Between Stephen Lloyd and Esteban Yo-eed: Locating Jamaica Through Cuba

Faith Smith


In their oft-cited manifesto, the Martinican Creolists exhort Caribbean people to forego their continuing allegiances to the “mythical shores” of various old worlds, and to affirm instead the “alluvial Creoleness” that binds (or that ought to bind) them to each other, and to other communities across the globe with a similar plantation history: “Neither Europeans, nor Africans, nor Asians, we proclaim ourselves Creoles; “[the Creole language] is the initial means of communication of our deep self, or our collective unconscious, of our common genius, and it remains the river of our alluvial Creoleness.” Despite their qualifications – “Creoleness is an open specificity,” for example – they have been chided for simplifying the complicated socio-political histories of the region. Maryse Condé, for example, has noted that the opposition of colonizing French language and resisting Creole language ignores the extent to which plantation heterogeneity and negotiation rendered Creole a language of both “unity and compromise.” On what terms can alluvial relationships that can undercut imperial and diasporic ties be uncovered? What does the idea of a Creole unconscious solidify, restore, revivify, and for whom?

In this essay, I am interested in a Jamaican-born novelist’s use of Cuba’s second war of independence in the 1890s to critique Jamaican complacency about British colonialism after the Second World War. Cuba, and a “Creole Latin” world more generally, allows him, on my reading, to proffer hispanophone and francophone plantation histories as a model for anglophone sensibilities in the region. The “Creole Latin” affirmation of nationalism, revolutionary struggle, and strong affective ties to the land and to personal relationships, are uncontaminated by the domineering spirit, legalistic prejudices, bureaucracy and commerce, and negotiated concessions that typify anglophone Protestant modes of life. Since the scene of these ideas in this case is the nineteenth century plantation, then we might ask if the social and political inequities are not reinforced, or whether the pleasures afforded by the romance make such considerations moot.

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