[Blackstudies-l] Barbuda and the Land Issue in the Caribbean

Maria Lima lima at geneseo.edu
Sun Dec 31 02:12:19 EST 2017


lisaparavisini posted: " An Op-Ed piece by Dwayne Wong (Omowale) for The
Huffington Post. The people of Barbuda are currently not only struggling to
recover from the devastation that was brought to the island by Hurricane
Irma, but they are also fighting to retain the collect"
Respond to this post by replying above this line
New post on *Repeating Islands*
<http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/> Barbuda and the Land
Issue in the Caribbean
<http://repeatingislands.com/2017/12/30/barbuda-and-the-land-issue-in-the-caribbean/>
by
lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>

[image: 5a46909e1c00003c0068dc0b.jpg]

An Op-Ed piece by Dwayne Wong (Omowale) for *The Huffington Post*.
<https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/barbuda-and-the-land-issue-in-the-caribbean_us_5a468eace4b0d86c803c7683>

The people of Barbuda are currently not only struggling to recover from the
devastation that was brought to the island by Hurricane Irma, but they are
also fighting to retain the collective ownership of their land
<http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/barbuda-fears-land-rights-loss-bid-spread-tourism-antigua>.
This is a system that has been in place since the abolition of slavery on
the island and is currently being threatened by the government of Antigua
and Barbuda. Prime Minister Gaston Browne has argued that in order to
rebuild Barbuda and to improve the island’s economy it is necessary to
change this law. The people of Barbuda are concerned that they will lose
the control of their land so that Barbuda can be developed into an island
for mass tourism, much as Antigua has been. As I have pointed out
previously, some Antiguans have complained
<https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/protests-against-the-land-grab-in-barbuda_us_5a3082d5e4b0b73dde46a872>that
tourism has become such a dominant feature on the island that the island
belongs to the tourists more so than the people who lived there. The people
of Barbuda fear the same thing will happen to their island as well.

Barbuda’s struggle to retain collective control of the island is a struggle
that has been waged throughout the Caribbean islands where the forces of
colonialism and neo-colonialism have sought to establish foreign ownership
over those lands. Christopher Columbus’ well-known “discovery” of the
Caribbean islands in 1492 led to massive genocide on those islands. In many
of the Caribbean islands the nation population was completely wiped out due
to a combination of violence and disease. Thus the initial process of
colonization not only involved theft of native land, but also the complete
depopulation of those islands. Those islands were then repopulated mainly
by enslaved Africans. After slavery was abolished other ethnic groups, such
as East Indians and Chinese, were brought to the Caribbean to labor as
indentured servants. Throughout this whole process the land was owned by a
small elite group of wealthy white settlers. When the people of Haiti won
their independence through a revolution, one of the major provisions that
were put in place by the new government was one which sought to ensure that
Haitians retained the ownership of their land and property. This was so
important for the Haitian Revolutionaries that Jean-Jacques Dessalines
decreed that foreigners would not be allowed to own property in Haiti.
Dessalines explained: “Never shall a colonist or a European set foot on
this territory with the title of master or proprietor. This resolution
shall henceforth form the fundamental basis of our Constitution.”

Unfortunately, for many of the Caribbean countries that have gained their
independence after Haiti, retaining local control of the land has not been
a priority. One of the reasons for this is the Caribbean’s reliance on
tourism. On some islands it became a policy to privatize beach land,
excluding the locals in the process. The privatization of beach land has
been the subject of a number of songs, which have been aimed at exposing
and criticizing these policies. In Trinidad and Tobago, Lord Kitchener
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtFwJtWUR1w> complained about how the
natives in Tobago were arrested for being on their own beaches. In
Barbados, the Mighty Gabby
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTbGkop7mss>composed
his hit song “Jack” in response to a policy put forward by Jack Dear, the
chairman of the Tourist Board, who suggested allowing hotels to privatize
beach land. And in Jamaica, Mutabaruka
<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcLVXjFFb4c> complained about the
all-exclusive hotels which would make tourists believe that Negril is a
separate island apart from Jamaica.

The foreign control of land has also been an issue in Puerto Rico. Puerto
Rico was a former Spanish colony which was later taken from the Spanish and
brought under American domination. The American colonization of Puerto Rico
has been a very brutal and repressive one. Those who dared to speak out
against the American colonization of their island were jailed. A very
famous example of this was Pedro Albizu Campos who was not only imprisoned,
but tortured as well. America has also sought to establish economic
domination over Puerto Rico. The Jones Act
<https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/puerto-rico-the-jones-act-and-american-colonialism_us_59d2ff5ee4b092b22a8e3924>,
with was passed in 1920, was implemented for the purpose of restricting
trade to Puerto Rico to ships that are owned by American citizens or
corporations. This had the effect of hindering Puerto Rico’s recovery for
Hurricane Maria because it limited Puerto Rico’s ability to receive much
needed supplies such as food, medicine, and clean water. And like many
other islands, Puerto Rico has also faced the issue of privatization of
public land
<http://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/topstory-Puerto-Rico-activists-fight-to-keep-beaches-public-31363.html>
.

I mention all of this to show that the struggle of the people of Barbuda to
retain the ownership of their land is a struggle that has been waged and is
being waged on other Caribbean islands as well, where foreign powers
continue to control the economies and the land of those islands to the
exclusion of the locals. Barbuda is unique in that its system of collective
land ownership ensures that no one on the island is excluded from owning
property or land. If history is a good indicator of what may happen to
Barbuda if this system is overturned, then the people of Barbuda have every
right to voice their concerns over what they see as a “land grab” taking
place on their island.
*lisaparavisini <http://repeatingislands.com/author/lisaparavisini/>* |
December 30, 2017 at 7:27 pm | Categories: News
<http://repeatingislands.com/category/news/> | URL: https://wp.me/psnTa-zbd

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