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Coordinates: 14°31′32″N75°49′06″W / 14.52556°N 75.81833°W / 14.52556; -75.81833


Caribbean general map.png
Area239,681 km2 (92,541 sq mi)
Population44,182,048 [1] [2]
Population density151.5/km2 (392/sq mi)
Ethnic groups Afro-Caribbean, Latino or Hispanic (Spanish, Portuguese, Criollo, Mestizo, Mulatto, Pardo, and Zambo), Indian, European, Chinese, Jewish, Arab, Amerindian, Javanese, [3] Hmong, Multiracial
Religions Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Afro-American religions, Traditional African religions, Rastafari, Native American religions, Judaism, Buddhism, Chinese folk religions (incl. Confucianism and Taoism), Bahá'í, Kebatinan, Sikhism, Irreligion, others
Demonym Caribbean, West Indian
Countries 13-16
Dependencies 12
Time zones UTC−05:00 to UTC−04:00
Internet TLD Multiple
Calling code Multiple
Largest cities
UN M49 code 029 – Caribbean
419Latin America and the Caribbean

The Caribbean ( /ˌkærɪˈbən,kəˈrɪbiən/ KARR-ib-EE-ən, kə-RIB-ee-ən, locally /ˈkærɪbiæn/ KARR-ib-ee-an; [4] Spanish : el Caribe; French : les Caraïbes; Haitian Creole : Karayib; Dutch : de Caraïben) is a subregion of the Americas that consists of the Caribbean Sea and its islands (some surrounded by the Caribbean Sea [5] and some bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean); [6] the nearby coastal areas on the mainland may also be included. The region is southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and the North American mainland, east of Central America, and north of South America.

Situated largely on the Caribbean Plate, the region has more than 700 islands, islets, reefs, and cays (see the list of Caribbean islands). Island arcs delineate the northern and eastern edges of the Caribbean Sea: [7] the Greater Antilles in the north and the Lesser Antilles (which includes the Leeward Antilles) in the east and south. The nearby Lucayan Archipelago (comprising The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands) is considered to be a part of the Caribbean despite not bordering the Caribbean Sea. All the islands in the Antilles plus the Lucayan Archipelago form the West Indies, which is often interchangeable with the term Caribbean. On the mainland, Belize, Guyana, and Suriname are often included as parts of the Caribbean due to their political and cultural ties with the region. [8]

Geopolitically, the islands of the Caribbean are often regarded as a subregion of North America, though sometimes they are included in Middle America or left as a subregion of their own [9] [10] and are organized into 33 political entities, including 13 sovereign states, 12 dependencies, 1 disputed territory, and 7 other overseas territories. From December 15, 1954, to October 10, 2010, there was a territory known as the Netherlands Antilles composed of five islands, all of which were Dutch dependencies. [11] From January 3, 1958, to May 31, 1962, there was also a short-lived political union called the West Indies Federation composed of ten English-speaking Caribbean territories, all of which were then British dependencies. The West Indies cricket team continues to represent many of those nations.

Etymology and pronunciation

The region takes its name from that of the Caribs, an ethnic group present in the Lesser Antilles and parts of adjacent South America at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Americas. [12]

The two most prevalent pronunciations of "Caribbean" outside the Caribbean are /ˌkærɪˈbən/ (KARR-ə-BEE-ən), with the primary stress on the third syllable, and /kəˈrɪbiən/ (kə-RIB-ee-ən), with the stress on the second. Most authorities of the last century preferred the stress on the third syllable. [13] This is the older of the two pronunciations, but the stressed-second-syllable variant has been established for over 75 years. [14] It has been suggested that speakers of British English prefer /ˌkærɪˈbən/ (KARR-ə-BEE-ən) while North American speakers more typically use /kəˈrɪbiən/ (kə-RIB-ee-ən), [15] but major American dictionaries and other sources list the stress on the third syllable as more common in American English too. [16] [17] [18] [19] According to the American version of Oxford Online Dictionaries, the stress on the second syllable is becoming more common in UK English and is increasingly considered "by some" to be more up to date and more "correct". [20]

The Oxford Online Dictionaries claim that the stress on the second syllable is the most common pronunciation in the Caribbean itself, but according to the Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage, the most common pronunciation in Caribbean English stresses the first syllable instead, /ˈkærɪbiæn/ (KARR-ih-bee-an). [4] [20]


Map of the Caribbean CIA map of the Caribbean.png
Map of the Caribbean

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 Africa, slavery, European colonisation and the plantation system.

