The African people who were forcefully moved to different parts of the world have influenced the culture of the region where they found themselves and the Caribbean culture is no different. In today’s article, we’ll come to see and understand how the lifestyle of the African people living in the Caribbean was able to shape the culture of the Caribbean people.
Caribbean culture is a term that’s usually used, to sum up, the social, literary, political, musical, culinary, and artistic elements that represent the Caribbean people of all over the globe. The Caribbean is a collection of settler nations and because of that, the culture of the Caribbean has been shaped by waves of migration which combined to form a unique blend of traditions, customs, and cuisines. All those things blended together marked the socio-cultural development of the area.
The Caribbean, a region that encircles the islands, shores, and seas is known for its diverse and thriving African diaspora. In fact, in the whole of America, only Brazil comes close to the Caribbean as a place that harbours or hosts a large number of African-descended people and cultures. The Caribbean has the most concentrated cluster of Afro-descendants in the world with the exception of Africa. How did that all happen? Most of the Africans living in the Caribbean today, are descendants of their ancestors who were brought to the region to work as slaves on their plantations. They were brought into the region by the British who sold close to 3 million African slaves to the Caribbean between 1662 and 1807. The African people who were brought into the Caribbean brought with them their cuisines, customs, rituals, music, and dance into the islands. The culture of the Africans that were moved to the Caribbean didn’t remain the same over time, it was further forged and shaped by their experience under the colonizers rule. This led them to create songs, chants, and dances as a means of expression which reflected what they went through while they worked or toiled on the plantation.
The Africans living in the region were treated as slaves until the 20th century when racial slavery was abolished. The abolition of racial slavery led to many Caribbean societies embracing various forms of the African cultural identity and nearly, if not all of the Caribbean country, contain elements of the African heritage.
The African people living in the Caribbean started influencing the culture of the Caribbean after the abolition of the slave trade in the 20th century. How did it happen? After the abolition, the Afro-Caribbean people living in the region noticed that a lot of things remained the same. For example, the society’s scorn for the neo-African and African cultures, their poverty in the region which provided raw materials for the global economy and the political powerlessness of the Black people under colonial rule. All the things the Afro-Caribbean people still suffered, led to the Great Depression of the 1930s which made a lot of black intellectuals write works of history, scientific treatises, and poetry that exalted and affirmed the Caribbean African experience. In that period, nationalism was a powerful force that led to the recognition of the value of the folk culture. About that same time, Spanish speaking intellectuals in the Caribbean started exploring their distinct identities and islands, the British who were British colonies started moving towards independence in the 50s’ and 60s’, French colonies chose political integration in 1947. Coincidentally, all those colonies started investigating and celebrating their many African cultural heritages.
While all that was happening, the Afro-Caribbean people also celebrated their African cultural heritage through songs and dances. Technology was a driving factor in the 20th century that helped Africans living in the Caribbean shape the culture of the Caribbean people. How? You may wonder. During that time, recording and broadcasting technologies were already available and that allowed African-inspired styles of Caribbean music to develop new forms and reach new audiences in the United States, Latin America, and Europe.