The Caribs

European propagandists labled

the Caribs as cannibals,

Which apparently wasn't true.

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Already established on many islands when explorers arrived, the Caribs fought with a vengeance.

The Caribs, who had come from the Orinoco region only about 200 years before Columbus, were actually in the process of expanding throughout the Caribbean.

They were busy conquering and absorbing the Arawaks when the Europeans arrived. The Caribs extended their range as far north as Puerto Rico.

Unlike the Arawaks, they refused to live as slaves, preferring to kill themselves by jumping off cliffs or by eating dirt until they died.

If the European and Caribs sides had been evenly matched in weaponry and manpower, the history of the Caribbean probably would be quite different.

The Caribs were known for the speed with which they could fire arrow after arrow at a target. It's said they could split a coin at a hundred yards. It's no wonder the huge fort on the island of St. Vincent is famous for the direction its cannons pointed--they were aimed inland. The British soldiers hiding inside were far more afraid of being attacked from land by the Caribs than by passing European warships.

The Caribs enjoyed dressing up, painting their skin red and wearing parrot feathers and necklaces with the teeth of their victims in war.

The Caribs also were cannibals. At least that's what the Europeans claimed, who even invented the word cannibal based on a corruption of what the Spanish called the Caribs, "Caribales."

However, in recent years many believe that Europeans called the Caribs "man eaters" as part of a nasty propaganda campaign to demonize the Caribs and help justify their extermination.   

When the Caribs did go to war, they rarely harmed women but took them as property. What they supposedly did to their male captives has become legendary.

The male captives were flame boiled on a spit for dinner, after their legs and backs were split open and stuffed with herbs and pimento. The Caribs were not indiscriminate in their tastes.

It's said they found the Spanish too stringy and revolting, preferring the French above all others for their tastiness (because of the French wine?).Next in preference were the English and Dutch.

Christianity made little impact on the Caribs, never much concerned with any kind of organized religion anyway. They consented to be baptized for the gifts that went along with the ceremony.

Try as they might, the Europeans never could exterminate the Caribs. Almost, but not quite. A Carib reservation, some 3,000 strong, still exists on the island of Dominica, where the British realized it made more sense to trade with the Caribs than fight them.

Small numbers of Caribs can also be found today in Guyana, on St. Vincent and in Central America. In the Caribbean, the last person known to have spoken true Carib died in the early 1900s.

In addition to the Arawaks and Caribs, there was a third group of Amerindians who lived north of Guadeloupe.

These were The Taino.


The Caribs of Dominica

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