Carib

The Carib or Caribe are one of the least understood and most vilified of the Amerindian peoples. Known variously as Kalina, Kalinago, and Galibi in preColumbian times, they originated in the Orinoco River delta of northern South America. Scholars estimate that as many as 100,000 Caribs dwelled in this region at the time of European contact. Their descendants colonized the eastern Caribbean about a century prior to the arrival of the Europeans, gradually displacing or blending with its previous inhabitants. Population counts in the Lesser Antilles during the European encounter range wildly, from a low of 1,000 to a high of 30,000. Accomplished seafarers, the island Carib fashioned what the historian Philip P. Boucher calls a commuter economy, harvesting widely scattered natural resources by combining fishing, hunting, gathering, farming, and bartering. Allegations that they practiced ritual cannibalism, though rarely documented, first appeared in the navigational logs of Christopher Columbus. The Taino, native inhabitants of the Greater Antilles, reputedly depicted the people of Canima or Caniba, located just east of Puerto Rico, as flesh-eating, one-eyed men with snout-shaped noses. A Spanish party reconnoitering the area retrieved four or five human bones and rescued several Taino captives from the island of Guadeloupe. Unaware that the native people may have saved the bones of dead relatives, expedition physician Diego Alvarez Chanca took the findings as proof that the Carib were anthropophagi. Since then, European explorers, missionaries, colonizers, and chroniclers have customarily portrayed the Carib as a belligerent people, infidels, heretics, sodomites, savages, and cannibals. Worse yet, they frequently misidentified as Caribs unrelated Amerindians who fiercely resisted conversion to Christianity and/or European forays into their territories. For instance, Pietro Martire d’ Anghiera (Peter Martyr) attributed the death of Juan D­az de Sol­s during his 1516 expedition to the River Plate region (an area occupied today by Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina) to the ominous and anthropophagic Caribs. Early negative reports had already persuaded the Spanish Crown to authorize the enslavement of the Carib cannibals. In 1515, Juan Ponce de Le³n led a military offensive against their eastern Caribbean strongholds. Other slaving and punitive campaigns targeted the native peoples in the so-called Wild Coast of South America. As could be expected, the Carib retaliated against these depredations by repeatedly attacking Spanish settlements in the circum-Caribbean area or by entering into military alliances with rival European colonial powers. Modern-day scholars critical of European imperial motives question the Columbian characterization of the Carib as cannibalistic savages. They point out that these epithets are based overwhelmingly on self-serving European accounts of the European invasion. They hinged on weak circumstantial evidence (the discovery of bones, the disappearance of Europeans on Carib territories) rather than on the testimonies of reliable eyewitnesses. Others maintain that early European narratives of the New World contain similar impressionistic, unsubstantiated tales of Amazon women, Patagonian giants, and mermaids. Although the Spaniards feared and despised the Carib, after about 1600, their attention shifted from the Caribbean to the mainland mineral enclaves of Mexico and Peru. The gradual colonization of the Lesser Antilles and the Guyana-Suriname littoral by Spain’s European rivals thereafter altered the course of Carib-European relations. At first, the new European intruders focused their efforts in the profitable business of capturing Spanish treasure ships, plundering the Spanish American colonies, and challenging Spain’s commercial monopoly. The transformation of the Lesser Antilles into slavebased plantation economies after about 1650 brought Europeans once again into direct conflict with the Carib. Settlers pushed out from islands that had undergone the sugar revolution, such as Barbados, searching for greener pastures in those occupied or claimed by the Carib. At the same time, growing numbers of Africans brought in chains to toil on the plantations sought shelter on Amerindian soil. By about 1700, marronage or permanent flight from slavery contributed to the emergence of powerful Black Carib bands, especially on the islands of St. Vincent and Dominica. Both Red and Black Caribs exploited interimperial rivalries to their advantage, thwarting repeated invasions by European slave catchers and colonizers. Eventually, the destruction of their ecological base of survival, warfare, and European and African diseases took a heavy toll on the already weakened Carib peoples. Just over 4,000 Black Carib holdouts in St. Vincent surrendered to the British in 1796 and were deported the following year to the island of Roatan, off the coast of Honduras. Half of them died while interned or en route to Central America, where their descendants are known today as the Garifuna. Likewise, their counterparts in the Venezuela-Guyana Essequibo area had lost considerable power at the hands of the Spaniards, French, and Dutch by the start of the nineteenth century. Jorge L. Chinea See also: Caribbean (Chronology); Columbus, Christopher; Native Americans; Taino. Bibliography Boucher, Philip P. Cannibal Encounters: Europeans and Island Caribs, 1492 1763. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992. Hulme, Peter, and Neil L. Whitehead, eds. Wild Majesty: Encounters with Caribs from Columbus to the Present Day: An Anthology. Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1992. Whitehead, Neil L. Lords of the Tiger Spirit: A History of the Caribs in Colonial Venezuela and Guyana, 1498 1820. Dordrecht, Holland: Foris, 1988. Carib Brewery – JTZ Advertising Media holidaymapq

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