Related topics

In Caribbean, Division Is Cultural Legacy With AM-Caribbean Unity

July 30, 1991

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (AP) _ The Caribbean still struggles with a colonial legacy of cultural misunderstanding and economic rivalry.

European settlers brought slaves from Africa, indentured servants from India and the Old World conflicts of Spain, England, France, Holland and other nations.

They cultivated the same crops, starting with tobacco and sugar, and Caribbean nations have competed for identical markets ever since.

Wide variations in population, levels of development and resources often aggravate the old divisions as the island vie for attention, aid and trade.

Contrasts abound, from the gleaming high-rise office towers of Puerto Rico, a U.S. commonwealth, to the slash-and-burn farms and street beggars of Haiti; from communist Cuba, with 11 million people, to Montserrat, a British dependency of 11,000.

Differences extend even to pastimes: cricket in the West Indies, baseball and cockfights in the Dominican Republic. European tongues persist, but in many places have evolved into rich patois, distinct to each island.

Rivalry even within the English-speaking Caribbean Community, or Caricom, became uncomfortably clear at the opening ceremony of a Caricom summit in St. Kitts, Delegations had to sit under a broiling sun while a band played the anthems of all 13 members.

A kind of pecking order has reigned in Caricom. Smaller islands often resent Trinidad-Tobago and Jamaica, which are large, economically developed and have blocked some previous attempts at integration.

The West Indies Federation of British possessions was created in 1958, but collapsed four years later when Jamaica withdrew. Jamaica now is led by an advocate of integration, Prime Minister Michael Manley, and Trinidad also favors regional solidarity.


Update hourly