Caribbean Overview
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25 countries and dependent territories
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Greater Antilles (Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto
Rico)
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Lesser Antilles
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Large mountains (DR: 10,000’; Jamaica Blue Mtns. 7000’,
Cuba 6000’ (refuges for runaway slaves)
Fertile farmlands, but fragile
Double arc
Netherlands Antilles (ABC islands)
Setting boundaries not easy:
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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
Greater Antilles
Lesser Antilles
Lesser
Antilles
Why a region?
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Commonalities: Cultural and economic
history different than Latin America
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Diverse European influence
Strong African imprint and slavery
Virtually no indigenous legacy
Export plantation economy
Grossly uneven distribution of land and resources
 Environmental impacts
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Environmental/physical geographies
Names:
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The Indies, the Spanish Main, Mar del Norte
18th C: first use of the name Caribbean
Caribbean Diversity
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Territorial Size:
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Population
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Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic): 16 million
Turks and Caicos: 12,000 pop
Cultural Heritage
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Cuba:: 101,000 Km. Sq.
Montserrat: 100 km. Sq.
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 Overview
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Historically: “proxy” battleground for European
rivalries
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Plantation economies
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Sugar, sugar, sugar
Bananas, citrus, coffee, spices
By 1900’s: US dominates the region politically
and economically
Other and more recent economic development
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timber
nickel and bauxite, gold
tourism
Non traditional exports
Off shore banking
Caribbean Overview
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Contradictions:
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“Island Paradise” v. impoverishment and
dependency
“Isolated proximity”
Fertility washed away
Cyclical migration: migrants returning
Environmental Geographies
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Geologies, climate and vegetation
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Tectonic Plates
Tropical, wet climate that supports forests
Palm savannas—best soils
Mangrove swamps
Arid zones (rain shadows)
Hurricanes
Reworked landscapes
Environmental degradation
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Deforestation
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Sugarcane fields
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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
Plantation economies
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Spanish discoveries
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Colonists demographic collapse of indigenous
Arawaks and Caribs
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Insatiable demand for sugar and rum
Asian migrants indentured labor
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Fragments survive only on the rimland
Competition from France, England, Holland; Pirates
“Plantation America” from Brazil up through SE US.
Mono crop system: sugar
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Jumping off point for exploration and ports for trading from Mexico,
CA and SA
Suriname: 1/3 pop is of S. Asian descent, 16% Javanese
Guyana and Trinidad: India
English colonies: Chinese
Slave labor-Elaborate racial hierarchy
‘Plantation America”
Caribbean Cultures
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Much diversity, but also many similarities
which provide glue
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European plantation economies similar
social structures (like CA)
African influence
Creolization
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Culture, language, music
African heritages
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African diaspora
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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)
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Maintenance of historical religions
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Obi, Obeah
Bush Negroes
African religions
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Voodoo, Santeria, Obeah
Extensive use
Diffused to the US along with migrants
African heritage and hybridity
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Creolization
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Rich forms (VS Naipal, Bob Marley)
Garifuna or Black Carib
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Languages
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African/Carib on St. Vincent forcibly resettled by British to Bay Islands of
Honduras
 Maintain Indian religion, eat manioc
Spanish: 24 million
French: 8 million
English: 6 million
Dutch: .5 million
Alternatives: papiamento, patois,
Music
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Reggae, calypso, merengue, rumba, zouk, steel drums of Trinidad,
etc.
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Haitian ra-ra musicians have been exiled when too political
Reggae, esp. Bob Marley, strong political content
Political Histories
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Independence:
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Haiti is the first in 1804 (v. US in 1776)
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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
Country
Independence
Jamaica, Trinidad and
Tobago
1962
Barbados
1966
Bahamas
1973
Grenada
1974
Dominica
1978
St. Vincent and the
Grenadines
St. Lucia
1979
Antigua and Barbuda
Belize
1981
St. Kitts and Nevis
1983
Present day political status
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British colonies:
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Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, Anguilla, Montserrat—21,000
pop.
High standard of living: offshore banking
French islands:
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some remain connected to colonial rulers and use this
as an asset.
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Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guyana are
“departments” of France (900,000 pop)
Dutch former colonies
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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:
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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
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“Free it from European tyranny an foster democratic
governance” BUT:
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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
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Decline of agriculture:
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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
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1955: 70% of foreign exchange through coffee
1990: 11%
DR:
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1955: 60% of foreign exchange through sugar
1990: 20%
Economic Development
Agriculture today
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Exception to complete decline: Cuba
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Coffee is grown by small producers
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sugar 80% of foreign exchange 1950’s-1990’s.
Diversification after 1989.
Now Cuba grows about 30% of the world’s coffee
Interspersed with subsistence crops
Bananas
NTEX crops
Economic Development
Bananas and Banana wars
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Banana production
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1996: WTO case
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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
US, Mexico, Ecuador, Guatemala and Honduras sue EU
over preferential trade agreements with Caribbean countries
Exacerbated by consumer preferences
Result: Non traditional exports:
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Okra, tomatoes, avocados, marijuana
Economic Development
Export Processing Production
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1950’s in Puerto Rico “Operation Bootstrap”
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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
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Jamaica—15% of GDP
DR: “Hong Kong of the Caribbean”
Map
DR EPZ/ free trade zones
Economic Development
Offshore Banking
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Specialized services that are confidential and taxexempt
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Began in Bahamas in 1920s
Competition from other islands, Hong Kong and
Singapore--Cayman Islands is current leader
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Localities make money through registration fees
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
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But still, drug influences=drug consumption, corruption
and violence
US raises new concerns about privacy after 9/11
Off shore banking
Economic Development
Tourism
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Began in 19th C.
1930’s: Cuba is a leader
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Bahamas distant second
5 leaders:
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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
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Caribbean Basin Initiative
CARICOM
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1973
13 member states:
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Former English colonies
Haiti
Other associate members
Caribbean Development Bank
University of the West Indies
Limited success
Modern Demographics
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Varied population densities
Demographic trends
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Fertility decline
Rise of HIV/AIDS
Emigration “Caribbean diaspora”
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Intraregional migration
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Barbadians--England
Surinamese--Netherlands
PR—NY
Cubans—Miami
Haitians– DR
Circular migration
Chain migration
Rural-Urban migration
Caribbean cities
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Initially, just administrative centers for business of
the plantations
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Recent migrations caused by
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Mechanization of agriculture
Offshore industrialization
Rapid population growth
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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
Only 4 are >1 million (Santo Domingo 2.6 m; Havana 2.2 m; Portau-Prince 1.5m; San Juan 1m)
Modern cities reflect historical rural social and
economic patterns:
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“Houseyards”
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Rural subsistence, economic survival, matriarchal social structure
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