Many issues affected the colonial and still affect the postcolonial Caribbean region. The issues worthy of considering include social class formation, gender relations, racism, and migration of peasants to urban areas. This paper looks into how the colonial masters championed class formation in the Caribbean region. Further, the paper considers how social classes formed during the colonial period have affected modern communities in Latin America.
Gender-based and racial discrimination tendencies entrenched during the colonial period still determine present-day Latin America. This paper considers how racial discrimination was entrenched. Finally, this paper will discuss the role played by the United States both during the colonial era and as of the present in shaping the Caribbean region.
Social Class Formation
During the Colonial era, the Caribbean social system was grounded on a hierarchical model where blacks, Amerindians, and browns were dominated by the whites. Whereas Mulattos i.e. the light-skinned people were free from plantation activities, the system degraded Amerindian and black peasants through economic exploitation. Cruelty was used to guarantee the unconditional submission of the blacks; this kind of segregation prompted or promoted the growth of a class system (Mais, xiii).
The colonialists were ruthless and insolent or did not treat other races kindly. The ruled groups on their part did not work closely with each other. Therefore, a class system developed, which was anchored on the competition for supremacy among the races. Despite the cruelty, a handful of Amerindians endured the plantation enslavement (Mais, xv). The ruling class anchored operations on cruelty and exploitation thus making life for plantation workers unbearable. The workers were barely surviving while the rest benefited from their sweat.
Resource sharing within the society was achieved through social structures based on ethnicity and racial affiliations (Henry & Buhle 187). Black peasants, for instance, were seen as providers of cheap and inexpensive labor. Therefore, many plantation owners or employers chose to substitute white labor that was often expensive and largely unreliable.
Social structures based on race and ethnicity strategies were important in regulating wages hence it persisted even upon independence. There was cheap labor from immigrants after liberation (Mais xviii). The lighter-skinned people were believed to be of higher class and thus did not receive any privileged treatment after when colonial-era ended. In contrast, the black ex-slaves were relieved of credits and loans to empower them to venture into productive self-employment and other business schemes.
The lighter-skinned people did not require any emancipation because they had been favored by the colonialists; they received more favors and privileged services from colonial rulers. They were given economic freedom while every other race i.e. the “planter classes” took every opportunity to exploit blacks especially in the plantation labor (Mais 155).
The irregular sharing of resources in the Caribbean among classes during the colonial period left a heritage of conspicuous social inequality. This was evident in the living conditions of those at the “bottoms of the social pyramid”. In multiethnic Caribbean territories such as in Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana, the majority of Amerindian and East Indian inhabitants shared misery and occupied the bottommost level on the social ladder.
Race and Gender Inequality
The race has stood as one of the thorny issues in Caribbean countries since the colonial period. It has led to the reorganization of society, enhanced political culture, and economy. Racial formations and gender issues in the region appear to embody what Bosch (29) reputes as a fundamentally insensible rule of grouping with socio-historical progression. Thus, race is repeatedly recognized in ideas and practices in Caribbean socio-historical understanding. What has demarcated modern Caribbean racial formation consists in the endless practice by Caribbean people of social practice in which race supremely plays a role. Nevertheless, racism has not only altered people’s engagement in given activities but also their relationships (Henry & Buhle 4).
The race and class-based hierarchical systems inherited from the colonial systems have altered the social standing. The white and light-colored are represented as superior whereas darker-skinned races and other ethnicities are considered as less superior in the region (Bosch 107). The superiority of class in the region has caused major societal issues. For example, sustained control of economic resources by whites at the international level has caused inadequate resource circulation along hierarchical and racial lines at the local level. Besides, the class system has strengthened a flawed or weak autonomous system in the region.
The political system inspires ostracism or excludes lower classes of people through the establishment of very expensive systems. When it comes to political participation, the process is so costly thus only the well economically established races participate in politics (Bosch 117).
Role of the USA in the Region
The United States has significantly contributed to most events happening in the Caribbean since the colonial period. During the colonial period, the United States’ interests in the region were vested together with the interests of various European powers. The United States ensured that other parties understood that the Caribbean was an “American Zone of Power” (Boyce & Monica, 155). Over time, America joined forces with European colonizers to strengthen its interest in the region thus influencing the Caribbean region.
The United States’ imperialism in the region has taken various ways across time. One of the ways the USA has used to strengthen its imperial influence on the region is mobilization and training of armed forces in the region. Besides, The US has through business deals dominated the region through the development of new and modern technology satellites in the region. Moreover, the movement of labor and dominance of US goods and products in Caribbean culture has influenced Caribbean taste and socio-economic conditions (Boyce & Monica 153). There is a high presence of USA soldiers in the region and they have a direct impact on the social fabric.
Resulting of the influence of the United States in the Caribbean there has been some level of restructuring and historical rebuilding in the region. The US has authoritatively expanded its military power through operations in new states such as Jamaica, Trinidad, Tobago, and Guyana; these operations go on even without permission from member states in the region (Boyce & Monica 155). This, in a real sense, is a continuation of colonial dominion. The US military in the Caribbean region is therefore viewed as an extension of colonialism and western dominion over Caribbean countries.
The colonial culture encouraged peasants’ migration to urban centers to look for new opportunities. Caribbean “women of color” seized any possibility established to prepare for the “evolutionary reconstruction” of Caribbean colonial society (Boyce & Monica 156). The contemporary growth of the plantation economy in northern Caribbean states i.e. Cuba, Guyana, and the Antilles affected and therefore radicalized peasants’ urge for land and work (Boyce & Monica 156).
In the 1950s, Caribbean peasants began migrating to major cities around the world such as London, Amsterdam, and New York (Boyce & Monica 157). The middle-income earners from the Caribbean region seized opportunities in Europe where they assisted in imperial wars, advanced in education and some joined the French colonial services to better their standard of living.
The colonial masters played a huge role in shaping the Caribbean region. One of the key contributions of colonialism to Caribbean history was the establishment of class hierarchy or social class system. The class system created tension within communities because they could not trust each other. The United States played an important role during the colonial period by instituting measures aimed at encouraging the development of the Caribbean region. However, over time, due to the desire to safeguard its interests, the USA’s involvement in matters of the region is viewed as a form of neo-colonialism.
Bosch, Juan. The Unfinished Experiment: Democracy in the Dominican Republic. Michigan: University of Michigan, 1966.
Boyce, Davies Carole, & Monica, Jardine. Imperial Geographies and Caribbean Nationalism: At the Border between “A Dying Colonialism” and U.S. Hegemony CR: The New Centennial Review – Volume 3, Number 3, 2003, pp. 151-174.
Henry, Paget & Buhle, Paul, C. L.R. James’s Caribbean. North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1992.
Mais, Roger. The Hills Were Joyful Together. Michigan: University of Michigan, 1981.