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VERE TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL
TOPIC: GEOGRAPHY, SOCIETY AND CULTURE
SUB-TOPIC: LOCATION OF THE CARIBBEAN
PRESENTERS: MRS. PITTER-LEWIS AND MR. GOODEN
The Caribbean Region is a large area and because of this there is much diversity from main land
territories to islands and archipelagoes. This diversity is often masked by people from both
inside and outside the region. Studying the location of the Caribbean helps us to better
appreciate the diversity that co-exists with, and must underline, common Caribbean
There is no one way to define the Caribbean. It is generally believed that the Caribbean is a
“melting pot”. This concept refers to the combination of a variety cultures, people and
experiences all coming together to form one unique culture. In light of this, we can safely say
that Jamaica’s motto “Out of many, one people”, aptly describes the make up of the Caribbean
There are three ways by which we can define the Caribbean. These are:
i. The Geographical Caribbean – this describes the area washed by the Caribbean Sea
and is often described as the Caribbean Basin. It would therefore include most of the
islands of the Lesser and Greater Antilles as well as the mainland territories of
Central America and Northern South America such as Venezuela and Columbia.
NB: Notice that the territories in red all have one common feature, they are all washed by
the Caribbean Sea, even though they may speak different languages.
ii. The Geological Caribbean – this is not as well-used as the other ways by which we
define the Caribbean region. However, it shows that there are deep-seated
structural features of Caribbean geology which also identifies commonalities. It id
the area that is defined by the Caribbean Plate and which expresses similar tectonic,
seismic and volcanic features and processes.
Fig. 2 The Caribbean Plate
NB: The Caribbean is situated in a geologic feature known as the Caribbean Plate which has
boundaries or margins with other plates nearby. A plate is a large piece of crust (on
which there may be both land and ocean) and it moves in relation to other plates. On
the whole the earth is made up of six or seven plates and many smaller ones. The
Caribbean Plate is a small plate. Other geological features of the region include the fact
(a) the entire Caribbean region is in an earthquake zone
(b) the Lesser Antilles is made up of volcanoes, several of which are active
iii. The Historical Caribbean – this describe the area that saw the impact of European
colonization, slavery, indentureship and the plantation system. This refers to all the
territories, so that one means by which we can define the Caribbean is by identifying
those countries that experienced the rule of specific European countries, namely the
English, French, Dutch and the Spanish. The common feature in this definition is that
they share the same historical or cultural experiences.
NB: The legend indicates the territories that were under the control of the various European powers.
It should be noted that Guyana (which was first under Dutch control, then English), Surinam
(which was under Dutch control) and French Guiana (which is STILL under French control) are
not represented in Fig. 3. They are apart of the Caribbean because they share the same
historical/cultural experiences as all those which are represented in fig. 3
iv. The Political Caribbean – the Caribbean has three main government systems, namely
(a) Independent States – these are former colonies which are now self-governing. These are
islands which have chosen a method of governance that is different from that of their
colonial masters, namely democracy or communism;
(b) Associated States – these are territories which are not independent but enjoy all the
rights and privileges of the country that governs it;
(c) Colonial Dependencies – these ate territories which are directly governed by other
countries but do not enjoy the rights and privileges that’s enjoyed by inhabitants in an
Problems in defining the Caribbean
The definition of the Caribbean discussed above contains anomalies (problems or error) that
are identified in the table below. Make sure you are acquainted with them.
Geographical Historical Geological
1. Guyana and the Bahamas The “problem” with defining The western edge of the
do not have coastlines on the “Caribbean” according to Caribbean Plate is located in
the Caribbean Sea. Yet linguistic or European the Pacific and includes
both countries are heritage, is that, that tends to Honduras, Costa Rica,
commonly accepted as ignore the commonalities of Nicaragua and Panama in the
part of the Caribbean Caribbean experience at the Caribbean.
hands of these colonial
2. This definition includes This definition would include The northern edge of the
countries not normally Guyana and the Bahamas. It Caribbean Plate defines much
associated with the should also include the of Belize, Cuba and the
“Caribbean” – Panama, French, Dutch and Spanish Bahamas as extra-regional.
Columbia and the other speaking countries of the Similarly Guyana in the South.
countries of Central Caribbean and Central
THE THEORY OF PLATE TECTONIC
The Theory of plate tectonic is an explanation of how plates move in relation to each other,
thereby creating certain tectonic activities at their margins. It is generally believed that plates
meet each other at three kinds of margin, each with distinctive characteristics. These margins
are described below:
1. The divergent (or constructive margin) where magma upwells from the mantle on to
the crustal surface. The plates move away from each other being pushed by this
upwelling and diverging movement from below. This results in gentle volcanic eruptions
and some earthquake activity, but on the whole such margins are not associated with
severe environmental hazards. The Hawaiian Islands are situated on such a margin. In
the Caribbean a very small divergent margin may be developing west of Jamaica (Sealey,
2. The transform margin (sometimes referred to as a fault) – where plates slide pass each
other, generating earthquakes as the rocks move to release the stress of the movement
and friction with the other plate.
The San Andreas Fault, along the west coast of North America, passing through San
Francisco is such a margin. In the Caribbean two major transform margins delineate the
northern and the southern boundaries of the Caribbean Plate. A majority of epicentres
are associated with these transform margins. An
epicenter is the point on the earth’s surface where an
earthquake is felt most intensely. This is because it is
directly above the deep- seated origin of the
earthquake, the focus. Earthquakes then pose an
environmental hazard to Caribbean countries along the
3. The convergent (or destructive margin) – this is where plates collide with each other
forcing one back down into the mantle. This margin poses two kinds of environmental
hazards, namely volcanic and seismic. For our purpose, we will emphasize the eastern
edge of the Caribbean Plate, a convergent margin along the line of the Lesser Antilles.
The eastern edge of the Caribbean Plate lies in the Pacific Ocean and affects Central
America in a similar fashion. See diagram below.
Terms to learn and remember
1. Geography: field of study which emphasizes the relationship between
human society and the physical environment.
2. Human ecology: refers to the interrelationships that are forged between a
people and their environment.
3. Environmental Hazard: refers to a natural event having the potential to threaten
man’s life and property.
4. Hazard: refers to the threat or the risk of damage to life and
5. Environmental Disaster: refers to the realization of such a disaster (#4).
6. Geomorphology: is the scientific study of landforms and the processes that shape
them. Geomorphologists seek to understand why landscapes
look the way they do: to understand landform history and
dynamics, and predict future changes through a combination of
field observation, physical experiment, and numerical modeling.