Thursday, January 29, 2015


No, like you, I have no idea why the Caribbean is included in this list of the world's countries (I have explained already why the oceans are included, so why not the Caribbean?) It is a region rather than a country; it is not included in the CIA's World FactBook, nor does it have a profile page on the BBC's website; it is not mentioned at, nor Amnesty International, nor HumanRightsWatch, and IndexMundi only includes it as a regional category for the convenience of putting Anguilla and Aruba and the rest on the same page.

 And yet, it is here, and it needs to be here, for that word "Caribbean" recurs in news broadcasts and cultural commentaries. We speak of Caribbean literature, and count everyone from V.S. Naipaul to Jean Rhys, from C.L.R. James to Derek Walcott, yet leave out Gabriel Garcia Marquez (what, is Colombia not in the Caribbean?), presumably because he does not fit the academic stereotype of post-colonialism (click here). We speak of Caribbean culture, or Caribya, but when we try to define it, it turns out to be the residue of African culture, brought with at the time of slavery, deracinated like the people who still practice it, and so it isn't really Caribbean at all (click here). 

We speak of Caribbean music - bouyon, calypso, compas, jing ping, punta, reggae, reggaeton, soca, and zouk, to name just a few - and quickly realise that Caribbean music is principally African too, but that there is also Indian in there, and quite a bit of European as well. And then, what does the culture of Haiti really have in common with the culture of the Cayman Islands, or Cuba with the Bahamas, or Venezuela with Monserrat? To which the answer, of course, is: and what does Scotland have in common with Bulgaria, or Portugal with Liechtenstein, except that all four are in Europe? What unites a people, ultimately, are language, history, religion, food - and geography; in this sense, we can easily identify the uniqueness that is the Caribbean, and simply urge the cultural academics to put the great GG Marquez back into their lists.

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