Caribbean Islands

Caribbean Islands Destinations Travel Guide


Description of Caribbean Islands

The islands of the Caribbean Sea is a unique combination of European, African and Native American cultures that formed distinctinly different cultures on several islands. The Caribbean is a region made up of the Caribbean Sea, its islands and the coasts that surround this sea. The region is located southeast of North America, east of Central America and north of South America. The name Caribe is derived from the Caribs, a name used to describe the Amerindian ethnicity that predominated in the region at the time of the first contact with Europeans at the end of the 15th century. The Italian navigator Américo Vespucio claimed that the term Charaibi among the indigenous meant 'wise men' and it is possible that this was used to describe the Europeans upon their arrival in America. After the discovery of the West Indies by Christopher Columbus, the Spanish term for Antilles was common for this place; As a derivative, the "Sea of the Antilles" has been a common name for the Caribbean Sea in several European languages. During the decades following the discovery, the Spanish dominion in this sea was indisputable and, therefore, the denomination of the Antilles was maintained for many years.


Travel Destinations in the Caribbean Sea

Aruba is an island in the Caribbean Sea that belongs to the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The Bahamas Magnificent Bahamas Islands is a group of islands off the Atlantic coast of United States.

Dominica Island Dominica or the Nature Island of the Caribbean is one of the least altered islands of the Caribbean islands.

Dominican Republic is an independent state in the Caribbean basin that covers eastern two- thirds of the islands of Hispaniola.

Jamaica, the heart of the Carribean, is one of the most famous islands in the region due to its music and culture.

Netherlands Antilles is a peace of European North in the South Carribean Sea.

Turks and Caicos Islands are famous for its coral reefs and diverse marine wild life.

Puerto Rico Beautiful Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the Unites States in the Northeastern Caribbean Sea that was acquired after the Spanish- American war.

U.S. Virgin Islands is a group of Caribbean islands that are part of the Virgin Islands archipelago.



Hardly anything is known about the early inhabitants of the Caribbean islands. On the one hand they left no written documents, on the other hand there are no monumental buildings like those of the Mayas or Incas. Oral traditions are also kept to a minimum because the Spanish conquerors had exterminated the Indians in just a few decades.

On the Caribbean islands lived probably already around 4,000 BC. people. They were incorrectly called Ciboney Indians in the past. However, this Indian tribe originally came from what is now Florida and only inhabited the large Antilles islands in the north of the region. In other sources they are also referred to as Stone Age people. This one isn't all that wrong. They were a humble people of gatherers and fishermen, unfamiliar with farming. With their canoes, they have probably visited all the larger islands over the course of time. Archaeological excavations at Guanahacabibes in Cuba and at Mordan in the Dominican Republic date finds of them to around 2,000 BC. Extensive traces of them have also been discovered in Puerto Rico and Haiti. The oldest finds of these first known Caribbean inhabitants were discovered in Ortoire on Trinidad. For this reason, archaeologists call them ortoiroids.

The smaller islands were settled from South America. From the Orinoco Basin in Venezuela it was initially the Barrancoid and Guayabitoid Indians who, favored by wind and sea currents, sailed through the island chain northwards via Trinidad. Their ornate pottery has been found on various islands. They were followed by various other groups of Indians, all belonging to the same language group - the Arawak Indians. This language group came mainly from the Amazon river basin, from the delta of the Orinoco and from the coast in the area of ​​today's Guiana. The Igneri group was mainly represented in Trinidad and Tobago, but spread north of Dominica by 400 AD. The Lacayo or Lucayans made their home on almost all of the Bahama Islands and traces of the Taino Indian group can be found in Jamaica. They had narrow, flat-bottomed canoes that they could use to sail quickly, reaching all the Caribbean islands. They brought cassava, corn, pineapple, cotton and tobacco from South America, which they grew on burnt fields. Their huts were made of worked logs with a wicker roof. They knew the hammock and the ball game. Extensive information is only available about the habits of the Taino Indians, their customs, their beliefs and the political hierarchy.

