The Cultural Synthesis in Florida and the Caribbean
By Eugene Lyon
Florida and the Caribbean have long been destinations for Europeans – Spaniards, the French, the Dutch, the English – and Africans. There the newcomers encountered many different Native American peoples. The greater Antilles and the Bahamas islands were inhabited by Taíno peoples speaking an Arawak language. The people called Caribs by the Spaniards, who lived on some of the Lesser Antilles, spoke a language generally from the Arawak family of languages, but which was unintelligible to the inhabitants of the Greater Antilles.
On the southern coasts of North America, the Orista, Guale, Timucua, Ais and Calusa Indians were those first contacted by Europeans. Many other Native Americans in Floridas interior, including the Apalachee, would eventually be encountered. In Spanish eyes, this was a Florida writ large, much greater in area than the present peninsula. In fact, in the sixteenth century before it began to contract, Spanish Florida extended from the Keys to Newfoundland and around the Gulf shoreline through present-day Texas.
In the greater Antilles, especially on Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, archaeology has revealed the remains of once rich and complex cultures. There were networks of chiefdoms and hundreds of allied settlements; with a number of associated ball courts. From the ceramic record and the location of other artifacts, a hierarchic social structure, artistic and recreational activities have been inferred. Isolation and mutual hostility between the Native Americans and the Europeans helped keep the cultures existing on the smaller Caribbean islands at the same time more intact and less well understood. As in Peru, New Spain and Florida, the Antillean Native Americans had tribute systems, which the Spaniards were later to co-op for their own use.
In the North American southeast, successors to the Mississippian cultures built large temple and burial mounds, found near the coasts, and on rivers and lakes. Especially among the Timucuans, corn agriculture had created surpluses and supported ruling hierarchies and interlocking tribute alliances. At Key Marco on Floridas southwestern coast, excavations in a muck pit near a mound complex uncovered a rich assemblage of tools, arms, and art objects of the Calusa. Those people built their culture based not upon settled agriculture but rather upon products from the sea. People with less developed cultures, such as the Ais, also depended upon fish and shellfish, together with large and small game, for sustenance. However, the Ais also had a leadership structure and among their elite they celebrated the Black Drink (cassina) ritual, also commonly found among the pre-contact southeastern peoples.
After October 12, 1492, the Great Encounter proceeded from San Salvador (Guanahani) in the present-day Bahamas, to Cuba and Hispaniola, where settlements were made at Navidad, Isabela and then Santo Domingo. Later, Christopher Columbus explored Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and other islands in the lesser Antilles and parts of the coasts of South and Central America. Ignoring its exclusive contract with Columbus, the Spanish Crown licensed other explorers who reached the pearl islands and the South American mainland. They settled in Panama and the Nuevo Reino de Granada on the mainland. Thus the stage was set for the conquests of Mexico and Peru, which would so greatly enrich Spain.
The European sovereigns, including those of Spain, sought enlargement of their kingdoms and revenues, while their subjects were drawn to the Americas by myths of new golden lands, impelled by the desire to find precious metals. They were also driven by the strong impulse to settle new places and replicate there their own cultures.
At first, as the Native Americans on Hispaniola died out, slavers depopulated neighboring islands, particularly the Bahamas, to fill the labor void. Once virtually all the Indians were gone, Africans were brought against their will to serve as the Europeans labor force. In the earliest time of the Spanish conquest, most of those slaves came from West Africa, bringing with them a heritage rich in religious, linguistic, and artistic terms.
To Hispaniola, as the influence of the Columbus family was gradually diminished, the Spanish Crown brought directly appointed governors and established the audiencia, a court of appeals. As was later to be the case in Florida and elsewhere in the Spanish Americas, municipalities such as Santo Domingo were governed by a cabildo and its mayor and aldermen. The mayors served as the judges of first instance, and the cabildo had the important function of granting of town lots and outlying property to private persons. The legal and governing apparatus of Spain was thus put in place. In the meantime, artisans, merchants and entrepreneurs came from the homeland to follow their trades and seek their fortunes. In 1503 the Spanish system for the regulation of Indies navigation was established, directed from the Casa de Contratación in Seville, and regular routes were laid down for supply and reinforcement from the Metropole. It was across that bridge of ships, called the Carrera de las Indias, that every single person and item of cultural interchange passed. Secular Catholic priests arrived to celebrate Mass and provide the other sacraments to the Spanish colonists, and the first of the regular clergy, missionaries, came to evangelize the Native Americans.
