ABSTRACT

In the beginning, the Caribbean world was a magical world not only because fish could fly. The first peoples living on its shores imagined the sea to be inhabited by unseen spirits and ghosts, a gateway to the dead. The indigenous people of the Caribbean, like many Africans and Europeans across the Atlantic, envisioned a land of the dead across the vast waters. The western Atlantic Ocean moved in deep, dark, and mysterious currents, in contrast to the clear, calm, and protected turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Only the island of Barbados withstood the ocean’s full fury from its position surrounded by Atlantic waters. The residents of other Caribbean islands, together with those living on the outer shores of the circum-Caribbean region, moved easily from one land perch to the next in their giant canoes dug out of grand silk-cotton trees. These carved vessels could hold seventy-five or eighty men and women as they maneuvered swiftly across the great distances between islands. Over the course of thousands of years, oceanic voyages had linked the Caribbean with Mesoamerica and with the South American mainland.