Presumably in the 13th century, warlike Carib Indians from the coastal areas of Guyana and Suriname moved north with fast dugout canoes. They raided the Arawak Indians, enslaving the male population and cohabiting with the women of the vanquished. Various accounts also claim that they were cannibals. By the time Columbus reached the Caribbean, the Caribs had spread to the Virgin Islands. Scientists estimate that 10 million Indians lived between Cuba and Trinidad. Again and again they attacked the first settlements of the colonists and on individual islands they were able to defend themselves against the European invaders for around 250 years. Around 1640, the French Father Raymond Breton lived with Carib Indians on the island of Dominica. From his notes we know how the Caribs called themselves: the females called "Calliponam", the males "Callinango" to their fellows. Since the French language did not know a "K" at that time, one has to speak of the Kalinago today, taking into account the pronunciation. The Carib Indians populated the Windward Islands from about 1400 to 1700, on the islands of Dominica and Saint Vincent about a generation later. On Saint Vincent they mingled with runaway or abducted "Negro slaves". Together they fought the English until 1796, when 5,000 of them were deported to the island of Ruatan off the coast of Honduras. From there they moved on to what is now southern Belize. They are still represented there today as the ethnic group of the "black Carib Indians". In the Caribbean itself today only on the island of Dominica there is a small reserve where a minority of them live.


Spanish explorers
In the 15th century there were already important overland trade relations with Asia and China. At that time, the prevailing belief was that the earth was flat. West of the Azores, the "sea of ​​fire" was suspected, the world beyond the Azores was unknown. However, there were reports from northern Europe that sailors had landed on their way west. These reports were also known to Columbus.

Christopher Columbus was born in 1451 as the son of a wine merchant in the Italian port city of Genoa. He studied mathematics and natural sciences, married the daughter of the governor of Madeira and engaged in navigation. For six years he made petitions to the Spanish royal court to get to India by western sea route. On September 6, 1492, he finally sailed west via Gomera with the three small ships Santa Maria, Pinta and Nina, which were hardly larger than a sailing yacht today. After five weeks you will probably reach the Bahama island of San Salvador. On November 21, the captain of the Pinta deserted with the ship and crew to search for gold on his own. On December 24, the Santa Maria struck a reef off Hispaniola and broke in two. Columbus started his return journey in the last ship. Part of the crew had to stay behind. The fortified settlement “La Navidad” was built for them.

On September 25, 1493, Columbus left Spain with a fleet of 17 ships and a crew of 1,500, with horses, cows, pigs and seed for a second voyage of discovery. On November 3rd it reaches the islands of Dominica, Guadeloupe and Trinidad. Three weeks later the fleet came to La Navidad. In the meantime, the settlement had been attacked and destroyed by Indians, and no survivors were found.

In March 1498 he started his third voyage with eight ships. This time he sailed to Trinidad and reached the South American mainland.

On the fourth voyage he discovered Martinique in 1502. Via Hispaniola he sailed on to the Central American mainland to Honduras and Panama. Here he became involved in Indian fights. He had to survive storms and long periods of calm. But this time he also found gold. With completely overloaded ships, he stranded on the island of Jamaica in May. It was almost a year and a half before a ship came from Hispaniola to take him back to Spain, where he arrived in November 1504. Seriously ill with gout, he died there on May 20, 1506.

A royal decree of November 7, 1508 and July 3, 1512 allows settlers on the islands of Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Tobago to take Carib Indians as slaves.

English conquests and settlement
After Spain 1494 mediated by Pope Alexander VI. in the Treaty of Tordesillas its dominance on the western sea route to India secured access to the treasures of the Caribbean and Central America and brought peace and stability to the region for several years. However, the treaty could not prevent the other major European powers of England, France and the Netherlands from ceding the monopoly of the New World to Spain without a fight. In 1516 Charles V (1500–1558) became king of Spain. His grandfather Maximilian I († 1519) inherited Austria from his father, Philip I, who gave him Burgundy and the Netherlands. In 1520 he was crowned German Emperor in Aachen. Ten years later he was elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Spain thus became a world empire on which the sun never set.

Henry VIII, King of England, was divorced from Catherine of Aragon, daughter of King Ferdinand of Spain, in 1533. This was a scandal at the time that set Catholic Europe against England. In this context, a state church independent of Rome, headed by the king, was founded in England, the Anglican Church. In England this led to a quarter of a century of religious and political unrest. Edward VI opened to the Reformation on the mainland. But after his death in 1553, his half-sister Maria, the devout Catholic daughter of the divorced Catherine of Aragon, restored Catholicism. After her marriage to the heir to the Spanish throne Philip, a bloody re-Catholicization took place throughout England until 1558.


Under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603), who was a staunch Protestant, the Anglican Church was restored to the state church. Under their rule, England developed into a great power. The Queen allowed her sailors to hijack Spanish ships. As a result, Spain broke off all economic ties with England between 1568 and 1574.

