Caribbean: Map


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Central America and the Caribbean
[[Image:Tectonic plates Caribbean.png|thumb|200px|Detail of tectonic plates from:Tectonic plates of the world]]

The CaribbeanPronounced or . Both pronunciations are equally valid; indeed, they see equal use even within areas of the Caribbean itself. Cf. Royal Caribbean, which stresses the second syllable, and Pirates of the Caribbean, which stresses the first and third. In each case, as a proper noun, those who would normally pronounce it a different way may use the pronunciation associated with the noun when referring to it. More generic nouns such as the Caribbean Community are generally referred to using the speaker's preferred pronunciation.
; Dutch ; or more commonly Antilles is a region consisting of the Caribbean Seamarker, its islands (most of which enclose the sea), and the surrounding coasts.
The region is located southeast of the Gulf of Mexicomarker and Northern America, east of Central America, and to the north of South America.

Situated largely on the Caribbean Plate, the region comprises more than 7,000 islands, islets, reefs, and caysmarker. These islands, called the West Indies, generally form island arcs that delineate the eastern and northern edges of the Caribbean Seamarker. These islands are called the West Indies because when Christopher Columbus landed here in 1492 he believed that he had reached the Indies (in Asia).

The region consists of the Antilles, divided into the larger Greater Antilles which bound the sea on the north and the Lesser Antilles on the south and east (including the Leeward Antillesmarker), and the Bahamasmarker and the Turks and Caicos Islands, which are in fact in the Atlantic Oceanmarker north of Cubamarker, not in the Caribbean Sea.

Geo-politically, the West Indies are usually regarded as a sub-region of North America and are organized into 27 territories including sovereign state, overseas departments, and dependencies. At one time, there was a short-lived country called the Federation of the West Indies composed of ten English-speaking Caribbean territories, all of which were then UKmarker dependencies.

The region takes its name from that of the Carib, an ethnic group present in the Lesser Antilles and parts of adjacent South America at the time of European contact.


The word "Caribbean" has multiple uses. Its principal ones are geographical and political.The Caribbean can also be expanded to include territories with strong cultural and historical connections to slavery, European colonization and the plantation system.


The population of the Caribbean is estimated to have been around 750,000 immediately before European contact, although lower and higher figures are given. After contact, genocide and disease led to a decline in the Native American population. From 1500 to 1800 the population rose as slaves arrived from West Africa, such as the Kongo, Ghana Ashante, Liberia Mende, Nigeria Igbo, Yoruba and Akan, and immigrants from Britainmarker, Francemarker, Spainmarker, the Netherlandsmarker, Portugalmarker and Denmarkmarker, although the mortality rate was high for both groups. The population is estimated to have reached 2.2 million by 1800. Immigrants from Indiamarker, Chinamarker, and other countries arrived in the 19th century. After the ending of the Atlantic slave trade, the population increased naturally. The total regional population was estimated at 37.5 million by 2000.

The majority of the Caribbean has populations of mainly Africans in the French Caribbean, Anglophone Caribbean and Dutch Caribbeanmarker, there are minorities of mixed-race and European peoples of Dutch, English, French and Portuguese ancestry. Asians, especially those of Chinese and Indian descent, form a significant minority in the region and also contribute to multiracial communities. Many of their ancestors arrived in the 19th century as indentured laborers. The Spanish-speaking Caribbean have primarily mixed race, African, or European majorities. The Dominican Republicmarker has mixed majority of African, European, and Native; Puerto Rico and Cubamarker have a mixed majority of the same components; however, census racords show that many identify as white. The mixtures are those who are primarily descended from West Africans, Native American, and Spaniards; It is speculated that in many census reports, African an Indigenous populations were left out or not taken up due to a lax by government organizations. Trinidad and Tobagomarker has a multi-racial cosmopolitan society due to the arrival of the Africans, Indians, Chinese, Syrians, Lebanese and Europeans. This multi-racial mix has created sub-ethnicities that often straddle the boundaries of major ethnicities and include Chindian and Dougla.

Indigenous tribes


Spanish, English, French, Dutch, Haitian Creole and Papiamento are the predominant official languages of various countries in the region, though a handful of unique Creole languages or dialects can also be found from one country to another.


The largest religious groups in the region are: Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Rastafari, Santería, and Voodoo among others.

