Culture, History & Politics of Caribbean South America

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  • 0:01 Caribbean South America
  • 1:05 Colombia
  • 2:28 Venezuela
  • 3:23 Guyana
  • 4:45 French Guiana
  • 5:36 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 focuses on the lands of Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and French Guiana. It highlights the colonization of these areas by countries like Spain, France, and the Netherlands.

Caribbean South America

Like most huge landmasses, South America is a land of variety. There are countries like Brazil that have become rather industrialized and there are countries like Guyana, which is still very poor. There are major cities like Buenos Aires and there are tribal villages high in the Andes Mountains. Rather than trying to tackle the huge topic that is South America, today's lesson will stick to the region known as Caribbean South America.

Made up of Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, and French Guiana, this region is as varied as the continent on which it resides. Walk down a street in Guyana and smell delicious Creole foods and hear steel drum music that'll make you swear you're on a Caribbean island! Visit Colombia and have your taste buds treated to passion fruit, cassava, seafood, papaya, and more!

To dive further into this colorful region, let's start our lesson on the culture, history, and politics of Caribbean South America!


For starters, Colombia and Venezuela are considered part of Caribbean South America due to geography. Colombia shares a coastline with the Caribbean Sea. However, the Andes Mountains create a barrier of sorts between the more modernized areas of the country and its Caribbean coast.

Being colonized by Spain in the 1500s, many of the indigenous tribes of Colombia were either killed or conscripted as slaves in European-owned gold mines. Tired of heavy taxation and subservience, Colombians finally threw off Spanish rule in the early 19th century. However, the country's history of Spanish colonization is still very present in its modern culture. For instance, most Colombians speak Spanish and about 90% of Colombians claim Catholicism as their faith. Of course, both of these are imports from the conquering Spanish.

Despite gaining its freedom, the political history of Colombia is a story of violence and civil war. For much of modern times, its people and its culture have been victim to cruel dictators, the illegal drug trade, and fear. The violent days of the drug trade ended when the famous drug dealer, Pablo Escobar, died during a shootout with Colombian security forces. Nowadays, the country is a world leader in the exportation of coffee and tourism is a thriving industry.


Like Colombia, Venezuela also borders the Caribbean Sea. In fact, a large portion of Venezuela's population lives along the Caribbean coast.

Venezuela also was colonized by the Spanish, and many of its indigenous people groups were wiped out. Spain ruled the Venezuelan land until its independence in the early 1800s. Like Colombia, its official language is Spanish and a huge majority of its people practice Catholicism.

Regarding its political history, Venezuela's rulers have been military men who have presided over the country, followed by times when democratically-elected leaders have presided. Nowadays, Venezuela lives a time of political and economic uncertainty as a consequence of the decisions made by former president Hugo Chávez. After his death, Nicolás Maduro took over and has followed the same line of work, which has led to inflation along with shortage of goods. Among the population, there is concern about an authoritarian attitude on the government's side while the people are jobless and feel unsafe. Many people have gone out on the streets to protests while others have fled to neighboring countries, including Colombia and Ecuador.


Moving away from Colombia and Venezuela, Guyana and French Guiana share many cultural traits with the Caribbean region. For starters, it's believed the first migrants to Guyana actually came from the Caribbean and inhabited the land until Europeans descended upon them in the late 16th century.

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