In Search of a Better Life: Perspectives on Migration from the Caribbean

In Search of a Better Life: Perspectives on Migration from the Caribbean

In Search of a Better Life: Perspectives on Migration from the Caribbean

In Search of a Better Life: Perspectives on Migration from the Caribbean

Synopsis

This volume's contributors examine the factors that have motivated the historic movement of Caribbean people from their island economies; their social, economic, and cultural adaptation to their new environments; and the impact of the 1986 U.S. immigration laws. Among the issues discussed are the economic conditions that heralded the mass migration of Caribbean labor in the 19th century, differences in educational performance of immigrants in the U.S. and Britain, the characteristics of illegal migration from the Caribbean to the United States, and the tensions that arise as immigrant households adjust to their new environment.

Excerpt

The essence of Caribbean life has always been movement. It explains the energizing brio of Caribbean life in music and dance, sports, language, even religion and politics. It also explains, of course, the socioeconomic phenomenon of migration. Migration-as the vast, restless, circulatory movement of whole peoples-has its roots, historically, in the immediate post-Discovery period. For the first century of European colonization, migration meant the influx to the colonies of European peasants and the workers of the European seaports including the riffraff of London, Paris, and Madrid. After that came the African influx, organized by the Atlantic slave trade, which did not really cease in the islands until slavery abolition in Cuba in 1886. Following that, again, was the influx of Indian indentured labor, lasting for the period 1845- 1917. Every person in the Caribbean has been a newcomer; and certainly by 1700, the region's identity had been established as a series of rich, picaroon, and polyglot societies, eclectic, porous, absorptive, peopled by a dramatis personae that included colonists, slaves, indentured engagees, Catholic and Protestant planters and merchants, heretics, Jews, felons, "poor whites," buccaneers, transported political prisoners, and the rest, all of them mingling in a fascinating exoticism under tropical skies.

The modern twentieth century has witnessed a similar migratory explosion, though of a different form and direction. the period may be conveniently divided into two time spans: the period between the Spanish-American War and World War ii, and the post-1945 contemporary period. the first period witnessed the passage of West Indian workers to work on the Panama Canal construction, the efflux of Haitian . . .

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