Countries and territories list

Flag Country or territory [21] [22] [23] Sovereignty Status Area
(km2) [24]
(2021 est.) [1] [2]
(people per km2)
Flag of Anguilla.svg Anguilla United Kingdom British overseas territory 9115,753164.8 The Valley
Flag of Antigua and Barbuda.svg Antigua and Barbuda Independent Constitutional monarchy 44293,219199.1 St. John's
Flag of Aruba.svg Aruba Kingdom of the Netherlands Constituent kingdom180106,537594.4 Oranjestad
Flag of the Bahamas.svg The Bahamas [25] Independent Constitutional monarchy 13,943407,90624.5 Nassau
Flag of Barbados.svg Barbados IndependentRepublic430287,025595.3 Bridgetown
Flag of Bonaire.svg Bonaire Netherlands Special Municipality 29420,104 [26] 41.1 Kralendijk
Flag of the British Virgin Islands.svg British Virgin Islands United Kingdom British overseas territory 15131,122152.3 Road Town
Flag of the Cayman Islands.svg Cayman Islands United Kingdom British overseas territory 26468,136212.1 George Town
Flag of Cuba.svg Cuba IndependentRepublic109,88611,256,372102.0 Havana
Flag of Curacao.svg Curaçao Kingdom of the Netherlands Constituent kingdom444190,338317.1 Willemstad
Flag of Dominica.svg Dominica IndependentRepublic75172,41289.2 Roseau
Flag of the Dominican Republic.svg Dominican Republic IndependentRepublic48,67111,117,873207.3 Santo Domingo
Federal dependencies of Venezuela's Flag.svg Federal Dependencies of Venezuela Venezuela Territories3422,1556.3 Gran Roque
Flag of Grenada.svg Grenada Independent Constitutional monarchy 344124,610302.3 St. George's
Flag of France.svg Guadeloupe France Overseas department and region of France 1,628396,051246.7 Basse-Terre
Flag of Haiti.svg Haiti IndependentRepublic27,75011,447,569361.5 Port-au-Prince
Flag of Jamaica.svg Jamaica Independent Constitutional monarchy 10,9912,827,695247.4 Kingston
Flag-of-Martinique.svg Martinique France Overseas department1,128368,796352.6 Fort-de-France
Flag of Montserrat.svg Montserrat United Kingdom British overseas territory 1024,41758.8 Plymouth (Brades) [27]
Navassa Island United States/Haiti Territory (uninhabited)500.0n/a
Flag of Nueva Esparta.svg Nueva Esparta Venezuela State1,151491,610 La Asunción
Flag of Puerto Rico.svg Puerto Rico United States Commonwealth 8,8703,256,028448.9 San Juan
Flag of Saba.svg Saba Netherlands Special municipality 131,537 [26] 118.2 The Bottom
Flag of San Andres y Providencia.svg San Andrés and Providencia Colombia Department52.575,1671431 San Andrés
Flag of France.svg Saint Barthélemy France Overseas collectivity 217,448354.7 Gustavia
Flag of Saint Kitts and Nevis.svg Saint Kitts and Nevis Independent Constitutional monarchy 26147,606199.2 Basseterre
Flag of Saint Lucia.svg Saint Lucia Independent Constitutional monarchy 539179,651319.1 Castries
Flag of France.svg Saint Martin France Overseas collectivity5429,820552.2 Marigot
Flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.svg Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Independent Constitutional monarchy 389104,332280.2 Kingstown
Flag of Sint Eustatius.svg Sint Eustatius Netherlands Special municipality 212,739 [26] 130.4 Oranjestad
Flag of Sint Maarten.svg Sint Maarten Kingdom of the Netherlands Constituent kingdom3444,0421176.7 Philipsburg
Flag of Trinidad and Tobago.svg Trinidad and Tobago IndependentRepublic5,1301,525,663261.0 Port of Spain
Flag of the Turks and Caicos Islands.svg Turks and Caicos Islands [28] United Kingdom British overseas territory 94845,11434.8 Cockburn Town
Flag of the United States Virgin Islands.svg United States Virgin Islands United States Territory347100,091317.0 Charlotte Amalie


Pre-Columbian languages of the Antilles.Ciboney Taino, Classic Taino, and Ineri were Arawakan, Karina and Yao were Cariban. Macorix, Ciguayo and Guanahatabey are unclassified. Languages of the Caribbean.png
Pre-Columbian languages of the Antilles.Ciboney Taíno, Classic Taíno, and Iñeri were Arawakan, Karina and Yao were Cariban. Macorix, Ciguayo and Guanahatabey are unclassified.

The oldest evidence of humans in the Caribbean is in southern Trinidad at Banwari Trace, where remains have been found from seven thousand years ago. These pre-ceramic sites, which belong to the Archaic (pre-ceramic) age, have been termed Ortoiroid. The earliest archaeological evidence of human settlement in Hispaniola dates to about 3600 BC, but the reliability of these finds is questioned. Consistent dates of 3100 BC appear in Cuba. The earliest dates in the Lesser Antilles are from 2000 BC in Antigua. A lack of pre-ceramic sites in the Windward Islands and differences in technology suggest that these Archaic settlers may have Central American origins. Whether an Ortoiroid colonization of the islands took place is uncertain, but there is little evidence of one.

