West Indies – WorldAtlas

The West Indies are a sequence of islands positioned within the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. This chain of islands runs from the north, near the US State of Florida, all the way in which south to the northern shores of South America. They have been named the Indies by Christopher Columbus, the primary European on document to succeed in the islands. He believed that he had reached India, and thus, referred to as the newly-discovered islands the Indies. Later, when it was found that what Columbus found was not India, the islands have been renamed the West Indies, to differentiate them from the Spice Islands within the Pacific Ocean, in any other case often known as the East Indies, which now comprise the territory of Indonesia.

Geography Of The West Indies

Map of the West Indies.

The West Indies consists of three distinct island teams: the Bahamas, the Better Antilles, and the Lesser Antilles.

The Bahamas

The Bahamas map.

Essentially the most northerly group of islands within the West Indies are the islands of the Bahamas, which consist of roughly 3,000 islands and reefs. The islands of the Bahamas are coral islands, which have been fashioned when coral reefs grew to become dry land following a discount in sea ranges. They’re made completely of calcium carbonate, which is the fabric produced by the organisms that stay in coral reefs. This function has resulted within the Bahamas having the clearest waters on the earth, through which it’s doable to see as much as 61 meters deep. The islands comprise 5% of all of the coral on the earth. The Bahamas can be the title of a rustic that controls a lot of this island group. Though politically, The Bahamas is often thought of a part of the Caribbean, it’s technically not positioned within the Caribbean Sea, however within the Atlantic Ocean. The Bahamian island of San Salvador was the primary island that Columbus set foot on when he reached the West Indies.

The Better Antilles

Better Antilles map.

The Better Antilles are the big islands within the west and heart of the Caribbean Sea. Essentially the most westerly island is Cuba, which can be the most important island within the West Indies. Cuba is an island composed largely of limestone. In reality, about 65% of the island comprises limestone. In comparison with different islands within the Caribbean, Cuba is comparatively flat. Two-thirds of the island consists of plains, and the median elevation is simply 90 m above sea degree. There are greater than 500 rivers in Cuba, the longest of which is the Cauto River, which flows for 370 km. Most of those rivers, nonetheless, are too shallow to be navigated by boat.

To Cuba’s south is the island of Jamaica. Like the opposite islands of the Antilles, Jamaica was fashioned by a sequence of volcanoes that rose from the ocean billions of years in the past. The island has three geographic areas: the japanese mountains, the central valleys and plateaus, and the coastal plains. The very best level in Jamaica is Blue Mountain Peak, which reaches a top of two,256 m. The island’s terrain varies to the extent that it produces two kinds of climates, an upland tropical local weather and a semiarid local weather. The previous dominates on the windward aspect of the mountains, whereas the latter is extra prevalent on the leeward aspect.

The massive island east of Cuba and Jamaica is named Hispaniola. It’s the second largest island within the West Indies. Hispaniola is split between the 2 international locations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It has 5 mountain ranges. These mountains are sparsely populated, however a major quantity of agricultural exercise, most notably the expansion of espresso, is finished within the mountain ranges. In distinction, the northern plains of Hispaniola are closely populated.

Essentially the most easterly island of the Better Antilles is the island of Puerto Rico. The island’s geography has three foremost options: mountains, coastal plains, and valleys. Three-fourths of the island consists of the mountains and hills of the Central Cordillera. This space is surrounded by coastal plains. The rivers of Puerto Rico are slim and unnavigable by boat, however they’ve confirmed to be supply of hydroelectric energy.

The Lesser Antilles

Lesser Antilles map.

Past Puerto Rico, to the east, lie the Lesser Antilles. The Lesser Antilles stretch south, all the way in which to the northern shores of South America. There are literally two teams of islands within the Lesser Antilles. The northern group known as the Leeward Islands, which stretch from the island of Anguilla within the north to the island of Montserrat within the south. These islands are within the form of an arc and have been fashioned by the assembly of the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates.

The southern group of the Lesser Antilles is named the Windward Islands, that are positioned on the foot of the Caribbean Sea. These islands are typically mountainous and volcanic in origin. Among the Windward Islands, comparable to Martinique, nonetheless have energetic volcanoes. The island of St. Lucia even has a volcano you can drive by way of. The island of Trinidad is the most important and southernmost island of the Windward Islands and the Lesser Antilles generally. At its nearest level, it’s simply 11 km from the coast of the South American nation of Venezuela.

