Between Two Worlds

Reflecting on his upbringing in Trinidad, V.S. Naipaul denies cultural identity to his part of the Caribbean: "Nothing bound us together except this common residence." Indeed, the area called Caribbean is constantly redefining itself. Its tongues include English, French, Spanish, and Dutch. Its population shows large deposits of Chinese and Indians as well as African blacks. Island status, often thought of as a defining factor, is not a requisite—consider Belize, Guyana, Surinam. Countries have been known to call themselves Caribbean when politic to do so: hearing that Venezuela had done so, the late Prime Minister of Trinidad, Eric Williams, fumed, "I expect to hear Tierra del Fuego called Caribbean next."

The French element (Martinique, Guadeloupe, though not Haiti) has remained departmentally linked to the mainland for obvious social service advantages—the fire-breathing independence movement in Guadeloupe being tiny, and Russian-led. Aruba has refused to become a Dutch-protected entity with the other ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao), but now seems to be reconsidering. Geoffrey Wagner is Emeritus Professor of the City University of New York, with a number of books to his credit; he lives in Grenada and writes frequently on the region. Factional interests—the penalty of insularity everywhere—prevented the ex-British West Indies from uniting. After the war there was the short-lived...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here