In 1562, the merchant and privateer commander John Hawkins (1532–1595) broke the Portuguese monopoly of transporting slaves by bringing them himself from the West African coast to the Caribbean. In the years 1564-65 and 1567-69 he made further trips there. In 1571 he became a Member of Parliament and Treasurer of the Navy. His younger cousin Francis Drake (1539-1596) was the most famous privateer of the time. At first he had only captured ships off the Spanish coast. In 1570 he undertook the first reconnaissance trip to "New Spain". In 1572 he sailed with the two ships "Pasha" and "Swan" through the Caribbean to the coast of Panama. There he robbed the city of Nombre de Dios, attacked several caravans, captured Spanish ships and returned to England a year later. In 1577 the queen knighted him. In 1585 he sailed to the Caribbean, a year later he sacked the Colombian city of Cartagena, in 1587 he attacked the Spanish fleet in Cadiz. In 1595 he led an expedition with John Hawkins to the Spanish colonies in Central and South America. The fleet consisted of 27 ships with 1,500 sailors and 1,000 soldiers. John Hawkins contracted dysentery on the outward journey and died off San Juan, two months later Drake contracted dysentery off the coast of Panama and also died.

In 1655 a royal fleet under the command of Penn and Venables landed in Barbados with 60 ships and a crew of 4,000 men. From here they tried to occupy the island of Hispaniola, but the attack on Santo Domingo failed with losses. In order not to fall out of favor with the king, they changed course and successfully took possession of the island of Jamaica for England.

In 1697 England, France, the Netherlands and Spain made peace. This was sealed in the Treaty of Rijswijk. In it, Saint Domingue (Dominican Republic and Haiti) was formally recognized by the Spanish as a French possession, while omitting the French colonies of Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Saint Kitts, as well as the English and Dutch colonies, which these nations interpreted as recognition of their claims. In return, the other three states agreed to help the Spanish against pirates and privateers in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.

Differing views on land and naval bases led to fighting between English and French troops far beyond the mainland between 1756 and 1763. Both sides tried to conquer the other side's colonies as a bargaining chip for land acquisitions in Europe and America. In the Treaty of Paris, the islands of Dominica, Grenada, the Grenadines, Saint Vincent and Tobago fell to England.

French conquerors
The Norman nobleman and navigator Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc (1585-1637) was promoted by Richelieu, advisor to King Louis XIII. On behalf of the king he founded the Compagnie des Iles d`Amérique. This company was commissioned to bring volunteers to the new American possessions, who had to work off their travel expenses in the form of three-year employment contracts. The king also appointed d'Esnambuc governor of the island of Sainte Christophe (Saint Kitts). d'Esnambuc left Le Havre with three ships and 530 men. When he arrived there in 1624 he still had 250 men with him. The colonists were each given 50 acres of land on which to grow indigo, ginger, and tobacco for the company.

In 1634 d'Esnambuc prompted Cardinal Richelieu to explore the islands of Guadeloupe, Dominica and Martinique through Guillaume d'Orange. At the end of the same year he ordered his two compatriots Charles Liénard de l'Olive and Jean Duplessis d'Ossonville to take possession of the island of Martinique for France. The men were chased away by the Carib Indians after only one day. So they sailed on to Guadeloupe with their 550 volunteers, where they landed on June 28, 1635 on the south coast near Basse-Terre. In 1635 d'Esnambuc himself attempted a landing on Martinique. A cross was erected at the landing site and a fort built a few kilometers to the north near today's Saint-Pierre, which proved to be impregnable even for the Indians.


D'Esnambuc died of syphilis in 1637, and Monsignor Longvilliers de Poincy became his successor in the company. When she went bankrupt, d'Esnambuc's nephew Jacques Duparquet took possession of Martinique in 1650 for 60,000 livres. He proved to be a skilful politician, agreed with the Indians on their peaceful departure, at the same time he brought Dutch Jews into the country who had been expelled from their colony in B by the Catholic Portuguese. They brought their knowledge of sugar cane cultivation and processing to the island. Du Parquet died in a duel on January 3, 1658.

The two Catholic missionaries Raymond Breton and Charles Raymond were sent to D from Guadeloupe in 1642. This island, lying between Guadeloupe and Martinique, was claimed by England. However, there were several French families on the island and the British administration struggled to protect their own subjects from Indian encroachment. A good reason for France to establish itself on the island. Breton is the author of the "Dictionnaire Caribe - Francais", a dictionary of the Indian language into French.

In 1664 the minister Jean Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683) bought the colonies from Messrs. Houel and Duparquet. He founded the Compagnie des Indes Occidentales on behalf of the crown. Only ten years later the company went bankrupt and the colonial possessions became royal domains.