DNA studies changed some of the traditional beliefs about pre-Columbian indigenous history. According to National Geographic, "studies confirm that a wave of pottery-making farmers—known as Ceramic Age people—set out in canoes from the northeastern coast of South America starting some 2,500 years ago and island-hopped across the Caribbean. They were not, however, the first colonizers. On many islands they encountered a foraging people who arrived some 6,000 or 7,000 years ago...The ceramicists, who are related to today's Arawak-speaking peoples, supplanted the earlier foraging inhabitants—presumably through disease or violence—as they settled new islands." [29]

Between 400 BC and 200 BC the first ceramic-using agriculturalists, the Saladoid culture, entered Trinidad from South America. They expanded up the Orinoco River to Trinidad, and then spread rapidly up the islands of the Caribbean. Some time after 250 AD another group, the Barancoid, entered Trinidad. The Barancoid society collapsed along the Orinoco around 650 AD and another group, the Arauquinoid, expanded into these areas and up the Caribbean chain. Around 1300 AD a new group, the Mayoid, entered Trinidad and remained the dominant culture until Spanish settlement.

At the time of the European discovery of most of the islands of the Caribbean, three major Amerindian indigenous peoples lived on the islands: the Taíno in the Greater Antilles, the Bahamas and the Leeward Islands, the Island Caribs and Galibi in the Windward Islands, and the Ciboney in western Cuba. The Taínos are subdivided into Classic Taínos, who occupied Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, Western Taínos, who occupied Cuba, Jamaica, and the Bahamian archipelago, and the Eastern Taínos, who occupied the Leeward Islands. Trinidad was inhabited by both Carib speaking and Arawak-speaking groups.

European Contact

Soon after Christopher Columbus came to the Caribbean, both Portuguese and Spanish explorers began claiming territories in Central and South America. These early colonies brought gold to Europe; most specifically England, the Netherlands, and France. These nations hoped to establish profitable colonies in the Caribbean. Colonial rivalries made the Caribbean a cockpit for European wars for centuries.

Columbus, and the early colonists of Hispaniola, treated the indigenous peoples brutally, even enslaving children. [30] In 1512, after pressure from Dominican friars, the Laws of Burgos were introduced by the Spanish Crown to better protect the rights of the New World natives. The Spanish used a form of slavery called the Encomienda , where slaves would be awarded to the conquistadors, who were charged with protecting and converting their slaves. This had a devastating impact on the population, [31] so starting in 1503, slaves from Africa were imported to the colony.

While early slave traders were Portuguese and Spanish, known as the First Atlantic System, by the 17th century the trade became dominated by British, French, and Dutch merchants. This was known as the Second Atlantic System. 5 million African slaves would be taken to the Caribbean, and around half would be traded to the British Caribbean islands. Slavery was abolished first in the Dutch Empire in 1814. Spain abolished slavery in its empire in 1811, with the exceptions of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Santo Domingo. Slavery was not abolished in Cuba until 1886. [32] Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807, and slavery proper in 1833. France abolished slavery in its colonies in 1848.

The Battle of the Saintes between British and French fleets in 1782, by Nicholas Pocock The Battle of the Saints, 12 April 1782 RMG BHC0444.jpg
The Battle of the Saintes between British and French fleets in 1782, by Nicholas Pocock

The Caribbean was known for pirates, especially between 1640 and 1680. The term "buccaneer" is often used to describe a pirate operating in this region. The Caribbean region was war-torn throughout much of its colonial history, but the wars were often based in Europe, with only minor battles fought in the Caribbean. Some wars, however, were born of political turmoil in the Caribbean itself.

In 1791, a slave rebellion in the French colony of Saint-Domingue led to the establishment in 1804 of Haiti, the first republic in the Caribbean. Cuba became independent in 1898 following American intervention in the War of Independence during the Spanish-American war. Following the war, Spain's last colony in the Americas, Puerto Rico, became an unincorporated territory of the United States.

Decolonisation and Modern period

Between the 1960s and 80s, most of the British holdings in the Caribbean achieved political independence, starting with Jamaica in 1962, then Trinidad and Tobago (1962), British Guiana (1966), Barbados (1966), Bahamas (1973), Grenada (1974), Dominica (1978), St. Lucia (1979), St. Vincent (1979), Antigua and Barbuda (1981), St. Kitts and Nevis (1983). Presently, the United States, Britain, France and the Netherlands still have some Caribbean possessions.

The decline of the export industries meant a need to diversify the economies of the Caribbean territories. The tourism industry started developing in the early 20th century, rapidly developing in the 1960s when regular international flights made vacations affordable and is now a $50 billion industry. Another industry that developed in the early 20th century was offshore banking and financial services, particularly in The Bahamas and the Cayman Islands, as the proximity of the Caribbean islands to North America made them an attractive location for branches of foreign banks seeking to avail themselves of more complicated regulations and higher tax rates.

