Caribbean Project: Exploring The Spanish West Indies

A Spanish gentleman inspects his slaves (1837)
Spanish West Indies

OD has spent several months intensely researching the rise and fall of slavery in the British West Indies, the French West Indies, and the Dutch West Indies.

I expect most of our American readers could easily identify Jamaica, Haiti, and the Bahamas on a map. You could also probably easily identify Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.

It is all these smaller islands in the Lesser Antilles like Barbados, Guadeloupe, and Aruba – several of which are now sovereign independent black nations in various states of social and economic decline – that are hardest to identify much less remember.

So why have we spent so much time discussing the smaller British and French sugar islands while largely ignoring the much larger Spanish West Indies which dominate the Caribbean in total land area?

It is because the Spanish West Indies have a very different history from the slave societies created by northern Europeans in the Caribbean:

(1) As everyone knows, the New World was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492 who began the project of Spanish colonialism in the Caribbean.

(2) The Treaty of Tordesillas between Spain and Portugal divided the New World between the Iberian powers: Spain got the entire Caribbean and the rest of the Americas while Portugal got Brazil and Africa.

(3) The Spanish soon descended on the Greater Antilles – Hispanolia, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Jamaica – in search of gold and silver and enslaved the native Tainos there to work in their mines.

The Taino and Carib Indians who lived on the smaller worthless islands (those which lacked precious metals like gold and silver) in the Bahamas and Lesser Antilles were exploited as slaves and sent to the mines in Hispanolia and Puerto Rico.

(4) Within a few decades, the Spanish had conquered the Aztecs and Incas in Mexico and Peru. The mines in what would later become known as the “Spanish Main” contained far more gold and silver than the Caribbean and quickly became the center of Spanish colonialism.

(5) By the 1530s, the Spanish Caribbean had become a backwater: many of the rapacious settlers who had arrived there moved on to Mexico, Peru, and elsewhere in Central and South America.

A few major ports emerged in Cuba, Santo Domingo, and Puerto Rico. Their major purpose was to serve as military way stations for escorting all the American gold and silver back to Spain.

(6) In the early 16th century, the Spanish introduced black slaves to the Hispanolia and the other Greater Antilles to replace the dying Indians in their mines and also to work on the first sugar plantations.

(7) By 1600, Cuba, Hispanolia, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico were majority black, but amazingly, they all became failed slave societies rather than the springboard of race-based plantation slavery in the Caribbean.

The Greater Antilles became dominated by peasant agriculture and vast cattle ranches called hatos. These stagnating failed slave societies became the site of a lot of manumission, miscegenation, and intermarriage.

It was during “the long 17th century” (1570 to 1700) that Puerto Ricans and Dominicans became the racially mixed peoples that we recognize them as today. Western Cuba was a regional exception to this trend due to the importance of Havana as a port in the Spanish colonial system.

(8) In the 17th century, Britain, France, and the Netherlands displaced Spain as the dominant powers in the Caribbean. Denmark would later join the other northern European powers by acquiring the Danish Virgin Islands which are now the American Virgin Islands.

(9) By 1700, Spain had ceded control over the entire Lesser Antilles in the eastern and southern Caribbean, the “worthless islands” in the Bahamas archipelago, the Guianas in northern South America, as well as Jamaica to Britain and Saint-Domingue to France in the Greater Antilles.

The Spanish were cutting their losses: they retained control of the largest and most important islands while ceding control of the mineral poor and Carib-infested islands in the eastern Caribbean.

They would later cede Trinidad to Britain and Louisiana to France under the Treaty of Amiens in 1802.

(10) Starting in Barbados in the 1640s, the British, French, and Dutch (and later the Danes) created race-based slave societies that grew tropical commodities (sugar, coffee, cotton, indigo, etc.) for export to European metropoles.

These slave societies dominated the entire Lesser Antilles, Jamaica and Saint-Domingue in the Greater Antilles, and also spread to more marginal areas like the Cayman Islands and the Bahamas which grew sea cotton.

Strikingly, the Spanish West Indies (Cuba, Santo Domingo, and Puerto Rico) remained exceptions to the regional trend. These islands were no longer majority “black” or majority “slave.”

(11) At the end of the Seven Years’ War, the British occupied Havana and Spain was forced to cede Florida. The shock of losing Havana led to major changes in Spain’s policy of restricting slave imports to the Spanish Caribbean.

