The Caribbean is a region in the western tropical part of the Atlantic Ocean north of the equator. As part of the Central American sub-continent it consists of the located in and around the Caribbean Sea islands and island groups, and the sea area between them. At the western end of the Caribbean extends into the Gulf of Mexico

The Caribbean is named after the people of the Caribbean, the Spanish conquerors in the Lesser Antilles (Latin ante ilium, " offshore islands " ) found it. It was or is called, because they believed in a direct sea route to India and the West Indies.

Geography and population

After the delimitation of the International Hydrographic Organization are arcuately arranged Caribbean islands within the Caribbean Sea. This form of the Yucatán peninsula to northern South America almost a rectangle. The highest elevation in the Caribbean is the Pico Duarte 3,098 m in the Dominican Republic.

In the Caribbean area today about 40 million people from different backgrounds living in a total area of about 220,000 km ² (see below). In addition to (due to disease and slavery ) very few remaining indigenous inhabitants mainly people of African and European descent, Creoles and Indians living (especially Trinidad and Tobago) and Chinese on the various islands of the Caribbean. Spanish and English with approximately 70% with about 24% are the main languages ​​of the Caribbean, along with French, Dutch and various forms (especially in everyday life ) of the Creole or Caribischen are spoken.

The 2013 average life expectancy was 72 years and 26 % of the population belonged to the sub -15 -year-olds, while 9% were over 65 years old. While it migrated more people than immigrated from, but the population density of 180 inhabitants per km ² compared globally relatively high.

Important Caribbean Bildungseinrichtingen are the " University of the West Indies" and the " Centre for Hotel and Tourism Management ". Tourism is one of the main sources of revenue for the Caribbean countries. Especially fish, legumes and spices for culinary use local dishes. → See also Caribbean cuisine


The Caribbean Sea is part of the American Mediterranean and reached the Cayman Trench to a depth of 7,680 m. It is situated mainly on the Caribbean plate, only the northwestern part beyond the deep sea trench located on the North American plate. Due to tectonic activity along plate boundaries, it always comes back to earthquakes and occasional volcanic eruptions. So had after several eruptions Plymouth, the capital of Montserrat, to be abandoned in 1995 after had already fled to approximately 8,000 people. 2010 The last major earthquake occurred in Haiti, which killed an estimated 300,000 people. → See also the list of the serious earthquake in Haiti

Nature and climate

Generally prevails tropical rainforest climate and thus a time of day climate with average temperatures above 20 ° C. In addition, the drifting to Europe Gulf Stream has its origin in the Bahamas. The label above / below the winds of the West Indies suggests the influence of the northeast trade winds. Another natural phenomenon are arising or passing hurricanes that regularly cause damage eg by flooding.

Among the resident species include the West Indian manatee, the Caribbean spiny lobster or iguanas. Other species such as the Caribbean shrews are already extinct due to anthropogenic influence. Through the export-oriented cultivation of cash crops (eg sugar cane ) to monocultural plantations native plant species such as mangrove drastically decreased. Many of the soils are of volcanic origin and different fertile.

History and discovery of the Caribbean

Before the discoveries of the 1st millennium BC Arawak Indians from Venezuela direction came to the Caribbean islands. About Trinidad they spread out to the north. They were followed by about 1,500 years later, the warlike Caribs, the Arawaks slowly expelled by the Lesser Antilles. At the time of the expeditions of Christopher Columbus, the Arawaks inhabited the islands of Cuba, Hispaniola and the Bahamas, while the Caribs inhabited the Lesser Antilles.

When Columbus on behalf of the Spanish crown in 1492 landed on San Salvador ( Bahamas), he was primarily looking for gold and other riches. But the Arawak put no value on what looked Europeans than wealth. Thus, the Caribbean was indeed settled, but the conquistadors took it soon on the American continent. Gradually, also British, Dutch and French settled. Even Denmark, Sweden and Kurland were in possession of some colonies. St. Barthelemy was, for example, nearly a century under Swedish rule.

The Caribbean was operating field of Bukaniern and pirates (so-called Golden Age of Piracy ), especially in the 17th and early 18th century. The small islands offered the pirates that as a privateer on behalf of a king were sometimes traveling many hiding places and the Spanish treasure fleets were a good and profitable targets. Port Royal, Jamaica, and the French settlement on Tortuga were veritable pirate settlements.

Islands and territories of the Caribbean

1 At times, inhabited by Haitian fishermen. 2 (lack of ) numbers taken from the country pages.

For Caribbean counted States

While following countries belong geographically to the U.S. mainland, but are often counted in the Caribbean due to its colonial history as well as their economic, transport and linguistic relations:

3 Number of land taken from side.

Caribbean littoral

The following countries bordering the Caribbean ( from northwest to southeast ):

  • North America: United States United States, Mexico, Mexico
  • Central America: Belize Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Costa Rica, Panama Panama
  • South America: Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Guyana, Suriname Suriname, French Guiana, French Guiana

Island divisions and joint archipelagos

The following islands are managed by several states:

  • Hispaniola: Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
  • St. Martin ( island ): From France and Netherlands -dependent.

The following islands are grouped:

  • British West Indies: Anglophone Lesser Antilles, which are connected by institutions and events.
  • French West Indies: Francophone Lesser Antilles.
  • Virgin Islands: Spanish (west ), American ( central) and British (East ).
  • Leeward Islands: Northern and southwestern Lesser Antilles, downwind.
  • Windward Islands: Southern Lesser Antilles, windward.
  • ABC islands: Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao are geographically adjacent.
  • BES - islands: Saba, St. Eustatius, Bonaire. These are special municipalities of the Netherlands and are expected to be such as Martinique or Guadeloupe in 2015 part of the European Union.

The following island groups were resolved:

  • West Indies Federation: they existed until 31 May 1962.
  • Netherlands Antilles Netherlands Antilles: They insisted until 10 October 2010.
  • Arrondissement of Saint- Martin -Saint -Barthélemy: It was until 22 February 2007.