Subject: Social Studies
Date: October 2020
Topic: The Arrival of the Ethnic groups in the Caribbean
Caribbean people are the descendants of many peoples who have helped to shape our history and culture. The main ethnicities are: Groups of Indigenous peoples, Africans, Indians, Europeans, Chinese and Portuguese. Indigenous peoples: The earliest inhabitants were the Carib, Arawak and Ciboney indigenous peoples who migrated from South America. Nowadays descendants of these people, along with other indigenous people such as the Maya, Garifuna and Tainos, are still to be found in our Region. Europeans:
The first Europeans to arrive were the Spanish in 1492 – led by an Italian, Christopher Columbus – followed by the Portuguese, English, Dutch and French. While historians have uncovered indications that African sailors arrived in the Caribbean before the Europeans, the vast majority of Africans were brought as slaves when the colonial powers divided our lands among themselves, based on conquest and began to import Africans. Africans:
From the first half of the sixteenth century, Africans came to work as slaves on the plantations. The slaves came mainly from Ghana also known as The Gold Coast, Côte D’Ivoire, often referred to as Ivory Coast and from Guinea. Slavery lasted for more than 300 years and its indescribable inhumanity from port of origin to plantation, caused such severe psychological damage that the effects are still evident in our society today. Slavery was officially abolished in 1834. For four years thereafter, a system of apprenticeship – basically slavery with a few alterations– was invented. East Indians:
From 1838 East Indians were brought from India to the Caribbean in large numbers as indentured labourers, following the abolition of slavery, the shortage of labour that resulted and the introduction of the indentureship system in most states. Half a million East Indians were brought in to serve under this system, making them the largest group of indentured labourers. Their descendants are the majority of the population in Guyana and proportions of the population in Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname. Portuguese and Chinese:
Portuguese from the Madeira Islands – and Chinese were also brought in under contracts of indentureship. At the end of their contracts the Portuguese and Chinese left the plantations and along with immigrants from the Middle East, particularly Jews, Syrians and Lebanese, established businesses. These groups settled mainly in Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago as well as Suriname, Indentureship ended in 1924. The system of slavery did not provide for any entitlement to the slave, however, the contracts for indentureship included a low fixed wage, housing and medical attention as well as a grant of land or return passage on completion of service. The establishment of the “Village System” mainly in Guyana and Jamaica. These were communities of freed people on land bought and developed outside of the plantations. Birmingham, Kitson Town, Sligoville and Kensington in Jamaica, were all established under this system.