But by 1514, the native population on the Greater Antilles and in the Bahamas had already diminished greatly. The Spanish conquest had moved forward into Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Cuba. In 1514, the remaining Indians on Hispaniola were divided among the Spaniards in repartimiento, becoming in effect the Spaniards property. The number of Native American inhabitants at European contact in the Caribbean and indeed in the Americas is hotly disputed today. Estimates vary widely, and reliable documentary sources are scarce. As an example of this, current estimates of the Florida Indian population at contact range from 100,000 to a million. Perhaps the most reliable figure is 350,000. However large the populations were, it is evident that the Native Americans in the Southeast and the Caribbean islands were decimated as various imported European and African diseases reached them. Early on, with the first intruders, came swine flu, smallpox, and measles from Europe. Plague, chickenpox and typhus also diminished the Native Americans, who had no inherited immunities to these ailments. Later arriving diseases included malaria and yellow fever from Africa. Yellow fever likely came to the Americas with slaves and together with its vector, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, in the 17th century.
The gathering and shipment of placer gold was the first economic activity of note in Hispaniola, greatly exciting the Spaniards, but eventually it began to play out. The island economy began increasingly to rely upon the raising of sugarcane, which had been brought in from the Canary Islands, and of a local staple, cassava. Raising cattle for local consumption of meat and exporting hides became important on the north coast and attracted illicit trade with French and English merchant ships.
The large island of Jamaica became the personal fiefdom of the Columbus heirs in the settlement of the Admirals estates. It followed the pattern of Hispaniola, both in its Native American demographic collapse and in the development of cattle- and cassava raising. While sixteenth century Spanish expansion proceeded in the central and southern Americas, the Lesser Antilles languished, receiving very little attention from any European power.
Queen Isabella had ordered that no Indian could be taken as a slave, yet the system of forced labor continued. After many Indians had already died, Spanish concern over their treatment continued. A Dominican friar in Santo Domingo, Antonio de Montesinos, arose one day to criticize that treatment. Another critic was a young man from Seville, Bartolomé de las Casas, who had come to Hispaniola with Nicolás de Ovando in 1502. Las Casas came to dislike heartily the Spanish system of repartimiento and renounced his own allotment of Indians. He became a priest and in 1515 returned to Spain to petition the Crown to change Indian policies. Las Casas was disappointed in the measures taken and in 1523 he became a Dominican. He wrote The History of the Indies. In 1540, returning to Spain, he wrote the powerful polemic Very Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies, which condemned Spain for its treatment of the Indians. It is certainly clear that the writings and preaching of Bartolomé de las Casas helped lead to the passage of the New Laws in 1542, which limited the rights of Spaniards to Indian labor service. What eventually evolved in the Spanish colonies was a mixed system, in which Native Americans and African slaves had been declared to be legal persons, with souls fit for Christian evangelization. But for many years the repartimiento and another labor service, the encomienda continued. There was also the doctrine of "just war," in which those who rebelled against Spanish authority could be captured and enslaved.
Cuba, having lost much of its Native American population in a manner similar to that of Hispaniola, was thinly settled by Spaniards. However, after the discovery of the north-setting Bahama Channel (that part of the Gulf Stream which runs between Florida and the Bahamas), the routes of Spanish ships were changed to include it. Thus Havana, a new settlement on the north coast of Cuba, became the port where homebound vessels from New Spain, Honduras, Panama and the north coast of the South American mainland converged. For that reason, Havana became known as la llave de las Indias (the key to the Indies).
In the meantime, as explorers and slave hunters fanned out through the Bahamas, it was inevitable that they would reach the east coast of the North American mainland. It may be that some unknown expedition touched there during or before 1511, for the Peter Martyr map of that year displays a feature north of Cuba which resembles the Florida peninsula.
For more than fifty years, the Spanish Crown unsuccessfully attempted to make lodgement on the east coast of North America. The device the Crown usually utilized to do this was that of adelantamiento. That is, in view of the Crowns limited resources in the face of the almost unlimited territory of the Americas, private persons were appointed as adelantados. In return for land grants and various titles, privileges and exemptions, these persons would undertake the conquest and settlements of new lands, in whole or in part at their own expense.
Juan Ponce de León, the first of these, had been Governor of Puerto Rico, and was licensed for Florida in 1512. The next year, he sailed from Puerto Rico and landed on the middle east coast, likely near present-day Melbourne Beach. Juan Ponces pilot soon discovered the powerful north-setting Gulf Stream current, which thereafter would boost the speed of homebound Spanish galleons. The explorer touched at the lower southwest coast and the Dry Tortugas. On his second voyage in 1521, he landed again in the southwest peninsula, intending to make settlement there. But instead, in hostilities with the Calusa Indians, he was mortally wounded, and died later in Cuba.
