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Caribbean Culture

The Caribbean is a hard to define geographical area. To some, it is clearly made up of the chain of islands that stretch from just below Florida in the North all the way to just above Venezuela to the south. Then there are other definitions which include South and Central American nations such as Guyana, Suriname and Belize. Due to these wide and variable boundaries, the culture of this region shows many different origins.


Just as with the Americas, the islands were occupied by indigenous peoples for millenia before they were set foot on by Europeans. Their numbers were decimated by their encounters with the Spaniard so that very few of the current residents of this chain of islands have any indigenous blood. Their legacy lives on in some of the foods that are still eaten and crops that are regularly grown.


The alternate name, West Indies, comes from the misconception of Spanish Explorer, Christopher Columbus that he had arrived in India as planned. Having been settled by Spanish explorers at some point or another, most of these countries still retain elements of that culture. There are people who are the descendants of those settlers and carry their surnames. There are even religious festivals that mirror Spanish ones that continue to be celebrated to this day.


The ethnic composition of the majority of West Indian nationals is African. This is due to the Trans Atlantic Slave trade. Millions of African people were kidnapped and forcibly brought to the Caribbean to work on plantations in slavery. While the working conditions were terrible, successive trips by slave ships eventually led the African population being to sustain itself without new voyages. They are responsible for much of the musical fusions that are popular as well as the religious traditions. Just as Candomble flourished in Brazil, Haiti has voudon and other islands have practitioners of Ife.


Sometime after slavery was abolished, indentured laborers were brought from India to work the fields. Many were tricked into arriving with false promises but they eventually became incorporated into the societies. This system was not universally adopted so not all islands have large Indian populations. They have greatly influenced food and business structures.

As time passed more immigration took place such that the cultural landscape of that region became more and more diverse. There continue to be new waves of migrants in keeping with the increase in globalization.