By:Molly Monihan


The Caribbean islands which are full of traditions, customs, and diverse communities, have a very important history that m
Photograph of indentured Indian labourers at Spring Garden Buildings. Jamaica, 1880.
ake it what it is today. This breath taking place, full of ethnicity and African culture once came from a time of slavery and empowerment. The history of the African culture coming to the islands starts around the 1600 and 1700’s during what is called the “Era of Enslavement” when Europeans were importing slaves to their colonies mostly in the Caribbean islands and Latin America. There was even a peak in this “Era of Enslavement” when more than ten million slaves were brought to this New World, ninety percent of them placed in the Caribbean. During this Transatlantic Slave Trade, these new African peoples, set in a new place far from what they knew was home, were struggling to keep their own culture and sense of self with them. This is what brought such an indigenous culture to the Caribbean islands. Their identity was their pride. Keeping language, religion, and rituals were important to this new gigantic population of people. Eventually, in 1834, these slaves were granted freedom in the Caribbean, and the slave culture remained because these people were the majority in the land. Luckily for the culture today, much of the African heritage has become the life style in the Caribbean islands. It is wild to think that the culture of the Caribbean was started because of enslavement!

Language and communication, or how people interact with one another is one of the most important features in a culture. With the African history and wide variety of people in the Caribbean islands, language is one of the main features that have been influenced over time. Even though English is the accepted language in the Caribbean today because of the exceeding industry of tourism, there are many indigenous languages that are spoken by natives in the Caribbean that are very interesting. They mostly come from the African decent from the slavery days. One of the most common is Creole, sometimes referred to as Patois. This is a language that is heavily influenced by African languages and Spanish and French languages. Creole was created because of the struggle to communicate during slave times when people were coming from all parts of the world to one place to work together. These people had to form a language in some way, and that was combining their languages to form a new one. There is some Spanish and French influence, because they are the colonists that took over the Caribbean islands. The African people, however, were the majority forming most of the words and passing on what they already knew. Creole was passed on to the children that slaves had, as it became the accepted language among the slaves. This language is now one of the indigenous languages of the Caribbean islands today and is second to English. Some different words include “wi” for “yes,” and “non” for “no.” Also, “mwen kontan” for “I am happy,” and “kriyé mwen!” for “call me!” are included in the language.
Garifuna is yet another accepted language known to some indigenous people on the Caribbean islands. This language is not as widely known but it originated on the island of St. Vincent specifically. The interesting fact about this language is that even though it too has the influence from Spanish and French, like most do in the Caribbean, African features are held within it as well. One main characteristic that sets this language apart from others is its unique pronunciations. For example, "ü" is used very much in this language. It has the same sound as the “oo” in “cool” in English. Some words in the Garifuna language include “ürüwa” for “three,” and “irahü” for “child.”
One very fascinating feature of the languages in the Caribbean islands is that there are some languages, where there are records of people have spoken them, but have since become extinct. Some researchers refer to these as ghost languages, where only the actual name of the language remains. It is hard to tell much about these languages when only the name remains in a text but there are many examples in a table below:

Caquetio [Kaketiyo]
Ciboney, Macorixe [Makoris], Maisi
Dominican Republic
Ciguayo [Siwayo]
Ciboney, Guaccaierima [Wakaiyerima]
Margarita Island (Venezuela)
Guaikeri [Waikeri]
Carinepagoto, Nepuyo, Shebayo, Yao
Food, by definition is a solid form of nourishment that provides energy, sustains life, and promotes growth. This is all true however in many cultures, food and
eating is associated with tradition, celebrations, and bonding together as a community. The Caribbean islands are no exception to this. These traditional islands have so many original mealsthat were brought to them many years ago during times of settlement. This means that there are tons of African influences even in the food people eat everyday in the Caribbean. For example, Ackee is a red-yellow fruit introduced to the island people from West Africa. It comes off of a tree and is mainly served with salt fish, hot peppers, and onions. Another fruit introduced to the Caribbean people from Africa is Okra. This fruit was actually introduced by the slaves that came from Africa and was taught to be served like a vegetable on the side of dishes. Other items of food with influence from West Africa include plantains, callaloo, taro, and breadfruit. There is even influence in the cuisine of the islands from Spain, France, and England. This is because there was a power struggle for a long time to take over the Caribbean islands. For the most part, however, West Africa plays a large role in the traditional meals and foods of the Caribbean Islands.


