World ? Caribbean & Central America

Introduction


Introduction

The Caribbean

The islands of the Caribbean are a long, expansive archipelago defining the border between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Long known as a vacation destination for honeymooners and retirees, a significant eco-tourism movement has opened the Caribbean to a new type of traveler, interested in not only sun and fun, but also in cultural and natural resources.

The indigenous Arawak Indians were the original inhabitants, supplanted by the more aggressive, Caribs, the tribe in place when the first Spanish explorers discovered the islands for westerners. As each island was in turn colonized by a different European country, British, Spanish, Dutch, French or Portuguese, and slavery introduced to farm, original and highly diverse cultures arose. Today, the colorful legacy of that history is alive in the music, art, architecture and language of the Caribbean Islands.

The geography of each island is unique: some are near deserts and very arid, while others boast mountainous rain forests. The sub-tropical latitudes of the Caribbean provide nearly year-round good weather. The late summer and fall months are at times interrupted by strong storm systems crossing the Atlantic from Africa bringing with them those most powerful of storms, hurricanes.

As one might expect, activities in the Caribbean are largely water oriented - scuba and snorkeling, swimming, boating and fishing. Golf has a strong foothold as does everyone's favorite pastime at some point - lying on the beach, staring at the ocean and just sitting still.

Central America

Central America is the remarkable bridge of land that links the North and South American continents. Geographically situated as part of North America, Central America's cultural heritage places it geopolitically closer to South America. These mostly sub-tropical and tropical nations have had historically difficult histories, but since the end of the cold war have made amazing strides in developing their tourism infrastructure and today represent some of the best locations for travel in the western hemisphere.

The people of Central America are among the most kind and warm, and typically very friendly and eagerly welcoming to foreigners. The great diversity of culture stems not only from the differing influence of the colonial powers that once occupied the region but also from the varying native peoples that populated the area prior to discovery by European explorers.

The extensive Spanish colonial history accounts for the varying American dialects of Spanish the people speak. Belize, a former colony of the United Kingdom speaks predominantly English. In many rural areas, visitors will still hear native Amerindian languages spoken.

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