I’m a man eater, or should I say my ancestors were called man eaters. Before I get there let me introduce my country. I am from a small island in the Caribbean called Barbados, and before these islands were called the Caribbean, it was termed Los Caribes after the inhabitants, meaning ‘man eaters’ and before that we were called many different names. While the Indigenous people had names for themselves, which had significant meaning to them, the Europeans did not take any worth from those names. Due to their exotic looks the indigenous people were viewed as savages, heathens and barbarians, now we are admired for our beautiful skin, curvaceous figure, and voluminous hair.
When “Columbus” “discovered” the Caribbean and the indigenous people, who were clearly living there before “Columbus'” so called discovery, he wanted the riches and land for the Europeans, therefore to dehumanize the Kalinagos and Tainos, they were stamped with a name that actually means so much more that what “Columbus” said it meant. Roberts states they were claims about the consumption of human parts as a feature of a regular diet by a contentious and highly suspect ‘eye-witness’. Columbus used whatever means necessary to obtain and extract what he wanted from the people, not caring about the damage that was being done to the people. The Caribbean is rich with history, culture, pride and people from all different walks of life. The Caribbean was rife with destruction and decay when the settlers came but after so much torture and torment, the people overcame much and rose like a phoenix out of the ashes.
I once believed that living in the Caribbean was not for me, as we didn’t have much to offer in, we are small countries and colourism is still rife, as well as the stratification system and nepotism. But I have realised that I would rather be a so called ‘man-eater ‘ from the Caribbean, after learning about the struggle of my ancestors. The Caribbean, especially Barbados, is beautiful and filled with so much colour and life. The Caribbean is much more than just a name, the Caribbean is its people.
According to Girvan, the Caribbean is a socio-historical category, commonly referring to a cultural zone characterized by the legacy of slavery and the plantation system. However this is not how I view the Caribbean, when I hear that word, I don’t think of the ‘Lesser Antilles or the Greater Antilles’, I think of my home, Barbados. The Caribbean is lush with people of all races, living and interacting together on a daily basis, whether it is for work, school or play, who share a common interest and strive for a better future.
From the enslavement of the Kalinagos and Tainos, to slavery, and then indenture ship, Caribbean people have suffered much. However with all the barbarity and savagery, different customs were brought and the Caribbean adapted and evolved into something better. Would you not say so as well, come on, I mean have you not seen the diversity. The Caribbean not only has different ethnicity, but cultures, customs and languages as well. The Caribbean is a well developed creolised place, with people who classify themselves by their country but share common experiences, different policies but have the same aspirations for their homes. Who doesn’t want to live near beautiful beaches, with the sun shining constantly and walking around with a perpetual smile. I love it!!!
The Caribbean is not simply small territories joined together. The Caribbean is important to many continents including the United States, with the best trading routes, strategic locations and close proximity to other countries. The Caribbean is viewed as advantageous to whomever possesses it and throughout history, that is all the Europeans aimed to do, possess and destroy. Are we all not tired of hearing about the “great super powers” of the world causing war, creating havoc and chaos. I certainly am.
To me the Caribbean is my home, with much history and culture. We are a people who have been through much and try to identify with the struggle and hardships of the Caribbean. We remain loyal to our islands, with some trying to change us, from our skin colour to the way we speak, but our spirituality, roots and culture still remains strong. I identify with the Caribbean, I identify with Barbados.
I am a proud MAN-EATER. What do you eat?
Girvan, Norman. 2001. ‘Reinterpreting the Caribbean’. New Caribbean Thought. A Reader. Ed. Brian Meeks and Folke Lindahl. Kingston: University of the West Indies Press