Introduction

Sylvana and Hans in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Sylvana and Hans in Puerto Rico

When winter arrived early this year, we decided to spend a week this winter someplace warm. We chose a cruise since it's a great way to visit a number of different islands. We decided on a budget priced package on the cruise ship m/v Bolero, since one of it's itineraries included a stop in Curaçao. The week also included stops at Margarita Island, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.

A Short History of the Caribbean

Christopher Columbus is revered with an almost saint-like adoration in many islands in the Caribbean. But there are many misconceptions surrounding the man. First, he did not discover the Americas, since the indiginous people certainly already knew about it. Secondly, he wasn't even the first European to visit the Americas. The Vikings landed on Labrador and Newfoundland 500 years earlier. Finally, he didn't prove the Earth was round, since that fact had been known for about 2000 years already.

What led Columbus to the islands of the Caribbean was his mistaken belief that the Earth was much smaller than what the learned men of the time believed. He was no great man - he just benefitted from plain dumb luck.

Columbus' arrival, of course, was disasterous for the indiginous people of the Caribbean. Those who survived the diseases brought by the Europeans were subjugated into slavery to work in mines and plantations. When the supply of local slaves dwindled, slaves were imported from Africa. And so today, the people of the Caribbean are descended from many different sources: the surviving indiginous Caribbeans, the European conquerers, and black Africans.

Over the centuries, various European nations fought over these islands, primarily the Spanish, French, Dutch, and English. Today, there are still British, Dutch, French, and even American territories amongst the islands, but most are now independent nations. Signs of early Spanish settlement still abound throughout, and many of these are now tourist attractions.