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October 04, 1959 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1959-10-04
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The Explosive Caribbean:

w f- a.---V -&- . ..* - J. -..-. ,

Long Exploited and Underdeveloped,
The Greater Antilles Awaken


OVERPOPULATED, underdeveloped, ex-
plosive-these are the Greater An-
Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto
Rico are volcanic islands, forming a chain
1300 miles long. Fifteen million people
live there.
Each island has central mountains and
coastal plains which are used for grow-
ing sugar cane. Once prize colonies of
the European powers, the five countries
are now experimenting with a variety of
governmental forms.
The Dominican Republic and Haiti,
which divide Hispaniola between them,
are two of the four genuine dictator-
ships in the hemisphere.
Jamaica and Puerto Rico are complet-
ing constitutional evolution from colonial
status to autonomy within the frame-
work of the mother country.
And Cuba has gone from rightist dic-
tatorship into the most important Ameri-
can social upheaval' since the Mexican
revolution of 1910.
ISLAND-HOPPING from capital to capi-
tal-Havana, Kingston, Port-au-Prince,
Ciudad Trujillo, San Juan-the visitor
can see the changes and pressures to
change which could bring about realiza-
tion of each island's potential, or which
could provide problems for years to
Havana is the largest of the Caribbean
cities, and the most cosmopolitan. Her
hotels rank with those anywhere in the
world, and so reportedly do her houses
of prostitution. Tourism is big business.
But during the first eight months of
the revolutionary regime the flow of
tourists dried up almost completely. Taxi
drivers circled the city without passengers
and the re-oliened casinos had more em-
ployees than customers.
Now the atmosphere of fear in Havana
seems to have dissipated. City residents
come out again in the evening to stroll
along the Malecon, the ocean drive. And
the tourists have returned, Labor Day's
total being the highest in a year.

MOST PROMINENT signs in Havana of
the revolution-if one disregards the
bearded rebel soldiers-are the canisters,
posters and farm equipment displays of
the agrarian reform. Castro's face appears
on huge billboards which ask all Cuba to
support the reform actively.
Cubans call the reform program the
heart of their revolution, without which
it will die. Talking with them on the
streets and in the stores, the visitor can
feel for himself some of the enthusiasm
which -can make possible the revolution's
Kingston, 500 miles southeast, is very
similar to Havana, and at the same time
in a different world.
The tropical sun and the tropical vege-
tation are the same. Jamaica's main
product is sugar, as of course Cuba's is,
and both Kingston and Havana are com-
mercial centers grown far richer than the
remainder of the island.
But Kingston is unmistakably Brit-
ish colonial, in her architecture, her cus-
toms and in her institutions.
P OLICE on the corner, in Kingston
wear white sun helmets and gloves
with their blue and scarlet uniforms.
Streets bear names such as "Glen Lane,"
"Duke Street"' or "Aintree Avenue.".
Jamaica is now part of an immense
political experiment, the West Indian
Federation. The British have opened the
door to autonomy for citizens of the
former West Indian colonies,- but little
allegiance to the new body has yet been
Jamaicans declare the federation to
be very important, but show little real
interest in any specific aspect except
that of Jamaica's share in the legislature.
Since Jamaica has half the federa-
tion's people, they argue, she should
hold as many seats as Antigua, Barba-
dos, Dominica, Trinidad and all the oth-
er islands put together.
While Jamaicans show compartively
little interest in their new form of in-
ter-island government, they more than
compensate with enthusiasm for local
In the July election in which People's
'Nationalist Sir Norman Manley won,
re-election over Jamaica Laborite Sir
Alexander Bustamente, dead men voted
and party officials were accused of giv-
ing lessons in removing ink stamped
on each voter.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, capital of the Re-
public of Haiti, is so backward it
makes Kingston seem cosmopolitan. Few
cars are seen on the dusty streets, for
few Haitians can afford them.