Another Spanish captain, Pedro de Salazar, touched the Atlantic coast on a voyage undertaken between 1514 and 1516. Two other licensed explorers, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba and Alonso Álvarez de Pineda, also sailed briefly by southwest Florida. In 1520, two slave-catchers, Pedro de Quejo and Francisco Gordillo, found no remaining Taíno Indians in the Bahamas, sailed northwestward to the continent. Landing somewhere near todays Winyah Bay, South Carolina, they picked up Indian captives and returned to Santo Domingo. There an influential and wealthy man, Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, took over the sponsorship of their enterprise and obtained a Royal contract as Adelantado. Ayllón had been inflamed by the tales of the Indian named Francisco de Chicora about his homeland, rich with mineral and agricultural wealth. The Spaniards believed that lands in similar latitudes had similar attributes; thus, this new land, thought to be in the latitude of Andalusia, would have its same fertility. The "Chicora myth" would attract Europeans for a generation, and would especially draw them to the vicinity of the harbor and headland called Port Royal, or Santa Elena by the Spaniards.
With a large expedition and six hundred settlers, Vázquez de Ayllón landed near Georgetown in present South Carolina, but soon removed his soldiers and settlers to the south, perhaps to the vicinity of Sapelo. Sound in the Georgia sea-islands. There he established the first European town in todays United States, San Miguel de Gualdape, on September 29, 1526. But cold weather, disease and a mutiny disturbed the new colony and, after the death of Vázquez Ayllón, the surviving colonists withdrew in disorder.
The next adelantado, Pánfilo de Narváez, met a similar fate and only four men of his long, wandering expedition survived. His supply ships never connected with the expedition, and one Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, on an epic journey, led the other survivors to Mexico City eight years after Narváez had landed in Tampa Bay. They had been captives of many Indian groups.
Hernando de Soto, one of Francisco Pizarros lieutenants in the conquest of Peru, invested his gains from that expedition in yet another attempt upon Florida, beginning in 1539. This time, there was no real intent to settle. This was a looting trip, pure and simple, inspired by hopes of finding another Cuzco or Mexico. Sotos habitual taking of hostages and his gold-seeking in a long passage across the Southeast and Southwest stimulated active hostilities with the Native Americans he encountered. The discovery of the Martin site within the corporate limits of Tallahassee, and the matching of artifacts and pertinent documents have enabled archaeologists and historians better to reconstruct the route of Hernando de Soto. The long-term results of the expedition included the introduction of European diseases that ravaged the natives of the American Southeast.
Another result was that a narrative of the de Soto journey, that of one Fray Sebastián de Cañete, came into the hands of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, an Asturian naval captain who eventually would also be adelantado of Florida. In the meantime, King Francis of France held no stock in Spains Papal dispensation and supposed title to the Indies. He sent Giovanni di Verrazano along the east Atlantic coast in 1524 and Jacques Cartier to Newfoundland in 1534 and 1535. A chart embodying Verrazanos exploration also came into Spanish hands; behind the Outer Banks of Carolina it showed a large sound evidently connected with a westward passage – the fabled Northwest Passage to the Pacific and the riches of the Orient, which haunted seamen and explorers for years to come.
The last three failed tries at Florida ranged from a 1549 landing of a few Dominicans to a sizeable settlement attempt at Pensacola Bay. The former involved Fray Luis de Cáncer de Barbastro, an idealistic cleric who landed in the area of Tampa Bay, hoping peacefully to convert the Indians to Christianity. They killed him almost as soon as he came ashore. The latter, in 1558-61, involved a series of expeditions financed from the treasury of New Spain and directed by its Viceroy, Luis de Velasco. First, Guido de Labazaris undertook a reconnaissance in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, scouting out the best places for settlement. Relying on data from the Soto journeys, the Spaniards hoped to locate wealthy inland Indian towns, such as Coosa, and connect to Punta Santa Elena on the Atlantic.
The leader, Tristán de Luna y Arrellano, had served on the Vázquez de Coronado expedition nineteen years before. He brought thirteen ships with nine hundred colonists, several hundred soldiers and Indian warriors and interpreters. Unfortunately, the Spaniards landed in August 1559, just before a Gulf hurricane struck Pensacola Bay. The storm sank ten Spanish ships, and most of the supplies were lost. From that point on, hunger and mutiny did their work. Two abortive attempts to settle at Santa Elena failed, and the entire colony was withdrawn. Pedro Menéndez believed that the effort had cost the New Spain treasury 500,000 pesos, and all for naught. In 1563, the namesake of the first Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón received a contract as adelantado of Florida, but beset by financial difficulties, he never carried out his agreement with the King.
