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Demographics in the Caribbean, Central & South America

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  • 00:00 Demographics
  • 00:58 Caribbean
  • 3:08 Central America
  • 4:40 South America
  • 5:30 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 discusses the populations of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. It defines the term demographics, while also highlighting language, religion, and ethnicity.

Demographics

One of my grandma's favorite things to do is people watch. We go to the mall, and she sits and takes in the comings and goings of shoppers. We go to the beach, and she has a blast scoping out the interactions of people, comparing bathing suits, or giggling as kids eating sand. When she gets a chance to talk to any of these people, she walks away from a 5-minute conversation knowing where they are from, where their parents were from, and where they go to church. Really, she has a gift!

Speaking quite academically, my grandma is really into demographics, the study of populations and people groups. Since she also loves to travel anywhere warm, she would really enjoy today's lesson on the demographics of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Come to think of it, she could probably teach it!

In honor of my grandma and all the people-watchers out there, let's dive into the demographics of these three areas. We'll kick things off with the Caribbean.

Caribbean

The Caribbean is made up of about 7,000 islands surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. When speaking of population, the Caribbean has a total population of well over 30 million. Cuba wins first prize for being the most-populated island nation of the Caribbean; it's home to over 11 million.

Before Europe got its hands on the Caribbean, the islands were home to many native tribes. The Arawak tribe was one of the largest tribes of the Caribbean islands. Sadly, as Europe came to town, many of the ancient tribes melted into history. Although some tribes, like the Arawak, still exist today, their influence on the area has been quite marginalized.

On the contrary, Europe came, conquered, and made its mark! For instance, much of the Caribbean was colonized by very Catholic Spain. Due to this, Catholicism is the predominant religion in much of the Caribbean. For instance, the majority of the population of Haiti is Catholic. However, this isn't to say that other European faiths haven't made their mark. For example, St. Croix has a very Protestant bend. If my grandma ever had a chance to sidle up to a person from St. Croix, they could talk all day about church comings and goings!

Of course, the Caribbean didn't just pick up European religions. It also took on European languages. Spanish is considered the predominant language of the Caribbean. However, English and French can also be heard.

Moving away from religion and into ethnicity, the people of the Caribbean are as varied as the beautiful landscapes. Many people of the Caribbean are Afro-Caribbean, or of African and Caribbean descent. Another large people group are those of Indo-Caribbean descent. These people have roots in India and the Caribbean. Again, showing the effect of Europe, it's believed most Indo-Caribbeans can trace their roots back to the time when European colonizers brought their slaves, who happened to be from India, with them to the New World.

Standing the test of time and tragedy, the Caribbean is also still home to some native tribes like the already-mentioned Arawaks, or the Caribs, or the Tainos.

Central America

When speaking demographically, Central America shares a very similar story to the Caribbean. Locating it on our map, Central America is the isthmus that connects North America to South America. An isthmus is a narrow strip of land surrounded by sea, which connects two larger landmasses.

Map of Central America

With its population of over 40 million, Central America's profile is very linked to Europe. Because it, too, was colonized by very Catholic Spain, much of the region is predominantly Christian. For instance, in Guatemala, the mostly highly-populated country of the region, Protestantism and Catholicism make up a huge part of the religious scene.

Along similar lines, Spanish is the dominant language of Central America. Standing a bit on its own, Belize breaks this mold by claiming English as its national language. Of course, this is due to the Brits who swarmed the area during colonization. Being very, very English, my grandma would have a blast sitting on the beaches there! Not only could she watch, she could eavesdrop on conversations!

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