Geography and climate

The geography and climate in the Caribbean region varies. Some islands in the region have relatively flat terrain of non-volcanic origin. These islands include Arubamarker (possessing only minor volcanic features), Barbadosmarker, Bonairemarker, the Cayman Islandsmarker, Saint Croixmarker, The Bahamasmarker or Antiguamarker. Others possess rugged towering mountain-ranges like the islands of Cubamarker, Dominicamarker, Hispaniolamarker, Jamaicamarker, Montserratmarker, Puerto Rico, Sabamarker, Saint Kittsmarker, Saint Luciamarker, Grenadamarker, Saint Vincentmarker, Guadeloupemarker, and Trinidad & Tobagomarker.

The climate of the region is tropical but rainfall varies with elevation, size and water currents (cool upwellings keep the ABC islandsmarker arid). Warm, moist tradewinds blow consistently from the east creating rainforest/semidesert divisions on mountainous islands. Occasional northwesterlies affect the northern islands in the winter. Winters are warm, but drier.

The waters of the Caribbean Sea host large, migratory schools of fish, turtles, and coral reef formations. The Puerto Rico trenchmarker, located on the fringe of the Atlantic Oceanmarker and Caribbean Seamarker just to the north of the island of Puerto Rico, is the deepest point in all of the Atlantic Ocean.

Hurricanes, which at times batter the region, usually strike northwards of Grenadamarker, and to the west of Barbadosmarker. The principal hurricane belt arcs to northwest of the island of Barbadosmarker in the Eastern Caribbean.

The region sits in the line of several major shipping routes with the man-made Panama Canalmarker connecting the western Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Oceanmarker.

Historical groupings

Political Evolution of Central America and the Caribbean from 1700 to present
All islands at some point were, and a few still are, colonies of European nations; a few are overseas or dependent territories:

The mostly Spanish-controlled Caribbean in the sixteenth century
The British West Indies were united by the United Kingdommarker into a West Indies Federation between 1958 and 1962. The independent countries formerly part of the B.W.I. still have a joint cricket team that competes in Test match and One Day Internationals. The West Indian cricket team includes the South American nation of Guyanamarker, the only former British colony on that continent.

In addition, these countries share the University of the West Indies as a regional entity. The university consists of three main campuses in Jamaicamarker, Barbadosmarker and Trinidad and Tobagomarker, a smaller campus in the Bahamasmarker and Resident Tutors in other contributing territories.

Modern day island territories

Islands in and near the Caribbean

Continental countries with Caribbean coastlines and islands

The nations of Belizemarker and Guyanamarker, although on the mainland of Central America and South America respectively, are former British colonies and maintain many cultural ties to the Caribbean. They are members of CARICOM. Nicaraguamarker's Caribbean Coast, often referred to as the Mosquito Coast, was also a former British colony. It maintains many cultural ties to the Caribbean as distinct from the Pacific coast. Guyana participates in West Indies cricket tournaments and many players from Guyana have been on the West Indies Test cricket team. The Turneffe Islands (and many other islands and reefs) are part of Belize and lie in the Caribbean Sea. The nation of Surinamemarker, on the mainland of South America, is a former Dutch colony and also a member of CARICOM.


The Caribbean islands are classified as one of Conservation International's biodiversity hotspots because they support exceptionally diverse ecosystems, ranging from montane cloud forests to cactus scrublands. These ecosystems have been devastated by deforestation and human encroachment. The arrival of the first humans is correlated with extinction of giant owls and dwarf ground sloths. The hotspot contains dozens of highly threatened species, ranging from birds, to mammals and reptiles. Popular examples include the Puerto Rican Amazon, two species of solenodon (giant shrews) in Cubamarker and Haitimarker, and the Cuban crocodile. The hotspot is also remarkable for the decimation of its fauna.



Caribbean societies are very different from other western societies in terms of size, culture, and degree of mobility of their citizens. The current economic and political problems which the states face individually are common to all Caribbean states. Regional development has contributed to attempts to subdue current problems and avoid projected problems. From a political economic perspective, regionalism serves to make Caribbean states active participants in current international affairs through collective coalitions. In 1973, the first political regionalism in the Caribbean Basin was created by advances of the English-speaking Caribbean nations through the institution known as the Caribbean Common Market and Community (CARICOM).

Certain scholars have argued both for and against generalizing the political structures of the Caribbean. On the one hand the Caribbean states are politically diverse, ranging from communist systems such as Cuba toward more capitalist Westminster-style parliamentary systems as in the Commonwealth Caribbean. Other scholars argue that these differences are superficial, and that they tend to undermine commonalities in the various Caribbean states. Contemporary Caribbean systems seem to reflect a “blending of traditional and modern patterns, yielding hybrid systems that exhibit significant structural variations and divergent constitutional traditions yet ultimately appear to function in similar ways.” The political systems of the Caribbean states share similar practices.

