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At the end of the unit, students should be able to:1. Identify locations on the globe that are of historical and current significance to peoples of the Caribbean. Discuss the geographical features of the Caribbean and how they contribute to the development of the region. Differentiate between the regions of the Caribbean. (Greater and Lesser Antilles, and Leeward and Winward Islands, the Franco and Anglophone, Dutch Antilles and Hispanic Caribbean) and identify their political, economic and social features.

(a) Locate the following: i. The rest of the world ii. The USA iii. Canada iv. Latin America v. Africa vi. Europe vii. Asia viii. The Middle East (b) Identify French, Dutch, English and Spanish speaking countries (c) Examine the main geographical features of all Units.




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The objective of this unit of studies is that students should be able to identify locations on the globe that are of historical and current significance to peoples of the Caribbean. What this significance refers to can be inferred from the content section which suggests that students should understand the geographical features of the places from which our Caribbean people come, the languages they spoke, and the location where they are to be found.

What is the Caribbean?

Browne (2000) suggests that we consider the Caribbean from the geographical, historical, and political perspectives while Reid (2002) adds the social and cultural perspectives What does this mean? Simply, that being a member of the Caribbean society does not merely mean that we live in one of the islands or territories that are washed by the Caribbean sea, but that our personalities, our ways of life and even our ethnicity are explained by the various factors that have affected the region. In this unit, we will begin to uncover some of these factors.

I. THE GEOGRAPHICAL CARIBBEAN. - Features of the region.

Three marine geographical features tells us that the most obvious feature of the Caribbean is that it is shaped in the form of an archipelago and is bounded by the mainland territories of Belize, Guyana, Suriname and Cayenne. There is also an outer ring of mainly coral islands with white sand beaches from The Bahamas, to the Turks and Caicos, the Cayman Islands and embracing parts of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the eastern parts of Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia, the Grenadines, parts of Grenada, Tobago and Barbados. The second inner ring of more volcanic islands, with black sands, includes the islands of the Greater Antilles - Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The inner ring also includes St. Kitts, the western parts of Guadeloupe, Dominica, parts of St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and parts of Grenada. The third distinct feature is the alluvial coast of Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana (Cayenne) on the South American mainland between the vast estuaries of the Orinoco and the Amazon. Three marine geographical features also points out that there are four different types of landforms that characterize the region. Most of Cuba, the Bahamas, Belize and the Turks and Caicos Islands, Barbados and parts of Guadeloupe consist of limestone plateaus. Then there are the mountainous countries such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Puerto Rico. There is the arc of volcanic mountainous islands from Saba to Grenada through the Windward and Leeward Islands. In the region, several active volcanoes exist. These are present in Montserrat, where recently, due to volcanic activity, much of the population has been evacuated to nearby islands and to Britain. Some volcanic activity also currently exists in St. Vincent, Martinique and Guadeloupe. Finally, there are the Guianas (on the South American mainland) formed of ancient rock. The countries of the Caribbean are of different sizes and different formation. Below is a table taken from giving geographical data relating to the Caribbean territories.

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Caribbean Region: selected geographical data

Country Antigua Bahamas Barbados Belize BVI Cayman Is. Cuba Dominica Grenada Guadeloupe Guyana Haiti Jamaica Martinique Montserrat Netherland /Antilles Puerto Rico St. Kitts St. Lucia St. Vincent Suriname Tobago Trinidad Turks & Caicos U.S. Virgin Islands Capital St. Johns Nassau Bridgetown Belmopan Road Town George Town Havana Roseau St. George's Basse-Terre Georgetown Port-au-Prince Kingston Fort-de-France Plymouth Willemstad San Juan Basseterre Castries Kingstown Paramaribo Scarborough Port-of-Spain Grand Turk (Cockburn Town) Charlotte Amalie Population (k) 64.3 283.7 259.2 235.9 19.2 39.3 11,096.4 64.9 8,129.7 97.0 420.9 702.2 6,884.3 2,652.4 411.6 12.8 207.8 3,887.7 42.8 154.0 120.5 431.2 50.0 1,102.1 16.9 119.8 Physical Size (sq. km) 280 11,826 440 174 241 110,922 790 48,730 345 1,702 27,750 11,424 1,090 84 960 8,897 176 603 389 163,270 300 4,828 430 344 Maximum Elevation (m) 403 100 338 518 15 1,972 1,422 3,175 840 1,467 2,680 2,557 1,397 742 862 1,065 1,156 951 1,179 1,268 572 941 49 465 *Rock Type L/V L L/S S/M/V L L/S/M V V/L V L/S/M V V L/S/M V V V M/V L/S/M S/M/V

Dominican Republic Santo Domingo

*Rock Types: L = Limestone, M = Metamorphic, S = Sedimentary,

V = Volcanic.