As counterpoint to these Spanish failures in Florida, the French launched three expeditions to sail there, beginning in 1562. Internal dissension in France, based upon confessional differences, mirrored the general European religious war between Catholics and Protestants. The Admiral of France, Gaspard de Coligny, the Seigneur of Châtillon, pushed the Protestant cause. He could influence Queen Catherine de Medicis who, although she married her daughter to Spains Philip II, temporized between the disputing factions. From supporting documents recently discovered in French archives and Spanish finds in Florida of the so-called "Ribault papers," it is evident that the Florida expeditions to what was called "New France" were definitely supported by the French Crown.
Meanwhile, the Spanish King had considered the appointment of Pedro Menéndez de Aviles as adelantado, Governor and Captain-General of Florida. Before this appointment could take place, Pedro Menéndez had written his King, explaining his belief in Floridas strategic position with regard to Mexico and his interest in the fabled Northwest Passage:
"If the French or English should come to settle Florida, it would be the greatest inconvenience, as much for the mines and territories of New Spain as for the navigation and trade of China and Molucca, if that arm of the sea goes to the South Sea, as is certain, by being master of Newfoundland. Your Majesty may proceed to master that land it is such a great land and at such a good juncture that if some other nations go to settle it, it will afterwards be most difficult to take and master it."
However, Jean Ribaults 1562 voyage to Florida failed; after planting a colony at Port Royal, he was not able to resupply it, and the Frenchmen there eventually deserted the town and fort he had built. Although Philip II learned about this failure, the second French voyage, headed by René de Laudonnière in 1564, somehow escaped his attention. In that year, the French brought soldiers, artisans and colonists to their settlement on the River May, todays St. Johns. Close to the river mouth they built Fort Caroline, and began explorations upriver and trading and in the vicinity of their fort. Mutineers from Laudonnières base seized small craft and sailed as corsairs to the Caribbean, where they were captured by the Spaniards. News of the French fort reached Philip II by the end of March 1565, after he had already signed the Florida contract with Menéndez.
Now Philip II had learned of the French lodgment in Florida, and even more disturbing, he heard from a skilled spy that Jean Ribault was preparing a reinforcement fleet in Dieppe. Pressed by his King, Menéndez worked urgently on his preparation. His main contingent of ships and men sailed from Cádiz in late June.
In the famous clash of 1565, Pedro Menéndez made short work of the French establishment in Florida. Sailing to Florida and to the mouth of the River May, he challenged the newly arrived French fleet, which dispersed, only to be lost in a storm. In the meantime, Pedro Menéndez founded and fortified St. Augustine, stormed and captured Fort Caroline and killed Jean Ribault and most of his men, who had been shipwrecked along the coast.
Once he had disposed of the threat posed by French intervention in Florida, Pedro Menéndez began to reach out from his St. Augustine base. He had a continental vision, hoping to build along the coasts, find and fortify the route to Mexico, and locate the Northwest Passage to the Pacific. And, for settlement and his own huge land-grant, Menéndez preferred the area of Santa Elena.
Fort Caroline, renamed San Mateo, became a Spanish garrison. Mutinies in the winter of 1565-66 depleted the garrisons and caused the abandonment of Santa Lucía in the Indian River section. In the spring, the Adelantado went northward through Guale (the Georgia mainland and sea-islands) to found Santa Elena, on todays Parris Island in South Carolina. He also sent an expedition beyond to the Carolina Capes, intending to settle in the Chesapeake. Menéndez sponsored the efforts of the Jesuit Order, in its first American mission, to evangelize the Florida Indians. He established fort-missions at San Antón de Padua, believed to have been on Mound Key in present Estero Bay on Floridas southwest coast. Spaniards also established outposts at Tequesta near the mouth of the Miami River in Biscayne Bay and in Old Tampa Bay, at Tocobaga.
From Santa Elena, Menéndez dispatched Juan Pardo westward to the Appalachian Mountains, seeking the route to Mexico silver-mines. A number of Spanish establishments had been built in the far inland Carolinas, including one at Guatari, where the Adelantado planned his own estate, on the land-grant that would hopefully accompany his marquisate. In 1568, almost three hundred farmer-settlers in family groups came to Florida from Spain, they settled at Santa Elena. In 1571, another Jesuit mission was planted in Jacán near the mouth of the James River in Virginia.
Using cultural brokers to overcome the language barriers, Pedro Menéndez negotiated treaties with the varied Native American peoples whom he met in Florida. The treaties, as evidenced by those found in the Archives of the Indies in the so-called "Quirós Papers," required the Indians to swear fealty to Philip II, and to pay tribute. The tribute was usually paid in labor, and this became habitual in Spanish Florida. As long as he was personally in Florida, Menéndez made certain to entertain and give gifts to the Indian caciques. In his absence, some of the Adelantados lieutenants were not so scrupulous, and Indian relations often deteriorated when he was away. Mutual acculturation occurred between the Europeans and Native Americans; the Spaniards adopted the widespread use of corn instead of imported wheat. One of the most telling of the acculturations is the use of Indian pottery in Spanish kitchens, where archaeologists have found it. The Jesuit, and later the Franciscan, missionaries learned the Indian languages and produced lexicons, some of which have disappeared.
