/** nacla.report: 298.6 **/
Letter to NACLA
By Julie Franks, 24 October 1997
I was pleased to see NACLA publish a report that conveyed the complexity of contemporary life in the Dominican Republic and for Dominicans in the United States ["The Dominican Republic After the Caudillos," March/April 1997]. The themes discussed in the articles highlight how much the Dominican Republic shares with other Caribbean and circum-Caribbean nations, although none of the authors develop this point. For instance, the articles by Emelio Betances and Hobart Spalding, Roberto Cassa, and James Ferguson all seem to suggest that personalism and patronage in Dominican politics can be attributed to the legacy of Trujillo and the personal style of Balaguer, but these problems are common in other Caribbean nations. Thus they might be usefully analyzed as a function of a regional political economy and political culture.
The peoples of the Caribbean have long oscillated between regional fragmentation and uneasy movements toward regional integration, often under foreign pressure. If competing colonial powers pulled the region apart in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, contemporary trends promise to unify it within a "globalized" economy structured by the Caribbean Basin Initiative. Then too, many pressing problems such as drug trafficking and environmental regulation call for region-wide responses. The Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) and the recently formed Association of Caribbean States (ACS) are potentially a counterweight to foreign influences in the region, a forum for discussing shared problems, and a bridge to wider links with other Latin American countries.
These organizations have had difficulty, however, in establishing a common ground from which the Caribbean can confront other hemispheric and world powers. The Dominican Republic's recent conflict with CARICOM over relative advantages in the European banana market shows that if the Caribbean is to speak with a common voice, it will have to develop a more complex understanding of how its regional identity has emerged in historical, cultural and geopolitical terms.
Researchers and intellectuals can make an important contribution to that understanding. A comparative perspective in studies of political development, social movements, economic adjustment, and the formation of immigrant communities abroad is essential to a definition of Caribbean identity that recognizes both the diverse experiences and common destinies that shape the region.