Carribean Trips

The Caribbean

The Caribbean

From a physiogeographical perspective, the Caribbean comprises the chain of islands surrounding the Caribbean Sea, including those belonging to coastal mainland territories like Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico and Costa Rica. Politically, however, the term ‘Caribbean’ may be used to refer to all countries belonging to any particular Caribbean organisation such as CARICOM and the Association of Caribbean States, which includes countries both in the chain of Caribbean islands and main land Hispanic countries.

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To refer to the chain of Caribbean islands lying in the Caribbean Sea, the term West Indies is usually used. The West Indies is a general term, but to specify a certain group of islands, is subdivided into the English West Indies and French West Indies and the Netherland Antilles. These three Caribbean subdivisions consist of English, French and Dutch speaking islands respectively. Alternatively, Caribbean islands are also identified as ‘the Antilles’, ‘les Antilles’, ‘las Antillas’ and ‘de Antillen’ in the English, French, Spanish and Dutch equivalents of the word ‘West Indies’. The use of the term Antilles, though, leads to further geographical divisions, namely the ‘Greater Antilles’ and the ‘Lesser Antilles’ which in essence are categories given to the islands located in the north and west, and the southeastern Caribbean respectively. In the Greater Antilles, one would thus find Caribbean islands such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic located on the island of Hispaniola. The Caribbean concept of Greater Antilles is at times loosely used to refer to ‘size’ rather than ‘geographical location’ due to the fact that most islands of the Greater Antilles are much larger than those of the Lesser Antilles; sometimes leading to the inclusion of Trinidad and Tobago, the most southerly in the chain of English speaking islands by some authors.

The islands of the Caribbean are quickly identified for their tropical climate, beaches, simple lifestyle and beaches. These traits have lead persons from all over the world to visit the Caribbean for vacation, making the Caribbean a leading and popular tourist destination. Europeans generally felt a certain degree of affinity to the islands due to the islands’ historical backgrounds as colonies of France, Britain, Holland and Spain. Not only were the laws and political systems familiar but language barriers were virtually inexistent, as the language spoke in these countries would be either French, Dutch, Spanish or English depending on language spoken by the European nation that held claim to the island.

Today, most Caribbean countries are independent nations, although there are still a few Dependent Territories of Britain such as Anguilla, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands; of France – namely, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Saint Martin which are classified as Overseas Departments, and of Holland – Sint Maarten and the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao which form the Netherland Antilles. French, Spanish, Dutch and British influences are thus predominant in the Caribbean, Portuguese influence is found in Brazil; the only Caribbean country on which Portugal successfully laid claim.

Throughout the Caribbean, however, cultural heritage is very diverse, as nearly every Caribbean island would have first been settled by Amerindian tribes before European settlement. Amerindian tribes were either wiped out or dominated by early European adventurers but tribal artefacts, dances and language were managed to be preserved in Caribbean countries like Guyana, other South and Central American countries, including islands like Dominica and St. Vincent where the Indians were able to escape into mountainous and deeply forested interiors.

The advent of Amerindian presence, European settlement, African slavery and Indentured Labour enriched the Caribbean’s ethnic, cultural and linguistic landscape, as French and English Creole languages and dialects developed alongside diverse musical, dance, religious practices and art forms. Added to all year warm tropical weather with clear blue skies and pristine beaches, Caribbean islands offer tourists with unique, interesting and exciting cultural experiences.

As independent nations, Caribbean countries continue to thrive for economic success through the implementation of proper development policies, enactment of laws, by providing education, ensuring that basic health is easily accessed and by developing infrastructure for international air and sea access, road networks and public utilities.