US interventions

The United States has conducted military operations in the Caribbean for at least 100 years. [33]

Since the Monroe Doctrine, the United States gained a major influence on most Caribbean nations. In the early part of the 20th century this influence was extended by participation in the Banana Wars. Victory in the Spanish–American War and the signing of the Platt Amendment in 1901 ensured that the United States would have the right to interfere in Cuban political and economic affairs, militarily if necessary. After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, relations deteriorated rapidly leading to the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and successive US attempts to destabilize the island, based upon Cold War fears of the Soviet threat. The US invaded and occupied Hispaniola for 19 years (1915–34), subsequently dominating the Haitian economy through aid and loan repayments. The US invaded Haiti again in 1994 and in 2004 were accused by CARICOM of arranging a coup d'état to remove elected Haitian leader Jean-Bertrand Aristide. In 1965, 23,000 US troops were sent to the Dominican Republic to quash a local uprising against military rule (see Dominican Civil War). President Lyndon Johnson had ordered the invasion to stem what he deemed to be a "Communist threat." However, the mission appeared ambiguous and was roundly condemned throughout the hemisphere as a return to gunboat diplomacy. In 1983, the US invaded Grenada to remove populist left-wing leader Maurice Bishop. The US maintains a naval military base in Cuba at Guantanamo Bay. The base is one of five unified commands whose "area of responsibility" is Latin America and the Caribbean. The command is headquartered in Miami, Florida.

Geography and geology

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The Caribbean Plate Tectonic plates Caribbean.png

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 Aruba (possessing only minor volcanic features), Curaçao, Barbados, Bonaire, the Cayman Islands, Saint Croix, the Bahamas, and Antigua. Others possess rugged towering mountain-ranges like the islands of Saint Martin, Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Dominica, Montserrat, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Saint Kitts, Saint Lucia, Saint Thomas, Saint John, Tortola, Grenada, Saint Vincent, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Trinidad and Tobago.

Definitions of the terms Greater Antilles and Lesser Antilles often vary. The Virgin Islands as part of the Puerto Rican bank are sometimes included with the Greater Antilles. The term Lesser Antilles is often used to define an island arc that includes Grenada but excludes Trinidad and Tobago and the Leeward Antilles.

The waters of the Caribbean Sea host large, migratory schools of fish, turtles, and coral reef formations. The Puerto Rico Trench, located on the fringe of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea just to the north of the island of Puerto Rico, is the deepest point in all of the Atlantic Ocean. [34]

The region sits in the line of several major shipping routes with the Panama Canal connecting the western Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean.


Tropical monsoon climate in San Andres island, Caribbean, Colombia. Johny Cay.jpg
Tropical monsoon climate in San Andrés island, Caribbean, Colombia.
Koppen climate map of the islands of the Caribbean. Koppen-Geiger Map Caribbean present.svg
Köppen climate map of the islands of the Caribbean.

The climate of the area is tropical, varying from tropical rainforest in some areas to tropical monsoon and tropical savanna in others. There are also some locations that are arid climates with considerable drought in some years, and the peaks of mountains tend to have cooler temperate climates.

Rainfall varies with elevation, size and water currents, such as the cool upwellings that keep the ABC islands arid. Warm, moist trade winds blow consistently from the east, creating both rain forest and semi arid climates across the region. The tropical rainforest climates include lowland areas near the Caribbean Sea from Costa Rica north to Belize, as well as the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, while the more seasonal dry tropical savanna climates are found in Cuba, northern Colombia and Venezuela, and southern Yucatán, Mexico. Arid climates are found along the extreme northern coast of Venezuela out to the islands including Aruba and Curacao, as well as the northwestern tip of Yucatán.

While the region generally is sunny much of the year, the wet season from May through November sees more frequent cloud cover (both broken and overcast), while the dry season from December through April is more often clear to mostly sunny. Seasonal rainfall is divided into 'dry' and 'wet' seasons, with the latter six months of the year being wetter than the first half. The air temperature is hot much of the year, varying from 25 to 33 C (77 F to 90 F) between the wet and dry seasons. Seasonally, monthly mean temperatures vary from only about 5 C (7 F) in the northern most regions, to less than 3 C in the southernmost areas of the Caribbean.

Hurricane season is from June to November, but they occur more frequently in August and September and more common in the northern islands of the Caribbean. Hurricanes that sometimes batter the region usually strike northwards of Grenada and to the west of Barbados. The principal hurricane belt arcs to northwest of the island of Barbados in the Eastern Caribbean. A great example being recent events of Hurricane Irma devastating the island of Saint Martin during the 2017 hurricane season.

Sea surface temperatures change little annually, normally running from 30 °C (87 °F) in the warmest months to 26 °C (76 °F) in the coolest months. The air temperature is warm year round, in the 70s, 80s and 90s, and only varies from winter to summer about 2–5 degrees on the southern islands and about a 10–20 degrees difference on the northern islands of the Caribbean. The northern islands, like the Bahamas, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, may be influenced by continental masses during winter months, such as cold fronts.

