The Caribbean
Complex colonial history (Spanish, British, French, Dutch, and U.S.)
 Plantation America (eg. Sugarcane)
 Ethnicity of African origin
 Isolated proximity
Isolation: cultural diversity, limited economic opportunities
 Proximity: transnational connections, economic dependence
Environmental Geography
The Antillean islands
The rimland
 The Antillean islands: separate the
Caribbean sea from the Atlantic ocean;
densely populated
 The rimland: biological diversity;
sparsely populated
The Antillean islands
 Can
be divided into Greater Antilles and Lesser
Greater Antilles
large islands: Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola (Haiti,
the Dominican Republic), and Puerto Rico
Majority of population
High mountain ranges
The Antillean islands
 Lesser Antilles
Double arc of small islands
stretching from the Virgin Islands
to Trinidad
 Footholds for rival European
colonial powers
 Inner arc: mountainous islands of
volcanic origin (eg. Montserrat)
 Outer arc: low-lying islands with
volcanic base  ideal for growing
sugarcane (eg. Antigua, Barbados)
Tectonic plates
in the Antillean islands
 Heavier
North and South American plates go
underneath the Caribbean plate
 Creates subduction zone, and high mountains with
volcanic activities
 Caribbean plate: limestone + volcanic rocks
 South American plate: sedimentary rock
 eg.
Trinidad and Tobago are on the South American
Plate: sedimentary rock  oil reserves
Rimland States
 Belize
limestone  Sugarcane, citrus
 Low-lying,
 The
 Rolling
hills of the Guiana Shield
 Rain forest  Timber
 Eg.
The Tropical Rainforest in Suriname
 Crystalline
rock  poor soil; metal extraction
Climate and Vegetation
Warm all year
 Abundant rainfall
 can support tropical forests
Antilliean islands: removed for plantation
 Rimland: intact
Seasonality is defined by changes in rainfall
When is the rainy season?
Islands: July ~ November ( Hurricane)
 The Guianas: January ~ March ( Shift of ITCZ to the north in winter)
 Forms
off the coast of West Africa
 Picks up moisture and speed as they move across
the Atlantic
 Westward-moving low-pressure disturbances
 75 mph ~ 100 mph
 July ~ November
 Affects Lesser Antilles, Greater Antilles, Central
America, Mexico, southern North America
Biome – wet zones
Tropical forests
Remains exclusively in the rimland
Palm savannas
Tropical savanna (Aw) zones
 Adapted to agriculture
 Eg. Hispaniola, Cuba
Coastal mangrove swamps
Mangrove tree
Leeward shores
 Not suited to human settlements, but vital marine habitant
 Cleared to create open beaches  exposed to increased erosion
Biome - arid zones
 Thorn-scrub
brush, cactus
 Netherlands Antilles
(Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao),
Anguilla, the Cayman Islands
 Not adequate to agriculture; salt, goat
 Since 1960s, developed as world-class resorts
Environmental issues – Ecosystem
 For
nearly five centuries, an area has been so
completely reworked through colonization and
global trade
 Extinction
 Extreme
of Caribbean plants and animal
human modification of environment
Environmental issues - Deforestation
Covered in tropical rain forests prior to the arrival of
Forests were cleared
to make a room for sugarcane
 to provide the fuel to turn the cane juice into sugar
 to provide lumber for housing, fences, and ships
The newly exposed tropical soils easily eroded, and thus
land becomes unproductive
Environmental degradation and
poverty in Haiti
What was once considered France’s richest colony now
has a per capita income of $460
Colonial period: deforestation for sugarcane production
 Independence (1804): slave uprising
 U.S. occupation (1915-34): economic dependency
 Duvalier dictatorships (1957-86): social inequities
 Early 1990s: economic sanctions
Environmental degradation and
poverty in Haiti
70% subsistence farming
 Reliance on biofuels
Managing the Rimland forests
 Belize
 eg.
