Learn about the Caribbean

Jamaica

The Jamaican flag is symbolized by the motto: 'Hardships there are but the land is green and the sun shineth'. The black triangles represent the adversity Jamaica has overcome. The green triangles represent hope and agriculture and the golden saltire (diagonal cross) stands for the mineral wealth of Jamaica and sunlight.

Haiti

The flag of Haiti consists of two equal-sized horizontal stripes - the top one is blue and the bottom one is red. In the center of the Haitian flag is the country's coat of arms, placed on a white square. The coat of arms consists of a Palmette surrounded by the liberty cap and under the palms a trophy with the inscription.

Barbados

The left blue stripe represents the sky and the yellow/gold stripe symbolizes the sand. The right blue stripe represents the sea. The trident in the middle of the Barbados flag represents Barbado's independence from the British, with each point of the trident representing the three principles of democracy.

Saint Lucia

The blue reflects our tropical sky and also our emerald surrounding waters- the Caribbean Sea. Gold represents the prevailing sunshine in the Caribbean & prosperity. Black and white stand for the cultural influences - the white part, the white culture; the black part, the black culture -the two races living in unity.

Bahamas

The national flag of the Bahamas consists of a black triangle situated at the hoist with three horizontal bands: aquamarine, gold, and aquamarine. Adopted in 1973 to replace the British Blue Ensign defaced with the emblem of the Crown Colony of the Bahama Islands.

Cuba

The national flag of Cuba consists of five alternating stripes and a red equilateral triangle at the hoist, within which is a white five-pointed star. It was designed in 1849 and adopted on May 20, 1902. It is one of the two flags of a currently socialist country the other being Laos that does not use any communist symbolism.

Aruba

Aruba's national flag was adopted on March 18, 1976. The design consists of a field of a light blue called "Larkspur, two narrow parallel horizontal yellow stripes in the bottom half, and a four-pointed white-fimbriated red star in the canton.


Saint Kitts

The flag of Saint Kitts and Nevis consists of a yellow-edged black band containing two white stars that divide diagonally from the lower hoist-side corner, with a green upper triangle and red lower triangle. Adopted in 1983 tit has been the flag of the Federation of Saint Kitts since the country gained independence that year.

The U.S. Virgin Islands

The flag of the United States Virgin Islands was adopted on May 17, 1921. It consists of a simplified version of the coat of arms of the United States. The eagle holds a sprig of laurel in one talon, which symbolizes victory, and three blue arrows in the other, which represent the three major islands.

Culture

Despite being such a small country, Jamaica has had an incredible influence on music around the world. Jamaica is the birthplace of many significant genres and artistic innovations; if you've ever enjoyed reggae, ska, or dancehall music, you can thank the musical talents of "the Rock" (as the country is commonly known). Many other genres, such as a lot of rock and punk music, draw on elements of these Jamaican music traditions. The country's most famous performer is Bob Marley.

Jamaica is also well-known for its sports, domestic and international. Despite being a fairly small country (it's only the fourth-largest in the Caribbean) Jamaica performs very well in regional and global sports. The country has produced many talented boxers, cricket players, soccer players, and more. The nation's track athletes are its top performers, making routine appearances in international competitions. The birth of the Jamaican bobsled team is especially well-known in the international community, thanks in part to the Disney movie Cool Runnings.

Agricultural Products

Sugarcane, bananas, coffee, citrus, yams, ackees, vegetables; poultry, goats, milk; shellfish.

Major Industries

Tourism, bauxite/alumina, agricultural-processing, light manufactures, rum, cement, metal, paper, chemical products, telecommunications.

In Jamaica, Carnival began at the University of the West Indies Mona campus in the 1950s, as local students – having been influenced by their Eastern Caribbean classmates – engaged in the festivities. This engagement became known as the “UWI Carnival”, an annual event that still exists today. Carnival, however, was not seriously established on the island, until Byron Lee, a Jamaican musician, decided to establish it as a formal event in 1990. Since then, it has continued to grow exponentially.

