Tag Archives: st croix

Virgin Islands History: An 18th Century Alternative to Slavery

Cinnamon Bay Sugar Mill
Cinnamon Bay Sugar Factory (Photo by Dean Hulse)

An 18th century plan to end slavery in the Danish West Indies (now the US Virgin Islands)

In the late 18th Century, Dr. Paul Erdmann Isert, proposed a plan that would effectively have ended slavery in the Danish West Indies and probably in the entire Caribbean. At the verge of being adopted by the Danish King, the plan was thwarted by a conspiracy based on St. Croix that resulted in the assassination of Dr. Isert. Read Article

St. John Events Tonight Saturday 03/16

Gifft Hill School Auction
The 27th Annual Gifft Hill School Auction will be held at the Westin St. John Resort & Villas

See Full Events Schedule

Chocolate Hole DawnSt. John Weather

Another beautiful dawn, promising to be another beautiful day
The High Surf Advisory has been discontinued
Clear in the morning, then partly cloudy with rain showers
High of 79F
Winds from the ENE at 10 to 15 mph
Chance of rain 20%
Sunset: 6:29 PM AST
Water Temperature 82.9 degrees F

St. John Live Music Schedule

Beach Bar
Dave Gerrard

Mikey P 9:00
Dance Party 11:00

Cruz Bay Prime
Mike Wallace
7:00 – 10:00
693 -8000

Miss Lucy’s
David Reed
6:00 – 9:00

Morgan’s Mango
6:00 – 9:30

Ocean Grill
Rascio on Steel Pan
6:00 – 9:30

7:00 – 10:00

Skinny Legs
Hot Club of Coral Bay
779 4982

See Weekly Schedule

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St. John Happenings: “The Real World” to be Filmed in The VI

MTV’s raunchy, sexy reality show, The Real World, will be filmed entirely in the Virgin Islands. St 27th season, titled The Real World: St. Thomas, will be based on Hassell Island and filmed mostly on St. Thomas, but segments shot on St. Croix, St. John and Water Island will also be included. The show is scheduled to premier this summer.

Former Paiewonsky Residence

The theme of the show are the recorded activities and interpersonal relationships of seven strangers who will live together in a house for several months.

In this season’s The Real World: St. Thomas, the house chosen is rumored to be the former Paiewonsky residence on Hassel Island now owned by St. Thomas businessman, Ricardo Charaf.

according to co-creator and executive producer, Jon Murray, St. Thomas would be a “perfect environment for this year’s seven strangers to get to know each other and figure out their lives…”

St. Thomas Commissioner of Tourism, Beverly Nicholson-Doty was happy with the producer’s decision to choose the US Virgin Islands as the venue for the Real World’s upcoming season and issued the statement that: “As a U.S. Territory, the U.S. Virgin Islands is an excellent choice for Season 27 of The Real World. The roommates, and MTV’s viewers, get to experience the splendor of the Caribbean lifestyle, while MTV’s production expenditure is reinvested into U.S. economy…. Viewers of the show will get an opportunity not only to see the roommates settle into their new lives on St. Thomas, but also to follow their cultural experiences across the other islands that comprise the USVI – St. Croix, St. John and ‘the fourth Virgin’ – Water Island.”

St. John Live Music Schedule for tonight, Friday, March 2

Aqua Bistro – Mark Wallace & Rich Greengold – 5:30 – 8:30 – 776-5336
Beach Bar – The Gomorrans, Social Aid & Pleasure Club – 9:00 – 777-4220
Castaways – Mikey P – 9:00 – 777-3316
Driftwood Dave’s – John W Lee – 7:00 – 10:00 – 777-4015
Miss Lucy’s – David Reed – 6:00 – 9:00 – 693-5354
Morgan’s Mango – Lauren – 6:00 – 9:30 – 693-8141
Ocean Grill – T-Bird – 6:30 – 9:00 – 693-3304
Shipwreck Landing – Woody Lissauer – 6:00 – 9:30

See the weekly St. John live music schedule

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Virgin Islands Stories: Dr. Paul Erdmann Isert

Labor and the Plantation Economy of the West Indies
Failing to find gold, the Europeans who originally came to the West Indies endeavored to make their fortunes as masters of plantations exporting sugar and other valuable tropical products. However, these West Indian plantations would require a great number of low paid laborers.

As other Europeans would not consider relocating to this hot and unhealthy part of the world, working long hours (from sunup to sundown) all to be paid an abysmally low wage, the answer to this labor problem was to procure enslaved workers, who would have no choice in the matter.

As a result, Africans, captured by slave traders, were chained and shackled, and brought to European slave-processing stations on the west coast of Africa. These unfortunates were then crammed into slave ships under the most horrible conditions imaginable, and transported across thousands of miles of ocean to labor in a strange land controlled by cruel and barbaric overseers.