Coca Cola Corporation attempted to purchase the
land for juice concentrate in 1980s
 First jaguar reserve in the Americas
 Guyana
 Boa
Vista to Georgetown
 Governments:
Highway construction
 Conservationists: National park
 Protecting
environment is not a luxury but a
question of economic livelihood
Population and Settlement
Densely settled islands and
rimland frontiers
Fertility decline
 Cuba
 Education
of women
 Availability of birth control and abortion
 Barbados
 Out-migration
of young Barbadians overseas
 Preference for smaller families
Rise of HIV/AIDS
On average, 2% of the Caribbean population between the
ages of 15 and 49 has HIV/AIDS
Relationship between HIV/AIDS transmission,
international tourism, and prostitution
Highest rates (between age 15-49) are in
Haiti (5%)
Bahamas (4%)
The Dominican Republic (3%)
Guyana (3%)
Caribbean diaspora
Economic flight of Caribbean peoples across the globe
Driven by regions’ limited economic opportunities
Began in the 1950s
Emigrated to other Caribbean islands, North America, and
Caribbean diaspora
Former colony
Barbadians (Britain),
 Surinamese ( Netherlands)
 Puerto Rican ( U.S.)
Economic opportunities & proximity
Jamaican ( U.S.)
 Cuban ( U.S.)
 Dominican ( U.S., Puerto Rico)
 Haitian ( Dominican Republic, U.S., Canada, French Guiana)
Settlement patterns
Reflects the plantation legacy
Plantation agriculture in the arable lowlands
 Subsistence farming in marginal lands
 Villages of freed or runaway slaves in remote areas of the
 Cities that serve the administrative and social needs of the
colonizers – few and small
Ancestors of former slaves work their small plots and seek
seasonal wage-labor on estates  matriarchal social
Houseyards in the
Lesser Antilles
Owned by a
woman, her
extended family of
married children
lives here
Rural subsistence
Economic survival
Matriarchal social
Caribbean cities
Since the 1960s, rural-to-urban migration
best explained by an erosion of rural jobs
60% urban
Cuba (75%), Haiti (35%)
cities are
San Juan
Caribbean cities
Vulnerable to raids by European
powers and pirates  walled
and fortified
 Santo Domingo (1496)
 Havana: was essential port city
for Spanish empire due to the
strategic location
 Transforming from ports for
agricultural exports to tourismoriented cities
Old Havana
Cultural Coherence and Diversity
 Cultural
imprint of colonialism
 Neo-Africa in the Americas
 Creolization
Cultural imprint of colonialism
 More
intense demographic collapse of Amerindian
populations (3 millions) within 50 years after the
arrival of Columbus in 1492
 Plantation-based
agriculture dependent on forced
(Africa) and indentured (Asia) labor
 Need
to understand the term Plantation America
Plantation America
Antigua (1823)
Plantation America
Cultural region that extends from midway up the coast of
Brazil through the Guianas and the Caribbean into the
southeastern U.S.
