Assimilation of Cultural Groups in the Caribbean
The Caribbean is one of the most beautiful areas of the world. It is comprised of many islands which have each developed their own unique culture. The cultures of the Caribbean are a blend of African, European, and Native American cultures. Each group in the society has its own unique history.
The Africans were brought to the Caribbean during slave trading which began in the 1700’s. They were brought to the New World unwillingly for four hundred years. Their culture was stifled by the European slave owners in order to keep them under control. Nevertheless, Africans have managed to maintain a great deal of their native culture. They formed a unique religion based on Catholicism and their tribal worship practices. The Africans have exerted a huge influence on the Caribbean especially in the area of music. The Africans came with many languages since they were from many different countries. Creole languages are about two hundred years old. Patois developed during the first slavery era in the Caribbean. Creole is a “patois” language that is a varied combination of African syntax and European lexicon, or words. It evolved out of necessity as slaves had to communicate with the European plantation owners.[i]
The native people of the Caribbean were the Taino, Mayan, and Arawak Indians. The Taino people were predominant in the area. The Taínos and other Natives of the area were taken as slaves. They had no defense against European diseases such as small pox so many of them died. The natives left a number of lingering traits which were adopted by their Spanish oppressors. Taíno heritage can be found in island foods and language. One such traditional dish served in Puerto Rico is Mofongo. Other practices such as smoking of tobacco and even the use of the hammock were native cultural practices.
Several European countries were involved in the invasion of the Bahamas, Spain, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Portugal were among the countries who participated in the transatlantic slave trade and colonization of the Caribbean. Portugal was the largest slave dealer. Most of the slaves were taken to Brazil. Each country left it’s mark on the area.
The challenge was for all of these groups to live in harmony. Unfortunately Europeans had the idea that they were superior and that the groups should emulate their culture. They referred to native and African cultures as heathen.
Slavery leads to economic disadvantage. After slavery ended, The African descendents were not in a position of power or wealth so they were at the bottom rung of society for the most part. They were also racially mixed with the Europeans but their European fathers did not acknowledge them. Slavery ended in the Caribbean before it ended in the United States but the conditions of poverty were widespread.
Even today, poverty is extreme among both the natives and the slave descendents. Many of the Africans and natives were people of importance and royalty in their own societies but were relegated to slavery after the European invasion. This was extremely difficult for these groups.
Currently the Caribbean remains a very unique place with many assimilated groups who have all left their mark on the society.