Catholicism generally evokes images of European cathedrals, not Caribbean beaches. But as history would have it, the Caribbean is dominated by members of the Catholic faith.
The earliest European "discoveries" in the Caribbean were made by men who were Roman Catholic. Since then, Catholicism has been the dominant religion of much of the Caribbean. Both the Spanish and French were Catholic, while many of the British immigrants, usually from Ireland, also followed the faith. Dutch Catholics came to the islands as well.
In modern times, the islands' most recent census data brings to light the following statistics about Roman Catholics in the Caribbean:
|Island Name||Percent (%) of Pop.|
|British Virgin Islands||10|
|Netherlands Antilles (Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, St. Eustatius, and St. Maarten)||72|
|Trinidad and Tobago||26|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||34|
Most of the islands with the highest percentages of Roman Catholic residents are islands that were, during some point in their history, not claimed by the British empire. British islands are dominated by the Protestant faiths, as this listing demonstrates.
There are, at current count, more than eight archdiocese in the Caribbean islands. Each of these controls a number of diocese and are listed as follows.
|Archdiocese (Country/Island)||Diocese (Country/Island)|
|Archdiocese of San Juan de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico)||Arecibo
Ponce (Puerto Rico)
|Archdiocese of Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic)||Baní
Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia en Higüey
San Juan de la Maguana
San Pedro de Macorís
|Archdiocese of Santiago de los Caballeros (Dominican Republic)||La Vega
San Francisco de Macorís
|Archdiocese of Port of Spain (Trinidad)||Bridgetown (Barbados)
|Archdiocese of Castries (St. Lucia)||Kingstown (St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
Saint George's (Grenada)
Saint John's-Basseterre (British Virgin Islands)
|Archdiocese of Fort-de-France (e Saint Pierre) (Martinique)||Basse-Terre (et Pointe-à-Pitre) (Guadeloupe)
Cayenne (Cajenna) (French Guiana)
|Archdiocese of Nassau (The Bahamas)||Hamilton (Bermuda)
Turks and Caicos (Mission "Sui Iuris")
|Archdiocese of Kingston (Jamaica)||Belize City - Belmopan (Belize)
Cayman Islands (Mission "Sui Iuris")
Montego Bay (Jamaica)
While some of these were founded very early, like the Archdiocese at San Juan that was founded as a diocese in 1511, others have been more recently constructed - Bermuda's diocese was built in 1953. There are also several archdiocese and diocese in both Cuba and Haiti.
Catholicism was undeniably important to the Caribbean's earliest explorers - Columbus named St. Kitts after his own patron saint, Saint Christopher, while St. Lucia was named for the same saint that is celebrated on the day the island was discovered. But islands aren't the only places in the Caribbean that have patron saints.
Cities, too, have saints. Cities such as San Juan (Saint John, in English) or Santo Domingo (Saint Dominic) also have patron saints. However, even cities that are not directly named after saints can have patrons: Pointe-à-Pitre is dedicated to St. Pierre (Saint Peter). These cities spend time each year in celebration of their patron saints.
Puerto Rico, in particular, is known for its patron saint festivals. Most every city on the island will spend about a week each year celebrating the day associated with its patron saint. Although many share saints, the importance of each saint is not diminished.
Saints play an important role in the lives of Caribbean Catholics in particular, but it's clear to see that Catholicism itself has a strong standing in the Caribbean region. Those visiting the region will likely encounter many aspects of Catholicism on many of the islands - even the British territories.
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