Anticolonialism in Latin America
European colonization of the Caribbean began with Colombus's arrival in 1492, and the region was so highly valued that it remained under the control of various European empires longer than any other part of the hemisphere. Spain maintained—and then lost—control over the largest and most populous islands of Cuba, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico, known as the Greater Antilles. Other European powers, including the British, French, and Dutch, intruded into the Spanish domain and established a significant presence, particularly on the smaller islands, known as the Lesser Antilles, where descendants of African slaves and Asian indentured workers imported to replace the decimated indigenous population led many of the anticolonial movements.
As they did in Africa and Asia, modern nationalist anti-colonial movements in much of the Caribbean emerged in the aftermath of World War II, with its emphasis on the values of democracy and self-determination. As Cary Fraser argues, independence movements in the Caribbean must be understood in the context of these broader decolonization efforts. During the second half of the twentieth century, some of the islands gained their independence, although the British, French, and Dutch still retained colonial control over several smaller islands. Many of the residents benefited economically from access to European welfare systems, which dampened anticolonial agitation.
Even after independence, many of the colonies maintained close relationships with their mother countries, leaving imprints on their political culture that marked them as significantly different from Latin America. For example, the former British colonies remained part of the Commonwealth and retained the British queen as their monarch.
As the European empires collapsed, U.S. economic, political, and ideological interests gained increased hegemony over the Caribbean. Tourism and providing tax havens for foreign banks and corporations became the area's primary roles in the global economy. An example of the United States' ambiguous commitment to self-determination and its growing neocolonial control was its successful efforts to unseat Cheddi Jagan and his People's Progressive Party from the presidency of British Guiana in the early 1960s. United States opposition to Jagan, who was influenced by Marxist ideology and maintained friendly ties with the communist world, indicated that the Caribbean (as well as Latin America in general) would remain within the U.S. sphere of influence.
Barreto, Amílcar Antonio. Vieques, the Navy, and Puerto Rican Politics. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002.
Bevans, C. I., ed. Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776–1949. Vol. 8. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1971.
Burns, E. Bradford. The Poverty of Progress: Latin America in the Nineteenth Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.
Fraser, Cary. Ambivalent Anti-colonialism: The United States and the Genesis of West Indian Independence, 1940–1964. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1994.
Geggus, David Patrick, ed. The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World. Columbia: University of South Carolina, 2001.
Pérez, Louis A. The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
Thomson, Sinclair. We Alone Will Rule: Native Andean Politics in the Age of Insurgency. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2002.
Young, Robert J. C. Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction. Oxford and Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2001.
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