Becoming acquainted with the history and heritage of the Caribbean goes a long way towards understanding its culture. Each of the Caribbean islands has a unique and distinct cultural identity that was molded by early European colonialists, the African slave trade, as well as indigenous Indian tribes. Its rich culture, set against a backdrop of crystal clear waters and never ending sunshine is what gives the Caribbean its lasting influence on travelers who visit the islands.
Notwithstanding, its rich culture and heritage, the Caribben lifestyle - as most tourists experience it - is unquestionably a product of its exotic, tropical setting. The architecture, music, attitudes and local customs have, in many ways, been influenced by the unique physical landscape and climate of the Caribbean. Today the cultures of the Caribbean are a harmonic mix of colonial mainstays as well as influences by major ethnic groups including the Africans and East Indians.
Barbados, sometimes referred to as "Little England", has retained enough of its British heritage to be perceived as more of a "western" culture. Aruba, has also retained British customs but tends to be more laid-back than Barbados.
Other islands, most notably Jamaica, retain very few of their orginal colonial customs. These islands rely heavily on their pre-colonial heritage and have distanced themselves from colonial influence or rule. Jamaica is a purely democratic state that is passionaly self-sufficient but maintains a very peaceful existence amoung other Islands that are heavily influenced by Colonial heritage and governance. Its residents include a wide spectrum of characters, from staid English aristocrats to animated Rastafarians.
Aruba, once a Dutch colony, today retains only the slighest Dutch influence. The U.S. Virgin Ilands (St. Croix, St. John, St. Thomas, etc.), acquired from the Dutch in the early 1900s, exude an American feel with a few lingering remnants of Dutch culture.
Unlike many of the Caribbean islands colonized by the early europeans, the Dominican Republic is largely underdeveloped except for its capital Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo is home to more than two million people and has many of the modern luxuries, as well as developed infrastructure, found elsewhere in the Caribbean. The Dominican Republic is a mountainous country (located due east of Haiti) whose past is story of ongoing political turmoil.
In contract, Puerto Rico, located directly east of the Dominican Republic, is one of the most modern and well-developed islands in the Caribbean. Both American and Spanish influences are evident throughout the island which is covered with modern buildings and abounds with western culture. Guadeloupe, another popular tourist destination located southeast of Puerto Rico, first colonized by the French remains a French possession today. While you'll find signs of African heritage on the island, the predominant customs, culture and language are French.
Caribbean culture is at the heart of the Caribbean experience. While many tourists arrive in the Caribbean in search of the perfect paradise many leave with an appreciation for everything that the Caribbean truly has to offer - other than its unparalleled landscape. If you want to have an unforgettable Caribbean experience take the time to experience the Caribbean culture on your next trip.
The following are a few of the most important elements of the Caribbean culture today.