The bittersweet legacy of British post colonialism in the Caribbean

Mark Viales


By Mark Viales in Belize

The brutal transatlantic slave trade brought on by imperialist nations between the 15th and 19th centuries displaced indigenous communities, replacing them with captives in chains.

In the changing winds of a colonial power-struggle, where borders and identities swayed chaotically, communities of former British Afro-Caribbean slaves and maroons established themselves along the east coast of Central America.

Carved up colonies eventually gained independence or were duly attached to neighbouring territories, but many English-speaking Afro-Caribs in Central America regret the loss of British leadership.


The UK maintained control over British Honduras (Belize and the Bay Islands) until 1981 and 1859 respectively, and influence over the lives of Afro-Caribs remains, despite encroachment from Hispanic societies.

Although colonial Britain was largely self-serving and sought to sow seeds in the Caribbean to fund its expanding empire, local communities today appreciate the advancements made under the British flag in infrastructure, education and overall economy.

Funds from the bottomless dried up and an efficient administration collapsed when the British set sail and the replacing power were cut from the same resources.

The two former territories saw their coffers drain and were drawn into the same economic instability and corruption suffered by neighbouring impoverished Central America countries.

But still a shred of Britishness is tied to the people, and in the case of Belize, she is still part of the Commonwealth, while the Bay Islands hold ambitions to join.

Gibraltar, still a British territory, is a pillar of growth in an otherwise barren financial landscape, attracting workers from the desert so that they can water their surrounding pastures.

This exponential yield under the British Crown has generated prosperity, and assurances that the Union Jack remains thoroughly fastened on the fortress will secure the Rock’s future.


This series compares some of the concerns shared by Gibraltar and English-speaking Afro-Caribs, who are a shadow of their socio-economic selves in post-British colonialism.

The Rock is constantly under siege by Spain in new and creative forms that create division in the surrounding area, but what if Spain had more power?

In the case of Belize and the Bay Islands, most nationals would tell you that the change of hands was disastrous and perhaps this could mirror a nightmarish future for the Rock should she ever fall into Spanish hands.