The Caribbean is a region that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands, and the surrounding coasts. The region is southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and the North American mainland, east of Central America, and north of South America. Situated on the Caribbean Plate, the region comprises more than 700 islands, islets, reefs, and cays. With 2,754,00 km2 and a population of 43,601,839 inhabitants, the Caribbean is split into two main geographic areas, the Greater Antilles and the Lesser Antilles. Geopolitically, the Caribbean islands are considered regarded as a subregion of North America. The Caribbean Islands have a strong, tumultuous history of slavery, European colonization, and the plantation system.
Island Territories of the Caribbean
The Caribbean region is made up of 30 territories includes multiple sovereign states such as Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago. Other territories are split between the UK, France, Netherlands, and the US. Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands remain British overseas territories, while Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barthélemy, and Saint Martin are overseas departments and collectivities of France. Puerto Rico is part of the commonwealth of the United States while the United States Virgin Islands counts as a territory. Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands while Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius are special municipalities of the Netherlands.
Demographics of the Caribbean
Due to years of international slave trades, the Caribbean Islands have a diverse racial population. The largest groups being of African, European, and Spanish descendants such as Afro-Caribbean, Indo-Caribbean, Latino or Hispanic, and European. Languages vary greatly with Spanish, English, French, Dutch, Haitian Creole, and Papiamento as the predominant official languages. Religions also vary greatly throughout the Caribbean’s with Christianity as the predominant religion.
The Caribbean islands are remarkable for the diversity of their plant and animal life. Classified as one of the Conservation International’s biodiversity hotspots, they have exceptionally diverse terrestrial and marine ecosystems, ranging from mountainous cloud forest to cactus scrublands. The Caribbean also contains roughly 8% of the worlds coral reefs, containing roughly 70 species of hard corals and between 500-700 species of reef-associated fish. The water of the Caribbean Sea hosts not only large coral reef formations and migratory schools of fish and turtles, but also the deepest point of all of the Atlantic Ocean, the Puerto Rico Trench. The Caribbean Ocean also hosts several major shipping routes through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean.
Climate of the Caribbean
The climate of the Caribbean islands can vary but range from tropical to subtropical. Rainfall varies per island but the region can be split into dry and wet seasons, both seeing year-round sunshine. Hurricane season is from June to November, occurring the most in late summer months and in the northern islands. The air temperature remains warm, ranging in the 20s to 30s °C. The temperature varies 2-5 degrees during the winter in the southern islands and 10-20 degrees in the northern islands. The water temperatures remain warm year-round, ranging between 20-30 °C.
Tourism to the Caribbean
One of the Caribbeans main economic sectors is tourism. With roughly 25 million visitors each year, the region earns roughly $50 billion annually. With its humble beginning in 1778 when the first hotel was built in the Caribbean, the region now houses an array of luxury resorts which dominate the North American tourism industry. More than 4 million tourists visit the Dominican Republic annually, with Puerto Rico and Cuba as close seconds. However, the Caribbean tourism industry involves more than just resorts. Eco-tourism plays a large role in the economy as well with famous destinations such as Trinidad's Asa Wright Nature Reserve, Bird of Paradise Island, and Balenbouche Estate in St. Lucia.