Basically, there are two types of tourists who visit the Caribbean: a 2,500-mile chain of over 7,000 islands, islets, reefs and shoals scattered throughout the Caribbean.
There are those who are simply looking for soothing relaxation. sandy beaches between the toes, strong drinks in the hands and the sunny sky overhead.
And then there are ambitious explorers seeking to absorb the diverse palette of Caribbean culture dating back hundreds of years to the Amerindian group once known as the Caribs (now called Kalinago people).
islands The Caribbean is sometimes referred to as the West Indies because of Christopher Columbus’s belief that he landed in Asia (not the Americas).
They are classified as one of Conservation Internationalbiodiversity hotspots because they support amazingly diverse ecosystems, from cloud forests to cactus patches.
But no less impressive are the vast cultural differences between the islands, with people, customs and culture. festivals influenced by a wide variety of influences, from African, Spanish and Portuguese to British, French and Dutch.
From caribbean music and dancing with art, cuisine and fashion, the culture of the Caribbean has had a dynamic influence on contemporary popular culture around the world.
Read on for a wealth of fascinating facts about the culture and history of the Caribbean, including an overview of the rich cultural traditions that make each of these Caribbean islands unique.
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Guide to Caribbean Culture and History
- Cayman islands
- Dominican Republic
- Puerto Rico
- Saint Martin/Saint Maarten Martin
- Turks and Caicos
- US Virgin Islands
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1. The original inhabitants of Aruba, who are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, were members of the Arawak tribe who migrated from Venezuela to escape the attack of the Caribs.
2. Due to its remoteness from other islands and strong currents that made it difficult to travel by canoe, Aruba remained more attached to South America than the Caribbean.
3. Since 1647, the island has been under the control of the Netherlands, and in 1986 the island gained independence. But its Dutch cultural traditions are still felt during national holidays such as Sinterklaas Day (December 5-6).
4. Equally important is Aruba’s annual carnival celebration, which runs from early January until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, with a big parade on the last Sunday.
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5. Taino sailors moved to the southern Bahamas from Hispaniola and Cuba more than 800 years before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. But they were enslaved and destroyed long before the arrival of English settlers in 1647.
6. Britain made the Bahamas self-governing in 1964 and independent in 1973, but they retained membership in the Commonwealth of Nations.
7. Bahamian culture is a hybrid of West African and European influences, with a costumed street parade known as the Junkanoo (which was featured in the James Bond movie, thunder ball) biggest cultural festival.
8. Regattas, rugby and religion are also very popular in the Bahamas, where there are many churches per person.
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9. Original name Turtles (for sea turtles there) by Christopher Columbus on his last voyage to the New World, the Cayman Islands got its current name from explorer Sir Francis Drake after the Taino term for crocodile (cayman).
10. The Cayman Islands was administered as a single colony with Jamaica until 1962 when it became a separate British Overseas Territory.
11. The archipelago of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman has a population of about 45,000, approximately 60% of which are mixed-race African-Europeans, and tourism and banking provide the highest standard of living in the Caribbean.
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12. With the longest history of any country in the Western Hemisphere (over 500 years), Dominican Republic is the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, and Santo Domingo is the first colonial capital.
13. Dominican culture, bordering on the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is a rich tapestry of Spanish, French, Taino and African affects.
14. Musically, the area is known as the birthplace of the merengue, as well as the romantic music and dance style known as bachata.
15. DR is also a source of baseball talent producing major league legends such as David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa.
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16. A former French colony, Haiti was the first independent black republic and the only nation ever to emerge from a successful slave uprising.
17. Haiti was also the first country in Latin America to declare its independence on January 1, 1804.
18. The culture of Haiti, a predominantly Roman Catholic nation, is a mixture African And French influence, but its proximity to the Dominican Republic also brings Spanish and Taíno influences.
19. Although Haiti is known for its vibrant art, jubilant musicincluding a flamboyant style known as Kompa, Salsa, Soca, and a French-influenced fusion called Zouk music.
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20. Originally claimed as Spain after Columbus first landed there in 1494, Jamaica came under British rule in 1655.
21. Descendants of African slaves used in the sugar trade now make up a large proportion of the island’s 2.8 million inhabitants.
22. Jamaica, the third largest of the Caribbean, is divided into 14 counties, with the Blue Mountains inland surrounded by a narrow coastal plain. Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios are popular tourist cities.
23. Much of the island’s culture is centered around its music scene. Jamaican musical genres like reggae, dancehall, etc. dub music played an important role in the birth and development of hip-hop.
24. Sports such as cricket and football are also very popular in Jamaica.
READ MORE: 20 Best Things to Do in Jamaica for Nature Lovers
25. The Taino culture remained dominant in Puerto Rico for over 700 years until the island was colonized by Spain under the rule of conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon.
26. Castle of San Felipe del Morro and the forts of El Castillo de San Cristobal were built to protect San Juan from attacks by the British, Dutch and French. But the island was given to the United States under the Treaty of Paris after the Spanish-American War.
27. Puerto Rican culture is a mixture of African, Native American, Spanish and North American influences with popular music and dance styles including the bomb, latin jazzmerengue, captivity, reggaeton and salsa.
28. Baseball and boxing are among the most popular sports in Puerto Rico and have given birth to legendary athletes such as Felix Trinidad, Hector Camacho, Roberto Clemente, Ivan Rodriguez and Roberto Alomar.
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ST. MAARTIN/ST. MARTIN
29. Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493, this island was the subject of the 80 Years’ War between Spain and the Netherlands in the 1600s.
30. By the time the Spanish ceded control to the Dutch, the French had already established a settlement on the island, and the 1648 Treaty of Concordia divided the land peacefully between the two countries.
31. Dutch Saint Maarten boasts remarkable cultural diversity, with an estimated 77 different nationalities among its 44,000 inhabitants.
32. French Saint-Martin (pop. 40,000) is widely considered the culinary capital of the Caribbean, with a diverse cornucopia and rich gastronomic influences.
READ MORE: Traditional food from around the world: 30 famous dishes you can cook at home
TURKS AND CAICOS
33. The Turks and Caicos Islands, originally inhabited by Caribbean Indians, were a popular haven for pirates around the turn of the 18th century.
34. The islands were eventually annexed by Great Britain in 1799 as part of the Bahamas.
35. Made into a separate colony in 1959, the islands (only eight of which are inhabited) officially gained independence in 1973 but remain a British Overseas Territory.
36. Turks and Caicos, with a population of less than 33,000 scattered across eight inhabited islands, is one of the smaller countries in the Caribbean, which may explain why celebrities like Bruce Willis and Gene Simmons have bought property here.
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US VIRGIN ISLANDS
37. The Virgin Islands, consisting of the islands of St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas and many nearby smaller islands, were inhabited by Carib and Arawak tribes before the arrival of Columbus in 1493.
38. Over the next 300 years, the islands changed hands repeatedly among European powers, including Britain, France, the Netherlands and Spain.
39. Sold by Denmark in 1917 for $25 million, the Virgin Islands are the only part of the United States where traffic is always on the left.
40. Festivals in the Virgin Islands are decidedly tropical, with calypso, reggaejuice and salsa were played in the streets during events such as the Three Kings Day Festival on St. Croix and the annual St. Thomas Carnival. — Bret Love