*Island People: The Caribbean and the World*

by on December 24, 2016 at 11:02 am in Books, History, Music, The Arts, Travel | Permalink

That is by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, published this November, a great book, could it be the very best book on the charm and importance of the Caribbean?  Not the Caribbean of the cruise, but rather the real cultural Caribbean as found in Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, and Trinidad.  The Caribbean was open, globalized, multiracial, vulnerable, and deindustrialized before it was “cool” to be so, and so it stands as a warning to us all.  Yet so few seem to care.  The Caribbean cultural blossoming of the 20th century remains one of the most remarkable yet understudied sagas, but this book, among its other historical virtues, gives you a very good look under the hood.

Did you know that in the 1930s Cuba received more visitors from the U.S. than did Canada?

This is one of the very best non-fiction books of this year, and its depth of knowledge and understanding truly impressed me.  Just to prod your memories here is the broader list.

1 Massimo Heitor December 24, 2016 at 11:34 am

Every human racial group is the evolution or mix of other races by definition. Every race is multi-racial and every human is multi-racial unless you choose a set of somewhat arbitrary reference categories.

For hundred of years England was a multi-racial nation of Angles and Saxons and other racial tribes mixed together.

2 Massimo Heitor December 24, 2016 at 11:36 am

To finish my point: which nation on Earth would not be multi-racial? You could cite England from one hundred years ago as a homogenous single racial group, but arguably that is also a multi-racial mix depending on your reference point. The Angles and Saxons were at one point considered distinct groups.

3 MatteoZ December 24, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Japan

4 Nicholas Marsh December 24, 2016 at 2:14 pm

Iceland, North and South Korea, Hungary, Portugal and lots of other small and medium sized nation states.

5 Mark Thorson December 24, 2016 at 6:51 pm

The largest nation with high ethnic purity is China. According to Wikipedia, it’s 92% Han Chinese. If they were to expel Tibet, the Uygher regions, and Manchuria, it’d be closer to 100%.

6 Faze December 24, 2016 at 6:57 pm

Hungarians are a middle-European mish-mosh,like their neighbors. The old Magyar genes have been diluted to the point of insignificance.

7 Massimo Heitor December 25, 2016 at 7:41 pm

Mark Thorson, you assert that the Han Chinese are a single atomic racial/ethnic category. If you go back far enough in history, the Han Chinese were a multi-racial mixture of distinct ancestor groups. From that point of view, you could argue that all humans are multi-racial and China is a completely multi-racial nation.

So, there is a generally assumed reference reference point, and from that reference point you can declare that the Han Chinese are considered a distinct category, and then China is not multi-racial, but generally ethnically homogeneous.

8 Mark Thorson December 24, 2016 at 7:04 pm

Despite the ethnic origins of the Japanese people being a subject of great controversy, it seems rather obvious they have a large input from China and Korea. (Controversial because the Japanese consider the Koreans to be an inferior race.) There’s also some Pacific Islander input (even more controversial, because the Japanese consider the Philipinos to be even more inferior), and a very small contribution from the mysterious Ainu — possibly the oddest ethnic group in all of Asia. According to Japanese legends, the Ainu were the people living in Japan before the ancestors of the Japanese arrived. They are the only native East Asian ethnic group in which blue eyes and curly hair are found. It is rumored the Japanese royal family has some Ainu ancestry.

9 dearieme December 24, 2016 at 7:12 pm

They were called The Hairy Ainu when I was a schoolboy, and were the more memorable for it.

10 prognostication December 25, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Uh, not just according to legend. The Japanese only eliminated Ainu culture from Hokkaido in the 19th century.

11 Mark Thorson December 26, 2016 at 2:02 am

Funny thing about the Ainu is that they appear as a trope in Japanese movies. When someone needs mystical consultation, they climb some mountain and meet some really old guy with long white hair and a long white beard, living in a cave, with lots of snow blowing around. That’s an Ainu mystic.

12 Jason Bayz December 24, 2016 at 2:32 pm

When the subject is suburban development, no one thinks to say “the notions of “urban,” “suburban,” and “rural” are human-created, entirely arbitrary categories.” Nor does anyone think to make a similar point about the wholly arbitrary distinction between “grassland” and “desert.”

13 Art Deco December 24, 2016 at 5:38 pm

When the subject is suburban development, no one thinks to say “the notions of “urban,” “suburban,” and “rural” are human-created, entirely arbitrary categories.” N

There’s a species of literature in human geography where just that sort of thing is uttered. There’s no end to the ways people with tenure can contrive to spin their wheels when it suits them.

