Caribbean Culture

• The Caribbean, long referred to as the West Indies includes more than
7,000 islands; of those, 13 are independent island countries (shown in
red) on the map, and some are dependencies or overseas territories of
other nations.

• In addition, that large number includes islets (very small rocky islands);
cay's (small, low islands composed largely of coral or sand) and a few
inhabited reefs
• In geographical terms the Caribbean area includes the Caribbean Sea
and all of the islands located to the southeast of the Gulf of Mexico,
east of Central America and Mexico, and to the north of South America.
Some of its counted cay's, islands, islets and inhabited reefs front the
handful of countries that border the region.
• At the beginning of the 15th century the population of the Caribbean
was estimated to be nearly 900,000 indigenous people immediately
before European contact.
• Then in 1492, Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer began his
exploration of the Caribbean, becoming the first European o venture
into the area.

After reportedly landing in the eastern Bahamas, Columbus named
these islands the Indies, because he thought he had finally reached
Asia (and the East Indies).
• Numerous explorers followed in his path, then tens of thousands of
settlers arrived from the Americas, China, European countries and
India. Included in that mix were religious outcasts and a small army of

Across the Caribbean, slaves from Africa were imported in great
numbers to work the sugar and tobacco plantations.

By then the indigenous populations of the islands were in severe
decline as exposure to disease and brutal genocide wiped out much
of their number.

Great military powers continually fought for control of the islands,
and finally, a blended mix of African and European cultures and
languages transformed this large group of islands and its peoples into
one of the premier tourist destinations on the planet.
• Long called the West Indies the overall area is now commonly
referred to as the Caribbean, a name that became popular after
World War II.

Over the last few decades legions of travelers have journeyed to the
Caribbean to enjoy the amenities. They frequently arrive in cruise
ships that sail in and out, from ports in Florida and Puerto Rico.

• Overall the Caribbean is a magical place of palm trees, white sand
beaches, turquoise waters and sunshine, all blessed with a climate
that consistently offers a much-needed break for those stuck in the
cold weather doldrums of the north
• Largely a product of forced migrations and the dramatic encounter
between the Old World and the New World, the best documented
Caribbean religions—such as Haitian voodoo, Rastafarianism, Cuban
Santeria, and the Spiritual Baptists in Trinidad—are prime examples of
creativity and change in this dynamic region that has become a fertile
ground for the development of new religious admixtures and
• Almost everyone in the Caribbean is from someplace else, and
Caribbean religions have been greatly affected by the presence of
Europeans, Africans, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, by Asian
peoples as well. A majority of these religions have either an African or
a Christian base, but Caribbean peoples have modified selected
aspects of these traditions, added to them, and made them their
own. While much attention has been given to African influences, one
cannot completely understand religious developments in the region
solely in terms of an African past, which is but a piece—albeit a large
piece—of a more complex whole. Syncretisms of Hinduism and
Christianity abound, and one can never underestimate the potential
impact of Islam.

• If you're visiting the Caribbean and you speak English, you're in luck:
English is the first or second language in most Caribbean destinations
and is the unofficial "language of tourism" as well. Having said that,
however, you'll often find that your travels will be more richly
rewarding if you can speak with the locals in their native language. In
the Caribbean, that's usually determined by which colonial power --
England, France, Spain, or Holland --
• The Caribbean is actually very diverse. The islands include Africans,
Asians, and Europeans, as well as Hispanics.
• Dance is a part of Caribbean life, and this art form evolves on stage
and in the streets
• hroughout the Caribbean, music and dance go hand-in-hand. This is
particularly true when it comes to new and popular dance styles.
Dances are often named for the music or song that they resulted
• On Jamaica, dancehall music often inspires new styles, and these
styles can change as quickly as the popular music itself. These are
usually named by the song, but songs themselves call out new dance

• Other dances like the limbo are traditional dances that became
popular for a short while. Many dances develop on the country sides
of the islands, the opposite of Jamaican dancehall styles, which are

• Knowing a bit about the basics of Latin dances can often go a long
way for those who want to get out on the dance floor. Dancing is
something that many islanders enjoy in its traditional, classical, and
modern forms.