During the Haitian Revolution, Santo Domingo was occupied by Toussaint L’ouverture. Haiti would again occupy Santo Domingo from 1822 to 1844 out of which the Dominican Republic emerged as an independent nation.

In the 1810s and 1820s, Spain lost all its colonies in mainland Central and South America, and retained only Cuba and Puerto Rico which
remained loyal due to the growing importance of race-based plantation slavery there.

(12) The destruction of Saint-Domingue (as well as the temporary abolition of slavery in the French Caribbean) led to a mass exodus of French planters many of whom relocated to Cuba, Jamaica, and Louisiana.

From 1763 to 1868, Cuba emerged as the northern frontier of race-based plantation slavery in the Caribbean. Puerto Rico followed the same trajectory.

By the 1820s, Cuba had become a slave society and the largest producer of sugar in the world. 800,000 slaves were imported to Cuba to work on the expanding and modernized sugar plantations.

The British abolition of the slave trade in 1807 undermined Cuba’s competitors in the British West Indies. The abolition of slavery in the British West Indies (1834 to 1838) and the French West Indies (1848) only intensified Cuba’s prosperity.

Thousands of Spanish immigrants came to Cuba during the early nineteenth century during the sugar boom. This is why Cuba became more of a black/white society like the Antebellum South whereas Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic retained their more mixed character.

(13) While Cuba was becoming an industrialized slave society specializing in sugar with railroads connecting its steam powered sugar mills to the Atlantic coast, cotton had displaced sugar as the most important agricultural commodity in the world.

During the same time period, the Cotton Kingdom was spreading across the Deep South: Mississippi became a state in 1817, Alabama in 1819, Texas in 1845. As the British intensified pressure on Spain to abolish slavery, there was a movement in late 1840s and 1850s in both Cuba and the Deep South to annex Cuba to the United States as a slave state.

The Confederacy would be destroyed in 1865. Cuba would launch two bids for independence from 1868 to 1878 and from 1895 to 1898. Slavery would be abolished in 1886. Cuba would end this period in 1902 as a quasi-independent country and de facto colony of the United States under American hegemony.

As a result of the Spanish-American War, which ended Spain’s career as an imperial power in the Americas, Puerto Rico became a de jure American colony. Now over half of Puerto Ricans live in the United States along with millions of White Cubans who fled Castro’s regime in the 1960s.

The Knights of the Golden Circle had envisioned Havana becoming the permanent capital of a Southern-based Caribbean empire. Many in the South anticipated Havana becoming the Southern version of New York City and the entrepot that would dominate the trade of the entire Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region.

Sadly, as a direct consequence of the War Between the States, Dixie would become an internal colony of the Yankee Empire, whereas Cuba would become a quasi-independent colony, and later in reaction to American imperialism an Africanized communist Third World country.

26 Comments

  1. The running dogs of the imperialist oppressors, AKA Americans, had Cuba sewed up before the revolution.

    Havana was just another playground for rich Americans.

    I used to know an old dog fighter named Pete Sparks who traveled to Cuba for matches many times during the 1950’s. (Pete was also the official herpetologist for the 1936 Worlds Fair.) He told me that one of Batista’s army officers always attended the fights with several of his men to make sure nothing bad happened to any of the hundreds of Americans who showed up for the spectacle. Pete got to know the Officer pretty well. They became drinking buddies. During Pete’s final visit to Cuba the man confided to him that he feared that Batista would soon be ousted.

    Pete asked the Officer why the people were unhappy with their leader and got an earful from his half drunk pal.

    Pete learned that evening that Cuba wasn’t nearly as much fun for Cubans as it was for rich American tourists. The army man told him that Batista’s henchmen regularly sent a bus around the island to collect young women and girls and boys to work in the Havana whore houses. They convinced them to go by threatening to kill their families if they didn’t.

    That was Pete’s last night on the island.

    Batista was America’s friend. The Rockefellers and a bunch of other folks lost a bunch of money when Castro expropriated all of their corporate holdings on the island.

    That was a lot of rambling just to get to this point. The great and mighty U.S.A. would have squashed Castro like a mosquito if he had’t had the political savvy to align himself with the Soviet Union. That being the case, our leaders had to walk on eggs because the other big kid was on the block.

