Caribbean Studies notes
Module 1 Caribbean society and culture
Location of the Caribbean
Greater Antilles: Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic), Jamaica, Puerto Rico Lesser Antilles:
Windward islands: Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique *
Leeward islands: Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla, Virgin islands Netherland Antilles: Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao (ABC"islands); Saint Marten, Saba, St. Eustatius
Mainland Territories: Guyana, Belize, Suriname, Cayenne (French Guyana) Others: Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Cayman Islands, Bahamas Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands
b. Definitions of the Caribbean region
The Caribbean is a disjunction land bridge between North and South America with an East - West stretch of almost 3000 Km and a North -South reach of some 1500 Km. Only 10% of this is land. Geographically the Caribbean is defined as the land area which has its coastline washed by the Caribbean Sea. This would mean that the Greater and Lesser Antilles, the Cayman Islands and the islands of the Netherland Antilles all belong to the Caribbean. By this definition Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas would however be excluded from the Caribbean. It would also include Belize, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rico; Panama, Nicaragua and Honduras and exclude the mainland territories of Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana (Cayenne). This is the area colonized by European powers (Spanish, British, French and Dutch) and which has been deeply affected by the brand of European Colonialism. The Spanish through the encomienda system and other means exterminated the original inhabitants. The British introduced the plantation system and with it, the enslavement of Africans and the indentureship of the Chinese and East Indians. The Dutch and French not only colonizedbutwere involved in an ongoing trade within the region. It has become common way to identify the Caribbean based on the experience of specific European colonialism. Within this historic; context has arisen a multiracial society with marked social stratification and racial hybridization.
The Caribbean is seen as that area of the region defined by the Caribbean Plate and which therefore experiences the same tectonic, seismic and volcanic features and processes. The lands of the Caribbean are said to be formed from earth movements called Plate Tectonics. In the Caribbean about 140 million years ago the smaller Caribbean plate moved under the North American plate to be re-melted in the earth's mantle causing volcanic activities and consequently the formation of the Greater and Lesser Antilles. The islands in this Caribbean chain are believed to be the tops of submerged mountains linked to the Andean mountain range in Central America. There is a rich variety of landscape features in the Caribbean as a result of the structure of the islands and mainland’s. All the mainland territories of the region have high mountain ranges, large rivers and vast areas of lowland. There are volcanic peaks in the ranges, crater lakes high up in the mountains, swamps and lagoons. With the exception of Cuba, all the continental islands ofthe Greater Antilles are mountainous. Cuba has wide elevated plains (plateaus) over 1000m inaltitude. The mountain ranges restrict settlement and present transportation difficulties. Many of them however have valuable minerals deposits. Most of the Caribbean mountain ranges are joined to those of Central America. In the Greater Antilles there are also many low-lying alluvial plains and steep limestone hills with caves. The rivers on these plains are not very large and many disappear underground. The smaller volcanic islands of the Eastern Caribbean are also rugged and mountainous. Volcanic eruptions have occurred on some of these islands in the past (Mt Pelee). Recently there have been eruptions in St...
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