• Natural resources
- By international standards, the nations of the Caribbean are rich in
natural resources. The resources that make significant contributions
to domestic economies and regional job sectors include, but are not
limited to: fisheries, bauxite, iron, nickel, petroleum and timber
- The greatest concentrations of minerals most valuable on the
international market are found in: Cuba, Jamaica, andT rinidad and
• Agirlculture

• Agrilculture
- Along with contributing to the Caribbean’s GDP, agriculture also
contributes to domestic food supply, and provides employment.
While agriculture is the major economic land-use activity in most
Caribbean countries, agriculture accounts for less and less of most
islands' GDP

• It has been noted by some that the Caribbean’s most important resource is
its tropical island setting, which has generated a unique tourism sector.
• Mass tourism became significant beginning in the 1980s. Today, millions of
tourists vacation in the Caribbean annually. Scuba diving and snorkeling on
the biologically rich coral reefs of the region have become major tourism
attractions, although a relative few of the island and coastal communities
of the region as a whole realize significant fiscal revenues from such
• Nonetheless, whether it is by plane or cruise there is no decline in sight for
tourism in the Caribbean. Even hurricanes and a series of recessions in the
Western world appeared only to cause temporary blips on Caribbean
tourism's ever-rising growth rate.

• Many Caribbean islands offer a diversity of landscapes in a small area.
The Caribbean is fairly free of diseases and pests, and European and
North American visitors can speak their own language.
common languages that European and North American tourists can
speak in the Caribbean are English, French, Dutch, and Spanish. When
a tourist travels to the Caribbean, they experience pristine coral reefs
with tropical fish, fruit stands displaying colorful papaya
and mangoes, sailboats skimming over azure blue waters, and couples
walking hand in hand on the beach at sunset.

• Many governments in the Caribbean welcomed tourists with open
arms because it was thought that tourism would boost
their economies. Caribbean islands now depend on tourism for their
economy, often being referred to as "the engine of their
growth". Tourism has also benefited farmers, fishermen, and
merchants because they must grow and supply more fish, meat,
poultry, eggs, vegetables, and fruit to feed the large number of
These individuals will be making money off their supplies.

• Tourism is a huge contributor to the economies of all Caribbean
countries and the biggest contributor to many of them such as
Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas and the Virgin Islands.

• Downside of Tourism:
- Tourism requires larger capital because of the infrastructure that is
necessary. Western-style amenities were needed to attract tourists.
These amenities include: airports (large international airports to
handle wide-body jets), roads, sewage treatment plants, landfills,
electricity and telephones.

- The Caribbean has had to borrow money from foreign governments
to build these amenities. Paying off those loans, and the cost of
maintaining the expensive new infrastructure, has stretched some
Caribbean governments and their taxpayers to the limit.
• The Caribbean tourism industry also has all-inclusive resorts. Many
vacationers that stay in all-inclusive resorts rarely eat out at locally
owned restaurants, rent water sports gear from local entrepreneurs,
or arrange island tours with local taxis.
Much of the foreign
exchange never reaches the Caribbean bringing devastation to local

• Tourism development has brought an inflation of food and land
prices. Specifically, land for the construction of hotels, marinas, and
other tourist facilities commonly sell for more than the current local
This brings the inflation for the price of land, making it out of
reach for many locals. On many of the Caribbean islands, local people
can no longer afford to live along their own coastline due to the
inflation that is being experienced, or the construction of many
hotels. One island in particular is taking action, this is Barbados. A
pressure group formed in Barbados known as the "Windows of the
Sea". Their goal is to preserve the remaining views that are not
obscured by hotels. They would also like to see some old buildings
destroyed to give more people physical and visual access to the ocean
and its beauty

• Numerous historians and cultural anthropologists have complied
theories that address this particular impact and its effects on the
indigenous culture of the Caribbean. The tourism industry has
historically been attributed with a characteristically superior white,
middle-class European and American clientele.

• how their indigenous culture has now been adjusted to include novel
foods, music, and style
• Questions

1. In the Caribeean (with many of the small islands) how are cultural
characteristics ( religion, language, ethnicity) created or maintained?
2. Define the term cultural convergence
3. Today in class we used the Caribbean as an example of cultural convergence.
4. In the Caribbean how has culture and economics played a role in maintaining
cooperation between the natives and foreigners.
5. With respect to tourism, how has technology revolutionized the area?