The Culture of Spanish Florida
Archival documents reveal that Spanish Florida was a hierarchical "deferential society," ruled in the late sixteenth century by several Asturian families related to or allied with Adelantado Menéndez. The chief governmental offices were usually in their hands, and some of the funds from the Royal subsidy for Florida (which began in 1570) often ended up in their hands as well. Since the Florida cities were presidios, or frontier garrison towns, the Spanish military, its officers and men, were important in the town. Demographically, there were also other interest groups. Representatives of the 1568 and 1573 settlers often opposed the governors and other officials, and vied for positions in the city government (cabildo). In those litigious populations, civil and criminal lawsuits were constantly in process; testimonies from those legal actions yield useful data on social structure and economic life. Documents from the Florida accounts (contaduría) are helpful in establishing the material culture of the colony and enumerating the civil and military populations.
Farmers, wives and single women, moneylenders, shoemakers, hunters and fishermen, tailors, prostitutes, tavernkeepers, notaries and others made up the lively cities of Santa Elena and St. Augustine. To those were joined the soldiers and sailors always present as the fort garrison and ships crews. Personal property inventories and the registers of incoming ships disclose the variety of clothing, some costly, worn in the cities and the imported luxury foods eaten. Lumber, pitch and sassafras root was exported to the Caribbean or to Spain.
Those were communities suffused with Tridentine, Counter-Reformation religiosity. The church bells marked out their days, and many Catholic holidays were celebrated with processions and special church services. Laymen belonged to the Confraternity of the True Cross, or to other confraternities, which marched in procession and attended to the burial of their members and the financial support of widows.
By the year of the death of Pedro Menéndez in 1574, the south Florida fort-missions had all been abandoned, as had the mission near the Chesapeake Bay. All the inland Carolina establishments had been abandoned. Although an expedition had been sent as far north as Newfoundland in 1573, nothing had come of that initiative. Relations with the outlying Indian groups had become so bad that the Adelantado proposed enslaving them; the Crown rejected that idea. On Santa Elena, the Spaniards had been unable to put the farmers inland on better soils. After Menéndez death, his lieutenants and successors cruelty to the Indians was repaid by an uprising of the Guale and Orista. The Spaniards were forced to evacuate Santa Elena. It was briefly rebuilt, but, after the raid of Francis Drake on St. Augustine in 1586, Spain abandoned her northernmost colony.
Although St. Augustine would remain until Spain finally ceded Florida, the Spanish had yielded the northern continent to the English, even though they did not permanently establish there until the founding of Jamestown in 1607.
A Spanish soldier gave his opinion of the prolonged attempts by the Spaniards of the sixteenth century to control Florida. Bartolomé Martínez said: "I have served in these provinces of Florida . . . since the Adelantado brought me as a soldier, and in this time I have suffered hunger, nudity and much misery, not because the land is so bad as they hold it to be, but due to that poor government it has had, and because their resources were little to conquer so many people and such a great land. I have seen the greater part of the coast of these provinces and thirty leagues around the fort of Santa Elena. What I say to Your Majesty about this land of which all the world says ill, is that it is a marvel of good, because there are most rich lands for tillage and stock-farms, powerful rivers of sweet water, great fertile plains and mountains . . . and I wish to beg Your Majesty that you might give me some land in it, where I might remain always."
The English in the Caribbean
After a long phase of privateering in the Americas, which began in the sixteenth century, English emphasis began to shift to settlement in the Caribbean, as English adventurers put down roots on several islands.
Thereafter, several factors contributed to permanent demographic change in the colonial Caribbean. This is perhaps best illustrated by the case of the island of Barbados. Together with Nevis and St. Kitts, Barbados was tenuously settled during the British war with Spain in the 1620s. As the domestic English market for tobacco burgeoned, the island thrived, and many small planters emigrated to Barbados. For labor they used English and Irish indentured servants. Soon the island was very heavily populated, in fact the most populous of all the English New World colonies. At that particular moment, the technology of raising sugarcane and refining it was brought into the region by the Dutch, who had seen its operation in Brazil.
This introduction and beginning of sugar cultivation created a revolution. It wrought rapid and dramatic change on Barbados and elsewhere in the West Indies. First, it led to the consolidation of holdings into larger acreages as a necessary economic factor in sugarcane planting and processing. This forced out many of the smaller landholders, but it also led to the importing of African slaves, at first on a minor basis. From Africa, together with the slaves, came yellow fever and its vector mosquito. The Africans had a general immunity to yellow fever, which spreads best in crowded conditions. In 1647, an epidemic of the disease struck Barbados and, shortly thereafter, Guadeloupe and St. Kitts. The white population on Barbados, including the white indentured laborers, was heavily impacted and greatly reduced.
