Evidence indicates that human settlement in the Caribbean existed as far back the 6th millennium BC. The discovery of ancient artifacts at sites of the Ortoiroid people in Trinidad points to this fact. By the 5th millennium BC their society reached the islands of Cuba and Hispaniola. Much further on in history, it is believed the Caribbean islands largely were repopulated by various waves of people from the Orinoco Valley region, which is part of modern-day Venezuela and Colombia. First, the Saladoid people spread into Trinidad around 400-200 BC. Next, the Barrancoid people replaced them in 250 AD. The Arauquinoid, who were later known as the Taino, expanded into the area around 650 AD. Then the Mayoid, who were later known as the Caribs, showed up around 1200-1300 AD. At the time of European contact, the three major Caribbean indigenous people were the Taino, who lived in the Greater Antilles, Bahamas and the Leeward Islands; the Caribs who lived in the Windward Islands; and the Ciboney of Cuba. The Caribbean was then turned into its more modern day form with colonization by European countries like Britain, Spain, and France. The decimation of the native Caribbean populations and the import of slaves from Africa also occurred during the period of European colonization.
The Countries And Their People
Barbados is the tenth most populous Caribbean country with 283,000 people. Barbados was a British colony from 1625 until 1966, when it gained independence. Barbados's population has is composed of black (92%) and in terms of religion, 75.6% are Christians. English is spoken as the official language of Barbados. Cricket is the most popular sport in the country, and two of the most well-known Barbadians are probably pop star Rihanna, who was born in the country, and R&B singer Mark Morrison, whose parents are from the country.
The Bahamas is the ninth most populous Caribbean country with 379,000 people. The Bahamas was a British colony from 1718 until 1973, when it gained independence. The Bahamas population is mostly of African descent (90%), and Christianity is again the dominant religion here. The Bahamas were the site of Columbus's landfall in 1492. The tourism industry makes up about 60% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and employs almost half of the country. The Bahamas also has the fourth highest GDP per capita for all North American countries. Cricket is also the national sport of the country.
Martinique is the eight most populous Caribbean country with 383,000 people. Martinique was a French colony from 1635-1794 and then again since 1815. Britain controlled the colony from 1794-1815. It is still a territory of France, also known as an overseas region and has the same powers as the regions in mainland France. It has had that designation since 1946. Martinique's population is primarily of African lineage (90%), and 90% are Roman Catholics. French is spoken as the official language here.
Guadeloupe is the seventh most populous Caribbean country with 405,000 people. The French settled here in 1635 and officially annexed the island in 1674. Over about the next 150 years, it went back in forth between the British and the French, even being owned by the Swedish for a short time, until 1815 when it officially became France's. Guadeloupe, like Martinique, became an overseas region of France in 1946. Guadeloupe's population is mostly of African descent (75%) and Roman Catholic (91%). French is again the official language here.
6. Trinidad and Tobago
The country of Trinidad and Tobago is the sixth most populous Caribbean nation with 1.3 million people. Trinidad was a Spanish colony from 1492 until 1797. Tobago changed hands between the Spanish, British, French, Dutch and Courlanders (Duchy of Courland) until 1802 when Britain officially gained control of Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago were separate until 1889 when they became one entity and gained its independence in 1962. Trinidad and Tobago has a population of East Indians (35%), Afro-Caribbeans (34%) and mixed (22%). Trinidad and Tobago do not have a majority religion, but Protestants makes up 32% of the country. English is the official language of this country.
Jamaica is the fifth most populous Caribbean country with 2.7 million people. Jamaica was under Spanish rule between 1494 until 1655, after which the British took control of it. Jamaica gained Independence from Britain in 1962. Jamaica's population is mostly of African descent (92%) and Protestant Christians (64%). Jamaica's official language is English, and it is the third most populous English-speaking country in the Americas. According to United Nations estimates Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the world. Jamaica is very well known as the birthplace of reggae music. Two of the most famous Jamaicans are the reggae musician Bob Marley and sprinter Usain Bolt.
4. Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is the fourth most populous Caribbean country with 3.5 million people. Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony from 1493 to 1898. After the Spanish-American War, Spain was forced to handover Puerto Rico to America and has since been an unincorporated territory of America. Since 1917, Puerto Ricans have been treated as American citizens and been able to elect their governor since 1947. Almost the entire population of Puerto Rico is Latino (99%), and the major religion here is Roman Catholicism (85%). Spanish and English serve as the official languages here.
Haiti is the third most populous Caribbean country with 10.3 million people. Haiti was a Spanish colony from 1492 to 1625 until it came under French control. In 1791, the thirteen year Haitian Revolution started led by Toussaint Louverture, who died in 1802 after being captured by France. In 1804 Haiti led by Loverture's lieutenant, Jean-Jacques Dessalines declared independence. Haiti became only the second independent nation in the Americas and the only nation in the world to be established via a successful slave revolt. 95% of Haiti's population is comprised of Afro-Caribbeans, and most are Roman Catholics (54%). French and Creole serve as the official languages here.
2. Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is the second-most populous Caribbean country with 10.4 million people. The Dominican Republic was a Spanish colony from 1492 to 1795 until it came under French control until 1809. It was then back under Spanish control until 1821, when it declared independence from Spain. This independence only last two months, as the Dominican Republic came under Haitian control until 1844. The Dominican Republic was then independent again until 1861 when it once again became a Spanish colony until 1865 and have since them been independent. The Dominican Republic is a diverse country with 73% of the population being mixed race. Most of the country is Roman Catholic (95%), and the official language is Spanish.
Cuba is the most populous Caribbean country with 11.2 million people. Cuba was a Spanish colony from 1492 until 1898. Spain lost Cuba in the Spanish-American war and ceded it to the United States. In 1902 Cuba was granted its independence. In 1959 the Communist Party led by Fidel Castor took control of the island and have been in power even since. Cuba is the lone country in the region to have had a communist government. Cuba is the largest country in the Caribbean in terms of population and size. Cuba is officially a secular state, but estimates have put Roman Catholics forming 60% of the population.
Future Population Trends
The future population trends for the Caribbean points to the smallest population growth for a developing region by 2050, less than Asia and Africa. This estimate could be because the region as a whole has rapidly improved the average life expectancy at birth and the total fertility rate has gone down by more than half in the last sixty or so years. So while the total population is still expected to grow in the future, the growth rate will be relatively lower to the rising average age of the population and a decreased number of births in the future.