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Caribbean Plate (Tectonics)

Volcanoes and earthquakes are related to the movements of the tectonic plates on which the world rests. The earths crust is broken up into several plates due to movements of magma below the earths surface. A tectonic plate is one these pieces that has fragmented and which forms fault lines which are susceptible to earthquakes of greater or lesser magnitudes depending on the type of movement of the plate. To the right is a picture of the Caribbean Plate on which the Caribbean rests taken from There are three important tectonic plate margins which experience their own type of movement that you should know about: convergent margins, transform margins and divergent margins. All of these are present in the Caribbean.

Convergent Margins. At the

convergent margin there is a great deal of activity. The boundaries from the two related plates crash together forcefully and cause subduction to take place. Volcanoes result from this action. Convergent margins in the Caribbean are found to the East and West of the region.

Transform Margins. The action

at the transform margin is that of two plates sliding under each other. Instead of crashing together as happens at the convergent margin, here one plate slides under the other and creates a vibration that is manifest as an earth-quake. In the Caribbean transform margins exist to the north and south of the region.

Divergent Margins.

There is a divergent margin off the coast of Jamaica. This produces light earthquakes and

represents to pulling apart of two margins. Recently, we have been feeling more earthquakes in Jamaica than previously. This represents increased activity at the plate boundary. On the previous page there is a map showing the active volcanoes of the Caribbean. A volcano that is alive, but is not active is called a dormant volcano. An example of this is the Mount Liamuiga Volcano in St.Kitts that has not erupted in documented memory, but which

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is related to the Soufriere Hills volcano in Montserrat and so must continue to be watched carefully for signs of activity. You will notice that all of these volcanoes are along the convergent margin.

Geomorphology is the study of landforms and how humans affect the earth and how the earth affects the development of humans. There are several landforms that are found in the Caribbean. Over page, there is an illustration of various land forms to refresh your memory. Included among them are lake, peninsula, harbor, mountain, plains, river and river bed, waterfall, isthmus, delta, butte, canyon and straight among others.

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For the most part, land forms were formed as a result of earth movements and activities that took place many years ago, but the land forms of a territory affect the way the people develop. Active Volcanoes in the Caribbean

For example, Dominica is very mountainous with dense tropical forests and most settlements are located on the coastline where roads and other required infrastructure can be found. Consider your country and make a list of the prominent land forms that are found there and the effect that they have on people. Active Volcanoes in the Caribbean include Mount Pele in Martinique, Soufriere in St. Vincent, Kick-em-Jenny under the sea close to Grenada, and the Soufriere Hills in Montserrat. In St. Kitts there is a dormant volcano under Mt. Liamuiga that scientists are studying carefully because of its proximity to Montserrat. Other dormant volcanoes but which may pose possible threats for the future are noted in red on the above map. Jamaica too experienced huge volcanic activity in the early part of the century and though currently dormant there is potential for a future threat.

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Type of Landforms
Sandy beaches Plains

Positive Effect on Humans

Used to attract tourists Used for farming sugar cane in Jamaica, and for building towns and settlements Semi-active volcano serves as tourist attraction. Eg. Costa Rica Used by tourists to survey the landscape, cool Can be used as a port for ships Rejuvenate the earth, provide jobs after the hurricane Provides data for seismologists

Negative Effect on Humans

Without rocks, to protect, the beach is susceptible to sea-surges Flat and sometimes prone to flooding if drainage is not built. Dangerous in times of eruption, but early warning systems should be heeded Difficult to get an infrastructure up the hillside Often left uninhabited and taken over by undesirable characters Dangerous, loss of life, property and crops can be alerted in advance Very dangerous, not always predictable.

Volcano Plateau Peninsula Hurricanes Earthquake resulting from plate tectonics

Showing different kinds of Landforms some of which are found in the Caribbean .

Winds and Hurricanes.

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HURRICANES. Another prominent geographical feature that affects a number of Caribbean islands is the hurricanes and storms that prevail. Enchanted Learning at tells us that hurricanes need four conditions to form: low air pressure warm temperatures moist ocean air tropical winds (near the equator).

Hurricanes form in the tropics, over warm ocean water (over 80F or 27C) and at latitudes between 8 and 20, Hurricanes form mostly from June through November (hurricane season). These powerful storms are fueled by the heat energy that is released when water vapor condenses (turns into liquid water -- rain). It further tells us that a hurricane goes through many stages as it develops: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. It starts as a tropical wave, a westward-moving area of low air pressure. As the warm, moist air over the ocean rises in the low air pressure area, cold air from above replaces it. This produces strong gusty winds, heavy rain and thunderclouds that is called a tropical disturbance. As the air pressure drops and there are sustained winds up to 38 miles per hour, it is called a tropical depression. When the cyclonic winds have sustained speeds from 39 to 73 miles per hour, it is called a tropical storm (storms are given names when they begin to have winds of this speed). The storm becomes a hurricane when there are sustained winds of over 73 miles per hour.