In 1655 the English took Jamaica, which became an important military and naval base. The island was converted to a sugar and coffee plantation economy, and African slaves were imported as a labor force. Jamaica became an important West Indian station in the triangular trade, in which trade goods from England were taken to West Africa and exchanged for slaves, who were then transported across the Middle Passage to the Americas. Sugar and rum produced in the islands were then sent to England to complete the equation. As on Barbados and the other English islands, the English system of law and Royal governance was imported wholesale into Jamaica. The center of Santiago de la Vega, the former Spanish capital, was rebuilt as Spanish Town, with impressive Georgian governmental buildings and military barracks.
Thereafter, and until after 1898, yellow fever was a terrible scourge in the Antilles and around the Caribbean rim. It also strongly affected Florida. Yellow fever particularly struck new white immigrants and especially those who arrived in large numbers. Thus the sizeable bodies of troops newly arrived from Europe, as in the English expeditions to Cartagena, Santo Domingo, and Havana, were especially vulnerable. The disease also affected Native Americans who had survived the first onslaught of European diseases. It seems quite likely that the Carib Indian colonies in the Eastern Caribbean, significantly reduced at this time, had been decimated by yellow fever from Africa. This is probably because the Caribs had welcomed runaway slaves, who brought the fever with them.
The English Commonwealth began war with the Dutch in mid-seventeenth century and then moved out aggressively into the Caribbean. Their seizure of Jamaica in 1655 opened a large island for planting and profit. As sugar became the main crop in the islands and as the number of white laborers diminished, the slave trade became a very sizeable enterprise for the first time. The combination of the reduction of whites by disease and the import of hundreds of thousands of African slaves permanently altered the demographic makeup of most of the West Indian islands. Although Barbados retained a remnant white population, it soon had a majority of blacks. In very few places in the Caribbean, such as the Cayman Islands, was there a white majority by the nineteenth century. In the meantime, among the English colonies, development of the sugar industry shifted to Jamaica.
In 1763, the British took St. Vincent and Dominica. Now the English language, legal and economic system was overlaid upon that of the Caribs and the French. 1793, 5,000 Caribs surrendered to the English on St. Vincent.
The United Provinces of the Netherlands had rebelled in the late 16th century against Spanish rule, and after many years of armed struggle were able to maintain their independence. They believed that their battle against Spain helped the worldwide cause of freedom of the seas, against the mare clausum of Spain and Portugal. The Dutch were very active in the maritime trade with northern Europe; already they were called "the richest in ships of the whole world." Near the end of the century they had 600-1000 merchant ships at sea; by the early 1600s, they had five times that many.
The small Dutch nation was vigorous in war and trade, but also in the upbuilding of their culture. In a short time they founded five universities. The profound Calvinism of the Dutch Reformed Church contributed to the creation of a national character, which is revealed through the portraits of solid, industrious burghers and merchants. As the Dutch began to sail world-wide, they began to study navigation and to develop notable map-makers. The Itinerario of Jan Huygen van Linschoten and Joannes de Laets New World: or a Description of West India helped prepare Dutchmen for long sea voyages.
Still in their trade- and corsairing mode, the Dutch were soon active in the Caribbean and on the South American coasts, trading illicitly (rescate) in Spanish waters. They especially concentrated upon the north coast of Hispaniola, in Venezuela and in the pearl islands. They even sailed up the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers. In barter for their fine quality, but relatively inexpensive, goods, they obtained sugar, tobacco, pearls, dyewoods and cacao. Shortly they discovered extensive salt-pans at Araya, off the Venezuelan coast. The Dutch needed a reliable supply of salt for their large European herring catch, and dispatched hundreds of ships to Araya. Eventually these things provoked the Spaniards, who sent expeditions to break up the rescate and the salt shipments. This led to the complete evacuation by the Spaniards of the north coast of Hispaniola, where the smuggling activities and illegal sales to Dutchmen had been most active. That evacuation had a result unforeseen by the Spaniards; French freebooters took root on the island of Tortuga and other parts of the northwest coast. In turn that led to the founding of the extensive and valuable French colony of Saint-Domingue.
The Dutch then laid plans to create a West India Company for the Caribbean. However, reasons of state in Spain and a religious conflict within the Netherlands delayed its immediate formation. Instead, a twelve years truce between the powers began in 1609. Finally, when the truce ended in 1621, the Dutch West India Company was formed and the real Dutch assault on the Caribbean began.
