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Caribbean Islands were named after Native American tribe of Carib (Caraïbes) Indians that inhabited southeastern islands in the chain. Caribbean archipelago is known by a variety of names. The earliest name is West Indies gave in error by Christopher Columbus when he arrived to the region in 1492. He assumed that the islands were near the coast of India. West Indies today contain not only Caribbean Islands, but also Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and located farther north Bermuda. Spain and France on the other hand called their colonized islands the Antilles, named after the mythological Atlantic island of Antilla. The part of Caribbean called the Lesser Antilles was further divided into the Windward Islands and Leeward Islands, names referring to the position of the islands relative to the trade winds that blow steadily from the northeast.

Caribbean comprises two main island chains. The Greater Antilles (the islands of Cuba, Hispaniola [Haiti and the Dominican Republic], Jamaica, Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico) lie in the west, the Lesser Antilles (Virgin Islands, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia and other islands) lie in the east.

The islands in the west (the Greater Antilles and most of the Virgin Islands) are mountainous, projecting remnants of submerged ranges related to Central and South American mountain systems. The inner chain of the Lesser Antilles, part of a submerged volcanic ridge, consists mainly of volcanic cones, a number of which are still active. The outer chain is composed largely of coral and uplifted limestone.

The first settlement of Castilians was on Haiti. The natives here - estimated at about a million - were childlike, unresisting Arawaks (Taino). They were soon wiped off the earth. They were made to work as slaves in the mines until they died of starvation and excessive toil. They were massacred wholesale with appropriate treachery, were hunted down as if they were rabbits, were decimated by imported diseases, or beaten to death for not attending Mass.

Frederick Traves, 1908.

Caribbean Bibliography:

Hulme, Peter and Whitehead Neil L. Wild Majesty, Encounters with Caribs from Columbus to the Present Day.