However, the streets are crowded with
pedestrians except during the blistering
hot noon periods.
Much of the city is made up of shanty-
towns, condoned by the government be-
cause it cannot build housing relief fast
A conspicuous exception to the city's
rundown appearance is the presidential
palace, a beautiful old building in which
president Francois Duvalier lives in fear.
Duvalier fears assassins' bullets, just
as he fears use of his country as a bridge
by Cubans wishing to get at the neighbor-
ing Dominican Republic.
As the president is afraid, so too are
his subjects. Brash guides mumble and
change the subject when asked specific
.questions regarding the dictator and
his government.
The mountains rise steeply above Port-
Au-Prince, and provide a key to the
island's poverty and instability. For Hai-
ti's share of the island of Hispaniola is
covered with rocks and ridges, making
impossible large-scale agriculture of the
sort which has brought money to Cuba,
Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.
Thus any agricultural reform program
in Haiti is limited.
HAITI HAS turned to the United States
in increasing quantities, despite some
American objections to Duvalier.
While the major portion of the moun-
tains are in the western or Haitian end
of the island, the tallest mounutain in the
Caribbean is in the Dominican end, quite
visible as one flies between the two coun-
Its name, appropriately enough, is Pico
Flying on into the capital, Ciudad Tru-
jillo, one sees rows of olive-colored jet
fighters on 24-hour alert. Coming through
customs in the air terminal, each visi-
tor is X-rayed.
Ciudad Trujillo itself is a quiet, pros-
perous city which lacks both the poverty
of Port-au-Prince and the bustle of
Havana, or Kingston. The hotels are
fancy, the restaurants adequate, but the
city is dull.
For the tourist, there is the palace
built by Columbus' son and rebuilt and
refurnished by Trujillo at the cost of
millions. Beyond seeing this, and taking a
look at the new government center built
for the recent (and unsuccessful) Domini-
can Exposition, there just aren't many
interesting things to do.
IT'S QUITE POSSIBLE to rent a car
and travel across the country on the
modern highways the Trujillo government

.._ . - '


Trulillo's Statue
hias built, of course, but there are check-
points every 20 miles, at which every-
one must present his identification.
Most tourists and businessmen express
relief on leaving the Dominican Republic.
San Juan, Puerto Rico's capital, is sec-
ond only to Havana in population, pros-
perity and interest. Since the average
Puerto Rican lives better than any of
his fellow Latin Americans, the gulf be-
twen the city and the rest of the island
is not as great as that in Cuba.
Puerto Rico's economy depends more
heavily on sugar cane than on any oth-.
er single source of income, but the island
is more heavily industrialized than any
other in the area.
While much of this industry is, of
course, in and around San Juan, a more
healthy balance has been achieved in
Puerto Rico than elsewhere.
PUERTO RICO, like Cuba, has been
bothered by huge land holdings
which kept sugar money coming in but
left thousands of farmers little better
than serfs.
But over a period of years a dormant
law limiting holdings to 500 acres has
gradually been enforced, and now only
two companies own both sugar mills and
aly substantial amount of caneland. Both
these companies are the subjects of court
proceedings at the present, which will
force them to sell their excess land to
the commonwealth at a fair price.
With the landholdings divided up, there
is in Puerto Rico a problem regarding
introduction of mechanized methods, but
cooperatives are being established (as they
are in Cuba).
Puerto Rico's industrial and agricul-
tural progress has been possible largely-
because of the internally autonomous
commonwealth status she enjoys. While
there is currently a lot of agitation for
Puerto Rican statehood, and while state-
hood may well come within the next 15
years, the commonwealth has given and
is giving a lot to the island,
STRONG, autonomous island govern-
"' nient within the American union has
made possible benevolent statism and
wooing of stateside industry.
Puerto Rico sets the pattern for many
of the underdeveloped over-populated por-
tions of the world. Whether or not she
will serve as a model to her Antilles neigh-
bors, and whether indeed they are or will
be free to follow, remains to be seen.
Thomas Turner is Daily editor and
a senior in the literary college. He
gathered the material for this article
during several trips from is home
in Puerto Rico to the various islands.

JAPAN-and for that matter, the entire
Orient-has always been regarded by
the Westerner as the essence of the ex-
otic, a place where strange people in
the Westerner as the essence of the
exotic, a place where strang people in
strange costumes do inicomprehensible
things. One can still, if one desires, see
beyond the paper-thin homes and the sea-
weed drying in racks in the inlets, a vision
of the pervasive politeness that Marco
Polo could not understand or even a pic-
ture of Admiral Dewey's fleet of ships of
"dark and evil mien"; however, such vis-
ions require a great deal of imagination.
The dominant impression of the Orient
today is one of extreme modernity. Since
the war, the rate of change in living hab-
its in the East-and particularly in Japan
--has probably been greater than in any
other portion of the world, so great in fact
that it would be totally bewildering to any
native who lost the current of develop-
ment for any short time. Shino, a student
from Tokyo who studied in the United
States from 1953 until 1957, remarks, "I
left a land of rickshaws and traditional
homes and returned to one which had
more taxicabs than New York and more
modern apartments than Chicago-and I
found an entirely different people."
This is not to say that Japan is no
longer Japan. Traditions are conserved,
and the exquisite beauty that has long
characterized Japanese civilization is con-
tinued, one is happy to note, as some-
what more than meretourist attraction.
The church-in this case Buddhist and
Shinto and to a certain extent Christian
-plays its usual role as conservator of
traditional beauties. In the temples and
shrines are preserved architecture and art
dating back for centuries: the torii, or
sacred gateways; stone and bronze sculp-
tures of the gods and goddesses; the
buildings of either simplicity pushed to
the limits of ascetic beauty or the or-
nately decorated and colorful festive tem-
ples such as those at Nikko--all these set
among towering trees and luxuriant
growths of bushes tend to produce a feel-
ing of meditational awe even greater than
that of the stone-silent cathedrals of Eu-
rope and America.
There are those who would more hur-
riedly and violently change the tenor of
life in Japan: the youth who set fire to
"The Temple of the Golden Pavilion" in
Kyoto, so well discussed in Yukio Mishi-
ma's novel of the same name, is perhaps
characteristic of this group. However, the
majority of the modern Japanese, like the
moderns of other nations, realize that pro-
gress, as-fcadence, must maintain the
past, the civilization from which it is to
decay. Only on more figurative ashes than
those of the burned temple is the phoe-
nix allowed to rise again.
Fred Schaen visited Japan and
Hong Kong this summer while sta-
tined there as a member of the
United States armed forces. He is a
graduate student at the University.

