A Short History of the West Indies

A Short History of the West Indies

A Short History of the West Indies

A Short History of the West Indies

Excerpt

One of the most significant and least recognized of recent Caribbean achievements has been the creation by Caribbean scholars of a common body of knowledge about the societies of the region.

The seeds were planted in the Spanish colonies with the founding of the University of Santo Domingo in 1511 and the University of Havana in 1721. These universities gave to the intellectual a place of respect in the society, enabled him to keep in touch with European thought, to examine ideas in a local setting and to establish within the society a capability for intellectual analysis and philosophical thought. Gordon Lewis, in Mainstreams in Caribbean Thought, has described the first flowering in Cuba, in the 1840's, and has shown the significance of Jose Antonio Saco and other Cuban thinkers of that period.

A larger region-wide movement developed in the 1930's, one of the great watershed periods in Caribbean history. It grew out of a combination of explosive ideas which propelled the Caribbean into the twentieth century. Generating ferment and discontent, they powered the rise of nationalist and labour movements, impelled intellectuals to champion the working class and inspired in Caribbean blacks a vision of Africa as symbol and mother. Voices from the four major language groups of the fragmented Caribbean proclaimed common themes. Caribbean blacks found in Garvey's Pan Africanism links with a past and promise of a future. Fernando Ortiz pioneered Afro-Cubanism and 'set the drums beating in Cuban music'. In Haiti, Jean Price Mars affirmed the enriching value of the African heritage and Jacques Roumain prepared the way for negritude and Aimee Cesaire. Two West Indian historians, C. L. R. James with Black Jacobins and Eric Williams with Capitalism and Slavery pioneered the writing of Caribbean history from a Caribbean point of view and opened new perspectives that compelled European historians to revise some of their historical judgments.

Up to that time, though many West Indians had migrated to Panama, the coastlands of Central American and to Cuba in search of . . .

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