The End of a Storm: When a hurricane travels over land or cold water, its energy source (warm water) is gone and the storm weakens, quickly dying.

In 1492, without really realizing it, Columbus owed his success in the discovery of the heretofore unknown lands to the North Atlantic Trade winds. The above map taken from

Prepared by G.Ledgister, Montego Bay Community College allows us to realize the role played by the winds. On his third voyage, again the lack of winds the Doldrums almost upset the discovery of Trinidad and Tobago, the north coast of South American and the islands Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire. The trade winds, which blow east to west across the Atlantic, bring steady breezes (and fast-moving rain showers) to the Netherlands Antilles and help moderate temperatures in the Windward Islands (Martinique, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines). The winds give islands like Aruba steady and stable weather, but also create an arid, desert-like climate.


The French Caribbean To the right are some of the French islands. The French Antilles, Martinique and Guadeloupe, are classified as overseas department of France. The Capital of Martinique is Fort-deFrance and that of Guadeloupe is BasseTerre. The department of Guadeloupe comprises the dependencies of Marie-Galane, Iles des Saintes, to the Sourth, La Desirade to the east, and St. Bartholemew (Saint Barts) and the northern half of St. Martin in the North. Martinique is in the Winward group of the Lesser Antilles. Of volcanic origin, it is the largest of the Lesser Antilles. In 1902, a volcanic eruption completely destroyed the original capital, St Pierre. Industries: tourism, sugar, rum, fruits, cocoa, tobacco, vanilla, vegetables. Area: 1079sq km (417sq mi). Pop. (1999) 381,325. Haiti and the mainland territory of French Guiana, previously capital city and port is Cayenne, are also French speaking territories. Haiti became an independent nation in 1806 and French Guiana is also an overseas department of France whose prefect government representative in the French National Assembly is Jean-Pierre Laflaquire. The capital of French Guiana is Cayenne and its exports include: shrimp, timber, gold, rum, rosewood essence, clothing. It imports food (grains, processed meat), machinery and transport equipment, fuels and chemicals. Its Natural resources include: bauxite, timber, gold (widely scattered), cinnabar, kaolin, fish. For all these, it has a 22% unemployment rate, and 83% literacy rate and many of its people are poor. They include black or mulatto 66%, white 12%, East Indian, Chinese, Amerindian 12%, other 10%. French Guiana is bordered by Suriname to the North West and Brazil on the South and East.

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As you will learn in the next chapte, St. Vincent. St. Lucia, Dominica and Trinidad were all settled by the French for a period of time but were handed over to the English as they gradually won the various European wars in the Caribbean and established the British Empire across the world. If you were to visit St. Lucia and Dominica you would hear a very heavily French Patois being spoken is these islands. This is a remnant of their French background. St.Kitts and Grenada were also occupied by the French for various periods of time in the 17th century. The Dutch Caribbean. The Netherlands Antilles previously known as the Netherlands West Indies or Dutch Antilles is part of the Lesser Antilles and consists of two groups of islands in the Caribbean Sea: Curaao and Bonaire, just off the Venezuelan coast, and Sint Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten, located southeast of the Virgin Islands. The islands form an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The islands' economy depends mostly upon tourism and petroleum.

Both the leeward (Alonso de Ojeda, 1499) and windward (Christopher Columbus, 1493) island groups were discovered and initially settled by Spain. In the 17th century, the islands were conquered by the Dutch West India Company and were used as bases for the slave trade. Slavery was not abolished until 1863. In 1954, the status of islands was promoted from that of a colonial territory, part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as an associated state within a federacy. The island of Aruba was part of the Netherlands Antilles until 1986, when it was granted status aparte (i.e. it became a self-governing part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands).

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Between June 2000 and April 2005, each island of the Netherlands Antilles had referendums on their future status. The four options that could be voted on were: closer ties with the Netherlands remaining within the Netherlands Antilles autonomy as a country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands (status aparte) independence

