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136 ePiLogue e migration is no longer possible, as most countries [in Latin America ] have imposed restrictive quotas or barred foreign entry altogether . . . ; thousands of progressive Jamaicans have been hit by the depression abroad and forced to return home.”1 Writing in late 1934, N. A. Rudolf, of Hampstead, Jamaica, thus summarized the end of the West Indian immigrant experience of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many West Indians benefited from the economic opportunities provided in the banana enclaves of Honduras and neighboring Central American nations. Representing the first substantial transnational labor force in postemancipation societies, West Indians found themselves at the center of identity politics wherever they settled in Central America. Because of their race, religion, culture, and ties with U.S. interests, their social and political agenda remained outside the scope of the nation-state. West Indians were ultimately forced out of Honduras in the mid-1930s and found themselves ill-equipped for reintroduction into their own societies . In Jamaica, returning workers from abroad cluttered the restrictive job market, creating competition and labor surplus.2 West Indian children born abroad experienced difficulties adjusting to Caribbean life. The region was native to them culturally, yet foreign. In Honduras, children of West Indians born in the country acquired citizenship as a birthright. Yet their parents instilled in them the conviction that they were West Indian subjects of the British Empire. Caught between nations and cultures and confronted with a North Coast society in which race and ethnicity continued to stratify not only the Afro-descent population but the nation as a whole, the West Indian community was in constant flux. As a result, ePIloGUe 137 the migration process continued for many West Indians, with the United States and Great Britain serving as final destinations.3 Most West Indians and their descendants who left Honduras never returned. Their experiences in the country remain only as bits and pieces of family history and folklore. Those who remained in the country after the 1930s continued to depend heavily on the fruit companies for their survival and were forced to come to the realization that their status as a preferred labor force had diminished. The diplomatic pressures to hire Hondurans were successful, and West Indians were phased out of most positions within the companies. In La Ceiba, the English-speaking workers who remained with the fruit companies were Honduran citizens from the Bay Islands employed as sailors for the Standard Fruit and Steamship Company.4 Bay Islanders continued to represent the most significant English-speaking labor force within the fruit companies. Their presence represented a coming full circle for the West Indians in Honduras. Bay Islanders were some of the first employees of the banana industry and were instrumental in creating the foundation for the West Indian community that emerged on the North Coast during the early twentieth century. After the demise of the West Indian community due to their initial deportation from Honduras and the subsequent emigration of the majority of West Indians to other countries, Bay Islanders continued the rich Caribbean traditions brought initially by their ancestors and later enhanced by their Afro-Caribbean brethren in the banana enclaves. The West Indian experience in Honduras parallels the modern realities of immigrants around the world. The in-between status afforded most immigrants places them at the center of various debates. “The immigrant,” according to Ramon Grosfoguel, “is embedded in social, political, and cultural relations.”5 Grosfoguel’s interpretation of the immigrant experience is as valid for the West Indian history in Honduras during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as it is for newly emerging immigrant groups in the twenty-first century. In both cases, whether the host government ’s policy was one of active support or opposition to the immigrant group, public opinion was reluctant acceptance or discrimination. Issues of political incorporation, assimilation, acculturation, and labor continue to create fervor in societies with large immigrant and migrant populations. The Honduran government initially turned a blind eye to the affairs on the North Coast and gave economic carte blanche to the banana compa- 138 RACe, nAtIon, AnD West InDIAn IMMIGRAtIon to HonDURAs nies. Politicians viewed the development of the banana industry as beneficial to the overall development of the nation and encouraged it. The various concessions granted to foreigners did not emphasize the source of labor to be used in building the industry, and the growing West Indian presence in the banana industry was met with indifference. The masses of...


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