What would a culture be without song and dance that was native to one’s own country? Luckily the Caribbean islands can call many of their rituals their own as, once again, slaves from Africa brought their own recreation to the islands. This type of recreation, song and dance, was necessary for the slaves to survive many, many years ago. These people would turn to their own customs, like a dance ritual to remind them of where they came from and to take their minds off of the strenuous work they were put through each and every day. Different examples of this music would be Reggae, which can be heard in all parts of the islands, especially Jamaica. Also, more simply, most of the people of the Caribbean islands dance, move, and listen to an African drum beat. Popular dancing among the islands includes basic moves such as shuffle stepping and the simple moving of the hips. It tends to be a slow, rhythmic beat that people dance to.
Also, not only did the African slaves bring song and dance as a means of recreation to the Caribbean islands hundreds of years ago, they are also the reason for one of the biggest festivals in the Bahamas which takes place every year. This festival is called “Junkanoo.” It was named after an African tribal chief, John Canoe, who demanded to have fun with his African people after being brought here from West Africa. This celebration was started around Christmas time, when slaves were given somewhat of a break to see their families. Junkanoo is presently celebrated on December 26th and includes a fabulous parade filled with spectacular dancing and costumes and music being played from all kinds of instruments. The drum tends to be very popular and is played with things like animal skin all the way to shells. This celebration is considered to be one of the most fun and entertaining in all of the islands, and was brought to the culture by the Africans.

Junkanoo in the Bahamas

Despite the intense history of slavery and hardship in the Caribbean islands, the African people paved a path for making their islands one of the most beautiful places to visit today. Full of beaches, sand, and clear water, tourism is the most popular industry in the Caribbean today. The people of the United States and from all over the world come to the Caribbean islands to enjoy themselves for nice vacations and time away from home. While visiting, tourists learn about the rich culture that still exists today from the African slave influence and are usually in awe when they learn that descendants of those slaves are still living there today. These are the people that manage the islands and make them what they are today. It is because of the African people that all of the amusing things to do still remain there on the island. Different activities that are the most popular today include surfing, sailing, swimming with dolphins, scuba diving, golfing, and shopping. All of these activities have made the islands a fun place for honey moons, newlyweds, and families. Cruises also are a very large part of the tourism industry in the Caribbean. In 2003, statistics showed that the Western Caribbean was the most visited area in the world. Overall, the Caribbean is one of the most gorgeous places in the world. It is a place that everyone should visit, not only for the amazing atmosphere but the rich culture it holds within it.
Cruise the Caribbean
Caribbean beach

Scuba Dive in the Caribbean

1.)"Caribbean Histories Revealed | Slavery and negotiating freedom." The National Archives. Web. 02 Dec. 2009. <>.
2.)"African Americans - History of African Americans | Oxford Companion to United States History." Encyclopedia - Online Dictionary | Get facts, articles, pictures, video. Web. 02 Dec. 2009. <>.
3.)"Caribbean Past and Present |" Caribbean Guide - Culture, History, Travel, and More | Web. 02 Dec. 2009. <>.
4.) "Ghost Languages." Home Page. Web. 03 Dec. 2009. <>.
5.) "Patois (Creole) Language." aka Roger's Trinbago Website. Web. 03 Dec. 2009. <>.
6.) "The Caribbean: Background & Influences." The Global Gourmet. Web. 05 Dec. 2009. <>.
7.) Bahama Breeze - About Caribbean Cuisine, History, Island Food." Welcome to Bahama Breeze - Your Destination for Caribbean Cuisine. Web. 05 Dec. 2009. <>.
8.) "Bahamas / Junkanoo in The Bahamas." Geographia - World Travel Destinations, Culture and History Guide. Web. 04 Dec. 2009. <>.