By Francio Guadeloupe
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Extra info for Chanting Down the New Jerusalem: Calypso, Christianity, and Capitalism in the Caribbean
This was the SXM of their tourist brochures. While observing the spectacle, I mused that whereas Afrocentric historians have to twist and turn to argue that African cultural expressions have been retained in the face of the terrifying power of the plantation system, this vendor inherited her knowledge of arts and crafts straight from Africa. She did not have to struggle to obtain this inheritance. Her grandmothers did not have to hide to pass on the knowledge. It was all lovingly handed down to her in a Haiti that was part of and yet juxtaposed to the Haiti of the bloody rebellions.
What the grandparents of locals did speak about was struggling in places like the Dominican Republic where they cut cane as guest workers. After slavery was abolished on both sides of the island, in 1848 on the French side and in 1863 on the Dutch side, SXM was a forgotten island, as inútil as in the time of the Spaniards. To survive and provide for their families, the able-bodied had to roam the Caribbean and the wider Americas. These stories of roaming and struggling always contained the message that unconditional hospitality to strangers was a must, for it was strangers who opened their houses to these workers.
SXM was not a country of incessant slave rebellions. Far from it. SXM was an island where enslaved Africans enjoyed a relatively high amount of freedom, despite their enslavement and the ensuing social death, as Orlando Patterson so ﬁttingly termed it (Patterson 1994; Paula 1993; Hartog 1981). These were Creole slaves who knew how to negotiate with their masters, who lacked the will and means to implement the de facto and de jure power they had over their slaves. Whereas in Haiti many of the enslaved came from Africa, and we know today that they played a pivotal role in the Haitian revolution, on SXM there is no archival proof or credible oral sources that can claim that SXM’s slaves came directly from Africa.
Chanting Down the New Jerusalem: Calypso, Christianity, and Capitalism in the Caribbean by Francio Guadeloupe