The impact of Asians in the Caribbean

The Caribbean is a culturally diverse region forged by cultural plurality and the ‘merger’ of different ethnicities. The mottos ‘One People, One Nation, One Destiny’ and ‘Out of Many One People’, describe the fusion of different people in the Caribbean to make it the dynamic and vibrant place it is today. The region boasts cultures having their roots in West Africa, Europe, China, India and many other nations.

Through this fusion of peoples, the cultural landscape of the Caribbean presents a unique version of life that is unlike anywhere else. While this is so, the people of each ethnicity have been quite careful to retain their core cultural values, norms and ideals despite the integration with other cultures and sometimes purposeful attempts to eradicate their cultural norms. One such people are those with their core roots in Asia. This includes the Indo-Caribbean people with roots in India or the Indian subcontinent as well as the Chinese.

Most of these people are the descendants of the original indentured workers brought to the Caribbean by the British, the Dutch and the French during colonial times. Subsequently, the rapid growth of these people and their increased integration in the Caribbean region has had both direct and indirect effects on the region.  Through what channels have Asians impacted Caribbean society and its development?

The Chinese and Indo-Caribbeans

Asian immigration to the Caribbean began in the mid-19th century. Most of these people came to the larger Caribbean islands such as Jamaica and Trinidad. Since then, their impact on the Caribbean has been marked and distinct.


Asian immigration has provided a safety valve for the surplus population and a source of revenues for Caribbean economies (because of the remittances from abroad). This is one of the major means of impact of Asians on the Caribbean economy. Furthermore, their tradition celebrations are attended by thousands and prove economically beneficial. These festivals boost the local economy in hotel bookings, taxes on entertainment services, the food industry and provide work in producing costumes and organizing aspects of the festivals.


Asian cuisine is extremely popular in the Caribbean today, both among nationals and tourists. Chinese cuisine is especially exquisite.Their restaurants are a popular delight in countries such as Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad.

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Recipes such as Malay chicken and Chicken-in-the-Rough are popular choices. Indian delicacies such as roti and curry are popular meals that have pervaded Caribbean cuisine and are prepared by many Caribbean people today. Surely, the Caribbean has adopted the secret of culinary success and a few of Asia’s sensational recipes.

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The Chinese aren’t quite dominant in sports; however the Indians surely make up for that in the game of cricket. Cricketers such as Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan have done exceptional to establish West Indies cricket as a powerhouse.

Performing Arts

The Chinese and Indians have to a large extent, maintained the purity of their most sacred festivities. While festivals such as The Chinese New Year, Holi, Divali and Hosay have been creolised to a large extent, other means of cultural expression such as dance, instrumentation and song have maintained some level of purity and are enjoyed by Caribbean and foreign audiences many times over. The Chinese are particularly fond of playing instruments such as the violin while Indians are extremely entertaining dancers.  


While the music of the Caribbean probably reflects the most multi-cultural influences and has to great extent helped to shape Caribbean identity, Asians do not have an extremely marked influence here.

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The development of musical forms such as Chutney music in Trinidad has some elements of beats and instruments native to the Asian People, however, Asian music has not successfully pervaded the Caribbean space.

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Individual Contributions of the Chinese

Games of Chance

The Chinese have brought with them a number of games of chance. Early games include a numbers game known as ‘Whe Whe’ or ‘Rakka Piu’. It was called Chinapoo and played by persons who were influenced by intuition, superstition, dreams and caprice.

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This game was assimilated into Creole life in Trinidad, with many of its terms of reference changed. Today, betting and gaming is extremely popular in countries such as Jamaica. This includes the popular Cash Pot, Lucky Five and other games promoted by Supreme Ventures Ltd.

Business Development

After emancipation, the massive movement form the Caribbean included the setting up of small businesses by the Chinese. They set up small grocery shops and variety stores where they sold products for reasonable prices and offered flexible payment options.

Since then, Chinese business has exploded in the Caribbean. Today, family names such as the Chins dominate some of the largest business in the Caribbean. Undoubtedly, this has helped to fortify the Caribbean economic situation.

The Caribbean's culture has historically been influenced by numerous cultures and traditions. Over time, elements of the cultures of the Caribbean's Asian Peoples and other immigrant populations have become incorporated into mainstream Caribbean culture, and has essentially made us who we are, one region, united by solidarity in confidence and pride.

Navito . (TCC)



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