RESPECT for tradition is still strong in
Japan, though perhaps less constric-
tive than in the past. The feeling for the
Emperor and his family, now resting as a
figure in an artificial democracy similar
to Britain's constitutional monarchy, was
recently demonstrated at the wedding of
Crown Prince Akhito-and the new role
of the Emperor was reciprocally noted in
the Prince's choice of a bride. Even the
stone-thrower at the wedding parade was
not without the sin of having a sense of
the past.
Japan's present democracy, with its
orderly demonstrations upholding or re-
jecting any political standpoint, is still in
its formative process-and as such it is
probably closer to Thomas Jefferson's idea
of democracy as a constant process of
re-evaluation than is our own system. The
Japanese have not yet developed the lack
of concern with government which has
infiltrated America; they still are open to
Ibsen's possibility that truth itself changes
about once a decade.
The change in customs and manners is.
noticeable in nearly every field: in sports,
baseball has achieved the tremendous
popularity once occupied only by sumo
wrestling, and on every open space, dozens
of sandlot teams - all in some sort of
standardized baseball uniform-are prac-
ticing. Down busy streets early in the
mn'ing young men in track suits prac-
tice for marathons or bicycle races; and
the one mile stretch of open water be-
tween the mainland and the shrine island
of Miyojima is used as a speedboat race-
The Kabukiza Theater is still -abun-
dantly filled for each performance, but
the newer kabuki plays have a certain de-
gree of soap-opera quality characterized
by sentimentality and lachrymal :scenes:
death-bed forgivenesses and tubercular
faithful lovers. This feeling for soap-opera
is also evident in television productions--
but a Japanese soap-opera has an artistic
quality unknown to CBS. The phenome-
non of television in Japan is as much an
indication of the new age as it is in any
other country-and it is watched as ad-
dictively. Evening hours previously spent
in polite conversation are now devoted to
drinking Asahi beer and watching the.
HE K6KUSAI Music Hall, one "of sev-
eral Tokyan counterparts of Radio
City Music Hall, is more modern tech-
nically than New York's center of lower
middle-class culture, and shows at least
some concern for art: the legginess of the
"Atomic Girls" is counterbalanced by dra-
matizations of folk tales and considerably
elaborate . folly dances. Appiuse in the
Japanese theater, too, is more than a.
proper closing to a number; it is given
only after particularly well-done and in-
tricate maneuvers.
The new Orient is evident in the new
coffee-houses throughout the nation of
Japan-very small houses, and intimate-
replacing the teahouses of the August

moon, and in the various ginzas where
western clothing shops outnumber kimono
stores in a three-to-one ratio. Kimonos,
when worn on the street, are worn chiefly
during the evenings and on special occa-
sions rather than as everyday clothing.
And only once in a six-week stay is a
woman seen walking the traditional six
paces behind her husband.
The change is producing an enormous
amount of construction in the Far East.
In Hong Kong, whose disregard for paint
and whose love for garrets and rooftop
apartments is perhaps second only to
Paris's, three or four new buildings are
rising on every mile of skyline. This is
due in large part to the fact that .since
1949, refugees from the Chinese main-
land have been a major factor in doubling
the Colony's population: refugees must
be housed, as they must be given work to
do. So the refugees are given-jobs build-
ing government apartments where they
themselves will be housed upon comple-
tion. One thing that has not changed in
Hong Kong, however, is the fact that it
is the world's chief bargain paradise. Even
hand-tailored clothing is less expensive
than in Britain-for the fabrics cost the

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