The Caribbean in the Past and in the Present

The Caribbean is one incredibly interesting region - from past to present

Photo credit: © Cheryl Casey |

The Caribbean's fiercely independent spirit is hard-earned and readily apparent. You feel it in the lasting African traditions and you see it in artistic expressions of song and dance. Even today's universally loved musical forms, which originated during the days of slavery, provide an ever-present Caribbean soundtrack and influence to musical traditions all over the world.

Today's peaceful island nations fought many years for self-reliant status. In fact, some islands were captured and recaptured by various European groups more than twenty times during the Caribbean wars throughout their history. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, sugar plantations dominated Caribbean agriculture and fueled the slave trading traditions.

When the Emancipation Act of 1834 ended slavery, Europe could no longer depend on the islands for high-volume sugar production, so the Caribbean no longer seemed worth the fight to Europeans. Nowadays, the Caribbean's ever-expanding export base includes electronics, textiles, petroleum, and rum. Undeniably, though, the islands' most profitable industry is tourism, which saw its renaissance in the early 1990s. The tourism boom promoted growth in many other domestic industries such as construction and other tourism-related ventures.

The modern Caribbean has a unique cultural identity shaped by the influential traditions of European settlers, African slaves, and native Indian tribesmen such as the peaceful Arawaks and warrior Caribs. This rich and varied history is set against a backdrop of dazzling beaches, mountains, rainforests, and bustling city streets.

The distinctive culture and customs of the Caribbean nations have lovingly been preserved by native voices--artists, farmers, and merchants who are the oral historians preserving the cultural traditions of this incomparable region.


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