The inhabitants of the islands of the Caribbean region comprise a rich blend of diverse races, ethnicities, languages, cuisine, music, dance, art and traditions. The Caribbean is a melting pot of cultures with influences from the indigenous community who inhabited the islands before colonization, the European colonizers, the Africans who were brought as enslaved people and the waves of immigration that included the Chinese, Indians, Syrians, Jews, Lebanese and Portuguese.
While many of the peoples born on these islands have chosen to migrate to South Florida’s tri-county area, their cultural heritage remains an integral part of their life and lifestyle in their new homeland of these United States.
- During Caribbean American Heritage Month the Miramar Cultural Center|ArtsPark is pleased to share a daily ‘Carib-bite’ of facts on the region and its people.
- Before being colonized by the Europeans, the Caribbean islands were inhabited by indigenous native populations composed mainly of three groups – Ciboney, Taino and Carib.
- The European colonizers influenced the Spanish, British, French and Dutch cultures within the Caribbean.
- Islands with a significant Spanish cultural influence include Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
- Islands with a significant French cultural influence include Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Saint Martin (a twin culture island).
- Islands with a significant Dutch cultural influence include Sint Maarten (a twin culture island), Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
- Islands with a significant British cultural influence include Barbados, Cayman Islands, Anguilla and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
- The Caribbean’s multiculturalism is reflected in its many dialects and languages. Various forms of patois and creole are spoken. For example, Papiamento is spoken in many Dutch influenced islands. It is a Creole language containing elements of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English and French.
- There are varied genres of music from the Caribbean. Examples include kompa from Haiti, soca from Trinidad and Tobago, reggae from Jamaica and shanto from Guyana.
- Africans were brought to the Caribbean as enslaved people and forced to work on the plantations. They, however, brought with them their music, dance, rituals, cuisine and customs that have influenced cultures across the entire Caribbean.
- Carnivals are popular in many Caribbean islands. Carnivals include a vibrant combination of parades, loud music, pulsating floats, intricate and colorful costumes and lots of dancing. Lots of dancing!
- The Caribbean has produced several internationally recognized performers. These include Rihanna from Barbados, Niki Minaj from Trinidad and Tobago, Gloria Estefan from Cuba, Natti Natasha from the Dominican Republic, Bob Marley from Jamaica, Wyclef Jean from Haiti and Johnny Kemp from The Bahamas.
- The Caribbean islands are well known for delectable cuisine. Many islands have a national dish that is both popular among islanders as well as visitors. Examples include Cou Cou and Flying Fish – Barbados; Stoba Kabritu – Bonaire; Turtle Stew – Cayman Islands; Ropa Vieja – Cuba; Saltfish and Boiled Dumplins – St Kitts & Nevis; Roast Breadfruit and Jackfish – St Vincent and the Grenadines; Pigeon Peas and Rice – Anguilla; and La Banderra – Santo Domingo.
- Do you know which island is referred as the Spice Island? Grenada. Historically, Grenada has been a large producer and exporter of spices including nutmeg, mace, cloves, cinnamon and ginger.
- The Caribbean takes its place in the world of literature due to the significant contributions of renowned writers, many of whom migrated to other regions. The lengthy list of distinguished writers include Sir Theodore Wilson Harris from Guyana; Aimé Césaire, Martinique; V.S. Naipaul, Trinidad & Tobago; Edwidge Danticat, Haiti; and George Lamming, Barbados.
- Island Feature – St Lucia. Although the island is quite small, only 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, St. Lucia’s volcanic topography is considered stunning and one of the main reasons it attracts so many visitors each year. It is crowned by the iconic landmark, the towering twin Pitons. Saint Lucia may be known best for its beaches and nature, but the island offers vibrant cultural and historic experiences as well. This small island is ideal for nightlife and beachside parties, while other parts of the island offer opportunities to get away from it all and explore dense forests and peaceful vistas. Nobel Laureate, Sir Derek Walcott, is from St. Lucia.