West Indian Workers and Manifest Destiny 1889-1904

The American notion of "Manifest Destiny" was embodied in this painting by John Gast.


The French loss in the Panama Canal economic adventure would not deter the colonialist competitive spirit, which had set out in search of new territories and new people to enslave at will. The competition between the white races of Europe and the Americans from the United States in the late XIX century seemed to have reached an impasse.

The colonialist ideals that prevailed during those historic times of railroad and banana barons feasted on much more than the resources conceded in this region of the Americas. More than the material concessions their appetites would include the lives and labor of the black man of West Indian extraction.

The French, it would seem, would suffer no great loss in the end in Panama, as they would remain a colonialist power and one of the big time players, moving their operations out of Panama. Licking their emotional and economic wounds they would move into another theater of our neighborhood on this planet. Thus, we would find the French making Empire, which meant exploiting and subjugating the people in the Far East.

In the Americas, however, remained another colonialist brother to the Europeans who came invoking something they concocted for strategic purposes called the Monroe Doctrine (1823). Politically, it was a masterful move in a game intended to gain total control of the region of Central America. During a time when the ideals of “democracy” for Latin-Americans, or any other people of color in the world, were being energetically promoted, this idea proved to be a move to bring them closer to their own colonialist goals; and history would confirm that they had an approving audience in the native elites of all of Latin America.

With this kind of approval of colonialism, our native elites would emerge during this period as a form of royal caste, kings and princesses, patterned after the European royal class, and be as a people who would maintain their status far into the twentieth century. This class of people would be what the Westindian laborers would unknowingly meet as they arrived, en masse, to take part in what I described in previous articles as “the great human experiment.”

This laboratory for human experimentation, however, did not only affect the West Indians, but also the Afro-Latinos with colonial roots. The socio economic experimentation with populations was not new to the region. Different groups of white people had been introduced into the region evolving out of the fear of too many blacks and mulattoes overtaking the white colonial population.

In the Caribbean that idea was started by local “Juntas of Whitening the Population,” who sent emissaries to the economically devastated European countries to induce pauperised whites to come to the Americas, especially the West Indies. These people were offered land and social status as neighbors, vecinos. Such experimentation with population control was included in most every country in the continent of Hispanic America.

This story continues.

2 responses to “West Indian Workers and Manifest Destiny 1889-1904

  1. I seem to recall reading in Galleano that there was a Mullato Caudillo in Panama in the 20’s and thirties who used chalk to powder his skin.. And claim to be european…

  2. Brilliant blog. I’ve been reading up on west indian labour migration to central america (mostly costa rica). Keep up the good work.

    Peace from London