Power Plays Hit Hard: Economic Imbalances Caused the Violence in our History and in our Headlines

SALLY J. DELGADO, UPR Departamento de Inglés



Sally J. Delgado is a doctoral candidate of linguistics and an adjunct professor of the English Department of the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus. Her interests lie in historical linguistics, and specifically dialectology and the language contact situations of the early Caribbean.  Her most recent research on maritime communities in the early colonial Caribbean forms the basis of her doctoral thesis.



This paper proposes that violence results from power imbalances, and that furthermore this is historically the case despite the focus we tend to give biological, racial, and cultural distinctions in contemporary debates about violent conflict. It is motivated by the recognition of endemic tensions both in the Caribbean and the United States and the need to address these tensions in the educational system in a way that focuses on how they arise rather than the superficial distinctions that dominate media headlines. Violence in maritime communities of the early colonial Caribbean is presented as a complimentary model to the more widely-know plantation context in which issues of slavery, and therefore implicitly of race, often dominate educational materials. Early colonial documentation such as logbooks, witness testimony, letters, petitions, and legislation show that endemic violence in maritime communities was both individual and institutional, with both physical and emotional manifestations. However, all forms of violence were in some way related to authority and power. For example: disciplinary measures; military maneuvers; destruction or appropriation of personal or state property; withholding wages, food, or water; forced labor; and mutiny. These manifestations of violence were used either to keep or to challenge authority in some way and are presented in this paper an educational tool to encourage conversations about violence that focus on how individual and institutional conflict derives from economic domination. The author, a doctoral candidate in the dissertation stages of her research, is also a certified teacher with 15 years experience including curriculum planning.