Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What the Modern World Owes Slavery

At this time when all the talk in Sri Lanka is about human rights violations, it may
be also the time to look at slavery and its economic gains for the west.

Haitian slaves began to throw off the “heel of the French” in 1791, when they rose up and, after bitter years of fighting, eventually declared themselves free. Their French masters, however, refused to accept Haitian independence. The island, after all, had been an extremely profitable sugar producer, and so Paris offered Haiti a choice: compensate slave owners for lost property — their slaves (that is, themselves) — or face its imperial wrath. The fledgling nation was forced to finance this payout with usurious loans from French banks. As late as 1940, 80% of the government budget was still going to service this debt.

Corps of doctors tended to slave ports up and down the Atlantic seaboard. ..... Priceless epidemiological information on a range of diseases — malaria, smallpox, yellow fever, dysentery, typhoid, cholera, and so on — was gleaned from the bodies of the dying and the dead.

Enslaved Africans and African Americans slaughtered cattle and sheared wool on the pampas of Argentina, spun cotton and wove clothing in textile workshops in Mexico City, and planted coffee in the mountains outside Bogotá. They fermented grapes for wine at the foot of the Andes and boiled Peruvian sugar to make candy. In Guayaquil, Ecuador, enslaved shipwrights built cargo vessels that were used for carrying more slaves from Africa to Montevideo. Throughout the thriving cities of mainland Spanish America, slaves worked, often for wages, as laborers, bakers, brick makers, liverymen, cobblers, carpenters, tanners, smiths, rag pickers, cooks, and servants.

Slavery, as the historian Lorenzo Green argued half a century ago, “formed the very basis of the economic life of New England: about it revolved, and on it depended, most of her other industries.” Fathers grew wealthy building slave ships or selling fish, clothing, and shoes to slave islands in the Caribbean; when they died, they left their money to sons who “built factories, chartered banks, incorporated canal and railroad enterprises, invested in government securities, and speculated in new financial instruments.”  In due course, they donated to build libraries, lecture halls, botanical gardens, and universities, as Craig Steven Wilder has revealed in his new book, Ebony and Ivy.

Even the tony clothier, Brooks Brothers (founded in New York in 1818), got its start selling coarse slave clothing to southern plantations.  It now describes itself as an “institution that has shaped the American style of dress.”

More at

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Trip to Palugasturai (in Wilpattu) Wadiya Church

Approaching Palugasthurai
Palugasthurai (Palugahaturai) is a fishing outpost (wadiya) on the coast within Wilpattu National Park, a few km south of Kudiramalai and Pookulam.   Kudiramalai is considered to be where Vijaya landed.  Pookulam is another fishing outpost (wadiya) on the coast within Wilpattu National Park.

Interestingly all these fishing wadiyas are referred to as "Dupath" (Islands).  Apparently till the Navy camps were built at these locations, there was no access to the Wadiyas by road, only by boat.   Even now most transport of provisions, fuel and fish catch is by boat.

Left at 9:00 am for the Palugasthurai Church Festival at 9:00 am from Wilpattu House in a Mahindra three wheeler.   Just a few km from Pallekande church, got startled by a lone elephant who was in the scrub jungle right by the road.  I am not sure who was more startled, us or the elephant.  Just accelerated as fast as possible regardless of the pot holes and ruts.

The Church
At Periya Villu saw a herd of about 12 elephants.  Camera phone was not good enough to get a photo.

The turn off to Palugasthurai is a very sandy road and we had to push the three wheeler a couple of times because it sunk in the sand.  Arrived at the wadiya around 10:30 am.   Beautiful location, miles of lonely sandy beaches. Too bad access is bad.

Returned at around 1:00 pm. Uneventful except for seeing that the Elephant herd had moved towards th North of Periya Villu.

Facing North.  The headland in the North is Kudiramalai