Aruba: Latitude 12°N

Climate data for Oranjestad, Aruba (1981–2010, extremes 1951–2010)
Record high °C (°F)32.5
Average high °C (°F)30.0
Daily mean °C (°F)26.7
Average low °C (°F)24.5
Record low °C (°F)21.3
Average precipitation mm (inches)39.3
Source: DEPARTAMENTO METEOROLOGICO ARUBA, [35] (extremes) [36]

Puerto Rico: Latitude 18°N

Climate data for San Juan, Puerto Rico
Record high °C (°F)33
Average high °C (°F)28
Average low °C (°F)22
Record low °C (°F)16
Average precipitation mm (inches)95
Source: The National Weather Service [37]

Cuba: at Latitude 22°N

Climate data for Havana
Record high °C (°F)32.5
Average high °C (°F)25.8
Daily mean °C (°F)22.2
Average low °C (°F)18.6
Record low °C (°F)5.1
Average rainfall mm (inches)64.4
Source: World Meteorological Organisation (UN), [38] [39]
A field in Pinar del Rio planted with Cuban tobacco Tobacco field cuba1.jpg
A field in Pinar del Rio planted with Cuban tobacco
Puerto Rico's south shore, from the mountains of Jayuya Jayuya.jpg
Puerto Rico's south shore, from the mountains of Jayuya
Grand Anse beach, St. George's, Grenada Grand Anse Beach Grenada.jpg
Grand Anse beach, St. George's, Grenada
A church cemetery perched in the mountains of Guadeloupe Guadeloupe (Le cimetiere de Gourbeyre).jpg
A church cemetery perched in the mountains of Guadeloupe
A view of Nevis island from the southeastern peninsula of Saint Kitts Stkitts-view-lookingatsea.jpg
A view of Nevis island from the southeastern peninsula of Saint Kitts

Island groups

Lucayan Archipelago [lower-alpha 1]

Greater Antilles

Lesser Antilles

Historical groupings

Spanish Caribbean Islands in the American Viceroyalties 1600 Spanish Caribbean Islands in the American Viceroyalties 1600.png
Spanish Caribbean Islands in the American Viceroyalties 1600
Political evolution of Central America and the Caribbean from 1700 to present Political Evolution of Central America and the Caribbean 1700 and on.gif
Political evolution of Central America and the Caribbean from 1700 to present
The mostly Spanish-controlled Caribbean in the 18th century Political Evolution of Central America and the Caribbean 1784 na.png
The mostly Spanish-controlled Caribbean in the 18th century
The mostly Spanish-controlled Caribbean in the 16th century Caribbean spanish names.PNG
The mostly Spanish-controlled Caribbean in the 16th century

All islands at some point were, and a few still are, colonies of European nations; a few are overseas or dependent territories:

The British West Indies were united by the United Kingdom 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 matches, One Day Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals. The West Indian cricket team includes the South American nation of Guyana, the only former British colony on the mainland of 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 Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, a smaller campus in the Bahamas and Resident Tutors in other contributing territories such as Trinidad.

Continental countries with Caribbean coastlines and islands

Cayo de Agua, Los Roques Archipelago, Venezuela Clear water of Cayo de Agua - Agua cristalina de Cayo de Agua.JPG
Cayo de Agua, Los Roques Archipelago, Venezuela
Palancar Beach in Cozumel Island, Mexico Palancar Beach aerial Cozumel Mexico (21398553341).jpg
Palancar Beach in Cozumel Island, Mexico
Guanaja Island, Bay Islands, Honduras Guanaja Honduras.jpg
Guanaja Island, Bay Islands, Honduras


The Caribbean islands have one of the most diverse eco systems in the world. The animals, fungi and plants, and have been classified as one of Conservation International's biodiversity hotspots because of their exceptionally diverse terrestrial and marine ecosystems, ranging from montane cloud forests, to tropical rainforest, to cactus scrublands. The region also contains about 8% (by surface area) of the world's coral reefs [40] along with extensive seagrass meadows, [41] both of which are frequently found in the shallow marine waters bordering the island and continental coasts of the region.

For the fungi, there is a modern checklist based on nearly 90,000 records derived from specimens in reference collections, published accounts and field observations. [42] That checklist includes more than 11,250 species of fungi recorded from the region. As its authors note, the work is far from exhaustive, and it is likely that the true total number of fungal species already known from the Caribbean is higher. The true total number of fungal species occurring in the Caribbean, including species not yet recorded, is likely far higher given the generally accepted estimate that only about 7% of all fungi worldwide have been discovered. [43] Though the amount of available information is still small, a first effort has been made to estimate the number of fungal species endemic to some Caribbean islands. For Cuba, 2200 species of fungi have been tentatively identified as possible endemics of the island; [44] for Puerto Rico, the number is 789 species; [45] for the Dominican Republic, the number is 699 species; [46] for Trinidad and Tobago, the number is 407 species. [47]

Many of the ecosystems of the Caribbean islands have been devastated by deforestation, pollution, and human encroachment. The arrival of the first humans is correlated with extinction of giant owls and dwarf ground sloths. [48] The hotspot contains dozens of highly threatened animals (ranging from birds, to mammals and reptiles), fungi and plants. Examples of threatened animals include the Puerto Rican amazon, two species of solenodon (giant shrews) in Cuba and the Hispaniola island, and the Cuban crocodile.

