Raiding, War, and Cannibalism: Deconstructing the Myth of the Carib in the 15th Century Caribbean, Dr. Erin Stone, University of West Florida, March 30, 2017, 6pm
From Columbus forward, the Spanish colonial project was founded on the use and abuse of Americas’ indigenous peoples. Whether Indians were considered rebellious, cannibals, or “useless,” the Spanish found reasons to enslave the “Caribs” of the Caribbean. In October of 1493, Christopher Columbus returned to the Caribbean. This time he altered his course, heading to the Lesser Antilles. It was in these small islands that Columbus and his men first encountered “Carib” Indians. Finding various human bones hanging from an abandoned hut, and others boiling in a pot, the travelers deduced that the island’s inhabitants were cannibals. This judgment created the dichotomy between the “good” Taínos and the “vicious” “Caribs” that would survive for centuries. The Spaniards would use the specter of cannibalism, and the label of “Carib,” to justify the enslavement of indigenous peoples across the Caribbean and South America for decades to come. However, recent archaeological and historical studies highlight the fluidity of the pre-colonial Circum-Caribbean. While most evidence can only prove occasional trade between distant regions or islands, it suggests the possibility of tighter kinship bonds connecting the Caribbean islands to both North and South America. It follows that the firm distinction and conflict between the Taínos and the Caribs was a Spanish construction, ultimately designed to enslave Indians. This presentation deconstructs this dichotomy and begins to reveal the pre-Colombian relationship between the Taínos and the Caribs.