IN 350 Section 16
Quisqueya la Bella: Introduction to the Caribbean
Mention of the Caribbean can inspire bewildering images for many Americans. The minds of our younger generations may go to the swashbuckling pirates of Disney films, while our older citizens typically think of luxury cruises and sandy beaches. There is so much more than that, though. Havana, Cuba, one of the great cities of the Caribbean, is only 106 miles away from Key West, Florida. How can we live in such close proximity, yet know so little? The average American citizen typically views the Caribbean in a tourist perspective. Author Alan Cambeira sums up the dazzling but uncomplicated image in his opening on page three: the Caribbean we know is the mystical world of “sand-swept beaches dotted with cozy cays and coves” and the “radiantly warm turquoise seawater washing across coral reefs.” What we don’t see, however, is the people and culture of the diverse islands – those who struggle to maintain a personal identity under the smothering effect brought on by American capitalism. We fail to think back to the relationship the United States has forged with these people over our long history – both in politics and business ventures – and it is appalling to think that their existence is considered so seldom in our lives when our existence is so very prevalent in theirs.
The modern American is labeled with a plethora of stereotypes. To the outside world, we are unaffectionate, arrogant partiers. Whether the majority fit this desolate description is debatable – our capacity for kindness and diversity can be seen from coast to coast. People of the Caribbean islands, on the other hand, have few stereotypes in our eyes – how can we define peoples if we don’t even take the time to learn the basics of their cultures? One of the greatest cultural centers in the Caribbean is the island of Cuba. Modern day Cuba is a melting pot, filled with those of Spanish and African descent, along with traces of French and Asian as well. Their languages, foods, arts, and music reflect this assimilation and form a very unique environment. The people are friendly by nature and although poverty and illiteracy are unfortunate issues facing the lower class, they have a highly ranked education system. The capital, Havana, is filled with imported vintage cars dating back to the 1940s and 1950s (Globe Aware). Who doesn’t love 50s cars?
An island so colorful has been plagued for decades with demands from government – both internal and external. External control mostly comes from the north, where United States diplomats saw opportunities for economic expansion. Under the premise of protecting the weak land of Cuba from European ventures, President Teddy Roosevelt enacted the Platt Amendment of 1901. This amendment robbed the vulnerable Cuba of her independence and granted her new protector rights to invade should she violate conditions that included incurring large debts and entering into other treaties (U.S. History). Our government has not only taken to controlling foreign relations, however. In a move made solely to benefit our economy through exports, U.S. diplomats have established penalizations in the event that Cuban farmers should try to diversify agricultural products. One source states that “for this reason, the country has been unable to