The Caribbean is a collection of islands and seas located to the north of South America and to the east of Mexico. Although this may not be apparent on a globe or world map, there are over 7,000 islands, reefs and other land masses that comprise this fascinating part of the world. These islands formerly went by the name of the West Indies and the story goes that Christopher Columbus had discovered the Indies whilst landing his ship in the Caribbean during 1492. Caribbean history has an intriguing story to match such magnificent islands.
What Makes Up the Caribbean?
The Caribbean itself is divided into two different areas. One is called the Antilles, which is again split into the Greater and Lesser Antilles. The other half is known as the Bahamas which are actually found in the Atlantic ocean.
In terms of their official arrangement, the Caribbean islands are considered to be a part of North America and 27 islands and locations are recognized as constituting the Caribbean islands. Most of these are overseas departments although some are dependencies, retaining a slight level of freedom.
Early Caribbean Inhabitants
If you were wondering why the Caribbean has such a name then allow me to shed some light: the Caribbean gets its name from an ethnic group known as the Carib who inhabit the Antilles.
The Caribbean is home to around 40 million people, although this has been largely dependent upon European influences. This 40 million comprises people from all over the globe and the islands are very enriched indeed. There are Indian, Chinese, British and French links; as well as hints of many other cultures across the globe that have helped to shape the demographics of the Caribbean.
In terms of language, this influx of immigrants has left the islands with a vast array of languages. The main ones are English, Spanish, French and Dutch, although a few Creole languages can be found here as well.
Every one of the islands that make up the Caribbean were at one stage a colony of a European empire. Some of them retain this status although the majority have now achieved independence. Typically this came about after the collapse of the slave trade. French Guinea is one such example of a Caribbean island that is still an overseas territory belonging to a European nation.
Due to this level of colonization amongst European countries, many of the islands have remained incredibly separate and their history in this area has meant their participation in international affairs is really quite limited.
The Caribbean history of these islands is so diverse that they are often completely different in a modern sense. Apart from their climate, very little remains constant from island to island. They all have different cultural aspects to demonstrate and very different cuisines.
Caribbean Geography & Landscape
On a more physical sense, the Caribbean has a very wide range of climate and geography. Some islands are very flat and possess very few striking features. Others have many more volcanoes and huge bays. The climate in the Caribbean is tropical to sub-tropical, as the islands lie close to the equator. The biodiversity that can be found in this area is absolutely phenomenal and the islands present nature's beauty at its very finest.
The Caribbean islands represent a hugely diverse history and this goes a long way into explaining their immense level of modern diversity. The huge collection of islands remain, however, incredibly interesting and a huge tourist pull. Caribbean history is as interesting as their wildlife and population and equally as diverse. The background of this fantastic place is truly remarkable and every island has its own story to tell.