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Caribbean Families

Family Structure, Extended Family, Mate Selection And Marriage, Role Of Religion, Parent-child Relationships

The Caribbean, with a population of about 50 million, consists of a series of countries stretching from the Bahamian Islands and Cuba in the north, to Belize in the west, to Guyana on the coast of South America (Barrow 1996). The region can be divided by language with some of the countries speaking Spanish (e.g., Puerto Rico), some French (e.g., Martinique), some Dutch (e.g., Curacao), and others English (e.g., Trinidad and Tobago). The focus of this entry is on the English-speaking Caribbean, with particular emphasis on the countries of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Barbados, where approximately five million people dwell (Evans and Davies 1996).

The Caribbean countries were originally inhabited by the Caribs and Arawaks. The Caribs were fierce and aggressive whereas the Arawaks were peaceful. When Christopher Columbus and the Spanish came to the Caribbean countries in the fifteenth century, the Caribs and Arawaks were enslaved and put to work in the gold mines. As a result of brutal treatment and diseases, the Arawaks died rapidly. The Caribs tried to resist enslavement by the Spaniards, but were eventually overcome, and most of them died. As the European invasion and settlement in these countries continued, slaves from Africa were brought to the Caribbean to work on the plantations, especially under British rule. After the abolition of slavery in 1833, indentured laborers from India were brought to work on the plantations (Gopaul-McNicol 1993). Most of them settled in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana. It is estimated that 238,960 Indians arrived in Guyana between 1838 and 1917 (Roopnarine et al. 1996); between 1815 and 1917, 150,000 Indians came to Trinidad and Tobago (Barrow 1996). However, small groups of Indians are scattered across the Caribbean and can be found in other countries such as Jamaica and St. Vincent. The Chinese, Lebanese, and Syrians make up a small percentage of the population in the Caribbean.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural Aspects