Cultural Patterns between the Sugar Industry and slavery in the Caribbean Essay
Cultural Patterns between the Sugar Industry and slavery in the Caribbean
The origin of the Caribbean The Guanajatabey people were among the earliest inhabitants in the Caribbean island, who migrated from the forests of the South American mainland in 5300BC. They were a population of about 100,000 hunters, gathers and farmers. Recent research speculates that they may have migrated from the south of US substantiated by the resemblance of artifacts collected in both regions. Additional evidence suggests that the Guanajatabeyes were driven to the island by the arrival migrants, Taino and Cioney from the Orinoco delta in Venezuela. Colonization of the Caribbean
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the expansion of Europeans took two directions. Towards the west coast of Africa where raiding and trading of products like slaves, pepper ivory and gold was involved, and towards the Atlantic island which the Europeans collected products like honey and timber (Jennifer 1994). Eventually though, the colonists returned to settle and cultivate wheat and sugar since there was no arable land in Iberia. Sugar proved to be a very profitable commodity to produce but it needed huge tracts of land plus great labor force for production.
As a result sugar and slave trade became entwined in the European exploitation in the Atlantic Islands and eventually spread to the Americas. Many think of the Caribbean Islands as a place for a get away vacation. The historical background tends to differ though. The island has come along way after colonization and slavery for many years. The settlement of the European in the Caribbean began with Christopher Columbus in 1492. Procession of an intricate feudal commission made him a long-term governor of all land discovered and also earned him a fraction of all trade conducted.
Caribbean’s encounter with the European transformed the culture in the Atlantic Island affecting the lives of millions of people. It decimated its native population and introduced plantation agriculture. Sugar was one of the commodities that came with Christopher Columbus. It was a lucrative commodity that incited the Europeans to commence plantations in the Caribbean. Sugar’s long history in the Caribbean lands includes the dreadful era of slavery and just as dreadful era of indentured labor.
Being the primary economic structure in the Caribbean, it resulted in external wealth increase and underdevelopment of internal markets and social classes. The colonists exploited the interior regions of the island to increase profits in the industry. They also enslaved Africans and indentured Asian laborers. They imported slaves from Africa to work in the sugar plantations. Slavery in the Caribbean Since slave trade was illegal, the Europeans used the Middle Passage. It was a very unpleasant and dehumanizing voyage. A good number of slaves did not make it to the other end.
Dreadful conditions below deck, poor air conditions in the cargo, excruciating heat plus inadequate supply of food and water were among the problems faced by the slaves. Only the strong ones survived the diseases like typhoid, measles, yellow fever and small pox in addition to vomiting and diarrhea from the poor food. Apart from that, the conditions on the other end were just as appalling. In the mid 19th century, slave labor was greatly intense in sugar plantations (Marquez 1999). Plantation owners were dependant on slave labor since free labor was limited. With time, the demand of sugar rose and with limited labor, production was low.
The Europeans were in dire need of laborers. The indentured servants could not meet the high demand for labor. The plantations required a large amount of labor to be at par with the increasing demand. This resulted to further importation of slaves from Africa to work in these plantations. On the other hand there was a cost increase in the importation of labor at the time. With rising costs and limited time to indenture, African slaves were the alternative. With the introduction of African slaves to the plantation sugar production rose by 300% (Payne Jennifer, 1994).
Slave trade became the order of the day. With time the population of slaves rose by more than 200%. The interests of the slaves were also disregarded despite the immense turnover from the sugar industry since most of it went to Europe. England would not only benefit from the lucrative commodity but augmented demand would thrust slave trade. Planting, harvesting and processing of sugar is tiring, hot and dangerous. It also requires a gigantic amount of labor. The Africans were enslaved to work in these plantations despite the harsh weather (Conrad et al 1995).
A vigorous adult was expected to till the land, plant and reap five acres of sugar. Slaves both adults and children would move row by row across the fields, planting thousands of seeds-cane stems manually. They would work from 6 to 6 with a break of two hours at noon. During harvest, the slaves would work longer hours racing against the weather to steer clear of attacks by insects on the harvest. Processing the sugar was also done manually under harsh supervision. Harvesting and processing cane was just as backbreaking as planting. Processing the sugar was done immediately by male slaves.
The condition in the processing rooms was so severe that the slaves had to rotate out every four hours, their limbs engorged from the heat and humidity. The slaves worked day and nights in the mills and sugarhouses with shifts lasting up to 18 hours during harvest to avoid bottlenecks in production (Simon and Schuster, 2003). Despite some planters giving extra food and drink to encourage competition in production, the result was due to coercion. The slaves were controlled by threat and use of deadly force. In the 1770s, there was the introduction of anti-slavery movements in Europe.