Dr. Paul Erdmann Isert
Dr. Paul Erdmann Isert, a German national who had studied and lived in Denmark, came to the west coast of Africa in 1783. He was appointed Chief Surgeon at the fortified Danish settlement of Christianborg, which today would be in the nation of Ghana. He obtained this position even though he was very young, because it was a job no one wanted.

After a few years in Christianborg, Isert signed on as a physician aboard a slave ship, where he observed first hand a glimpse of the horrifying reality of what had become a large and lucrative ongoing business .

Inherent Stupidity of the System and a Reasonable Alternative
Sickened by the horror and human misery he saw, both in the slave-processing bins of Christianborg and aboard the ship, Isert came up with an alternative. The use of enslaved laborers on West Indian colonial plantations, Isert reasoned, was not only inhumane, cruel and immoral, but also absurdly stupid.

In a letter sent from St. Croix in 1787 to his father, Isert asked these questions:

“Why did our forefathers not have the sense to found plantations right there on the fertile continent of Africa; plantations for sugar, coffee, cacao, cotton and other articles that had become so necessary in Europe?

“Had we gone to Africa with the leaf of the olive tree in our hands rather than weapons of murder, willingly would the natives have given us access to the best and most fertile parts of their lands, areas which for untold years had been lying desolate. Why was not our approach more Christian, more intelligent and humane? Why?

“These African people would have helped us in freedom and, for low wages would have given us greatness and riches with no offense against nature, or our personal and national consciences.

“Why did we have to uproot vast numbers of people from their homelands, subject them to agony, torture, humiliation, and death; transplant them to alien continents, Caribbean islands, big and small? Why?”

Friends in High Places
Isert wanted to demonstrate that the establishment of working plantations on the continent of Africa could be practical and profitable. To this end, he enlisted the aid of Ernest Schimmelmann who was then the Danish Minister of Finance.

Schimmelmann, a well-known and well-off liberal, who was instrumental in the passage of the law ending the Danish Atlantic slave trade, agreed to finance Isert’s endeavor.

Isert also had an important ally in Africa, the Asante king, Osei Kwame. The two had become friends after Dr. Isert had treated an cured the king’s ailing sister.

Isert sailed to Africa in the summer of 1788 and established a plantation at the base of the Awapim Mountains, purchasing the land from Osei Kwame, on behalf of the king of Denmark.

With the help of Osei Kwame, who shared Isert’s enthusiasm about the plan, paid workers cleared the land and began cultivation of sugar and coffee.

On January 16, 1789, Isert wrote a report for the King of Denmark in which he expressed the fine initial success that he was enjoying.

Enemies in High Places
On January 21, 1789, just five days after writing the report, Dr. Isert was found dead on his African plantation reportedly a victim of a tropical fever.

Other information that surfaced later indicated, however, that he had been murdered in a conspiracy that was instigated by European financiers of the slave trade and powerful plantation owners on St. Croix in the Danish West Indies. Isert’s actual assassination was said to have been carried out by corrupt government officials at Christianborg and their henchmen.

Project Abandoned
After Isert’s death, the African plantation project was abandoned.

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St. John USVI History: Cannibalism in the Caribbean

Anyone familiar with the Caribbean has certainly heard lurid tales about the fearsome natives of the Lesser Antilles, the Caribs. They have been described as bloodthirsty savages; cannibals who attacked the peace-loving Tainos, killing the men, kidnapping the women, and capturing young boys who were kept in pens to be castrated, fattened and eaten. The very word “cannibal” comes from “Caribal,” referring to the Carib tribe.

Who are these people, and what is behind the Carib myth?

The Carib’s savage reputation preceded actual European contact. Columbus first learned about them from the Lucayos, the Tainos of the Bahamas, whom he encountered on his first voyage. According to the Lucayos, a fierce and warlike people ruled many islands to the east.

Peter Martyr, who interviewed sailors returning from the first transatlantic voyages, documented: “The Caribs emasculated the boys whom they seized and those who were born of the captives, fed them fat and, at their festivals, and devoured them.”

Columbus did not personally encounter the Caribs until his second voyage, when the fleet came ashore on the island of Guadeloupe. Entering the Caribs’ homes, shore parties found “man’s flesh, duck’s flesh and goose flesh, all in one pot, and others on the spits ready to be laid to the fire. Entering into their inner lodgings, they found faggots of the bones of men’s arms and legs, which they reserve to head arrows, because they lack iron; the other bones they cast away when they have eaten the flesh. They found likewise the head of a young  man, fastened to a post, and yet bleeding and drinking vessels made of skulls,” wrote Martyr.

