In my first essay on cultural imperialism I defined this phenomenon and how it is being played out negatively in the Caribbean, especially the English-speaking Caribbean. I argued that this incursion into all aspects of Caribbean life was not new but that new technology and communication systems had radically transformed this process and intensified its onslaught on the Caribbean socio-economic and to a lesser extent, political, landscape.
Now let us look at the impact that this has had on the Caribbean. Economically, the Caribbean is tied to the United States and British (European) industries that account for the majority of imports to the region. It is safe to say that even as CARICOM (Caribbean Community)shouts its independence in 2007 to the world the very things that make the region truly Caribbean are now under siege and independence have thus become a relative term.
The Caribbean region’s most important trading partner is the United States and last year (2006) CARICOM imported US$11 billion in goods, machinery and services. By contrast, the Caribbean could only muster about US $1.5 billion in exports mainly from Trinidad and Tobago’s petroleum exports to the Unites States, and a US$663 million trade increase with the state of Florida.
In fact, a look at the economics of the region helps to reinforce the neo-dependency vehicle that distorts, warps and stultifies the growth of the region “without the historically crude use of guns and threats.” According to the Inter-American Development Dank (IDB) the total of all remittances (money transfers) to Latin America and the Caribbean in 2005 was US$55 billion. This money came mainly from the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. And it came in small units of between US$50 and $300.
According to the IDB in 2006 US$8.3 billion dollars (EC$21.995 Billion or J$589.308 billion) ) were remitted DIRECTLY to the English-speaking Caribbean region. The vast majority of the money 73% came from Caribbean immigrants living all across the United States. Here are the statistics in United States dollars:
- Jamaica - $1.9 billion
- Haiti - $1 billion (non-English speaking CARICOM country)
- Cuba - $983 million
- Trinidad & Tobago - $655 million (up from $97 million in 2002)
- Guyana - $466 (up from $270 million in 2005)
- Barbados - $292 million
- Dominica - $181 million
- Grenada - $162 million
- St. Vincent & the Grenadines - $123 million
In the case of Grenada the $162 million represented a whopping 31% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Haiti’s $1 billion 21% of its GDP, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ $123 million 26.4 percent of its GDP. These figures tell the undisputed fact of the pivotal and crucial role that Caribbean nationals living abroad in ALL aspects of the lives of the population back in the region.
Moreover, it helps to demonstrate the degree of dependency that CARICOM governments in the region have on this largely ignored and slighted community.
But coupled with this “hard-cash” remittance is another billion dollar industry that while important from a position of poverty and need has helped to facilitate negative aspects of cultural imperialism in the Caribbean. I refer, of course, to the “barrel industry.” This industry is supported here in the United States by poor, working class immigrants who send food and clothing to loved ones back home in various sizes of barrels. It has spawned a proliferation of shipping companies and helped transfer changes in diet and deepened the dependency on US consumer products.