In 1787, The Society for the Abolition of Slavery was established which aimed at raising public awareness of the atrocious treatment of slaves. The fight however went on till 1807 when a law banning slave trade was passed. Many other countries endorsed similar laws soon after the law was passed. In 1831, a colossal anti-slavery rebellion destroyed many sugar estates in Jamaica, inspiring the government to Parliament to approve the Emancipation Act of 1834. The slaves who were still tied to plantation life were freed unconditionally.
Most of the freed slaves acquired parcels of land on some of Caribbean islands for subsistent farming. For those who did not get went back to plantation work. Consequences of slavery in the Caribbean After the establishment of new colonization, there was the introduction of new cultures and languages. The world only focuses on Columbus as the great discoverer the new land and tends to forget the destruction and damages caused on the lives of the native people who were the first people on the Island. These people were almost wiped out by the brutal incursion of the Europeans along with their cultures and languages.
There was division among the people which resulted from the introduction of different cultures, languages and values. The slaves that were also imported from Africa also brought along their different cultures and languages since they came from different region in Africa. Even long after slavery had been abandoned the economic and political structure that was used to control the Island still lingered. Former slaves were forced to work in the plantations but at minimum wage. Power and social inequality There was introduction of many races and cultures in the slavery era. Classes were defined according to race, financial status and culture.
Despite the many cultural differences which continually impede the territories from merging, the Caribbean societies are trying to come together socially politically and economically in order to work as one nation. Facets of culture such as race, language, governmental systems, religion, history, values and morals among others differ in each territory and cause a barrier between them. The different cultures that resulted from slavery Several religious groups were started and developed from past experiences. Judaism and Rastafarianism are among the major ones that were formed from previous ones (Michelle 1986).
There is a brawny bond between the two religions. They were bound by the subjugation and persecution they went through in the past. Rastafarianism Rastafari history started with the colonization of Africa. The European colonists enslaved many Africans, divided them and sent them to exile as captives worldwide. The areas in which they were taken were named Babylon. The movement was initiated in 1930 in Jamaica after a prophecy made by a black political leader, Marcus Following the prophecy was the crowning of Emperor Haile Selassie 1 in Ethiopia He is known to them as the Black Messiah, Jah Rastafari (Edwards 1999).
The rituals and practices of the Rastafarians were adapted during the late 1930s and 1940s. Some of the practices are reasoning and binghi. Reasoning is done by the members gathering to pray and smoke ganja or marijuana considered a holy herb. They would pass it around in a water pipe which they have likened to the Communion cup of the Christians in its symbolic meaning. Bighi on the other hand is anal night celebration consisting of dancing accompanied by idiosyncratic rhythms of Rasta drums. This is done to mark different occasions for instance Marcus Garvey’s birthday, coronation of Haile Selassie I and the liberation from slavery.
Their deadlock hairstyle signifies the Blackman’s pride for his skin color and hair texture. Rastafarianism remains to be a resistance culture in many parts in the world. Despite experiencing an unstable social history in Jamaica, the movement retains a momentous moral influence that has spread its wings way beyond Jamaica. Conclusion Nowadays, sugar is regarded the most common commodity. It is available everywhere and at very cheap prices. Conversely, there was a time when it was a very precious product desired by many. It was a luxury to many noblemen while the colonists considered it a way to make money.
Sugar was very profitable back then and also very expensive. This lucrative commodity incited the Europeans to commence sugar plantations in their colonies especially in the Caribbean (Howard 1998) The demand for African slaves arose from the introduction and development of plantation agriculture, rise in the price of sugar, and need for miners. Africans were not only viewed as skilled laborers, but were also agricultural experts. Consequently, considering their high immunity for malaria, they were suited for mining and agriculture. Moreover there were serious consequences as a result of slave trade.
All the same, there were positive results from colonization like urbanization and civilization of the colonies. Works Cited Conrad, D. , Glenn R, Lucas, C. , and Ray. “A Brief History of the Louisiana Sugar Industry, 1795-1995. ” Center for Louisiana Studies, 1995. Jennifer M. Payne, “Caribbean History”, 1994 Marquez Slavosevelie, “Slavery to Free Labor” 1999 Michelle H. “The Caribbean, and the World Sugar Industry’’. New York University 1986 Sidney W. 1986. “Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. ” New York, Penguin Books. Hagelberg, 1985