies (UWI), West Indies Cricket and to a lesser degree the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

In academic sphere identity is seen as the inclusion or exclusion of some, or, one that it is relational and contingent.  Though there are correct, the Caribbean identities are rooted in its history, socialization and economies.

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