14 jim jones December 24, 2016 at 5:34 pm

There are multi-racial societies and there are multi-racial societies:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sS8bK32YQM&list=UU-A4oZF4AlOEdlyZWBCI0cQ&index=60

15 So Much For Subtlety December 24, 2016 at 10:42 pm

Every human racial group is the evolution or mix of other races by definition. Every race is multi-racial and every human is multi-racial unless you choose a set of somewhat arbitrary reference categories.

Whatever you choose to believe, the major racial groups were geographically isolated for thousands of years. There was little mixing. Those populations were and to a large extent still are genetically distinct.

The major races exist. They are concrete scientific facts. Whatever you wish to believe.

16 Ricardo December 25, 2016 at 3:07 am

What “race” do Tamils in India belong to? Are Bengalis part of the same race and, if not, what “major race” do they belong to? Alexander the Great made it to India and the Mongols made it to the gates of Vienna — your assertion that there was “little mixing” seems dubious in relation to the history of the Eurasian landmass.

17 M December 25, 2016 at 4:58 am

If you follow genetic research, then you’ll know that at least for Europeans they fusions of groups from tens of thousands of years ago who were very isolated (not as genetically different from one another as today’s europeans and chinese but about half that).

That said, it’s still wrong to talk of say, France of the 10th century as a multi racial society, as the French (the great mass of the population) were a stable blend of those ancient groups which were evolving together as a single group. The Mexicans and Cubans of today aren’t like that – they’re very varying mixes of their ancestral populations with subpopulations that are still evolving separately.

18 jonfraz December 25, 2016 at 8:11 am

This is ahistorical nonsense. Very few human populations were isolated. Migrations were common. A study of male-line DNA in most peoples shows multiple influxes of new peoples.

19 Ray Lopez December 24, 2016 at 12:05 pm

I don’t recall the Caribbean, names after the fierce, man-eating Caribs, as being multi-racial; I thought it was largely black slaves vs white masters. What brought down the Caribbean area was reliance on a sole, profitable crop, namely, sugar, which, like cotton, is labor intensive but prone to disruption from reliance on a mono-culture crop, which long term is a risky strategy. By contrast, the more resource-poor New England area did better long term by enriching their human capital, pace the whaling industry which also had a boom/bust cycle.

20 Ray Lopez December 24, 2016 at 12:37 pm

Meet the world’s most dangerous tree – the deadly Manchineel. (found in the Carribean: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchineel) (When ingested, the fruit is reportedly “pleasantly sweet” at first, with a subsequent “strange peppery feeling …, gradually progress[ing] to a burning, tearing sensation and tightness of the throat”. Symptoms continue to worsen until the patient can “barely swallow solid food because of the excruciating pain and the feeling of a huge obstructing pharyngeal lump.”[2]… The tree is recorded as the world’s most dangerous tree by the Guinness World Records.[27])

21 Troll me December 24, 2016 at 2:25 pm

Being ruled by an empire that dissolved might have brought them down a little, considering the virtual complete absence of any leadership structure to move them forward (outside of a few ex-exploiters).

New England, comparatively speaking, experienced somewhat less chaining and whipping for efforts to build local leadership structures in the communities who continued to live in that place. It might have made a difference somehow. (Personally, I imagine it would be difficult to motivate others to help build leadership structures from the position of chains and whips. But maybe I’m just a little naive.)

22 mulp December 24, 2016 at 7:13 pm

They learned how to be leaders while under whips and in chains by emulating their masters.

After all, their masters were successful by rape, pillage, and plunder, so once free, the path to success is obviously rape, pillage, and plunder.

23 Andreas Moser December 24, 2016 at 12:42 pm

I wish cruises had seminars on subjects like this.

24 Ben Smith December 24, 2016 at 12:44 pm

I imagine this is an excellent book as most of your references are, but in what way is this multi-culturalism a warning to us all?

How about institutions such as slavery and colonial dominance should be a warning to us all?

I am finding myself disagreeing with your recent criticisms of liberal culture. As one example take your claim that we should support religions that promote abstinence from alcohol. Sure Mormons may have low average rates of drug and alcohol use, but there is also a significant youth drug problem. Rejection of Mormonism often leads to ostracism and religious re-classification and these populations are vulnerable to social problems. On the other hand look at cultures with liberal attitudes toward alcohol such as Argentina, Italy, or Spain. Children are allowed to drink with the family at a young age and shopkeepers are very lenient towards underage purchase. I don’t have data, but purely from my experience people who grow up in these cultures tend to be very moderate drinkers. Even with low rates of alcohol and drug abuse, many point to culture factors such as lack of trust as a cause of Argentianian economic instability. My point is that it is easy to pick a social ill and attribute it as the cause of economic problems.

