History, Caribbean

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The modern history of the Caribbean commences in 1492 with the discovery of the region by Christopher Columbus, although the islands were already inhabitated by native people. The Tainos were the first settlers here, an Oriunda tribe from the zone who practised fishing and agriculture, and were excellent sailors and warriors.

The zone of Caribbean Central America has an important Mayan history, with places like Tulum, the cradle of Mayan civilization, the culture which dominated the zone until 1492. Up until then more than 3 million square kilometres of territory were totally unknown to European and Asian travellers. This was all to change from 1492 when Columbus set foot on the first Caribbean island during his trip, financed by the Catholic King and Queen of Spain, to find alternative routes to India.

Development of the Caribbean progressed rapidly, and soon commerce was the master of the zone. During the sixteenth century cities such as Portobelo became suspiciously prosperous, generating riches, commercial fairs, exchanges, businesses, and also piratary- one of the most common forms of delinquency of the era. For this reason forts and fortresses began to proliferate in the zone, an example of which is the sixteenth century San Lorenzo Fort. Cartagena de Indias, Havana and Portobelo are all cities which saw a rapid development in this period.

In the seventeenth century, the French and English began to claim their part of the action and set out to conquer various territories of the zone. The French occupied Martinique and Guadalupe, England made off with Barbados and Jamaica, seizing them from Spain who at that time ruled all of the Caribbean. Port Royal in Jamaica became an important refuge for pirates, some of the names of whom remain engraved in the memory of the waters and islands of the zone, names like Black Beard, Drake and Morgan.

In the nineteenth century, another historic movement affected Spain. During this period there was a wave of independence movements in various Caribbean islands, culminating in Spain's loss of Cuba in 1898. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Panama separated from Colombia, and the famous Panama Canal was built.

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