    I was just a kid during the Cuban missile crisis, but I still remember that a lot of the grownups I knew turned into shivering puppies. Kennedy eventually called Khrushchev’s bluff, but it was a good year before we got to finally quit doing those stupid A-bomb drills at school.

    Here’s my point. Russia is gaining a lot of power again, and I feel that they still owe the South a favor on account of that navy maneuver they did in New York Harbor for their pal, Abe Lincoln, which chased off our European allies’ navies and prevented the CSA from sacking New York City and probably winning the whole damn war.

    Maybe when the time is right, the leaders of the new CSA will be able to team up with the Russians to get Obama, Romney or whoever comes after them off our asses. Yeah, our young folks will get used for cannon fodder, but that’s nothing new, so what can it hurt.

  2. Yes.

    That’s why Puerto Ricans are muds while Cubans are generally White and Whites have largely vanished from Jamaica and the eastern Caribbean which are now Black Undertow islands

  3. Subject: THIS IS SOMETHING EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ….
    THIS IS NOT FUNNY, AND IF YOU VOTE FOR HIM AGAIN, YOU CAN EXPECT MORE!

    Were you aware that Obama has signed 923 Executive Orders in 40 months!
    What did Congress do in those 40 months? (The House – considerable. The Senate -nothing, not even a budget nor allowing any House bill to be considered.) A whole new order must prevail in Wash. DC as a result of this next election! Now look at these:

    -EXECUTIVE ORDER 10990 allows the government to take over all modes of transportation and control of highways and seaports.
    -EXECUTIVE ORDER 10995 allows the government to seize and control the communication media.
    -EXECUTIVE ORDER 10997 allows the government to take over all electrical power, gas, petroleum, fuels and minerals.
    -EXECUTIVE ORDER 10998 allows the government to take over all food resources and farms.
    -EXECUTIVE ORDER 11000 allows the government to mobilize civilians into work brigades under government supervision.
    -EXECUTIVE ORDER 11001 allows the government to take over all health, education and welfare functions.
    -EXECUTIVE ORDER 11002 designates the Postmaster General to operate a national registration of all people.
    -EXECUTIVE ORDER 11003 allows the government to take over all airports and aircraft, including commercial aircraft.
    -EXECUTIVE ORDER 11004 allows the Housing and Finance Authority to relocate communities, build new housing with public funds, designate areas to be abandoned, and establish new locations for populations.
    -EXECUTIVE ORDER 11005 allows the government to take over railroads, inland waterways and public storage facilities.
    -EXECUTIVE ORDER 11049 assigns emergency preparedness function to federal departments and agencies, consolidating 21 operative Executive Orders issued over a fifteen year period.
    -EXECUTIVE ORDER 11051 specifies the responsibility of the Office of Emergency Planning and gives authorization to put all Executive Orders into effect in times of increased international tensions and economic or financial crisis.
    -EXECUTIVE ORDER 11310 grants authority to the Department of Justice to enforce the plans set out in Executive Orders, to institute industrial support, to establish judicial and legislative liaison, to control all aliens, to operate penal and correctional institutions, and to advise and assist the President.
    -EXECUTIVE ORDER 11921 allows the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency to develop plans to establish control over the mechanisms of production and distribution, of energy sources, wages, salaries, credit and the flow of money in U.S. financial institution in any undefined national emergency. It also provides that when a state of emergency is declared by the President, Congress cannot review the action for six months.
    Feel free to verify the “executive orders” at will… and these are just the major ones…
    I’m sure you’ve all heard the tale of the “Frog in the Pot”… you all comfortable???
    Watch Obama’s actions, not his words! By his actions he will show you where America is headed.
    Recently, Obama has issued a new executive order that seeks to “harmonize” U.S. economic regulations with the rest of the world. This new executive order is yet another incremental step that is pushing us closer to a North American Union and a one world economic system. Unfortunately, most Americans have absolutely no idea what is happening.

  4. Good comment, Robert in Arabia. Those who want the most rapid loss of remaining liberties, and to advance economic collapse should NOT support or vote for Lesser Evils, and should withdraw from political involvement even on the local level.

  5. This might upset the adherents of the neo-negroe slavery movement, but when we mature into our next evolutionary step whatever that might entail in detail I still think we need an island free of the “cheap labor” or a few for a top notch destination. And with the modern miracles of sun screen I at least can take my Celtic/Nordic self there for a couple of weeks of sailing and diving and fishing.