25 The Anti-Gnostic December 26, 2016 at 9:22 am

Warning: Don’t import cheaper, browner people to do work you consider too hard or distasteful. Bad for them, bad for you.

In other words, there’s no such thing as “cheap labor.”

26 Troll me December 24, 2016 at 2:05 pm

No offense intended (little doubt it will nevertheless be taken), but a lot of Canadians who formerly travelled to Cuba often are likely to be changing their habits in response to this move. Many made their final trip last year, some more will do so this year, and the end of a Cuban holiday tradition will start for many Canadians next year.

Maybe … among the people on this board there aren’t too many of the types of people that would result in this outcome. The alti-reicht folks probably can’t stand the notion of having to look at happy (or maybe sad sometimes) brown people, especially on holidays (although it might help remind them of how their Godly melanin deficiency – not very useful inthe tropics – proves their superiority) and probably won’t go. And I don’t think there are too many folks on this board who live the life of “2 weeks of frat-style holidays per year” sort of drunken resort holiday. Which is fine, sort of, unless you’re kind of a little bit like those other assholes who, thankfully, would never even really think to go.

So … enjoy Cuba!

(P.S. – maybe a little more respect, and not throwing cash after people like you’re a king or something … might be a little better to try to show a little respect (and maybe even mean it). In the moment, presumably any server doesn’t mind to take $5 and is happy that you will pay him $5 to chop chop do something and treat you like a king. But I really don’t think it adds up to something good in the long run. If there’s some way you could manage to make that $5 tip and not be an asshole at the same time … say, like you were in your local neighbourhood … maybe try to treat people a little more like you would if your boss was watching or you were eating at a cafe near the church you attend. So … maybe that has something to do with probably not a lot of Canadians will see Cuba as a special (American-free) destination any more.)

(The 60% of so who already know this and are driven nuts by the people I’m talking about – maybe you’ve got some ideas … maybe if someone forces someone else to allow permission for someone they don’t know to gay marry, then fewer Americans will be assholes on holiday?)

(P.P.S. – we kind of get it. 2 weeks holiday a year. A day to decompress at the start and a day to pre-catch up before the holiday is over, and you’re left with basically just a fairly extended weekend once or twice a year. Might need to let a little loose. This is kind of connected to the view that Europeans have a superior quality of life despite being able to afford somewhat fewer iPhones per year on average.)

(P.P.P.S – Europeans might have been enjoying too many holidays and being a little optimistic about some things. Any chance someone wants to make a lot of money selling hardware in the case of a NATO dissolution? Need a plan to make ripping up NATO basically irrelevant – Trump might just do it)

(P.P.P.P.S – Europeans actually talk about stuff like that on holiday without getting into screaming and hollering, generally – much more conciliatory to speak with. That’s why I’m probably never going to see Cuba. Too many Americans, not enough Europeans.)

So, how about trash Canada instead of a little introspection. It’s the American way.

(I predict that some will fail to resist, despite the hint you should try to resist, and the further hint that maybe it’s not the right time, and additionally pointing out that someone will see this as the appropriate moment to trash something about Canada. And, now, fighting the urge to trash Canada indirectly, or perhaps me indirectly, by virtue of some innuendo or loose association. And now, maybe thinking it’s dumb. But maybe gotta find a way to try anyways….) – if that’s you, maybe you’re anti-American in the sense of being a cause of negative sentiment towards America. Think about it. You might be a useful idiot. (Suggested locus of debate rather than focusing on the person or nationality of the person who just said all that.)

27 Ray Lopez December 24, 2016 at 6:25 pm

Your post is a bit too verbose and meta for me to follow, but I take it you’re from Canada. When I visited Cuba I noticed lots of gifts from Canada, like old school buses. Seems Cuba is a dumping ground for kind hearted Canucks who want to jettison their old but still functional junk.

28 Roadrunner December 24, 2016 at 9:10 pm

Dude some self awareness?

Canadians went there mostly for sex tours. And youre blaming us before we’ve gotten there?

29 Art Deco December 24, 2016 at 9:49 pm

You’ve never said anything engaging enough that one would spend the time to read this text (which, MS Word tells me, is 715 words in length).

30 a Fred December 25, 2016 at 6:03 am

What is the point of the above? That you want us to know that you don’t like Yanks and you assume we’re as dense as you are?

31 Thor December 25, 2016 at 1:06 pm

My own objections to Cuba have nothing to do with race, but have to do with its left of centre supporters and its being touted as a polity others (particularly in South and Central America) should emulate, rather than a totalitarian state which should serve as a model of how not to proceed.

32 carlospln December 24, 2016 at 4:11 pm

In the late 1950’s @ the fall of Batista, there was more than 3X the US investment in Cuba than in all the rest of Central America & the Caribbean in aggregate.

