Cultural Patterns of the Caribbean, Central & South America

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  • 00:00 Culture
  • 00:55 European Influence
  • 2:15 African Influence
  • 3:06 Native Culture
  • 3:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson describes the cultural patterns of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. It will specifically highlight the influences of Europe, Africa, and the ancient tribes of the regions.


We are all products of our pasts. Like it or not, the people who came before us drew on the blueprints of our lives. Case in point: I'm a Northeastern girl who says y'all instead of you. Why? Because despite living most of my life in the North, I was raised by a very, very southern mother.

When discussing the culture of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, the same rule applies. Although these regions are made up of many independent nations and island states, each of them have been molded by their pasts. Today, we'll take a look at this. Since it's such a broad topic, we'll narrow our scope to the cultural influence of Europe, Africa, and the native tribes of the region.

For starters, culture can be defined as the beliefs, customs, faiths, attitudes, and arts of a people group. It's how we dress, how we eat, how we speak, and how we express ourselves. It's what makes us, us!

European Influence

In the Caribbean, Central America, and South America today, culture has definitely been sculpted by Europe. In fact, a large part of these regions' populations can trace their lineage to Europe. For instance, there are the mestizo people groups of South America. These South Americans are of Spanish and Native American descent.

This mixing of the native people of the regions with Europeans is hugely evident today. In fact, places like Puerto Rico and Aruba look very western in their cultures. Barbados is so influenced by Europe that it's actually called Little England! With English as its official language, Belize also gives a nod to England's influence.

Here's something else most of us don't think about. The fact that many people of these regions speak Spanish is a huge proof of Europe's cultural influence. The Spanish tongue is an import straight from Europe! Before Columbus and his cronies came on the scene and conquered, the people of Columbia and Peru were not greeting each other with Hola!

The influence of Europe on these regions' cultures is also very evident in religion. Very Catholic Spain colonized much of the area, therefore, many of its inhabitants today practice Catholicism. For example, the majority of Cubans and Haitians claim allegiance to Catholicism.

African Influence

Africa also plays a large part in the cultures of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Many in the population are of Afro-Caribbean descent. In other words, they trace their lineage through Africa and the native tribal groups of the Caribbean. Sadly, most Afro-Caribbeans can trace their history to slavery. Their African ancestors were brought here as slaves for the colonizing Europeans.

Being proud of their unique heritage, places like Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago express it through their cultural festivals and music. In fact, the very famous Trinidad & Tobago carnival dance is a reenactment of the African slaves' fight for freedom. African cultural influence is also prevalent in South America. For instance, many in Brazil practice Candomblé, a religion with its roots in West Africa.

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