In 1694 the Dominican monk Jean Baptiste Labat (1653-1738) came to Martinique. Through various attempts, he succeeds in significantly improving the production of sugar.

In 1697 England, France, the Netherlands and Spain made peace. This was sealed in the Treaty of Rijswijk. In it, Saint Domingue (Dominican Republic and Haiti) was formally recognized by the Spanish as a French possession, while omitting the French colonies of Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Kitts, as well as the English and Dutch colonies, which these nations interpreted as recognition of their claims. In return, the other three states agreed to help the Spanish against pirates and privateers in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.

In the following 150 years the islands were heavily fortified. Nevertheless, there were repeated fights and enemy occupations, mainly by the English. In 1713, England and France negotiated the return of the conquered colonies in the Peace of Utrecht. The Aachen Agreement followed in 1748.

Differing views on land and naval bases led to fighting between English and French troops far beyond the mainland between 1756 and 1763. Both sides tried to conquer the other side's colonies as a bargaining chip for land acquisitions in Europe and America. In the Treaty of Paris on February 10, 1763, France had to give up its colonies of Canada, Ohio / Mississippi, Dominica, Saint Vincent, the Grenadine Islands and Tobago, and Guadeloupe and Martinique became French again. In 1783 there were again negotiations in Versailles, in 1802 in Amiens. But only the second peace treaty of Paris in 1814 led to binding treaties.

The Dutch are coming

From 1542 the first Dutch merchant ships sailed into the Caribbean waters. At the beginning of the 17th century, the English, French and Dutch regularly cruised between the small Caribbean islands. They were able to get fresh meat and drinking water on the ABC islands unhindered. Meanwhile, in Europe, the “father of the fatherland” Willem van Oranje was rallying Dutch freedom fighters. He gave the so-called Geusen letters of marque against Spanish ships. In 1568 he called for a rebellion against King Philip II of Spain, this was the beginning of the 80-year war, during which the Netherlands were cut off from their important salt supplies, so new sources were needed. The large Dutch trading houses had already joined together in 1602 to form the "Verenigde Oost Indien Compagnie" (VOC). This East India Company was given sovereignty and monopoly rights over all trade with the countries of the East. It had its own army and fleet, could declare wars and make peace. In 1621 a similar company was founded for trade to West Africa and America, the "West Indian Compagnie" (WIC). An important incentive was the search for salt for the preservation of herring, cheese production and the glass and ceramics industry, as well as privateering against Spain, with whom it was at war. In 1630 Pernambuco in northeastern Brazil was first conquered and called New Holland. The Portuguese owned large sugar plantations there. In the same year, the Caribbean island of Sint Maarten with its large salt lakes was occupied. Curaçao, with its excellent natural harbor just off the coast of Venezuela, was occupied in 1634, followed in March 1636 by Bonaire, with its large salt lakes that are still very productive today, and Aruba. The great need for cheap labor in the emerging colonies led the WIC to break the Portuguese and Spanish monopoly of the slave trade in 1637. Slave depots were captured in the West African states of Guinea, Angola and Sao Tome. Curaçao became the slave depot on the western Atlantic side from where they were sold to the Spanish colonies.

The climate and soil conditions of the ABC Islands frustrated any attempt to farm barley, oats and tobacco. The governor Peter Stuyvesant therefore recommended in 1644 to give up the islands. In Amsterdam, however, they already had other plans. Spanish Jews had fled to the tolerant Netherlands. They were offered the opportunity to found a new church on Curaçao and given land to cultivate. Through their contacts with other Jewish communities in America and Europe, Curaçao developed into an important trading center. In Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao, is the oldest synagogue in the western hemisphere (Synagogue Mikvé Israel-Emanuel).

In 1725 there were already 100 plantations on the island of Curaçao, and usable land was becoming scarce. At the same time, the islands of Aruba and Bonaire still lingered as salt, meat, and timber suppliers to Curaçao. Few soldiers and Indians lived on these two islands. At the beginning of the 19th century, therefore, land on Aruba and Bonaire was offered for sale, first for the residents of Curaçao, and later also for any other daring person.

On July 1, 1863, slavery was abolished in this colony. For many plantations this was the end, others only lived on the substance in the time that followed, and there was no money for investments. A new economic boom came from outside. In 1914, oil was discovered in Lake Maracaibo in nearby Venezuela. The lake was impassable for oil tankers, but international investors did not want to invest in the politically insecure country. There were already large port facilities on Curaçao. These were further expanded, and an oil refinery was built on the north bank of the Schottegat. Venezuelan oil was pumped here and transferred to large oil tankers. In 1925 an oil refinery was also built in Aruba.


