Caribbean Sea

The islands of the Caribbean Sea or Antilles, originally known by Europeans as the West Indies, were the proving and provisioning grounds for the Spaniards’ conquest and settlement of the Americas. They were key to the famous triangle trade between North America, the Caribbean, and Africa that thrived throughout the American colonial era. Created millions of years ago by volcanic action and continental plate uplift, the islands of the Caribbean Sea form an arc that sweeps east from the Florida and Yucatn peninsulas to the Virgin Islands and then dips south to the Venezuelan coast. The largest of the islands is Cuba, followed by Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica these, together with the Bahamas, Turks, and Caicos, are the Greater Antilles. The Lesser Antilles comprise the Windward Islands (which face the Atlantic) and the Leewards (which face the Caribbean), all of which lie between Puerto Rico and northern South America. The islands of the Caribbean, seen here in a 1650 map, were the proving ground and strategic base of the Spanish colonial empire in the Americas. (Royal Geographical Society, London, United Kingdom/Bridgeman Art Library) The ancestors of the native peoples whom Christopher Columbus met in the Caribbean in 1492 began to canoe down the island arc from the Yucatn about 7,000 years ago; we call them Ciboney or Guanahatabey. Other indigenous groups canoed up from the Orinoco and Amazon River valleys in various waves. By 950 c.e. they had merged to become the Taino. Later immigrant groups from the same Orinoco and Amazon regions are known as Carib, and they gave the sea and the region their name. The Carib were the most feared of the region’s indigenous peoples because it was rumored that they were cannibals; however, archaeological studies reveal that while the Carib may have ritually consumed parts of their conquered enemies, human meat did not form part of their daily diet. It was on Hispaniola, the island presently shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti, that the patterns for Spanish conquest and settlement of the rest of the Americas were formed. The native peoples of the island (Taino) were forced to work in exchange for being taught Christine doctrine and lifestyle, African slaves were brought in to replace the declining indigenous laborers in the mines and plantations (the Native Americans had no immunity to the diseases that Europeans, Africans, and Asians had exchanged for millennia along with commercial goods), and all three groups of people Native Americans, Africans, and Europeans began to intermix culturally and biologically. By 1509, the Spaniards had also colonized Cuba, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico and had begun to seek pearls in the waters of the Lesser Antilles. When they discovered the densely populated lands of the Aztec, Maya, and Inca, rich with deposits of silver and gold, however, the Caribbean islands became the jumping-off points where Spaniards gathered seasoned men and supplies to outfit their mainland expeditions. Wars among the European nations spilled over into the Caribbean. Protestant nations such as the Netherlands and England, and even Catholic nations such as France, disputed the pope’s right to divide the Americas between Spain and Portugal. Corsairs, privateers with backing from Spain’s European enemies, began attacking Spanish ships and settlements in the Caribbean as early as the 1520s. Among the most famous were the Frenchman Jean D’Ango’s seizure of two Spanish galleons laden with Aztec gold and other valuables that Hernando Cortz sent to the Spanish Crown in 1523, and the Englishman Francis Drake’s sacking of Santo Domingo in 1586. By the end of the sixteenth century, it was clear that Spain could not hold on to its islands in the Caribbean. One by one, Jamaica and the islands of the Lesser Antilles fell to the English, French, Dutch, and eventually even the Danes, for they were valuable tobacco and sugarcane lands. With the spread of sugar came a dramatic increase in the number of African slaves brought to the Caribbean to work the plantations and mills. Sugar and slaves connected Britain’s Caribbean colonies to its colonies on the North American coast. The North Americans engaged in small manufacturing, shipbuilding, and trade. They traded manufactured goods from England and basic supplies from North America to the sugar planters of the Caribbean, for which they received tropical products and molasses to make rum. The rum was traded into Africa for more slaves. This was the famous triangle trade that connected the European, American, and African continents. The Caribbean was also the birthplace of the abolition of slavery. Enlightenment philosophies of liberty, equality, and brotherhood were first put into practice in what became the United States and France and then they spilled over into French Saint-Domingue (present-day Haiti). There, in 1804, for the first time, these principles were applied to all people, not just those of European descent. For a multitude of economic reasons, not just humanistic ones, the British outlawed slavery throughout their Caribbean colonies in 1833, and the law went into effect the following year. Most other nations soon followed suit. Lynne Guitar See also: Antigua; Barbados; Caribbean (Chronology); Cuba; Hispaniola; Jamaica; Puerto Rico; Saint-Domingue; St. Kitts; Sint Eustatius; Slavery, Caribbean. Bibliography Boucher, Philip P. Cannibal Encounters: Europeans and Island Caribs, 1492 1763. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992. Claypole, William, and John Robottom. Caribbean Story. Vol. 1,Foundations. Kingston, Jamaica: Longman Caribbean, 1980 1981. Claypole, William, and John Robottom. Caribbean Story. Vol. 2,The Inheritors. Kingston, Jamaica: Longman Caribbean, 1980 1981. Knight, Franklin W., and Colin A. Palmer. The Modern Caribbean. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989. Lewis, Gordon K. Main Currents in Caribbean Thought: The Historical Evolution of Caribbean Society in Its Ideological Aspects, 1492 1900. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987. Caribbean Sea holidaymapq

Caribbean Sea Photo Gallery

Spirit of the West Caribbean Sea, Caribbean and On The Beach holidaymapq

The Caribbean Sea Swim – Picture of Spirit of the West, West Bay … holidaymapq

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