Carnival

Carnival in Jamaica has become a huge annual celebration that sees numerous artists and tourists traveling from across the Caribbean and elsewhere to take part.  Carefully timed, the events are orchestrated in such a way that they do not conflict with Trinidad’s carnival celebrations, which take place before Ash Wednesday. Though its development in Jamaica is fairly recent, Carnival continues to grow and has gradually become an important part of Jamaican culture.

Trinidad & Tobago

The country consists of two main islands, Trinidad and Tobago, and their small neighboring islands. Lying just north of the Orinoco River delta in Venezuela, Trinidad is largely flat or undulating except for a range of low mountains (the highest point is Mt. Aripo, 3,085 ft/940 m) in the north. Pitch Lake, in the southwest, is the world's largest (114 acres) basin of natural asphalt.

Tobago, just NE of Trinidad, is the exposed top of a mountain ridge that is densely forested with large reserves of hardwoods. The climate of both islands is warm and humid, and rainfall (from June to Dec.) is abundant, particularly where the trade winds sweep in over the eastern coasts. The population is mainly of South Asian or African descent (40% each), with a mixed-race minority. English is the official language, but Hindi, French, Spanish, and Chinese are also spoken. There are many religious groups, including Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other Christian churches, Hindus and Muslims.

Economy

The most important exports are petroleum and petroleum products, natural gas, chemicals, steel products, and fertilizer. Trinidad possesses sizable oil and gas reserves, and its prosperity is linked directly to the production of petroleum and petrochemicals.

Agricultural Products

Agricultural products include cocoa, rice, coffee, citrus fruit, and flowers. The main trading partners are the United States, Jamaica, and Brazil.

Carnival

The Mas tradition started in the late 18th century with French plantation owners organizing masquerades (mas) and balls before enduring the fasting of Lent. The slaves, who could not take part in Carnival, formed their own, parallel celebration called "Canboulay". Canboulay (from the French cannes brulées, meaning burnt cane) is a precursor to Trinidad and Tobago Carnival and has played an important role in the development of the music of Trinidad and Tobago.

Calypso music was developed in Trinidad in the 17th century from the West African Kaiso and canboulay music brought by African slaves imported to that Caribbean island to work on sugar plantations. These slaves, brought to toil on sugar plantations, were stripped of all connections to their homeland and family and not allowed to talk to each other. They used calypso to mock the slave masters and to communicate with each other. Many early calypsos were sung in French Creole by an individual called a griot. As calypso developed, the role of the griot became known as a chantuelle and eventually, calypsonian.

Steelpan

Stick fighting and African percussion music were banned in 1881, in response to the Canboulay Riots. They were replaced by bamboo "Bamboo-Tamboo" sticks beaten together, which were themselves banned in turn. In 1937 they reappeared, transformed as an orchestra of frying pans, dustbin lids, and oil drums. These steelpans (or pans) are now a major part of the Trinidadian music scene and are a popular section of the Canboulay music contests. In 1941, the United States Navy arrived on Trinidad, and the panmen, who were associated with lawlessness and violence, helped to popularize steel pan music among soldiers, which began its international popularization.

J'Ouvert

J'ouvert (translated from French as "break of day"), symbolizes the start of the official two days of Carnival. Beginning early Monday, revelers parade through town in the tradition of the Canboulay celebrations. Jouvay, as it is commonly known, features a variety of homemade or satirical costumes. This celebration involves participants dousing themselves in oil, mud, and powder while they dance to calypso music through the streets. This is a stark contrast to the attractive and more formal costumes that are donned later in the day on Carnival Monday and on Tuesday.

Aruba

The island's economy is dominated by four main industries: tourism, aloe export, petroleum refining, and offshore banking.  Aruba has one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean region. The GDP per capita for Aruba was estimated to be $37,500 in 2017. Its main trading partners are Colombia, the United States, Venezuela, and the Netherlands.

Agriculture

The agriculture and manufacturing sectors are fairly minimal. Gold mining was formerly important in the 19th century.  Aloe was introduced to Aruba in 1840 but did not become a big export until 1890. Cornelius Eman founded Aruba Aloe Balm, and over time the industry became very important to the economy. At one point, two-thirds of the island was covered in Aloe Vera fields, and Aruba became the largest exporter of aloe in the world. The industry continues today, though on a smaller scale.

Carnival

In 1955, various clubs and districts were brought together for the first public Aruba Carnival with the first official Carnival queen. The traditional Grand Parades were organized in 1957.

On November 11, 1966, at 11:11 a.m., Stichting Arubaanse Carnaval, Carnival’s organizing body, was founded. Each year, the Carnival season officially begins at this precise moment. Ever since 1981, Tivoli has produced the Lighting Parade, a twinkling nighttime extravaganza.

Besides the Lighting Parade, thousands of participants and spectators enjoy Children’s Parades, the Jouvert Morning Pajama Party, the Grand Carnival Parade in San Nicolas, and the exciting finale—the Grand Carnival Parade in Oranjestad. The midnight burning of King Momo, a life-size effigy, signals the end of the Aruba Carnival season on Shrove Tuesday, the day just before Ash Wednesday. This tradition symbolizes the burning of the Spirit of Carnival, who will rise again when the next season—and a whole new round of partying!—begins.

Haiti

The country is mostly mountainous, but about one-third of the land is arable. Once covered by forest, the country has been heavily logged for wood and fuel and to clear land for farming, and is now largely deforested. The deforestation has contributed to often deadly and sometimes devastating flooding during hurricanes. In addition to the capital, other important cities include Cap-Haïtien and Gonaïves.

Haiti is the most densely populated country in Latin America and has historically had the lowest per capita income, with about two-thirds of the people unemployed and three quarters living in poverty. (Economic troubles in the mid-2010s in Venezuela, however, led to even worse levels of poverty there by 2016.) Prolonged economic inequality, political instability and repression, and a near-total lack of medical care continue to be serious problems. The economic and political situation has caused numerous Haitians to seek work in the neighboring Dominican Republic, and others to emigrate, especially to the United States and the Bahamas.

About 95% of the inhabitants are descendants of African slaves who still follow West African cultural patterns. Since the mid-19th cent., however, Haiti has been dominated by the mulatto minority, which clings to the French cultural tradition. French and Haitian Creole, a French dialect, is the official languages of Haiti. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, but African nature gods are still worshiped, and vodun (voodoo) rites are widely practiced and are an officially recognized religion.

Agriculture

Agriculture is the principal economic activity in Haiti. Subsistence crops include cassava, rice, sugarcane, sorghum, yams, corn, and plantains.

Most Haitians own and farm tiny plots of land, and great population density has caused rural poverty and is also a factor in the country's extensive deforestation, which has contributed to the degradation of agricultural land. Haiti's major exports are light manufactures and coffee; other exports include oils, cocoa, mangoes, sugar, sisal, and bauxite. The United States is the country's leading trading partner.

Industry in Haiti consists largely of light assembly of imported parts and the manufacture of textiles. There is also sugar refining and flour milling, and other foodstuffs are produced. Some bauxite and copper are mined, but other mineral deposits have barely been tapped. Remittances from Haitians working abroad are also extremely important. Economic sanctions imposed by the United States and others to force a military regime to return power to the elected government, and again later because of the government's inability to meet aid conditions, further damaged the impoverished economy during the 1990s and early 2000s.

Carnival

Haitian Carnival is a celebration held over several weeks each year leading up to Mardi Gras. Haitian Defile Kanaval is the Haitian Creole name of the main annual Mardi Gras carnival held in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The parade is known as "Kye Marn". Haiti's largest carnival is held in the capital and largest city, Port-au-Prince, with smaller celebrations taking part simultaneously in Jacmel, Aux Cayes, and other locations in Haiti. The annual carnival celebrations coincide with other Mardi Gras carnivals around the world.

Haiti also has smaller carnival celebrations during the year that are separate from the main carnival. These include Rara, a series of processions taking place during the Catholic Lent season, that has bands and parades like the larger main carnival, and also an annual Kanaval de Fleur, that takes place on July 7.

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