Powerful expeditions and well-armed fleets of many Dutch ships began to disrupt the Spanish possessions in the West Indies. The Dutch attacked and occupied ports in Brazil, and overwhelmed the Honduras ships. They watered their ships near Cape Canaveral in Florida, and a small but fierce naval battle took place there in 1628. In that same year, the Dutch realized their most cherished desire: to hijack an entire Spanish treasure fleet. Admiral Piet Heyn bottled up the New Spain fleet in the harbor of Matanzas in Cuba, attacked and took its ships, and the West India Company declared an extraordinary dividend from the captured silver.
Unable any longer to pay for its shipping defense by taxes on the Spanish merchants in the Indies trade, Spain found itself in a full-fledged world war against the United Provinces. The resurgent Dutch assailed and captured Ceylon and many of the East Indies of Portugal, which had united with Spain in 1580. They even attacked Manila in the Spanish Philippines. The Dutch assault made it easier for other European powers to take advantage of Spains weakness and its preoccupation with the Dutch and seize territory in the Americas.
The remnant Caribbean settlements of the Dutch were, at the end of the colonial period, Aruba, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius, Bonaire and the Dutch half of St. Maartin.
The French foothold in the western part of Hispaniola became the large colony of Saint-Domingue. It developed rapidly in the eighteenth century into a most valuable sugar producing area. In 1751 the French took Grenada from the Caribs who populated it but eventually they would also lose it. The French also built strong colonies in Martinique and Guadeloupe. These would eventually be treated as departments of the French Republic.
International Conflict in the Caribbean and North America
The impact of Europes dynastic wars was strongly felt in Florida and the Caribbean, particularly as Spains decline accelerated after 1650. In the early and middle seventeenth century, Spain was overextended and unable fully to defend its Caribbean possessions. Although Cuba, Puerto Rico and the eastern part of Hispaniola remained Spanish until the 19th century, the Bahamas and the other Antilles became the property of other nations or kingdoms. Some of the smaller islands changed hands several times.
The English North American settlements began long after those of Spain; the Raleigh voyages failed to make lasting colonies, but Jamestown was established in 1607. It was followed by settlements in the Carolinas, Charleston being founded in 1670. The English advance down the east coast of the continent was paced by Spains successive withdrawals. Ironically, as the Raleigh settlements were about to be completely evacuated, in 1587, the Spaniards evacuated Santa Elena, but still held mission stations along the Georgia sea-islands, in the land of the Guale Indians.
Spanish Florida actually expanded after 1633 across the north-central peninsula into Apalachee, in the present Big Bend area of Florida. At the apogee of this mission development in the mid-17th century, a busy trail extended from St. Augustine through Timucuan territory to the heavy populations of Apalachee, organized around a number of mission stations. The Guale, Timucuan and Apalachee peoples had signed treaties with the Spaniards, and paid tribute in the form of corn and laborers. This was what was termed the "new repartimiento," in which Indian caciques negotiated the tribute and managed the payments. Their men were sent to St. Augustine to work Royal and private fields there. By mid-17th century, Spanish private enterprise blossomed in the form of cattle ranches and a wheat farm along or near the main trail, the Camino Real. Native American bearers furnished the transport for goods across the trail.
The economic and political connection which held Spanish Florida together was tenuous, for it depended upon Native American labor as its base. The Franciscan missions, the Governor and his assistants in the outlying provinces, and the soldiers and private citizens who used Indian workers put strains upon the system. As this base was reduced by several seventeenth century epidemics, increased stresses upon a smaller Native American population led to several rebellions. As the century neared its end, the descent of the English enemy upon the missions was about to destroy the whole apparatus. After Governor James Moore of South Carolina failed to capture the fort at St. Augustine in 1702, he turned to the destruction of the missions in Apalachee and inland Timucua.
In 1740 there came another invasion of Spanish Florida by James Oglethorpe, Governor of the new colony of Georgia. That attempt to take the Castillo de San Marcos also failed, but when it was over, the effective territory of Spanish Florida had been reduced substantially.
However, demographic change in Florida and the Caribbean continued through the 18th and 19th centuries. Canary Island colonists came to St. Augustine in mid-18th century, when the population exceeded 3,000 inhabitants. But the outcome of the Seven Years War forced Spain to exchange Florida for Cuba, and virtually the entire Spanish colony evacuated in 1763.
The "Eligio de la Puente" report of that year mentions the invasion of Creek people, who had overrun all of peninsular Florida, even reaching Key West. Those who would later be called the Seminole and Mikasuki had established themselves in the north-central interior of Florida long before the end of the century.
