|The Real Caribbean|
The Caribbean is not confined to what Columbus saw when he lost his way," the prime minister of Jamaica, P.J. Patterson, told a packed Salomon Center on April 10. The scattered outcroppings of land poking through the water just beyond the Gulf of Mexico "have been fragmented by the sea and the accidents of colonial conquest," he said. "Yet we are one people." In recent years, the nations of the Caribbean have grown more assertive about establishing a regional identity.
Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson collects his thoughts after receiving an honorary degree in April.
Patterson, who received an honorary degree while on campus to deliver the keynote address at the sixth annual Northeast Regional Caribbean Students Conference, stressed the importance of this Caribbean unity and solidarity. He also urged the students at the conference - especially those of Caribbean ancestry - to understand and share their history with the rest of the world. "We need to learn more about each other," he said, "not just how others see us."
Fitting the Caribbean countries into "a credible economic and social niche" is perhaps the region's most daunting task, Patterson explained. The Caribbean Basin is filled with thousands of islands of varying sizes, each with a distinct history that combines colonial influences with those of the African slaves who were brought into the area during the nineteenth century.
Negotiations have long been under way to consolidate Caribbean economic interests, Patterson said, but economic reform, trade agreements, and diplomatic negotiations must exist alongside social equality and stability. "Economic development cannot be sustained in an atmosphere of social degeneracy," he added. "We strive to build a market economy - not a market society.