Regional Overview – Caribbean
28 countries make up the area known as the Caribbean. Not included in this number are Belize, Guyana, and Suriname which are also considered part of the Caribbean despite being mainland countries. They are full member states of the Caribbean Community and the Association of Caribbean States.
The region lies southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and of the North American mainland, east of Central America and north of South America. The region is made up of more than 700 islands, islets, reefs, and cays.
The Caribbean is a melting pot of cultures with influences from European colonizers, the native community who lived there before colonization, and the waves of immigration. African culture has left an indelible mark in Caribbean history.
Colorful is one word to describe the culture of the Caribbean people. It’s a mesmerizing mix of influences rooted in its rich heritage, shaped by its long history of colonization, and molded by waves of immigration. The region is a melting pot of different languages, cuisine, music, and customs. Its culture is a beautiful blend of a colonial and native elements shaped by each country’s socio-cultural experiences. It is this diversity that gives the Caribbean region a unique identity.
Caribbean cuisine is a beautiful hodgepodge of different flavors made even more interesting by its colorful ingredients and distinctly flavored spices or condiments. It is a feast for all the senses meant to excite not just the palate but the eyes and nose as well. And food in the Caribbean isn’t just for sustenance. Food preparation is a social activity often done by several members of the family. Food is then shared with extended members of the family. Mealtimes are considered a social activity where tummies are nourished, and familial bonds are forged.
The Caribbean is the birthplace of many popular types of music that have spread throughout the world. Although many people only associate Caribbean music with reggae (the unofficial soundtrack of many Caribbean vacations) there are many other genres of music that originated in the region. There’s calypso music that combines spiritual elements with bongos, maracas, and Spanish guitar, soca which originated in Trinidad and Tobago and uses dholak as well as dhantal, and dancehall which originated in Jamaica and is a high-energy form of rap-reggae among many others.
Religion in the Caribbean
Christianity is the predominant religion in the Caribbean; however, large numbers of Hindus and Muslims also inhabit the Caribbean region. Unfortunately, there is very little work being done to share the gospel and plant churches among these religious communities.
- Suriname is pending opening by ABWE.
- Smaller populations of Hindus and Muslims exist in multiple other Caribbean countries.
- For 200 Prayer Partners to join us in praying for God to raise up laborers for the harvest.
- For 12 new Caribbean missionaries to join church planting teams in three countries over the next three years.
- For Caribbean and North American church partners to join in planting churches among the Hindu and Muslim communities in the Caribbean.
- For development of needed training curriculum.
For access into Caribbean countries to provide additional Heart, Mind, and Soul seminars.
Trinidad is the larger and more populous of the two major islands of Trinidad and Tobago. The island lies 6.8 miles off the northeastern coast of Venezuela in South America. It is often referred to as the southernmost island in the West Indies and is the fifth largest in the West Indies.
The demographics reflect the diversity of what is sometimes called the “Rainbow Country” or more fondly “a callaloo” which is local dialect for a delicious dish prepared by blending a variety of ingredients. There is a wide range of ethnicities, religions, and cultures including East Indian, African, and Venezuelan.
Many cultures have influenced the evolution of the Trinidad and Tobago culture. The distinct cultures that have a major influence on the culture of Trinidad and Tobago are Indian, African, Portuguese, Amerindian, Spanish, Chinese, and others. The country’s links with the United Kingdom have also left a major impact on its culture, and English is widely spoken across the nation. There is a distinct difference between the histories and culture of Trinidad and Tobago and regional differences in the country as well. the country. Historical membership in the British Empire left a major influence on the country, including the differences of the English language and the popularity of the two top sports in the country, football, and cricket.
Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, and Islam are the major religions in Trinidad and Tobago. The Anglicans, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Traditional African Religion, Taoism, etc., are some of the smaller religious groups in the country. American-style fundamentalist and evangelical churches are also gaining popularity in the country. Hinduism and Islam have existed for decades in Trinidad and there is evidence that both are growing.
- 310,000 Hindus
- 83,000 Muslims
Guyana, officially the Co‑operative Republic of Guyana, is a country on the northern mainland of South America and the capital city is Georgetown. Guyana is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, Brazil to the south and southwest, Venezuela to the west, and Suriname to the east. Guyana is the third-smallest sovereign state by area in mainland South America.
Guyana gained independence in 1966, and officially became a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations in 1970.
Guyana is the only South American nation in which English is the official language. Most of the population, however, speak Guyanese Creole, an English-based creole language. Guyana is part of the mainland Caribbean region maintaining strong cultural, historical, and political ties with other Caribbean countries as well as headquarters for the Caribbean economic community called CARICOM.