Ruled by a European elite; dependent on an African labor
force; coastal
Mono-crop production (a single commodity)
Engendered specific social/economic relations
Plantation America – forced labor
10 million African landed in the America
More than half of these slaves were sent to the Caribbean
Plantation America – indentured labor
By the mid 19th century, labor shortages due to the
abolition of slavery
 Governments sought indentured labor from South and
Southeast Asia
Workers contracted to labor on estates for a set period of time
Legacy of indentured arrangements
Suriname: 1/3 South Asian descent, 16% Javanese
 Guyana: 50% South Asian ancestry
Eg. 2001 president election
Trinidad and Tobago: 40% South Asian ancestry
Neo-Africa in the Americas
– Maroon societies
The Caribbean is the area with the greatest concentration
of African transfers in the Americas
Maroons (communities of runaway slaves) have formed
during the colonial period
eg. The maroons of Jamaica in the forested mountains of the
islands’ interior
 eg. Bush Negros of Surinamese in the interior rain forest
Neo-Africa in the Americas
– African religions
Transfer of African religious and magical systems to the
Voodoo in Haiti, Santeria in Cuba, Obeah in Jamaica
Diffused in other regions by immigrants
Santeria in Florida, New York
 Obeah in Panama, Los Angeles
African religious influences
in the Americas
Neo-Africa in the Americas
– Creolization
Blending of African, European, and even some
Amerindian cultural elements into the unique sociocultural
systems found in the Caribbean
Garifuna (Black Carib)
Descendants of African slaves who speak an Amerindian
 Unions between Africans and Carib Indians on St. Vincent
 Relocated in Belize and Honduras
Neo-Africa in the Americas
- Creolization - Language
Dominant languages are European
Spanish (24m), French (8m), English (6m), Dutch(0.5m)
However, many of these languages have been creolized
Papiamento in Netherlands Antilles
 French Creole or patois in Haiti
European vocabulary + African syntax, semantics
Neo-Africa in the Americas
- Creolization - Music
 Reflects
a combination of African rhythms with
European forms of melody and verse
 Bob Marley
Merengue(Dominican, Haiti)
Rumba(Cuba), Salsa
 Celia Cruz
Geopolitical Framework
 Colonialism
 Neocolonialism
 Independence
European colonialism
Economically, European viewed the Caribbean as a
profitable region (eg. sugar, rum, spices)
Geopolitically, European powers attempted to check
Spanish hegemony
Spanish: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico
 British: Jamaica, Belize, Barbados, Trinidad, Guyana
 French: Haiti, French Guiana
 Dutch: Suriname, Netherlands Antilles
Colonial affiliation in
the Lesser Antilles
French and British
traded islands several
Many of these territories
gained independence in
the 1960s through the
U.S. neocolonialism
Monroe Doctrine (1823)
 Spanish-American War (1898)
 Panama Canal (1903)
U.S. troops occupation in the Dominican Republic (191624), Haiti (1913-34), Cuba (1906-9, 1917-22)
It’s not until 1999 that Panamanians gain a control over canal
eg. military base in Guantánamo, Cuba
Business interests overshadow democratic principles
eg. U.S. company bought the best lands
Border disputes
 Contested
colonial holdings produced
contemporary border disputes
– Guatemala
 Guyana – Venezuela
 Guyana – Suriname
 French Guiana – Suriname
 Belize
Puerto Rico
Ceded by Spain to the U.S. (1898)
 Became the commonwealth of the U.S. (1952)
So Puerto Rican is a U.S. citizen
Independence movement throughout 20th century
But opinion is divided
 Eg. U.S. Navy’s bombing exercises in Vieques (east coast)
Industrialization since the 1950s
Implemented program called “Operation Bootstrap”
 Petrochemical and pharmaceutical plants
 Colony
of Spain since the 1500s
 American neocolonialism at the first half of 20th
 Fidel Castro seized the power (1959)
 Nationalized American
 Established diplomatic relations with the USSR
 Economic
hardships in the 1990s after the fall of
the Soviet Union
Independence movements
Haiti (1804)
 The Dominican Republic (1844)
 Cuba, Puerto Rico (1898) – but U.S. involvement
 Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Barbados (1960s)
 Bahamas (1973), Grenada (1974), Dominica (1978), St.
