Caribbean History & Heritage
For centuries, indigenous people, such as the Caribs, Ciboney, and the Arawaks lived in the Caribbean. However, after Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, European colonizers began to settle in the Caribbean. The Spanish government declared that the entire Caribbean belonged to it, which angered other European nations and the indigenous populations. As a result, wars erupted among the major European colonial powers, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, France, and Great Britain, and sadly, at this same time, indigenous populations were being wiped out. After this happened, the culture and lifestyles of the local people drastically changed. Once the colonial powers had control over the islands, they introduced African slaves into the region to work in the sugar plantations.
Once the wars ceased, large European settlements were established on the Caribbean islands. The culture from these European nations began to mix with local and African cultures and new cultures were created in the areas where they settled. As a result, vastly different cultural differences became pronounced throughout the islands. Even islands in close proximity to each other such as Barbados and St. Lucia were significantly different. Tourists visiting the Caribbean today can learn more about the colonial cultures of the islands since historical sites and architecture have been well maintained throughout the years.
Caribbean history has heavily influenced local food and music. Caribbean food for example, often combines African and colonial influences. Since African slaves frequently tried to imitate food they ate while still in Africa, but they didnít have access to the necessary ingredients, slaves would often use ingredients not used by their overseers in their food. Therefore, Caribbean spices became commonplace in African influenced food.
Caribbean music is also greatly influenced by the regionís history. Popular Caribbean music, such as zouk, soca, reggae and calypso, originated in Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad. The popularity of these musical forms today is proof of the enduring legacy of Caribbean culture.
Most Caribbean nations today are politically independent or loosely politically linked to former colonial powers. Certain islands are American commonwealths. Haiti, Cuba, and Jamaica are completely independent nations. Many nations that are now independent are seeking to create new cultures and identities to move beyond their colonial pasts.