The Caribbean is made up of over 700 islands, each of them with a fascinating history that spans thousands of years. To most, the Caribbean is known for its reggae music, stunning beaches and rum distilleries, but there’s so much more to this beautiful part of the world. To help you get inspired for your next trip, we’ve put together a guide to the Caribbean’s amazing culture. From the mouth-watering food, to each of the island’s interesting national symbols, here are some of the best reasons your next holiday should be spent in the Caribbean.
It’s practically uninhabited
Roughly only two percent of the Caribbean’s 700-plus islands are inhabited by humans, meaning the rest of land is claimed by wildlife and flora. During your holiday to the Caribbean, be sure to take advantage of the uninhabited parts by exploring the wondrous forests, caves, reefs and beaches. With fascinating wildlife to spot, and breathtaking scenery to discover, you and your family will feel like true explorers by the end of your trip.
The food is from around the world
Food in the Caribbean is a result of many influences, with various dishes being infused with the flavours of Africa, Spain, China and East India, as well as the original cuisine of the indigenous Taíno community. During your trip to the Caribbean, you can expect to dig into a number of delicious meals, from jerk chicken in Jamaica, to fried flying fish in Barbados. You’ll also have the choice of many tasty extras, which often include pigeon peas, roti and callaloo soup, which is a combination of dasheen leaves, okra and crab.
There are a lot of national symbols
Each of the Caribbean’s islands has their very own national symbol, with parrots, shells and wild banana orchids featuring on some of the flags and currency. For example, in the Bahamas, the islands’ coat of arms includes a shell, palm and flamingo, whereas the Antiguan coat of arms features a pineapple, a sugar cane stem and a red hibiscus flower, which can be found blossoming across the island.
You can make friends with a Moko Jumbie
The Caribbean is often alive with various carnival celebrations, and one of the key characters of the celebration is a Moko Jumbie, a stilts-walking dancer. The word ‘Moko’ plays reference to an African god, who is said to look over the villages, protecting locals from danger. The word ‘Jumbie’ or ‘Jumbi’, however, is the West-Indian term for spirit, from the Kongo word ‘zumbi’.
Although the tradition was dispelled for a number of years in the 1990s, the Moko Jumbie tradition is once again a big part of the nation’s carnival celebrations. Gather along the streets to witness people of all ages strap on their stilts, and wander through the parties in colourful masks and outfits.
Jamaica has an impressive 1,600 places of worship
Religion is a big part of life in the Caribbean, with Christianity being the region’s main religion, so it’s no surprise that Jamaica has the most churches per square mile in the world. If you’d like to visit one of the many churches on the island, make sure you stop by St. Andrew Parish Church, a place where holy communions, bible study and sacred services take place. Music plays a big part in this church, and is home to two choirs, the senior and youth choirs. The senior choir performs more traditional songs of worship, whereas the youth choir use Congo drums, steel pans and saxophones to create modern versions of beloved hymns.
As well as Christianity, there are many religions that are indigenous to the Caribbean, such as the Rastafari movement, Santería and Haitian Vodou. To explore the Rastafari Movement in more detail, pop by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which was established by Ethiopian leader, Haile Selassie. To learn more about Santería and Haitian Vodou, make sure you explore the Santería Casa de Santos (House of Saints), and the local Haitian Vodou Hounfour Temples, which are run by Houngan (male) and Mambo (female) priests.
The Caribbean has a big art scene
Although Caribbean food and music is a big part of the region’s culture, it’s the Caribbean art that’s likely to steal your heart. Just like the food and music, the art of the Caribbean is influenced by the many cultures that have inhabited the islands. From the pottery and figurines of the indigenous Arawak-Taíno communities, to the colourful dotted paintings of Bahamian folk and bible artist, Amos Ferguson, there’s so much to see!
If you want to discover more about the Caribbean art scene, make sure you check out one of the local art galleries during your next stay. If you’re enjoying the sun and beaches of Barbados, head over to the West Coast and explore the pieces in the Tides Art Gallery, which include depictions of the very beaches you’ll wander along.
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