A. Historic Formation. When Columbus discovered the new world, he touched shore on this chain of islands, the W Indian Archipelago, ca. 3,000 islands and islets extending over 1,600 mi. from the tip of Florida to the NE coast of S. Am., encircling what is now called the Caribbean Sea. The islands first came under Sp. rule, later fell prey to various seafaring adventurers from Eng., Fr., and Holland; these countries affected the present geog. divisions. The islands form the Greater and Lesser Antilles. The Greater Antilles include 4 islands, home of 4 indep. nations (Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Rep., and Haiti; the latter 2 occupy the island of Hispaniola*) and Puerto Rico.
B. General Description. Area: 93,770 sq. mi. The original Indians, of S. Am. origin, were branches of the Arawaks and Caribs, the latter giving their name to the islands and the sea. But in the period of conquest and the later colonial era the Indians either died because of the clash of civilizations or were transplanted to the mainland of Cen. or S America. Negro slaves were brought from Afr. to work the mines and plantations. This created a heavy mixture of Negro and Creole blood, esp. in the Sp.-speaking colonies; other islands, chiefly under Fr. and Eng. control, became almost wholly Negro. On some islands are found large numbers of E Indians who immigrated from colonies of the Far East. The language spoken on each island reflects its historic political connections.
C. Social and Political Aspects. Independence came relatively late to the nations in this area. Haiti, occupying one-third of Hispaniola, was under French rule. The Haitians won indep. 1804, but the Dominican Republic did not enjoy full pol. freedom till 1844. Cuba and Puerto Rico were under Sp. rule till 1899. Cuba then formed its own govt., but Puerto Rico remained under stateside control, enjoying a voluntary commonwealth status within the US The Lesser Antilles enjoy various degrees of internal self-govt. either within the Brit. Commonwealth, or as overseas depts. of the Fr. Community, or as autonomous states within the kingdom of the Neth., or as territories within the US However, esp. since WW II, pol. experiments of various kinds are being tried in testing local responsibility for govt. and soc. improvement. They range from purely socialistic revolution in Cuba to a cooperative venture bet. govt. and private capital in Puerto Rico, and from the status of islands such as Jamaica, Trinidad, and Tobago to the paternalistic pattern often followed in Fr. possessions.
D. Religion. Development of the dominant religion in each area was influenced by the respective formative colonial period. Islands under Sp. and Fr. control have gen. retained outward religious allegiance to RCm, but with less religious fervor apparent than in other areas of Lat. America. Islands developed under Brit. rule are predominantly Prot., as also to a lesser degree the Neth. Antilles. The Virgin Islands, formerly under Dan. rule, have an est. Luth. tradition. Where the Negro pop. is strong, active resurgence of Afr. animism is apparent in voodoo rites.
E. Individual countries.
1. Rep. of Cuba. Area: 44,218 sq. mi. Language: Spanish. Religion: RC 42%; Prots. include Bap., Pen Prot. Episc., Meth., Seventh-day Adv., Luth., and some faith missions. Lutheran work began 1910, when a Luth. pastor emigrated from the US to the Isle of Pines for health reasons and began miss. work among N. Am. and Ger. settlers. An Eng. miss. field developed as a result under the auspices of the Missouri Synod. In 1946 the outreach was extended to Havana, with services also in Spanish. North Am. personnel remained until 1961. Since then the work is under the leadership of resident workers.
2. Dominican Republic. Area: ca. 18,704 sq. mi. Language: Spanish. Religion: ca. 95% RC (state religion). Prot. community includes Pent., Seventh-day Adv., Dominican Ev. Ch., Assemblies of God, Free Meth. Ch. of N. Am., Christian Missions to Many Lands, and the Prot. Episc. Church. See also Hispaniola.
3. Rep. of Haiti. Area: 10,714 sq. mi. Language: Fr. and Creole, a local patois. Religion: mostly RC (state religion). Prot. community includes Bap., Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), The Church of God of Prophecy, Seventh-day Adv., W Indies Miss., Unevangelized Fields Missions, Pent., and Methodists. See also Hispaniola.