On Guadeloupe, Columbus found six women, two children and a young man – Tainos from Boriken (Puerto Rico) – who had been captured by the Caribs. According to Columbus’s son Ferdinand, the Tainos begged the Spaniards to help them escape. “They elected to give themselves over to an unknown people so alien to their own, rather than remain amongst those who were so manifestly horrible and cruel and who had eaten their husbands and children.”

On his next stop, which was St. Croix, Columbus rescued more Taino captives. “Two slaves had so recently been castrated that they were still sore,” reported the leader of the St. Croix shore party, Michele de Cuneo.

Later on, rumors and tall tales of cannibalism circulated throughout the West Indies.

“The Caribbeans [Caribs] have tasted of all the nations that frequented them, and affirm that the French are the most   delicate, and the Spaniards are hardest of digestion,” reads a passage in the book, History of the Carribby Islands.

A Frenchman named Laborde reported that he had had occasion to speak with a Carib whom he encountered on the island of St. Vincent eating a boiled human foot. The Carib explained to Laborde that he ate only Arawaks [Tainos] because “Christians gave him the belly-ache.”

On a similar note, there is the story that was told around the Caribbean of a Carib tribe in Dominica that became so ill, upon eating a Franciscan friar, that they vowed never to eat that variety of European again.

Knowing about this, when a crew of Spaniards sailing past Dominica needed to come ashore to reprovision, they shaved the head of a sailor like a Franciscan monk, put him in a gunny sack, tied a rope around his waist and sent him safely on his way. The Caribs, fearing indigestion, gave him a wide berth.

Tales such as these inspired Daniel Defoe’s famous novel, Robinson Crusoe, which supposedly took place on the island of Tobago. Crusoe’s “Man Friday” was an Arawak who had been captured in a raid. He had escaped and was hiding from the Caribs when Crusoe found him.

In all probability, these accounts of the Caribs’ taste for human flesh were exaggerated. The Caribs did not hunt humans for the purpose of providing food for their tribe. What they did was practice ritual cannibalism: They ate people or body parts ceremonially in order to absorb their spiritual and physical powers.

Certain human parts, such as the testicles, were considered to be especially empowering. Having nothing comparable to this in their own culture, Europeans jumped to the conclusion that the Caribs ate people for sustenance.

When they observed the two recently castrated captives in  St. Croix,* they again explained the phenomenon through the experience of their own culture, in which food animals were tenderized and fattened in this manner.

The European fascination with cannibalism had another unexpected result. At the time of the discovery of the New World, the Caribs were far fewer in number, inhabited far less territory, and had a less-advanced culture than the Tainos. Nonetheless, this preoccupation with the consumption of human beings was responsible, to a great extent, for the fact that the islands of the West Indies and the sea that they define were ultimately named the Caribbean.

More importantly, the European revulsion of cannibalism was used as propaganda to justify the enslavement of the native islanders. In many cases, when laws were passed to protect the Tainos, slavers simply reclassified their captives as Caribs.

* My research shows that the island in question was in fact St. Martin, not St. Croix…read article
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Caribbean Life: Obeah Courtroom Cases

On St. John as well as the other Virgin Islands and, for that matter, virtually all of the Caribbean islands, the occult sciences of Obeah, Voodoo, and their equivalents form a part of Caribbean culture even in these modern, high-tech and sophisticated times.

St. Croix, US Virgin Islands
For example, during the highly publicized trial of the Fountain Valley Five on St. Croix, a large dead frog whose mouth was sealed shut with a padlock was found in the courtroom at the start of the trial. It was clearly obeah,  and the message was also clear, “keep your mouth shut.”

Under orders from the judge, the obeah curse was to be neutralized. An expert in removing spells was consulted and a remedy was provided. The court security was instructed to carry the frog to the beach, turn his back to the sea, listen for the sound of three waves and then to throw the frog over his back into the ocean.

The deed done, the trial was able to continue.

In Antigua a couple who were under investigation for an insurance scam hired an Obeahman to place a death spell on the detectives investigating the case and the insurance official who would be testifying against them.

The Dominican obeahman, described as a “41-year old burly black man with plaited hair fashioned three dolls, placed them in little coffins with graveyard dirt and sent them to the homes of the intended victims. The obeahman was identified, arrested and fined. He also turned over the names of the couple who hired him and agreed to testify against them.

Nothing happened, no one died or took ill, but the alleged conspirators were arrested and the court took their attempt at obeah seriously. Their intent was clear, although the means was questionable – to cause the death of their three enemies. The couple, who ordered the delivery of the death spells were charged with nothing less than conspiracy to murder.

Read the newspaper articles.

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