We bring the Caribbean to you
Best known for its big, hearty stews and curries embellished with spices, coconut milk and hot peppers, Caribbean food is the result of a wide range of different cultural influences. From the spicy pepperpots of the indigenous Arawaks and Caribs to the jerk seasonings brought in from Africa, as well as Indian roti Caribbean cuisine is a colourful hotchpotch of diverse flavours.
On Jamaica the cuisine includes a mixture of cooking techniques, flavors, spices and influences from the indigenous people of the island, as well as the Spanish, British, Africans, and Chinese who have all inhabited the island. Various dishes came to the island with the arrival of people from these different cultures. Other dishes are novel or a fusion of techniques and traditions. In addition to ingredients that are native to Jamaica, many foods have been introduced and are now grown locally. Popular Jamaican dishes include curry goat, fried dumplings, ackee and salt cod fish (which is the national dish), rice and peas, fried plantain, steamed cabbage and, of course, jerk chicken or pork.Because the Caribbean is multicultural, there are distinct regional differences in the authentic cuisines of the individual islands. Puerto Rico and Cuba have distinct Spanish-influenced food. Guadeloupe and Martinique are French-owned so their native cuisine has obvious ties to France. Jamaica, which was once a major slave-trading centre, is rich in African culture, even though it was a British colony until 1958 and only secured full independence in 1962.
Although it is difficult to generalize about Caribbean cuisine, it remains exquisite. Whether dining on conch in the Caymans or Callaloo in Tobago, or simply eating a passion fruit right off the tree, you can be sure that the Caribbean has a wonderful cuisine.
The mainstay of the Caribbean economy, sugar, has declined since the beginning of the 20th century, although it is still a major crop in the region. Caribbean sugar production became relatively expensive in comparison to other parts of the world, making it difficult for Caribbean sugar products to compete. Caribbean economic diversification into new activities became essential to the islands.
By the beginning of the 20th century, the Caribbean islands enjoyed greater political stability. Large-scale violence was no longer a threat after the end of slavery in the islands. The British-controlled islands in particular benefited from investments in the infrastructure of colonies.
This investment improved the quality of life for the inhabitants and also made the islands a more attractive destination for visitors. Tourists began to visit in larger numbers by the beginning of the 20th century. The most popular early destinations were Jamaica and the Bahamas; the Bahamas remains today the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean. Post-independence economic needs led to a boom in the development of the tourism industry in the 1980s and large luxury hotels and resorts have been built on many of the islands. Cruise ships are also regular visitors to the Caribbean.
The development of offshore banking services began during the 1920s. The close proximity of the Caribbean islands to the United States has made them an attractive location for branches of foreign banks. Clients from the United States take advantage of offshore banking services to avoid U.S. taxation. The Bahamas entered the financial services industry first, and continues to be at the forefront of financial services in the region. The Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and the Netherlands Antilles have also developed competitive financial services industries.
Ports both large and small were built throughout the Caribbean during the colonial era. The export of sugar on a large scale made the Caribbean one of the centres of world shipping and it remains so today.
Haiti the former French colony of Saint-Domingue on Hispaniola, was the first Caribbean nation to gain independence from a European power in 1804. This followed 13 years of warfare which commenced as a slave uprising in 1791 and quickly became the Haitian Revolution under the leadership of Toussaint l’Ouverture, where the former slaves defeated the French army (twice), the Spanish army, and the British army, before becoming the world’s first and oldest black republic, and also the second-oldest republic in the Western Hemisphere after the United States. This is additionally notable as being the only successful slave uprising in history.
The nations bordering the Caribbean in Central America gained independence with the 1821 establishment of the First Mexican Empire – which at that time included the modern states of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. The nations bordering the Caribbean in South America also gained independence from Spain in 1821 with the establishment of Gran Colombia – which comprised the modern states of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama.
Cuba and Puerto Rico remained a Spanish colonies until the Spanish American War in 1898, after which Cuba attained its independence in 1902, and Puerto Rico became an unincorporated territory of the United States.
Between 1958 and 1962 most of the British-controlled Caribbean was integrated as the new West Indies Federation in an attempt to create a single unified future independent state – but it failed. The following former British Caribbean island colonies achieved independence in their own right; Jamaica (1962), Trinidad & Tobago (1962), Barbados (1966), Bahamas (1973), Grenada (1974), Dominica (1978), St. Lucia (1979), St. Vincent (1979), Antigua & Barbuda (1981), St. Kitts & Nevis (1983).