Guyana’s culture reflects Amerindian, Nepalese, Indian, Chinese, and African influences, as well as British, Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish facets. Despite being in South America, Guyana is considered a Caribbean nation. The culture, particularly in the coastal areas, is quite like that of the West Indies. The visual arts scene is thriving, and local artists have produced notable sculptures and paintings visible throughout Georgetown. Guyana’s traditional music is a mix of European, Latin, African, and native influences. Caribbean reggae, soca, chutney, as well as American pop make up the music scene.
Football and cricket are the main outdoor sports enjoyed by the locals, while dominoes is popular as an indoor game. Minor sports like table tennis, lawn tennis, netball, squash, boxing, and rounders are widely played.
The main religions in Guyana are Christianity and Hinduism. Other religions include Islam, Buddhism, Rastafarianism, and the Baha’i Faith. Most of the Afro-Guyanese community is composed of Christians, with many Anglicans. The Indian population practices Hinduism and Islam is considered the third largest religion after Christianity and Hinduism. Essequibo Islands-West Demerara has the highest percentage of Muslims making up 11.8% of the region.
- 200,000 Hindus
- 55,000 Muslims (The third largest religion after Christianity and Hinduism.)
Suriname, officially known as the Republic of Suriname is a country on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the north, French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, and Brazil to the south. It is the smallest sovereign state in South America; however, Suriname is a culturally Caribbean country, and is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). Situated slightly north of the Equator, Suriname is a tropical dominated by rain forests.
Suriname is the only sovereign nation outside of Europe where Dutch is the official and prevailing language of government, business, media, and education. According to research by the Dutch Language Union, Dutch is the native language of 60% of the Surinamese, but some twenty languages are spoken. The Republic of Suriname is a representative democratic republic.
Surinamese culture is very diverse and dynamic, and has strong Asian, African, and European influences. The population is mainly composed of the contribution of people from the Netherlands, India, Africa, China, and Indonesia. The country is known for its kaseko music and for having an Indo-Caribbean tradition. Surinamese cuisine is extensive since the population of Suriname came from many countries.
Suriname has a rich tradition of oral literature. Most of the ethnic groups of the country have their distinct oral literary tradition. Folktales and legends, heroic epics, fairy tales, etc., are all part of such literature. Written literary works emerged in the country at a much later stage. The indigenous population started writing literature only in the late 18th century. Baskets, wood carvings, and the colorful textiles produced in the country are globally appreciated. Basketball, football, and volleyball are the three most popular games played in Suriname. Although the country does not have a national soccer team, several Surinamese players have earned significant positions in European soccer clubs.
Hindus formed the second-largest religious group in Suriname, comprising 19 % of the population, the third largest proportion of any country in the Western Hemisphere after Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, both of which also have large proportions of Indians. Almost all practitioners of Hinduism are found among the Indo-Surinamese population. Muslims constitute 14 % of the population, the highest proportion of Muslims in the Americas; they are largely of Javanese or Indian descent.
- 110,000 Hindus
- 80,000 Muslims
Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea. It is the third largest island of the Caribbean, after Cuba and Haiti / Dominican Republic. Jamaica lies about 90 miles south of Cuba, and 119 miles west of Haiti. With 2.9 million people, Jamaica is the third-most populous English-speaking country in the Americas after the U.S. and Canada, and the fourth most populous country in the Caribbean.
Most Jamaicans are of African ancestry with minorities consisting of European, Chinese, and East Indian descent. The country has a global influence that belies its small size; it was the birthplace of the Rastafari religion, reggae music, and it is internationally prominent in sports, most notably cricket, sprinting, soccer. Jamaica is an upper-middle income country with an economy heavily dependent on tourism; it has an average of 4.3 million tourists a year. Politically it is a Commonwealth country with Elizabeth II as its queen. Jamaica is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with legislative power vested in the Parliament of Jamaica.
Jamaican culture is a product of the interaction between Europe and Africa. European influences persist in public institutions, medicine, Christian worship, and the arts. However, African influences are present in religious life, Jamaican Creole language, cuisine, proverbs, drumming, the rhythms of Jamaican music and dance.
Family life is central to most Jamaicans, although formal marriages are less prevalent than in most other countries. It is common for three generations to share a home. Many women earn wages, particularly in households where men are absent, and grandmothers normally take charge of preschool-age children. Jamaica’s diverse ethnic roots are reflected in the national motto “Out of Many One People”.
Religion in Jamaica is varied, with the following religious affiliations: Protestant 64.8%, Roman Catholic 2.2%, Jehovah’s Witness 1.9%, Rastafarian 1.1%, other 6.5%, and no religion at 21.3% of the population. There are also growing numbers of Hindus, Buddhist, and Muslims.
According to the Joshua Project there are approximately:
- 24,500 Hindus
- 10,000 Muslims
- 10,000 Buddhists