I’m finally wrapping up my research.
At the outset of the “Caribbean Project,” I wanted to investigate 1.) how the culture of the Caribbean was transplanted to South Carolina and spread across the Deep South, 2.) the paradox of how such a wealthy developing region could have a large black majority, and 3.) why Haiti is such a regional outlier. This required taking a closer look at the wider context of Caribbean history.
Here’s my breakdown of the region: the “Caribbean” includes all the islands which are not attached to the Latin American mainland states, Belize in Central America, and Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana in South America.
Saint Barthélemy – $37,000
Martinique – $24,118
Saint Martin – $19,300
Guadeloupe – $21,780
French Guiana – $20,904
Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin are overseas collectivities of France. Guadeloupe, Martinique, and French Guiana are overseas departments. All of these islands (and French Guiana, which is on the South American mainland) are part of France and thus part of the European Union.
In Guadeloupe, Martinique, and French Guiana, over 50 percent of GDP is public spending. In Guadeloupe and Martinique, the bottom three quintiles of the population lives off the French welfare state.
Dutch Colonies & Tax Shelters
St. Eustatius – $40,300
Aruba – $25,300
Curaçao – $20,567
Sint Maarten – $22,000
Bonaire – $19,000
Saba – $16,000
Sint Maarten, Aruba, Curaçao are countries in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Sint Eustatius, Bonaire, and Saba are Dutch municipalities.
Puerto Rico – $16,300
US Virgin Islands – $14,500
Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are US territories.
Non-Independent British Tax Shelters
Bermuda – $86,000
Cayman Islands – $43,800
British Virgin Islands – $42,300
The Bahamas – $31,300
Turks & Caicos Islands – $29,100
Anguilla – $12,200
Montserrat – $8,500*
Even though the Bahamas is an independent country, I am including it on this list because it is a major offshore British tax shelter. The same is true of Bermuda which is located in the North Atlantic, but also belongs in this list.
Barbados (1966) – $25,000
Trinidad & Tobago (1962) – $19,800
Antigua & Barbuda (1981) – $17,800
Saint Kitts & Nevis (1983) – $16,100
Dominica (1978) – $14,000
Grenada (1974) – $13,500
St. Lucia (1979) – $13,000
Saint Vincent & the Grenadines (1979) – $11,800
Cuba (1902) – $10,200
Dominican Republic (1865) – $9,500
Jamaica (1962) – $8,900
Belize (1981) – $8,700
Guyana (1966) – $8,000
Suriname (1975) – $5,700
The list of independent countries includes the Dominican Republic and Cuba, the second (1865) and third country (1902) to gain their independence in the Caribbean, St. Kitts & Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda in the Leeward Islands, all of the Windward Islands (Dominica, St. Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Grenada), Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana and Suriname in South America, Belize in Central America, and Barbados and Jamaica.
Of the above list of countries, all of them with the exception of the Dominican Republic are members of CARICOM. Within the Caribbean, 40 percent of the tourists who visit the region (stop over arrivals or cruise ship passengers) visit the CARICOM countries, which attracts the largest share of tourist dollars in the region. The Dominican Republic attracts the largest number of tourists who come to stay on vacation.
2 out of the 6 countries at the bottom of the list, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, have been independent for over a century. 4 out of the 6 countries at the bottom of the list (Cuba under Fidel Castro, Jamaica under Michael Manley, Guyana under Forbes Burham, and Suriname under Desiré Bouterse) are there because of the adoption of some form of socialism during the Cold War.
Trinidad & Tobago is an example of the resource lottery – in this case, petroleum.
Haiti (1804) – $1,200
There’s a reason why Haiti is ranked at the bottom of our list.
Haiti is the only country in the region which is poorer in 2014 than it was in 1960. Even Cuba, which was under an American and OAS trade embargo for half a century, and which went through one of the most spectacular economic collapses in modern times after the fall of the Soviet Union, and which is still held back by communism, is better off in all kinds of ways than it was in 1960.
210 years of compound freedom is the reason why Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. A glimpse of this can be seen in the mistakes that Jamaica, Cuba, and Guyana – three of the wealthiest countries in the region in the 19th century, but now three of the poorest – have made since independence.
Above all else, it can be seen in the fate of Martinique, Guadeloupe, and French Guiana, which remained a part of the French Empire and which are now part of France and the European Union, and whose residents live off the French welfare state. There’s also Puerto Rico, which is the manufacturing dynamo of the Caribbean because it is a US colony, and even the Dominican Republic which, unlike Haiti, has welcomed foreigners throughout its history and is now a major tourist destination.
In 1802, Napoleon sent two fleets to reconquer the French Caribbean: one sailed to Guadeloupe under General Richepance, where it succeeded in restoring slavery and killing the rebel mulatto leader, Louis Delgrès, at the battle of Matouba; the other sailed to Saint-Domingue under General Leclerc, where it failed to restore slavery and white supremacy, and was defeated by Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
Haiti failed because it was set free …. free to stand on its own two feet, which meant free to fall on its face. It will take an entire book to explain how the legacy of freedom – incompetent and corrupt leaders, militarism, political instability, external debt**, fiscal irresponsibility, racial conflict, civil wars, environmental destruction, the collapse of capital intensive agriculture, overpopulation, and fear and loathing of foreigners – conspired to destroy Haiti while these forces were held in check elsewhere in the Caribbean by white supremacy and colonialism.
* Although Montserrat was destroyed by a volcanic explosion in 1995, it is still far better off than Haiti less than 20 years later.
** Guadeloupe and Martinique don’t have an external debt. As part of France, their debt is part of France’s national debt.
Note: There’s still one loose thread to tie up … Barbados, an independent country with Haiti’s demographics, which is the most successful black country in the world. How did Barbados, the cradle of Caribbean slavery, come to be the most commonly cited example of a successful free black population anywhere in the world?