The Colonial Era

Caribbean colonial era

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.