The Caribbean - Multi-Cultural Experience Close to Home
If you’re wanting to having an authentic cultural experience but don’t want to travel too far from home, have you considered the Islands of the Caribbean?
There are over 700 islands in the Caribbean Sea. You can tell who settled each island region by its’ name: The British West Indies, Danish West Indies, Dutch West Indies, French West Indies, Portuguese West Indies, Spanish West Indies, Swedish West Indies and Courlander West Indies (Tobago). Each of these regions offers a distinct and unique cultural experience for tourists.
For United States citizens the main islands we tend to visit are Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Aruba, Curacao, St. Lucia, Nassau and Grand Cayman. Obviously there are many others but the rule “the smaller the island the more expensive it is to get there” tends to keep most of us away from those.
The hot spots in 2018 have been the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. With large airports and plenty of flights, these two have been able to keep prices low and offer a wide variety of resort/hotel options.
The Dominican Republic was discovered by none other than Christopher Columbus in the late 1400’s. By the early 1500’s the Spaniards had pretty much worked the native Taino Indians to death in the gold mines, and began importing African slaves.
At one time or another Dominican Republic has been controlled by the Spanish, the French, and was even occupied by the United States. The result of this wide variety of foreign influences gives travelers a truly unique and diverse experience. The official language of the Dominican Republic is Spanish. The people are white, black, brown and everything in between. The African influence can be felt in the music and the predominant religion is Catholic.
Jamaica is similar to the Dominican Republic in that it was also discovered by Columbus, its natives were also nearly annihilated and African slaves were also imported to work the sugar cane fields and coffee plantations.
Great Britain took possession of Jamaica in 1655 bringing an English influence to the island. What makes Jamaica truly unique is that mix of British culture with African culture and some Spanish influence thrown in for good measure. Jamaicans recognize their diversity and celebrate it; the national motto is “Out of many one people”.
Jamaica is widely known for its’ unique music (Reggae), the official language is English, and the predominant religion is Protestant. Did you know there are more churches per square mile in Jamaica than anywhere else on earth? Jamaicans tend to be either black or white, without as many mixed race people as in the Dominican Republic.
Both Ralph Lauren and Ian Fleming lived in Jamaica, along with many other transplants. Jamaica has long been a “go to” tropical destination for United States beach lovers. Many Americans love Jamaica for their laid back attitude, about any and everything. No matter what it going on, Jamaicans say “everytin’ is irie, ya mon”. Which means “everything is going to be alright, yes sir”.
Whether you vacation in Jamaica or the Dominican Republic, the experience will be unique. Their people and their cultures are a blend and reflection of their different pasts so your experiences on the two islands will not be similar.
The other Islands of the Caribbean are equally unique. Curacao is one of the most memorable, looking like a Dutch picture postcard.
Give the Islands of the Caribbean a chance on your upcoming vacation. You’ll be glad you did.
Joy Gawf-Crutchfield owns and operates The Joy of Travel. Contact Joy at 918-339-4805.