Isla Saona.jpg
Saona Island, Dominican Republic

The region's coral reefs, which contain about 70 species of hard corals and from 500 to 700 species of reef-associated fishes [49] have undergone rapid decline in ecosystem integrity in recent years, and are considered particularly vulnerable to global warming and ocean acidification. [50] According to a UNEP report, the Caribbean coral reefs might get extinct in next 20 years due to population explosion along the coast lines, overfishing, the pollution of coastal areas and global warming. [51]

Some Caribbean islands have terrain that Europeans found suitable for cultivation for agriculture. Tobacco was an important early crop during the colonial era, but was eventually overtaken by sugarcane production as the region's staple crop. Sugar was produced from sugarcane for export to Europe. Cuba and Barbados were historically the largest producers of sugar. The tropical plantation system thus came to dominate Caribbean settlement. Other islands were found to have terrain unsuited for agriculture, for example Dominica, which remains heavily forested. The islands in the southern Lesser Antilles, Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, are extremely arid, making them unsuitable for agriculture. However, they have salt pans that were exploited by the Dutch. Sea water was pumped into shallow ponds, producing coarse salt when the water evaporated. [52]

The natural environmental diversity of the Caribbean islands has led to recent growth in eco-tourism. This type of tourism is growing on islands lacking sandy beaches and dense human populations. [53]

Plants and animals


Indigenous groups

A linen market in Dominica in the 1770s Agostino Brunias - Linen Market, Dominica - Google Art Project.jpg
A linen market in Dominica in the 1770s
Agostino Brunias. Free Women of Color with Their Children and Servants in a Landscape Brooklyn Museum Agostino Brunias. Free Women of Color with Their Children and Servants in a Landscape, ca. 1770-1796.jpg
Agostino Brunias. Free Women of Color with Their Children and Servants in a Landscape Brooklyn Museum
Asian Indians in the late nineteenth century singing and dancing in Trinidad and Tobago East Indian Coolies in Trinidad - Project Gutenberg eText 16035.jpg
Asian Indians in the late nineteenth century singing and dancing in Trinidad and Tobago
Street scene, Matanzas, Cuba Matanzas street scene 2011-07-21 Flickr.jpg
Street scene, Matanzas, Cuba

At the time of European contact, the dominant ethnic groups in the Caribbean included the Taíno of the Greater Antilles and northern Lesser Antilles, the Island Caribs of the southern Lesser Antilles, and smaller distinct groups such as the Guanajatabey of western Cuba and the Ciguayo of eastern Hispaniola. 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, social disruption and epidemic diseases such as smallpox and measles (to which they had no natural immunity) [54] led to a decline in the Amerindian population. [55] [56] such as the Kongo, Igbo, Akan, Fon and Yoruba as well as military prisoners from Ireland, who were deported during the Cromwellian reign in England.[ citation needed ] Immigrants from Britain, Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark also arrived, although the mortality rate was high for both groups. [57]

The population is estimated to have reached 2.2 million by 1800. [58] Immigrants from India, China, Indonesia, and other countries arrived in the mid-19th century as indentured servants. [59] After the ending of the Atlantic slave trade, the population increased naturally. [60] The total regional population was estimated at 37.5 million by 2000. [61]

In Haiti and most of the French, Anglophone and Dutch Caribbean, the population is predominantly of African origin; on many islands there are also significant populations of mixed racial origin (including Mulatto-Creole, Dougla, Mestizo, Quadroon, Cholo, Castizo, Criollo, Zambo, Pardo, Asian Latin Americans, Chindian, Cocoa panyols, and Eurasian), as well as populations of European ancestry: Dutch, English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish ancestry. Asians, especially those of Chinese, Indian descent, and Javanese Indonesians, form a significant minority in parts of the region. Indians form a plurality of the population in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Suriname. Most of their ancestors arrived in the 19th century as indentured laborers.

The Spanish-speaking Caribbean populations are primarily of European, African, or racially mixed origins. Puerto Rico has a European majority with a mixture of European-African-Native American (tri-racial), and a large Mulatto (European-West African) and West African minority. Cuba also has a European majority, along with a significant population of African ancestry. The Dominican Republic has the largest mixed-race population, primarily descended from Europeans, West Africans, and Amerindians.

Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago Revellers Wine at Trinidad Carnival.jpg
Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago

Jamaica has a large African majority, in addition to a significant population of mixed racial background, and has minorities of Chinese, Europeans, Indians, Latinos, Jews, and Arabs. This is a result of years of importation of slaves and indentured laborers, and migration. Most multi-racial Jamaicans refer to themselves as either mixed race or brown. Similar populations can be found in the Caricom states of Belize, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago has a multi-racial cosmopolitan society due to the arrivals of Africans, Indians, Chinese, Arabs, Jews, Latinos, and Europeans along with the native indigenous Amerindians population. This multi-racial mix of the Caribbean has created sub-ethnicities that often straddle the boundaries of major ethnicities and include Mulatto-Creole, Mestizo, Pardo, Zambo, Dougla, Chindian, Afro-Asians, Eurasian, Cocoa panyols, and Asian Latinos.


Spanish (64%), French (25%), English (14%), Dutch, Haitian Creole, and Papiamento are the predominant official languages of various countries in the region, although a handful of unique creole languages or dialects can also be found in virtually every Caribbean country. Other languages such as Caribbean Hindustani, Chinese, Javanese, Arabic, Hmong, Amerindian languages, other African languages, other European languages, and other Indian languages can also be found.


Havana Cathedral (Catholic) in Cuba completed in 1777 Kathedrale Havanna 001.jpg
Havana Cathedral (Catholic) in Cuba completed in 1777
Holy Trinity Cathedral, an Anglican Christian cathedral in Trinidad and Tobago TnT PoS Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (back view).jpg
Holy Trinity Cathedral, an Anglican Christian cathedral in Trinidad and Tobago
Temple in the Sea, a Hindu mandir in Trinidad and Tobago Waterloo Temple, Trinidad.jpg
Temple in the Sea, a Hindu mandir in Trinidad and Tobago
Muhammad Ali Jinnah Memorial Masjid, a Muslim masjid in Trinidad and Tobago TnT St. Joseph Mohammed Ali Jinnah Memorial Mosque.jpg
Muhammad Ali Jinnah Memorial Masjid, a Muslim masjid in Trinidad and Tobago
A Jewish synagogue in Suriname KITLV - 12680 - Dutch Israelite synagogue in Paramaribo - circa 1890.tif
A Jewish synagogue in Suriname
A Haitian Vodou altar Haitian vodou altar to Petwo, Rada, and Gede spirits; November 5, 2010..jpg
A Haitian Vodou altar

Christianity is the predominant religion in the Caribbean (84.7%). [62] Other religions in the region are Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Rastafari, Buddhism, Chinese folk religion (incl. Taoism and Confucianism), Bahá'í, Jainism, Sikhism, Kebatinan, Traditional African religions, Yoruba (incl. Trinidad Orisha), Afro-American religions, (incl. Santería, Palo, Umbanda, Brujería, Hoodoo, Candomblé, Quimbanda, Orisha, Xangô de Recife, Xangô do Nordeste, Comfa, Espiritismo, Santo Daime, Obeah, Candomblé, Abakuá, Kumina, Winti, Sanse, Cuban Vodú, Dominican Vudú, Louisiana Voodoo, Haitian Vodou, and Vodun).



Flag of the Caribbean Common Market and Community (CARICOM) Flag of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).svg
Flag of the Caribbean Common Market and Community (CARICOM)

Caribbean societies are very different from other Western societies in terms of size, culture, and degree of mobility of their citizens. [63] The current economic and political problems 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 and 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) [64] which is located in Guyana.

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." [65] 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 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." [66] These attempts at regionalization reflect the nations' desires to compete in the international economic system. [66]

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." [67] 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 States and European Union's allegations of special treatment toward the region by each other. [ clarification needed ]

United States–EU trade dispute

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. [68] 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. [69]

During the US/EU dispute, the United States imposed large tariffs on European Union goods (up to 100%) to pressure Europe to change the agreement with the Caribbean nations in favour of the Cotonou Agreement. [70]

Farmers in the Caribbean have complained of falling profits and rising costs as the Lomé Convention weakens. Some farmers have faced increased pressure to turn towards the cultivation of illegal drugs, which has a higher profit margin and fills the sizable demand for these illegal drugs in North America and Europe. [71] [72]

Caribbean Financial Action Task Force and Association of Caribbean States

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 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.

Bolivarian Alliance

The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez launched an economic group called the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), which several eastern Caribbean islands joined. In 2012, the nation of Haiti, with 9 million people, became the largest CARICOM nation that sought to join the union. [73] [ unreliable source? ]

Regional institutions

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


Favourite or national dishes

Doubles, one of the national dishes of Trinidad and Tobago FOOD Doubles 2.jpg
Doubles, one of the national dishes of Trinidad and Tobago
Arroz con gandules, one of the national dishes of Puerto Rico Arroz con gandules.jpg
Arroz con gandules, one of the national dishes of Puerto Rico

See also



  1. The Lucayan Archipelago is excluded from some definitions of "Caribbean" and instead classified as Atlantic; this is primarily a geological rather than cultural or environmental distinction.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of the Caribbean</span> Historical development of the Caribbean