A Temporary Historical past Of The West Indies

Pre-Columbian Taíno petroglyphs on Puerto Rico.

Archeological proof means that the West Indies have been settled, at the least partially, as way back as 3100 BCE, with Cuba, Hispaniola and Trinidad bearing indicators of getting been inhabited as way back as 5000 BCE. Upon contact with Europeans, the principle Indigenous teams within the West Indies have been the Taíno, who lived within the Better Antilles, the Bahamas, and the Leeward Islands; the Island Caribs and Galibi, who lived within the Windward Islands, and the Ciboney in what’s now western Cuba. On his first voyage to the West Indies, Christopher Columbus made contact with the Lucayans within the Bahamas and the Taíno in Cuba and Hispaniola.

After the Spanish, who sponsored Columbus’ voyage, found that there was gold to be discovered on the territory of the Indigenous peoples within the West Indies, they sought to beat the islands for themselves. Whereas doing so, they enslaved a lot of the Indigenous inhabitants. Ultimately, the Indigenous individuals of the West Indies have been pushed to the brink of extinction, not simply by slavery and different acts of genocide perpetrated by the Spaniards, but in addition by illnesses dropped at the islands from Europe for which that they had no immunity. To complement indigenous slave labor, the Spaniards imported slaves from Africa, whose descendants would later comprise a lot of the inhabitants of the West Indies.

By the tip of the sixteenth century, different European powers started exploring and settling the West Indies. A number of wars have been additionally fought within the area and resulted in possession of territory altering fingers on a number of events. Through the colonial interval, piracy grew to become widespread all through the West Indies, particularly within the interval between 1640 and 1680. This period of piracy is typically memorialized in as we speak’s in style tradition, together with the Pirates of the Caribbean motion pictures.

Illustration of the Haitian Revolution.

The decolonization of the West Indies started within the early nineteenth century. Haiti was the primary nation within the West Indies to grow to be impartial in 1804 with the Haitian Revolution, adopted by the Dominican Republic in 1844. Different European colonies within the area gained their independence within the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, although even as we speak, a number of islands within the West Indies are nonetheless European possessions. The islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, for instance, are nonetheless managed by France. The Virgin Islands stay beneath British and US rule, whereas the islands of Sint Eustatius, Saba, and Bonaire are nonetheless Dutch territory. The US additionally has territory within the West Indies, which incorporates Puerto Rico.

Demographics Of The West Indies

Cuban ladies posing for a photograph.

Immediately, practically 44 million individuals name the West Indies dwelling. Haiti has the area’s largest inhabitants, with 11.5 million individuals dwelling on the island. Not too far behind is Cuba, which has a inhabitants of roughly 11.4 million. The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is the third most populous, with a complete of greater than 10.9 million individuals. Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the nation of Trinidad and Tobago have populations of roughly 2.9 million, 2.8 million, and 1.4 million, respectively. The remainder of the West Indies’ international locations and territories all have populations of lower than one million. The area’s smallest inhabitants is located on the British-controlled island of Montserrat, which is dwelling to lower than 5,000 individuals.

The individuals of the West Indies are multiracial, multicultural, and multilingual. Usually, the predominant language of every nation or territory within the area is the one spoken by the present or former colonial energy. For instance, English is spoken within the former British colony of the Bahamas and the present British colony of Montserrat, whereas French or French Creole is spoken in previously French-controlled Haiti and the presently French-controlled islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Dutch is the first language on the islands of Aruba and Curaçao, that are nonetheless managed by the Netherlands, whereas Spanish is the dominant language within the former Spanish colonies of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

A First Peoples’ Ceremonial Stroll in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Picture credit score: John de la Bastide/Shutterstock

The origins of the individuals of the West Indies lie in numerous components of the world, together with Europe, Africa, and the Indian Subcontinent. The general public in Haiti, Jamaica, and the Bahamas, for instance, are of African descent. In different international locations, such because the Dominican Republic, the inhabitants is extra racially blended. Trinidad and Tobago comprises a big inhabitants of people who find themselves descended from the Indian Subcontinent, whereas most of Cuba’s inhabitants is of European descent. There are nonetheless remnants of the West Indies’ pre-Columbian Indigenous inhabitants, most notably on the islands of Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Cuba.  

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