Explains those later 688 unsuccessful assassination attempts.

33 Art Deco December 24, 2016 at 5:39 pm

Explains those later 688 unsuccessful assassination attempts.

The numeral in there is indubitably a figment of your imagination that of the person at the origin of the daisy chain which passed it to you.

34 carolospln December 24, 2016 at 7:30 pm

Right you are, Arthur, I was off by 50!

http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/how-castro-survived-638-assassination-attempts/8064788

What’s your World Book Encyclopaedia say?

35 Art Deco December 24, 2016 at 9:45 pm

ABC evidently suffers from the same credulity. You fancy Castro survived 2 or 3 attempts a month for 16 years. That’s your problem.

36 carolospln December 24, 2016 at 11:16 pm
37 neil s December 25, 2016 at 6:36 am

As documented by the Cuban state security forces…a source of impeccable credentials.

38 Thor December 25, 2016 at 1:08 pm

But their literacy rates were through the roof!

39 athEIst December 24, 2016 at 4:17 pm

Cuba received more visitors from the U.S. than did Canada. Yeah, particularly in the winter.

40 David Graeme December 24, 2016 at 7:33 pm

Well, the winter in Canada is a point, one has to wear a great deal less clothing in the Caribbean at any time of the year, especially winter, than in Canada, which would certainly simplify packing. Also, Cuba had casinos in the 1930s (which Canada did not) and maintained a very relaxed attitude towards rum and general wickedness, given that the country produced oceans of rum and had plenty of easy-going officials willing to stretch a point, neither of which Canada had then, certainly, or now I guess. Finally, having drunk plenty of both, I would always choose a rum-producing country over a rye whiskey-producing country, all else equal.

41 byomtov December 24, 2016 at 9:08 pm

I don’t consider this surprising at all. Not only are there beaches, casinos, and warm weather, but for parts of the US Cuba is closer than Canada.

I expect it will be the case again once travel by Americans to Cuba is normalized.

42 Slocum December 25, 2016 at 8:36 pm

Maybe. Air travel has gotten dramatically cheaper, so Cuba’s proximity is less of an advantage before 1959 and there are a lot of places in Mexico and the Caribbean with warm weather and beaches where the tourist infrastructure is decades ahead of Cuba. Also, the strong cultural connection between Cuba and the U.S. has been broken (to have gone to Cuba on a honeymoon, you have to be pushing 80 now). Already demand for flights to Cuba is turning out to be lower than expected:

http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/news/2016/12/05/american-airlines-reduce-cuba-flights.html

43 David December 25, 2016 at 9:21 am

“Did you know that in the 1930s Cuba received more visitors from the U.S. than did Canada?”

Why should that come as a surprise? Before it was taken over by the Supreme Maximum Leader-For-Life, Cuba was not only one of the most prosperous nations in the Western hemisphere, it was possibly the #1 destination for honeymooners who could afford to go offshore but not to–say–Europe.

Indeed its prosperity undoubtedly stemmed at least in part from the fact. Virtuous cycle, and all that.

44 carlospln December 25, 2016 at 3:19 pm
45 rayward December 25, 2016 at 7:02 am

Arguably, the best and brightest (Hamilton?) left the islands, most moving to America, leaving behind the least ambitious. I was a boy living in Florida during the huge wave of immigration from Cuba after the Castro regime came to power. These immigrants were the most educated and industrious: doctors and lawyers and skilled laborers and owners of businesses, who moved to a foreign country with a language they did not speak and a culture they did not fully understand. They went from a place where they were the elite to a place where they were ordinary, but quickly assimilated and adapted to their new home. They and we are the better for it.

46 David Graeme December 25, 2016 at 3:12 pm

I look forward to reading the book, having spent my early childhood in the Dominican Republic and my late childhood and teen years in Bermuda. First, to see whether the Dominican Republic (the earliest permanent European settlement in America, after all) is broadly discussed, given that it was, after Cuba, for many years the largest sugar exporter in the world and a country with a truly tormented relationship with both Haiti and the United States; and second, to see whether the author lumps Bermuda into the Caribbean, given that it is about 1,000 miles to the northeast of the Bahamas and is culturally and historically very different from the Antilles. Bermudian sailors did settle the Turks and Caicos, to rake salt for the North Atlantic codfish industry, but Bermuda was never a sugar producer, instead spending most of its efforts and time as a shipper of the goods of others.

47 Sirajum Munira December 26, 2016 at 4:15 pm

I found this review pretty interesting as i am fond of reading books. I have a little knowledge about Caribbean people as i am living in Bangladesh. But i will read this book to know more about them and to have a better knowledge about their life. thank you

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