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Caribbean Overview. 25 countries and dependent territories Greater Antilles (Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico) Large mountains (DR: 10,000’; Jamaica Blue Mtns. 7000’, Cuba 6000’ (refuges for runaway slaves) Fertile farmlands, but fragile Lesser Antilles Double arc

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Caribbean overview
Caribbean Overview

  • 25 countries and dependent territories

    • Greater Antilles (Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico)

      • Large mountains (DR: 10,000’; Jamaica Blue Mtns. 7000’, Cuba 6000’ (refuges for runaway slaves)

      • Fertile farmlands, but fragile

    • Lesser Antilles

      • Double arc

    • Netherlands Antilles (ABC islands)

  • Setting boundaries not easy:

    • Sometimes Belize/ Guyana's (Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana)

    • Sometimes the “rimlands” of Central American countries

    • Bahamas included even though they are technically in the Atlantic Ocean





Why a region
Why a region?

  • Commonalities: Cultural and economic history different than Latin America

    • Diverse European influence

    • Strong African imprint and slavery

    • Virtually no indigenous legacy

    • Export plantation economy

      • Grossly uneven distribution of land and resources

      • Environmental impacts

    • Environmental/physical geographies

  • Names:

    • The Indies, the Spanish Main, Mar del Norte

    • 18th C: first use of the name Caribbean


Caribbean diversity
Caribbean Diversity

  • Territorial Size:

    • Cuba:: 101,000 Km. Sq.

    • Montserrat: 100 km. Sq.

  • Population

    • Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic): 16 million

    • Turks and Caicos: 12,000 pop

  • Cultural Heritage

    • Spanish: Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominican Republic

    • French: Haiti, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Martin

    • Dutch: ABC, St. Maartin

    • English:

    • Patois: many islands

  • Economic and social indicators


Caribbean overview1
Caribbean Overview

  • Historically: “proxy” battleground for European rivalries

    • Plantation economies

      • Sugar, sugar, sugar

      • Bananas, citrus, coffee, spices

  • By 1900’s: US dominates the region politically and economically

  • Other and more recent economic development

    • timber

    • nickel and bauxite, gold

    • tourism

    • Non traditional exports

    • Off shore banking


Caribbean overview2
Caribbean Overview

  • Contradictions:

    • “Island Paradise” v. impoverishment and dependency

    • “Isolated proximity”

    • Fertility washed away

    • Cyclical migration: migrants returning


Environmental geographies
Environmental Geographies

  • Geologies, climate and vegetation

    • Tectonic Plates

    • Tropical, wet climate that supports forests

    • Palm savannas—best soils

    • Mangrove swamps

    • Arid zones (rain shadows)

    • Hurricanes

  • Reworked landscapes

  • Environmental degradation

    • Deforestation

      • Sugarcane fields

        • Jamaica and DR still have 30%

        • Cuba has 20% (charcoal production for energy needs)

        • Rimlands are much more intact

          • Belize and Guyana had successful environmental initiatives

    • Seas and marine resources

      • Never supported commercial fishing


  • Plantation economies
    Plantation economies

    • Spanish discoveries

      • Jumping off point for exploration and ports for trading from Mexico, CA and SA

  • Colonists demographic collapse of indigenous Arawaks and Caribs

    • Fragments survive only on the rimland

  • Competition from France, England, Holland; Pirates

  • “Plantation America” from Brazil up through SE US.

  • Mono crop system: sugar

    • Insatiable demand for sugar and rum

  • Asian migrants indentured labor

    • Suriname: 1/3 pop is of S. Asian descent, 16% Javanese

    • Guyana and Trinidad: India

    • English colonies: Chinese

  • Slave labor-Elaborate racial hierarchy



  • Caribbean cultures
    Caribbean Cultures

    • Much diversity, but also many similarities which provide glue

      • European plantation economies similar social structures (like CA)

      • African influence

      • Creolization

        • Culture, language, music


    African heritages
    African heritages

    • African diaspora

      • West Africa: Senegal to Angola

      • Est. 10 million crossed the Atlantic (2 million died on the way) between 16th and 19th c.

      • Intentional mixing so no one source would dominate

      • hybridity of cultures, religions, and languages

    • Maroon societies (palenques)

      • Maintenance of historical religions

        • Obi, Obeah

        • Bush Negroes

    • African religions

      • Voodoo, Santeria, Obeah

      • Extensive use

      • Diffused to the US along with migrants


    African heritage and hybridity
    African heritage and hybridity

    • Creolization

      • Rich forms (VS Naipal, Bob Marley)

      • Garifuna or Black Carib

        • African/Carib on St. Vincent forcibly resettled by British to Bay Islands of Honduras

          • Maintain Indian religion, eat manioc

  • Languages

    • Spanish: 24 million

    • French: 8 million

    • English: 6 million

    • Dutch: .5 million

    • Alternatives: papiamento, patois,

  • Music

    • Reggae, calypso, merengue, rumba, zouk, steel drums of Trinidad, etc.

      • Haitian ra-ra musicians have been exiled when too political

      • Reggae, esp. Bob Marley, strong political content


  • Political histories
    Political Histories

    • Independence:

      • Haiti is the first in 1804 (v. US in 1776)

        • But it was seen as a threat by other islands and shunned by the mainland CA countries

      • Dominican Republic in 1844

      • Cuba and PR in 1898 from Spain US involvement

      • British colonies: revolts starting in 1930’s but independence in 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s


    Selected british colonies dates of independence
    Selected British colonies: dates of independence


    Present day political status
    Present day political status

    • British colonies:

      • Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, Anguilla, Montserrat—21,000 pop.