On October 12, 2006, the Netherlands reached an agreement with Saba, Bonaire, and Sint Eustatius; this agreement would make these islands special municipalities. On November 3, 2006, Curaao and Sint Maarten were granted autonomy in an agreement, but this agreement was rejected by Curaao on November 28. The Curaao government was not sufficiently convinced that the agreement would provide enough autonomy for Curaao. On July 9, 2007 Curaao approved the agreement it had rejected in November 2006. On February 12, 2007, an agreement was signed between the Netherlands and every island except Curaao. This agreement would end the Netherlands Antilles by December 15, 2008 and make 1 billion guilders available for debt relief, social development and poverty reduction.. Politics. The head of state is the ruling monarch of the Netherlands, who is represented in the Netherlands Antilles by a governor. The governor is also head of the local government, and forms, together with the council of ministers, the executive branch of the government. The legislative branch is two-layered. Delegates of the islands are represented in the government of the Netherlands Antilles, but each island has its own government that takes care of the daily tasks on the island. The Netherlands Antilles are not part of the European Union. Since 2006 the islands have been involved in diplomatic disputes between Venezuela and the Netherlands. Venezuelan President Hugo Chvez claims that the Netherlands may allow the United States to install military bases that would be necessary for a planned U.S. invasion of Venezuela. On May 23, 2006 an international military manoeuver known as Joint Caribbean Lion 2006, including forces of the U.S. Navy, began. Future Status The Netherlands Antilles is to be disbanded on December 15, 2008. The idea of the Netherlands Antilles as a state never enjoyed full support of all islands. Political relations between islands were often strained. After a long struggle, Aruba

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seceded from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986, to form its own state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The desire for secession has also been strong in Sint Maarten. In 2004 a commission of the governments of the Netherlands Antilles and the Netherlands reported on a future status for the Netherlands Antilles. The commission advised a revision of the Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in order to dissolve the Netherlands Antilles. Two new associated states within the Kingdom of the Netherlands would be formed, Curaao and Sint Maarten. Meanwhile, Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius would become a direct part of the Netherlands as special municipalities, a form of "public body" as outlined in article 134 of the Dutch Constitution. These municipalities will resemble ordinary Dutch municipalities in most ways (they will have a mayor, aldermen and a municipal council, for example) and will have to introduce most Dutch law. Residents of these three islands will also be able to vote in Dutch national and European elections. There are, however, some derogations for these islands. Social security, for example, will not be on the same level as it is in the Netherlands, and the islands are not obliged to introduce the euro; they may retain the Antillean guilder pending further negotiations. Also, it is unknown whether prostitution and same-sex marriage will become legal in these islands, which are legal on the mainland of the Netherlands. All five of the island territories may also continue to access the Common Court of Justice of Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles (with the Joint Court probably receiving a new name). The three islands will also have to involve the Dutch Minister of Foreign Relations before they can make agreements with countries in the region. Originally the term used for Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius to describe their expected association with the Netherlands was "Kingdom Islands". The Dutch province of North Holland has now offered the three new municipalities the opportunity to become part of the province. Additionally, the Kingdom government would consist of the government of the Netherlands and one mandated minister per Caribbean country. The special municipalities would be represented in the Kingdom Government by the Netherlands, as they can vote for the Dutch parliament. The Netherlands has proposed that the new EU constitution allow the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba to opt for the status of Outermost Region (OMR) also called Ultra Peripheral Region (UPR), if they wish.



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West Africa today as shown in the map to the right is a far cry from what it was in the 16th century when the Portuguese, the Dutch and the English discovered it rich treasures and boundless supply of human capital which they so selfishly acquired and sold. West Africa was a continent of tribes not countries. A number of these tribes were nomadic and acknowledged no boundaries, West Africa was a continent of tribes not countries. A number of these tribes were nomadic and acknowledged no

boundaries, but also claimed no territory permanently. Other of these tribes were stationary and lived in the forests where they developed large and fine civilizations. Some of the more well known tribes of West Africa included the Yoruba, Dogon, Ewe,Fulani, Songhay, Mossi, Wolof, Fante, Hausa and Asante. In the map above some of these tribes may be seen (remember that the Akan speaking peoples include the Ashanti tribe, many of whose people came to Jamaica) To the right is a strange map but it shows the geographical features of west Africa that have been of importance for years. To the south coast there are tropical forests (in dark green), above that the tropical dry forests and savannahs, above the Dry Grasslands and then finally, above that is the great subtropical dessert Most of the persons who came to the Caribbean came from the forests and savannahs of west Africa.. The will give you a good idea of the greatness and strength of Sub-Saharan Africa in the early days. So much of our knowledge of Africa comes from lessons about slavery and the slave trade, that many students have no idea of the early greatness of Africa, its kingdoms, empires, universities and immense wealth. This course seeks to balance the information and to present a truer picture of the ancestry of many Afro-Caribbean people. It will also look at the many cultural features of West Africa that are present in Caribbean life today. INDIA Prepared by G.Ledgister, Montego Bay Community College


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References: 1. Three marine geographical features retrieved from on 2 July, 2007 2. Caribbean Map Quiz

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Prepared by G.Ledgister, Montego Bay Community College

Prepared by G.Ledgister, Montego Bay Community College


Prepared by G.Ledgister, Montego Bay Community College