Vincent and the Grenadines (1979), St. Lucia (1979),
Antigua and Barbuda (1981), Belize (1981), St. Kitts and
Nevis (1983)
 Suriname (1975)
Present-day colonies
 British
colonies: Cayman Islands, the Turks and
Caicos, Anguilla, and Montserrat
 Department
of France: French Guiana, Martinique,
and Guadeloupe
 The
Dutch islands: Curaçao, Bonaire, St. Martin,
Saba, and St. Eustatius
Regional integration
Experimented with regional trade associations since the
Goal – improve employment rates, increase intraregional
trade, and reduce external dependence
CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market)
by English Caribbean (1963)
Economic and Social Development
 Dominance
of agriculture
 Shift away from mono-crop dependence
 Tourism, offshore banking, and assembly plants
Throughout the region
 Cuba has produced 60% of world export till 1990s
Planted in the mountains of the Greater Antilles
Soviet Union subsidized market
Eg. Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee
Grown on small farms unlike sugar; Price instability
The Lesser Antilles (Dominica, St. Vincent, St. Lucia)
 Grown on small farms in contrast to Latin America
The Banana Wars
Small farms in the Caribbean versus Plantation in Latin America
Small farms in the Caribbean has the preferential access to the
European market using colonial ties
1996 U.S., Ecuador, and some Central American countries took E.U.
to WTO court  it’s unfair agreement, so eliminate it by 1998
Now E.U. is under pressure to drop the preferential treatment given
to the former colonies
Increased global competition has forced many rural laborers to find
employment elsewhere
Assembly-plant industrialization
 Free
trade zones (FTZs)
 Duty-free
and tax-exempt industrial parks for foreign
 Taking advantage of
Proximity to North America
Cheap labor
Export-led development policies
 Now
manufacturing accounts for 15% of GDP in
Jamaica, and 20% of GDP in the Dominican Republic
Free trade zones in the Dominican Republic
Currently 16 FTZs are
operational with foreign
investors from U.S., Canada,
South Korea, and Taiwan
Assembly-plant industrialization
Create new jobs
 Economies are diversifying
Foreign investors may gain more than the host countries
 Little integration with national supplies
 Low wages
 Increase in competition
Offshore banking
Appeals to foreign banks and corporations by offering
specialized services that are confidential and tax-exempt
 The Cayman Islands
Demand-side: proximity to North America
 Supply-side: financial service as a way to bring hard currency to
resource-poor states
Offshore banking
 Risk
 Offers
little employment
 Vulnerable to political instability
 Attracts drug money (eg. money laundering)
 Drug
 Corruption of local officials
 Drug-related murders
 Less
uncertain whether this will improve local earnings
and standards of living
Contributing factors
Environmental: dry season matches winter in the U.S.
 Locational: proximity to the U.S., colonial ties
 Economic factor: employment, environmentally less destructive
Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica,
and Cuba hosted 70% of 14 million international tourists
Cuba used to be the largest host by the 1950s, but with the rise of Fidel
Castro, it has been neglected. Currently Cuba is reviving tourism. Cuba
does not receive U.S. client because of U.S. sanction
 Pitfalls
 Subject
to the overall health of world economy and
political affairs
 Recession
 Heightened
 Local
fear of terrorism
residents confront the disparity between their
own lives and those of tourists
 Capital leakage: huge gap between gross receipts and
the total tourist dollars that remain in the Caribbean
Social development
In contrast to the inconsistent record of economic growth,
most Caribbean show strong measures of social
development with the exception of Haiti
Cuba’s accomplishments in health care and education
Excellence in education except for Hispaniola and the
former British colonies (Jamaica, Belize, and St. Lucia)
Brain drain
Outflow of professionals
 Occurs especially between former colonies and the mother
Jamaica (60%)
 Barbados, Guyana, Dominical Republic, and Haiti (20%)
Can negatively impact local health care, education, and
 Stronger economic performance has slowed this process
Migrants’ sending money back home is also an important
source of income in this region
eg. Remittance income is the second leading industry in the
Dominican Republic
Often returnees can introduce positive economic and
political changes, but their impact is too fragmented to
represent a national development force
Status of women
Matriarchal basis of Caribbean households
Rural custom of men leaving home for seasonal employment
tends to nurture strong and self-sufficient female networks
With new employment opportunities, female labor force
participation has surged (eg. Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica,
and Martinique)
 Cuba’s educational and labor policies yielded the most
educated and professional women in the Caribbean
eg. Female doctors outnumber their male counterparts
Supplemental web resources

The Caribbean - DePaul University GIS Collaboratory