The Caribbean or the West Indies is a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea. These islands curve southward from the bottom tip of Florida to the Northwest of Venezuela in South America. There are at least 7000 islands, islets, reefs and cayes in the region. They are organized into twenty-five territories including sovereign states, overseas departments and dependencies.
The name "West Indies" originates from Christopher Columbus' idea that he had landed in India when he had in fact reached the Americas. The Caribbean consists of the Greater and Lesser Antilles and is part of North America.
At one time there was a short-lived country called the Federation of the West Indies composed of the English-speaking Caribbean islands of the region.
The Caribbean area is also famous for its sea pirates. See the article piracy in the Caribbean.
Main article: History of the Caribbean
Most islands at some point were, or still are, colonies of European nations:
British West Indies - Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and the Turks and Caicos Islands
Danish West Indies - present-day United States Virgin Islands
Dutch West Indies - present-day Netherlands Antilles and Aruba
French West Indies - the French overseas departements of Guadeloupe and Martinique
Spain - Cuba, Hispaniola (present-day Dominican Republic and Haiti), Puerto Rico
The British West Indies, were formerly united by the United Kingdom into a West Indies Federation. The independent countries which were once a part of the B.W.I. still have a unified composite cricket team that successfully competes in test matches and one-day internationals. The West Indies cricket team, includes the South American nation of Guyana, the only former British colony on that continent.
In addition, these countries share the University of the West_Indies as a regional entity. The university consists of three main campuses in Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, a smaller campus in the Bahamas and Resident Tutors in other contributing territories.
Present-day territories of the Caribbean
See also: Caribbean South America
The nations of Belize and Guyana, although on the mainland of Central America and South America respectively, were former British colonies and maintain many cultural ties to the Caribbean and are members of CARICOM. The Turneffe islands (and many other islands and reefs) are part of Belize and lie in the Caribbean Sea.
Here are some of the bodies that several islands share in collaboration: