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The Caribbean Islands are made up of more than 7,000 islands in or bordering on the Caribbean Sea, including, but not limited to, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Haiti, the Cayman Islands, Grenada, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Nicaragua, and the US Virgin Islands.

Most of the islands in the Caribbean sit on the Caribbean Plate, an area made of of about 1.2 million square miles and which borders on Cocos Plate, Nazca Plate, the South American Plate, and the North American Plate, all of which are areas of intense seismic activity.

From the second century until the first part of the 15th century, most of the Caribbean was peopled by Carib and Arawak (also called) Taino Indians. In 1492, Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World, landing at an island in the Bahamas which the Taino Indians called Guanahani, but which Columbus called San Salvador. It is not known exactly which island it was upon which Columbus landed.

When he left, he brought some of the natives back with him to Spain in order to help him to convince Ferdinand and Isabella to finance another trip. He also left 39 of his men behind on the island of Hispaniola because there was no room for them on the ship. When they got to Spain, the Europeans noted that the newcomers had gold among their adornments and among their personal effects, such as belts and masks. The Spanish enslaved them. Soon after Columbus returned to Spain to inform his sponsors King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of his discoveries, Portugal and Spain both set about claiming the New World for themselves, starting with Central and South America.

When word of the discovery of gold got out, the French, English, and the Dutch began clamoring for colonies of their own. His second voyage was to be a colonization trip. The king and queen gave him 17 ships and 1,000 men, as well as horses, pigs, and cattle. He was to expand the settlement on the island of Hispaniola, convert the natives to Christianity, establish a trading post, and continue his search for Japan or China.

After three weeks at sea, Columbus and his men sighted land. It was an island that he named Dominica, the name it still has. A few of the men disembarked as an exploratory team, and came running back. The Caribs who inhabited the island, they explained, were far too fierce.

When they returned to Hispaniola, he found that this men had made the natives very angry, having made a habit of raping the local women, and all 39 of them had been killed in raids on the settlement. Columbus spoke about the massacre with Guacanagari, one of five native caciques, or chieftans, who had become a trusted ally, and the chieftain blamed a rival chief named Caonabo. In what he thought was retaliation for the the deaths of his crew, Columbus and his men attacked Caonabo and his cohorts, taking many of his people as slaves.

Living in the Caribbean proved to be more difficult than anyone expected, and more of the settlers and crew got sick and died. At one point, a group of settlers tried to capture and steal several ships in order to get back to Spain. They were caught and punished.

The settlers began to hate Christopher Columbus as the gold they were promised still did not exist, and they believed Columbus was keeping all the riches for himself. He had to go back to Spain in order to get more food and supplies in 1496. He brought numerous slaves with him. Most of them were Caribs and were cannibals.

Once they got back to Spain, Queen Isabella was horrified by the whole thing and decreed natives of the New World to be Spanish subjects so they could not be enslaved.

The English, the French, and the Dutch claimed nearby land for their respective countries. For example, England colonized Bermuda, St. Kitts, and Barbados among other places, for example, while France ended up with Martinique, St. Barts, and St Croix, while splitting St. Kitts; and the Dutch took Aruba, Saba, and Curacao. For a time.

Of course, over time, these countries and islands changed hands quite a bit. Pirates of the Caribbean is more than just a movie. There was indeed pervasive piracy during the 17th century, with its peak being the forty years between 1640 and 1680. Today, most of the Caribbean Islands have a healthy dose of tourism, and cruise ships dock there frequently.


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