  6. The repetition of these “Caribbean Project” posts begins to create a true appreciation as well as understanding of the culture, although I remain opposed, personally, to slavery in all forms including white wage slavery.

    Thanks for sharing with us, Hunter.

  7. There isn’t a neo-slavery movement here.

    Nothing can be done to change the past. The past is the key to understanding many things about the present though. I’ve learned quite a lot about why the Caribbean looks the way it does today.

    The point of studying this region was 1.) because the Caribbean is the most Africanized part of the world outside of Africa, 2.) because I spent February exploring Africa, 3.) because there are still various important mysteries like why Barbados is so much better off than Haiti, and 4.) to write a Paul Kersey-style book centered on Haiti.

  8. Naturally, most of the posts are about slavery because that is how and why and when blacks were transported to the Caribbean. My research has been concentrated on the 16th to 19th centuries when the Caribbean was dominated by slave societies.

    Gradually though, you can see we are swinging around to the late 19th and 20th centuries. The book isn’t going to be about slavery. It is going to be about abolition and the aftermath of “free society” in Haiti and the Caribbean. The book will be about how freedom failed in Haiti in comparative context.

  9. Robert in Arabia: Well, I guess that explains what Onegro is doing when he’s not on the golf course. That is some scary, totalitarian shit.

  10. “-EXECUTIVE ORDER 11921 allows the Federal Emergency Preparedness Agency to develop plans to establish control over the mechanisms of production and distribution, of energy sources, wages, salaries, credit and the flow of money in U.S. financial institution in any undefined national emergency. It also provides that when a state of emergency is declared by the President, Congress cannot review the action for six months.

    Pretty much covers it on the Marxist/Leninist front.

  11. Not that I don’t believe you, but can you provide links to these exec orders?

    Or a link to a link?

    The power that a president has should never be given to black bastard. It goes beyond politics once a complete outsider wields powers like that. It can be checked if the chieftain is of your own blood much more easily.

  12. Hunter, don’t you know anyone who does not condemn slavery is a redneckwhowantstoenslavesixmillionniggers?

    Those executive orders are some scary, totalitarian shit. They suggest that both the president and the federal government apparatus fear and despise the people they purportedly represent. The natural question of why there is no outcry against such executive orders by our GOP “saviors” is easily answered. They agree with them.

    Large centralized governments have a tendency to be scary and totalitarian.
    This one has been so since 1860, and continues to grow even more so with each passing day. As the beast approaches its demise, it will become even more shrill, confiscatory, and vicious.

    Deo Vindice

  13. Watching Wild Wild West. Rooting for the bad guys. Amazingly the good guys are: one black, one hispano-lebanese, one Jew.

    Baddies: Assorted whites in both the US and Europe.

  14. … It’s so transparent. Thought it was stupid when it came out. Now it’s quite obviously
    all about a wider agenda.

  15. @Apuleius: “(D)on’t you know anyone who does not condemn slavery is a redneckwhowantstoenslavesixmillionniggers?”

    In my case, being opposed to all forms of slavery, personally, on moral grounds, is not the same as being willing to condemn or engage in abolitionism. I could be labelled a redneck, by your definition, for failing to do so.

    “The natural question of why there is no outcry against such executive orders by our GOP “saviors” is easily answered. They agree with them.”

    I assume “They” in the last sentence is the electorate, the people, who agree with the tyranny? They are PLEASED with the status quo of receiving all kinds of welfare cargo stolen from their neighbours (and from themselves, unbeknownst) in exchange for their liberties. Therefore the Ron Paul candidacy had little appeal for them.

  16. Robert in Arabia: I hate to get all contrary about your list of executive orders, Robert, but when I looked deeper into the matter I discovered that the first one that Obama signed was Executive Order 13489. The numbers are consecutive, so all of the orders on your list were signed by previous presidents.

    Check this site out for more info:

    http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/executive_orders.php

  17. It’s a shame Blaz De lezo (Spain) humiliated Britain’s largest naval attack ever so badly in 1741 and you coulnt capture the whole Caribbean from mighty Spain isn’t it??? You would have turned the region into a no Negros paradise??? Oh wait.

  18. Thank you. Nice piece. Not very many of us will read even this short coverage of history. Being a Southern Nationalist, it is difficult to witness the effects of down breeding and educational dumbing down of our population.

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