4. Puerto Rico. Area: 3,435 sq. mi. Free commonwealth assoc. with US Language: Sp. and Eng. jointly. RCm predominates. Prot. community includes Assemblies of God, Meth. Ch. of the US, Am. Baps., United Christian Miss. Soc., Disciples of Christ, United Ev. Ch. of Puerto Rico, Cong. Chs., Ch. of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), and ELCA The first Prot. service in Puerto Rico was conducted by a Luth. seminarian from Illinois near the end of 1898. This field was later adopted by the Gen. Council of the Luth. Ch. in the US and eventually incorporated in the ULC With sister chs. in the Virgin Islands (see E 8), this miss. in 1952 became the Caribbean Syn., of the LCA, now the ELCA
5. British West Indies. Islands in West Indies which comprise or comprised Brit. colonies or dependencies. Following are or were included: Brit. Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Cayman Islands, Bahamas,* Brit. West Indies Fed. (the latter, formed 1958, dissolved 1962, included Antigua, St. Christopher [Kitts]-Nevis-Anguilla, Montserrat, Dominica, St. Lucia, Grenada, St. Vincent, Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago). The West Indies Associated States (not a pol. entity), self-governing territories in free assoc. with the United Kingdom, were est. 1967 and consisted of Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, St. Christopher, (Kitts)-Nevis-Anguilla, St. Lucia, St. Vincent (statehood for the latter delayed until 1969 because of local pol. uncertainties). Language: English. Protestantism predominates. Chs. include RC, Angl., Moravian, Ch. of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), Ch. of God of Prophecy, Disciples of Christ, Internat. Ch. of the Foursqaure Gospel, Meth., Pent. Assemblies of Can., United Christian Missionary Soc., United Ch. of Can., Wesleyan Meth.
Grenada became indep. 1974. Anguilla became autonomous 1976, separated from St. Kitts-Nevis 1980. Dominica became indep. 1978, St. Vincent and the N part of the Grenadines 1979, St. Christopher and Nevis 1983.
6. French West Indies. Comprise Guadeloupe, (in the Leeward Islands; includes N two thirds of St. Martin; area: ca. 687 sq. mi.; Martinique (in the Windward Islands: area: ca. 425 sq. mi.; and surrounding islands. Area: 1,118 sq. mi. Language: French. RCm predominates. Prot. work listed only for Seventh-day Adv. and the W Indies Mission. Restrictions on the entry of non-RC missions have been relaxed in recent years.
7. Netherlands Antilles. Three Windward Islands (Curaçao area: ca. 171 sq. mi.; Aruba, area: ca. 7 sq. mi.; and Bonaire, area: ca. 111 sq. mi.) and 3 Leeward Islands (Saba, area: ca. 5 sq. mi.; St. Eustatius, area: ca. 11 sq. mi.; and S one third of St. Martin [St. Maarten], area: ca. 13 sq. mi.). Area: ca. 386 sq. mi. Aruba was given separate status within the kingdom of the neth. as of January 1, 1986 Language: dialect of mixed origins, called Papiamento. RCm predominates. Prots. include Prot. Union Ch., Dutch Ref., Meth., Angl., Seventh-day Adv., and Salv. Army Lutheran services are conducted on Aruba and Curaçao, where the Norw. Seamen's Miss. maintains centers with resident pastors.
8. Virgin Islands of the United States. About 50 Leeward* Islands east of Puerto Rico; 3 largest: St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix (Santa Cruz). Area: 133 sq. mi. Major ethnic groups: West Indian, Chachas. Language: English. Prot. Chs. include Prot. Episc. Ch., Meth. Miss., Moravian Ch., and ELCA Under Dan. rule till 1917, the islands were purchased by the US The Luth. Ch., formerly under Dan. supervision, was then transferred to a Luth. Ch. in the US became part of the Caribbean Syn. of the LCA, now part of the ELCA
See Missions Bibliography. RFG
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission
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