US influence
For US tourists, the Caribbean is the American Mediterranean; politically, it's America's backyard. At the latest since the decline of the British colonial empire, the Americans have filled the resulting vacuum with their intervention. As early as 1823, American President Monroe presented his ideas before the Senate, which went down in history as the Monroe Doctrine. In very simple terms, he proclaimed: the Americans have not interfered in European affairs, so the Europeans should not interfere in fundamental American affairs. All further colonial interests of the Europeans in the Caribbean would be z. B. such an interference with American interests. Under President Roosevelt (1858-1919), the Americans began to influence the Caribbean region. Haiti was occupied from 1915 to 1934, the Dominican Republic from 1916 to 1924, and another intervention in 1965. In 1961 the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba failed. By the 1970s, a Cuba-friendly Jamaica was being pushed to the brink of economic collapse and the Manley government had to collapse. In 1983 Grenada was the last visible example of American influence.

On the other hand, there have been attempted coups in the various island republics and the American government has been asked for help. In 1979, some Rastas launched an attempted coup on the island of Saint Vincent, where police units from Barbados had to intervene to help. In 1981 there were several attempts to overthrow the government of Dominica, twice involving the country's own army, which was disbanded after the intervention of auxiliary troops from Martinique. In October 1982, the leaders of Antigua, Barbados, Dominica, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent decided to set up a 1,000-strong police and army unit with American help as the Regional Security System (RRS). America sent army instructors to the region and trained police cadets in six-week courses. On each of the islands, a 40 to 80-strong special service unit - SSU" was set up and equipped. The Americans in the eastern Caribbean spent between 1.2 and 8.5 million US dollars on this in the years 1982 to 1985.

The national SSU is reinforced by clearly visible American activities. Joint maneuvers by various military units take place every year, e.g. B. in 1985 "Exotic Palm". In 1986, thousands of Americans took part in Operation Ocean Venture. During this maneuver the imaginary invasion of Grenada was rehearsed. 1,000 soldiers and police officers were deployed for this exercise from the island states of Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Saint Lucia.

Caribbean Union
While islands like Jamaica and the Bahamas survived as a political entity solely because of their size, there were repeated attempts to force several islands into a federation in the eastern Caribbean arc.

The Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) was founded in 1968 on the initiative of Barbados, Guyana and Antigua. By 1971, all the former British colonies in the Caribbean, with the exception of the Bahamas, joined together there, the Bahamas only followed in 1983. As early as 1973-74, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) with the affiliated Caribbean Common Market (CCM) was established, similar to the European Union ). CARICOM saw itself not only as a trade organisation, but also sought a uniform language for the affiliated countries on questions of foreign policy, tourism and development programs. Consequently, the CARICOM was supplemented in 1970 by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). In 1975, in addition to the English-speaking former colonies, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Netherlands Antilles also met and founded the Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC) in Havana. This organization aims to increase cooperation in the fields of agriculture and technology.

In 1981, the Eastern Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines formed the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

September 11, 2001 and its aftermath


Just a few hours after the attack on the New York skyscrapers, the national tourism organizations of the Caribbean Islands posted expressions of condolence on their websites. It was of little use to them. The effects on the region are far-reaching, and their consequences are still unforeseeable today.

First, up to 50% of hotel rooms were canceled. Hotels were closed, new openings were postponed, and jobs were lost. Airlines went into a tailspin, one company or another disappeared from the sky. Other airlines restricted their route network.

The German-speaking travel market was also shaken up. Companies that were no longer independent but still had travel catalogs under the old name on the market were discontinued. Various destinations have been removed from the program. At the end of the 2001/2002 winter season, the German charter flight companies discontinued their flights to the entire southern Caribbean. Flights there are only carried out with British Airways with a stopover in London and are therefore more expensive. The travel program to Cuba and the Dominican Republic was expanded, and that to Jamaica and other islands was severely restricted or completely suspended.

In the meantime, the travel market has calmed down again. No, not only that, it has exploded. North America has declared the Caribbean islands a "safe zone". International hotel groups are investing in hotels, investment companies are building villa complexes and residential areas for “winter immigrants” out of the ground, second homes for retirees and people who can afford to escape the cold North American and Northern European winters. A crazy construction boom has broken out on many islands.

The bank crash of 2008 initially put an unforeseeable end to this. In 2009 the first new, large hotels filed for bankruptcy and closed. Industrial companies have shut down production, laid off staff, closed completely or are simply waiting to see what happens next.