The history of the Caribbean reveals the significant role the region played in the colonial struggles of the European powers since the 15th century. In the modern era, it remains strategically and economically important. In 1492, Christopher Columbus landed in the Caribbean and claimed the region for Spain. The following year, the first Spanish settlements were established in the Caribbean. Although the Spanish conquests of the Aztec empire and the Inca empire in the early sixteenth century made Mexico and Peru more desirable places for Spanish exploration and settlement, the Caribbean remained strategically important.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Antilles</span> Archipelago bordering the north and east of the Caribbean Sea

The Antilles is an archipelago bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the south and west, the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest, and the Atlantic Ocean to the north and east.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Greater Antilles</span> Region of the Caribbean

The Greater Antilles is a grouping of the larger islands in the Caribbean Sea, including Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands. Six island states share the region of the Greater Antilles, with Haiti and the Dominican Republic sharing the island of Hispaniola. Together with the Lesser Antilles, they make up the Antilles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Caribbean Basin</span> Region of North America

In Geography, the Caribbean Basin is generally defined as the area running from Florida westward along the Gulf coast, then south along the Mexican coast through Central America and then eastward across the northern coast of South America. This region includes the islands of the archipelago of the West Indies. Bermuda is also included within the region even though it is in the west-central Atlantic, due to its common cultural history created by European colonization of the region, and in most of the region by the presence of a significant group of African descent.

Afro-Caribbean people or African Caribbean are Caribbean people who trace their full or partial ancestry to sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of the modern African-Caribbeans descend from Africans taken as slaves to colonial Caribbean via the trans-Atlantic slave trade between the 15th and 19th centuries to work primarily on various sugar plantations and in domestic households. Other names for the ethnic group include Black Caribbean, Afro or Black West Indian or Afro or Black Antillean. The term Afro-Caribbean was not coined by Caribbean people themselves but was first used by European Americans in the late 1960s.

The West Indies rugby league team represented the Caribbean and West Indies region in the sport of rugby league football. Governed by the West Indies Rugby League Federation, the team played their only international against South Africa in 2004.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">West Indies</span> Island region of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean

The West Indies is a subregion of North America, surrounded by the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, which comprises 13 independent island countries and 18 dependencies in three archipelagos: the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles, and the Lucayan Archipelago.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United Nations geoscheme for the Americas</span> United Nations geoscheme for North America and South America

The following is an alphabetical list of countries in the United Nations geoscheme for the Americas grouped by subregion and intermediate region. Note that the continent of North America comprises the intermediate regions of the Caribbean, Central America, and Northern America.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Spanish West Indies</span> Spanish possession in the Caribbean between 1492-1898

The Spanish West Indies or the Spanish Antilles were Spanish colonies in the Caribbean. In terms of governance of the Spanish Empire, The Indies was the designation for all its overseas territories and was overseen by the Council of the Indies, founded in 1524 and based in Spain. When the Crown established the Viceroyalty of New Spain in 1535, the islands of the Caribbean came under its jurisdiction.

The Caribbean bioregion is a biogeographic region that includes the islands of the Caribbean Sea and nearby Atlantic islands, which share a fauna, flora and mycobiota distinct from surrounding bioregions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2003 Central American and Caribbean Championships in Athletics</span> International athletics championship event

The 2003 Central American and Caribbean Championships in athletics were held in St George's, Grenada, between 4–6 July 2003. It was the first time that the country had hosted the competition.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2005 Central American and Caribbean Championships in Athletics</span> International athletics championship event

The 2005 Central American and Caribbean Championships in athletics were held at the Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas, between 8–11 July 2005.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Athletics at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games</span> International athletics championship event

The athletics competition at the 2010 Central American and Caribbean Games was held at the Mayagüez Athletics Stadium in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico from July 24–30. A total of 47 events were contested, 24 by men and 23 by women, and 12 Games records were set. Also, 3 national records were set. Of the twenty-three nations that won a medal in the competition, Jamaica was the most successful, topping the table with ten golds and an overall haul of 25 medals. Mexico and Colombia were the next best performers, with seven and six golds, respectively. The hosts were fourth in the rankings with four golds and sixteen medals in all.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Languages of the Caribbean</span> Languages of the region

The languages of the Caribbean reflect the region's diverse history and culture. There are six official languages spoken in the Caribbean:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2011 Central American and Caribbean Championships in Athletics</span> International athletics championship event

The 2011 Central American and Caribbean Championships in Athletics were held in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. The event served as classifiers for the 2011 World Championships in Athletics and took place from July 15–17, 2011. It was the fourth time Puerto Rico hosted the event; the first time in Ponce in 1975, and later in San Juan in 1989 and 1997.

The following lists events that happened during 2020 in The Caribbean.

The following lists events that happened during 2021 in the Caribbean.

The following lists events that happened during 2022 in the Caribbean.


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Further reading