The British period in Florida, which endured twenty years, featured a great population increase and the establishment of many plantations, especially on the east coast of the peninsula. As the American Revolution progressed, many Tory refugees from the rebelling colonies to the north came to Florida, which remained loyal to King George. St. Augustine was soon bursting at the seams. A very large influx of Hispanic colonists also came to Florida at that time, for England controlled Minorca. Well over a thousand colonists came from that island as laborers for a plantation established by Andrew Turnbull. When the plantation failed and the Minorcans marched overland to St. Augustine, they became, and remain, an important demographic element in Florida. When the British in their turn evacuated Florida in 1784, most of them left but the Minorcans remained. More than five thousand of their descendants can now be counted in North Florida.
When the Spaniards returned in 1784, there began what one historian has described as the "people-mix period." Many Anglo immigrants from Georgia and the Carolinas came southward into Florida, bringing their families and slaves. By the time Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821, its Spanish-speaking population had been substantially diluted.
The Nineteenth Century
By the immediate ante-bellum years, north central Florida was truly a part of the plantation economy, even though most Floridians held no slaves. The Civil War barely touched those plantations, but Union forces took St. Augustine, Key West and (twice) Jacksonville. At the end of the Civil War, incoming Unionists augmented the population, although not as much as the new influx of tourists. At first St. Augustine was the southern terminus for the wave of newcomers, however, as Plant and Flagler built the railroads southward on both coasts, Florida began to develop demographically and economically.
Cuba and Florida
In Cuba, as we have seen, few of the original Native Americans remained, some in the eastern province of Oriente and some in the town of Guanabacoa near Havana. Because there were already Indians there, the remnant of Floridas Native Americans who were evacuated from Florida were settled in Guanabacoa.
Except for the port of Havana and the area of Santiago de Cuba, the island had developed slowly until the English took Havana in 1762. Then the Cuban economy enlarged greatly under English stimulation, as many slaves were imported and the sugar industry spread in the island. After the slave revolution on Saint-Domingue in 1791, many exiled French planters moved to Oriente in Cuba, bringing improved sugar industry techniques, which afforded further stimulus to the importation of slaves.
There was substantial nineteenth century Spanish immigration into Cuba, particularly from Asturias, Galicia and the Canary Islands. Nevertheless the African component of Cuban culture has remained vital and significant. The broad and creative effect of African influences upon Cuban music is notable, both in percussion and melody. African religion and deities have forged a syncretic relationship with Catholic Christianity, in which central figures have merged. This is especially seen in Santería, which has been exported with Cuban exiles to Florida after 1959.
Floridas growth in the twentieth century has been remarkable and continues to accelerate. Many of its new residents come from other parts of the United States, but there are enclaves of Lebanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. There is a large Haitian colony in Miami, and smaller ones upstate. Some people from the former Soviet Union have also come to Florida, but the greatest growth has been Hispanic.
The increasing percentage of Hispanics in the United States is one of the most significant demographic and cultural changes to occur in the twentieth century. This has nowhere been more important than in South Florida, where successive waves of Cuban exiles have arrived after the Cuban Revolution achieved power in 1959. Between that date and 1980, more than 800,000 Cubans came to Florida; the total now resident here is almost a million. These have been added to almost two hundred thousand Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Salvadoreans and Nicaraguans. Large numbers of Mexicans come to Florida, usually to work as migrant laborers in the citrus and truck crops. The result of these immigrations has been a cultural revolution, affecting diet, music, housing location and settlement patterns, political and religious affiliations, and many other aspects of life in the South Florida counties. Now Cubans have moved outward to the Orlando area and other parts of the state. The economic drive of the Cubans in the newly Hispanic Florida has led to an increased prosperity and to the emergence of Miami as a center of international trade and banking.
Truly, the end results of that first contact between Indians and Europeans on San Salvador are startling. The cultural syntheses existing today in Florida and the Caribbean could never have been imagined in 1492. All the actors in the drama have left their mark, even those who have vanished. As a Jamaican woman said: "I have never seen an Arawak, but I cook like one."
The eventual end of black slavery in the Americas, which arrived at different times in the various places affected, gave the African-Americans in Florida and the Caribbean the dignity of free persons. Then the peoples of the former colonial areas could aspire to the position of citizens. Although France, the Netherlands and the United States still hold properties in the Antilles, many of the islands of the Caribbean have now become independent, or have only minimal ties to any European power. The cultural connections to former colonial powers, in language, educational systems, and other areas of everyday life, however, are long-enduring.
Derek Walcott, a poet from Santa Lucia whose forebears came to the Caribbean as slaves from Africa, describes the cultural outcome of the Great Encounter:
"I give strange and bitter and yet ennobling thanks
Over the monumental groaning and soldering of two great worlds
Like the halves of a fruit seamed in its own bitter juice
That exiled from your own Eden
You have placed me in the wonder of another.
And that was my inheritance and your gift."
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