The influence of regionalism in the Caribbean is often marginalized. Some scholars believe that regionalism cannot not exist in the Caribbean because each small state is unique. On the other hand, scholars also suggest that there are commonalities amongst the Caribbean nations that suggest regionalism exists. “Proximity as well as historical ties among the Caribbean nations has led to cooperation as well as a desire for collective action.” These attempts at regionalization reflect the nations' desires to compete in the international economic system.

Furthermore, a lack of interest from other major states promoted regionalism in the region. In recent years the Caribbean has suffered from a lack of U.S. interest. “With the end of the Cold War, U.S. security and economic interests have been focused on other areas. As a result there has been a significant reduction in U.S. aid and investment to the Caribbean.” The lack of international support for these small, relatively poor states, helped regionalism prosper.

Following the Cold War another issue of importance in the Caribbean has been the reduced economic growth of some Caribbean States due to the United Statesmarker and European Union's allegations of special treatment toward the region by each other.

United States effects on regionalism

The United States under President Bill Clinton launched a challenge in the World Trade Organization against the EU over Europe's preferential program, known as the Lomé Convention, which allowed banana exports from the former colonies of the Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP) to enter Europe cheaply. The World Trade Organization sided in the United States' favour and the beneficial elements of the convention to African, Caribbean and Pacific states has been partially dismantled and replaced by the Cotonou Agreement.

During the US/EU dispute the United States imposed large tariffs on European Union goods (up to 100% on some imports) from the EU in order to pressure Europe to change the agreement with the Caribbean nations in favour of the Cotonou Agreement.

Farmers in the Caribbean have complained of their falling profits and rising costs. Americas St Vincent hit by banana war]

European Union effects on regionalism

The European Union has also taken issue with US based taxation extended to US companies via the Caribbean countries. The EU instituted a broad labeling of many nations as tax havens by the France-based OECD. The United States has not been in favor of shutting off the practice yet, mainly due to the higher costs that would be passed on to US companies via taxation. Caribbean countries have largely countered the allegations by the OECD by signing more bilateral information sharing deals with OECD members, thus reducing the dangerous aspects of secrecy, and they have strengthened their legislation against money laundering and on the conditions under which companies can be based in their nations. The Caribbean nations have also started to more closely cooperate in the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force and other instruments to add oversight of the offshore industry.

One of the most important associations that deal with regionalism amongst the nations of the Caribbean Basin has been the Association of Caribbean States (ACS). Proposed by CARICOM in 1992, the ACS soon won the support of the other countries of the region. It was founded in July 1994. The ACS maintains regionalism within the Caribbean on issues which are unique to the Caribbean Basin. Through coalition building, like the ACS and CARICOM, regionalism has become an undeniable part of the politics and economics of the Caribbean. The successes of region-building initiatives are still debated by scholars, yet regionalism remains prevalent throughout the Caribbean.

Regional institutions

Here are some of the bodies that several islands share in collaboration:



Favorite or National dishes

See also


"Diversity Amid Globalization" 4th edition. Rowntree, Lewis, Price, Wyckoff.

Further reading

  • Develtere, Patrick. 1994. "Co-operation and development: With special reference to the experience of the Commonwealth Caribbean" ACCO, ISBN 9033431815
  • Gowricharn, Ruben. Caribbean Transnationalism: Migraton, Pluralization, and Social Cohesion. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2006.
  • Henke, Holger, and Fred Reno, eds. Modern Political Culture in the Caribbean. Kingston: University of West Indies Press, 2003.
  • Heuman, Gad. The Caribbean: Brief Histories. London: A Hodder Arnold Publication, 2006
  • Hillman, Richard S., and Thomas J. D'agostino, eds. Understanding the Contemporary Caribbean. London: Lynne Rienner, 2003.
  • de Kadt, Emanuel, (editor). Patterns of foreign influence in the Caribbean, Oxford University Press, 1972
  • Knight, Franklin W.. The Modern Caribbean. na: The University of North Carolina Press, 1989.
  • Kurlansky, Mark. 1992. A Continent of Islands: Searching for the Caribbean Destiny. Addison-Wesley Publishing. ISBN 0201523965
  • Langley, Lester D. The United States and the Caribbean in the Twentieth Century. London: University of Georgia Press, 1989.
  • Maingot, Anthony P. The United States and the Caribbean: Challenges of an Asymmetrical Relationship. Westview P, 1994.
  • Ramnarine, Tina K., "Beautiful Cosmos: Performance and Belonging in the Caribbean Diaspora". London, Pluto Press, 2007
  • Serbin, Andres. "Towards an Association of Caribbean States: Raising Some Awkward Questions." Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs (2004): 1-19. (This scholar has many articles referencing the politics of the Caribbean)

External links

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