CARIBBEAN STUDIES UNIT ONE TERRITORIAL UNITS IN THE CARIBBEAN
• WHAT IS THE CARIBBEAN Greenwood and Hamber (2003) defines the Caribbean as, “all the countries in and around the Caribbean sea that lie within an area that stretches from Grand Bahama Island in the north to Curacao in the south and from French Guiana in the east to Belize in the West.
The Wikipedia Encyclopedia defines the Caribbean as, “a region of the Americas consisting of the Caribbean Sea, its islands (most of which enclose the sea) and the surrounding coasts. The region is located South East of North America (United States and Canada), East of Central America (Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemela and El Salvador) and to the North and West of South America (Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil)
Brown (2000) suggests the we consider the Caribbean from the geographical, historical and the political perspectives while Reid (2002) adds the social and cultural perspectives.
WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN? Put simply, being a member of the Caribbean society does not merely mean that we live in one of the islands or territories, but that our personalities, our ways of life and even our ethnicity are explained by the various factors that have affected the region.
• GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES The history of the Caribbean region is varied and complex, it contains so many different countries that in order to fully comprehend its diversity and at the same time some of its commonalities we must have some knowledge of the common geographical features. Common geographical features can be classified under four distinctive headings. These include Topography, Climate, Winds and Currents and the Caribbean Sea.
The most obvious feature of the Caribbean is that it is shaped in the form of an archipelago (some of the islands including the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, the Cayman Islands, Barbados are formed mainly from coral and these are known as the coral islands, a distinct feature of which are White Sand Beaches.
Another distinct feature of some of the Caribbean islands are as a direct result of volcanic activity, for example areas such as parts of Haiti and Cuba are known as volcanic islands as they host black sand beaches. A very important point to note is that earthquakes and volcanic activity played a large part in the regions history in terms of physical development, in fact the Caribbean rests on the Caribbean Plate and tectonic movements contribute heavily to land formations as well as volcanic activity.
Islands such as Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana host the distinctive feature of alluvial coasts.
Most of Cuba, Bahamas and Belize consist of Limestone Plateaus while countries such as Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Puerto Rico have huge mountain ranges (mountainous). Finally, we have regions like the Guianas that are formed from ancient rock.
• Climate Countries within the Caribbean experience mostly what is called a tropical climate.
• Winds and Currents The history of the Caribbean has been shaped by trade winds and currents. Trade winds are caused by cool air from the North Polar Region blowing into the high pressure areas of the equator. These winds would blow from north to south but as the earth rotates with the east leading the way, the winds are turned as they near the equator towards the west, or in other words toward the Caribbean. This aided travel in the 15th century as sailors from Europe sailed South to the Canary Islands or as far as the Cape Verde Islands to pick up the trade winds.
Ocean Currents follow roughly the same direction as the winds. In the Atlantic there are two which flow towards the Caribbean: the North Equatorial Current and the South Equatorial Current. The north current flows from east to west and is met by the South which comes up from the South-east along the coast of South America. On reaching the Lesser Antilles they combine to form a broad west...
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