      • High standard of living: offshore banking

    • French islands:

      • some remain connected to colonial rulers and use this as an asset.

        • Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guyana are “departments” of France (900,000 pop)

    • Dutch former colonies

      • Curacao, Bonaire, St. Martin, Saba, St. Eustatius

      • “Federation of the Netherlands Antilles”

      • Autonomous, yet part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands


    Us influence after 1898
    US influence after 1898:

    • Monroe Doctrine No tolerance for European powers in the Western hemisphere

    • Spanish-American war 1898

    • “America’s Backyard”US asserts neocolonial control over persistent colonies of the English, French and Dutch

      • “Free it from European tyranny an foster democratic governance” BUT:

        • Roosevelt: Panama canal and open sea-lanes

        • Good Neighbor Policy (1930’s)

        • Alliance for Progress (1960’s)

        • Caribbean Basin Initiative (1980’s)

        • FTAA possibilities


    Economic development
    Economic Development

    • Decline of agriculture:

      • Turbulent and declining commodity prices

      • Decline in preferential trade agreements with former colonial countries

      • Soils are overworked/No frontier

      • Mechanization of sugarless labor needed

      • Examples:

        • Haiti

          • 1955: 70% of foreign exchange through coffee

          • 1990: 11%

        • DR:

          • 1955: 60% of foreign exchange through sugar

          • 1990: 20%


    Economic development agriculture today
    Economic DevelopmentAgriculture today

    • Exception to complete decline: Cuba

      • sugar 80% of foreign exchange 1950’s-1990’s.

      • Diversification after 1989.

      • Now Cuba grows about 30% of the world’s coffee

  • Coffee is grown by small producers

    • Interspersed with subsistence crops

  • Bananas

  • NTEX crops


  • Economic development bananas and banana wars
    Economic DevelopmentBananas and Banana wars

    • Banana production

      • Most in CA

      • Vulnerable to hurricanes,

      • Still, several states are dependent on bananas (Dominica, St. Vincent, St. Lucia)

      • Landowners are the laborers2-4x income

  • 1996: WTO case

    • US, Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala and Honduras sue EU over preferential trade agreements with Caribbean countries

    • Exacerbated by consumer preferences

  • Result: Non traditional exports:

    • Okra, tomatoes, avocados, marijuana


  • Economic development export processing production
    Economic DevelopmentExport Processing Production

    • 1950’s in Puerto Rico “Operation Bootstrap”

      • By 1970, 40% of GDP comes from manufacturing

      • Today, 50%, but competition from other islands and locations is threatening PR’s lead

    • Other EPZ’s or Free Trade Zones

      • Jamaica—15% of GDP

      • DR: “Hong Kong of the Caribbean”

      • Map



    Economic development offshore banking
    Economic DevelopmentOffshore Banking

    • Specialized services that are confidential and tax-exempt

      • Localities make money through registration fees

    • Began in Bahamas in 1920s

    • Competition from other islands, Hong Kong and Singapore--Cayman Islands is current leader

      • 50,000 registered companies

      • Est. Cayman banks $800 billion on deposit.

      • Highest per capita PPP in region

    • Concerns about corruption and money laundering of drug fundsreforms

      • But still, drug influences=drug consumption, corruption and violence

      • US raises new concerns about privacy after 9/11



    Economic development tourism
    Economic DevelopmentTourism

    • Began in 19th C.

    • 1930’s: Cuba is a leader

      • Bahamas distant second

    • 5 leaders:

      • Puerto Rico:

        • after commonwealth status 1952

        • Largest home port for cruise lines

      • Bahamas:

        • 30% of pop employed in tourism, mainly American

      • Dominican Republic:

        • many visitors are nationals who live overseas

        • $2.5 billion, leading foreign exchange earner

      • Jamaica

        • $1.2 billion

      • Cuba


    Economic development regional initiatives
    Economic DevelopmentRegional Initiatives

    • Caribbean Basin Initiative

    • CARICOM

      • 1973

      • 13 member states:

        • Former English colonies

        • Haiti

        • Other associate members

    • Caribbean Development Bank

    • University of the West Indies

    • Limited success


    Modern demographics
    Modern Demographics

    • Varied population densities

    • Demographic trends

      • Fertility decline

      • Rise of HIV/AIDS

      • Emigration “Caribbean diaspora”

        • Barbadians--England

        • Surinamese--Netherlands

        • PR—NY

        • Cubans—Miami

      • Intraregional migration

        • Haitians– DR

      • Circular migration

      • Chain migration

      • Rural-Urban migration


    Caribbean cities
    Caribbean cities

    • Initially, just administrative centers for business of the plantations

      • Most people lived in rural areas

      • Only Havana has extensive colonial architecture and urban design (the key colonial city in the region)

      • Paramailbo (Suriname) looks like a tiny Holland

  • Recent migrations caused by

    • Mechanization of agriculture

    • Offshore industrialization

    • Rapid population growth

      • Only 4 are >1 million (Santo Domingo 2.6 m; Havana 2.2 m; Port-au-Prince 1.5m; San Juan 1m)

  • Modern cities reflect historical rural social and economic patterns:

    • “Houseyards”

      • Rural subsistence, economic survival, matriarchal social structure


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