In addition British Honduras in Central America became independent as Belize (1981), British Guiana in South America became independent as Guyana (1966), and Dutch Guiana also in South America became independent as Suriname (1975).
The history of Caribbean agricultural is closely linked with European colonialism which altered the financial potential of the region by introducing a plantation system. Much like the Spanish enslaved indigenous Indians to work in gold mines, the 17th century brought a new series of oppressors in the form of the Dutch, the English, and the French. By the middle of the 18th century sugar was Britain’s largest import which made the Caribbean that much more important as a colony.
Sugar was a luxury in Europe prior to the 18th century when it became widely popular and by the 19th Century it had graduated to become a necessity. This evolution of taste and demand for sugar as an essential food ingredient unleashed major economic and social changes. Caribbean islands with plentiful sunshine, abundant rainfalls and no extended frosts were well suited for sugarcane agriculture and sugar factories.
Following the emancipation of slaves in 1833 in the United Kingdom, many liberated Africans left their former masters. This created economic chaos for British owners of Caribbean sugar cane plantations. The hard work in hot, humid farms required a regular, docile and low-waged labour force. The British looked for cheap labour which they found initially in China and then mostly in India.
The “New World” plantations were established in order to fulfill the growing needs of the “Old World”. The sugar plantations were built with the intention of exporting the sugar back to Europe. The result of this economic exploitation was a plantation dependence which saw the Caribbean nations possessing a large quantity of unskilled workers performing agricultural tasks. After many years of colonial rule the nations also saw no profits brought into their country since the sugar production was controlled by the colonial rulers. This left the Caribbean nations with little capital to invest towards enhancing any future industries unlike European nations which were developing rapidly and separating themselves technologically and economically from most impoverished nations of the world.
The development of agriculture in the Caribbean required a large workforce of manual labourers, which the Europeans found by taking advantage of the slave trade in Africa. The Atlantic slave trade brought African slaves to British, Dutch, French, Portuguese and Spanish colonies in the Americas, including the Caribbean. Slaves were brought to the Caribbean from the early 16th century until the end of the 19th century.
Abolitionists in the Americas and in Europe became vocal opponents of the slave trade throughout the 19th century. The importation of slaves to the colonies was often outlawed years before the end of the institution of slavery itself. It was well into the 19th century before all of the many slaves in the Caribbean were finally free.
Every one of the islands that make up the Caribbean was at one stage a colony of a European empire.
Soon after the voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Caribbean in 1492, both Portuguese and Spanish ships began claiming territories in the region. These colonies brought in gold, and so other European powers, most specifically England, the Netherlands, and France, hoped to establish profitable colonies of their own. The Spanish, who came seeking wealth, enslaved the native population and rapidly drove them to near-extinction. To supplement the local labour, the Spanish imported African slaves. Other European powers established a presence in the Caribbean after the Spanish Empire declined. The Dutch, the French, and the British followed one another to the region and established a long-term presence. They brought with them millions of slaves imported from Africa to support the tropical plantation system that spread through the Caribbean islands.
Today, the influences of these different cultures can still be felt in the food, language, and currency of specific islands.
The Caribbean has a rich and varied history. While many people know that Christopher Columbus “discovered” the Caribbean, what most do not don’t know is that the Caribbean Islands had an interesting history well before Columbus’ arrival. In fact, the first people to live on the Caribbean Islands were tribes of people called the Arawaks and Caribs.
While life was initially peaceful, by the time Columbus arrived, the Arawaks and Caribs had been at war for many years. The Arawaks were a skilled tribe known for weaving baskets and trading crops, while the Caribs were known as a more war like people who pillaged villages for supplies and slaves. The Caribs were also excellent weapons makers and skilled makers of pottery.
Both tribes caught and ate marine life, they also routinely ate lizards, snails, turtles, and birds as well. Every day’s catch would be added to a pepper pot, which was a stew that simmered and cooked for weeks. Today, pepper pots are still a native Caribbean dish.
The Caribbean is a crescent shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long stretching from the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea to the west and south from the Atlantic to the east and north. In total there are more than 7,000 islands in the Caribbean of these, 13 are independent island countries and some are dependencies or overseas territories of other nations.
Over the last few decades many travellers have journeyed to the Caribbean to enjoy the amenities. They frequently arrive in cruise ships that sail in and out, particularly from ports in Florida and Puerto Rico.
Overall the Caribbean is a magical place of palm trees, white sand beaches, turquoise waters and sunshine, all blessed with a wonderful climate. In this section, courtesy of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, we have listed the details of some of the main