According to the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion:
“A previous study done by the US Migration Policy Institute says that roughly 10% (44.5 million) of the nation’s immigrants are from the Caribbean. While Caribbean American Heritage Month became official in 2006, when President George H.W. Bush issued a proclamation, the Institute of Caribbean Studies in Washington D.C. has been hard at work since the 90s to promote Caribbean-American heritage in mainstream culture.”
The Caribbean (also known as the West Indies) has over 7,000 islands with 20 member states (island nations) as part of CARICOM. However, 26 countries are considered to be part of the Caribbean. According to this US Department of the Interior infographic, “The largest Caribbean communities are located in New York, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Texas, and California.” Between 1980 and 2017 90% of Caribbean immigrants came from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago.
To read more about the lower east side of New York City’s Caribbean American community, go to this link: June is Caribbean American Heritage Month! – Tenement Museum
The history of people in the Caribbean is diverse and built over hundreds of years during which there were periods of colonization and slavery. The history includes colonial influence by Britain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain which contributed to the dominant languages spoken today. However, there are approximately 70 indigenous and Creole languages spoken in the Caribbean. Those creoles include influences from European, native, and African languages.
Learn more about the history and language on Caribbean and Co’s blog.
On a personal note, one of our members has fond memories of many friendships with people in the Caribbean and Caribbean American communities. She grew up in a Mexican-American community by East LA and moved to the northeast for college where she met Caribbean Americans for the first time in her life. Her roommate was Puerto Rican and self-identified as Boriqua and Neorican/Nuyorican from the Bronx. Within three weeks she had a best friend from Barbados who identified as Black from the West Indies. During those years she learned that TNT stood for Trinidad and Tobago and that Puerto Rico was home to the Taino indigenous community. She also was introduced to delicious Puerto Rican food including arroz con habichuleas (yellow rice with red beans) and tostones (fried green plantains) during multiple road trips to the Bronx. In her last year, she met another best friend who was Haitian-American. This friend introduced her to another student, Edwidge Danticat, a young Haitian American author of the book Breath, Eyes, Memory, which she had just finished writing. In college, she also met her current partner whose extended family is from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Years of family trips to the Bronx to visit her partner’s relatives led her to discover a love for Dominican mangu (mashed green plantains) and Puerto Rican comfort foods including arroz con gandules (yellow rice with pigeon peas) and pasteles (pork filled dumplings that look like Mexican tamales with dough made from grated green plantains and wrapped in banana leaves).
Book: Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
This amazing fictional story of a girl, her grandmother, and her mom set in Haiti and New York is recommended with content warnings.
This video is by a professor at Fordham University in the Bronx, NY: “A Rich History of Caribbean Immigration to the US” (1 min 42 sec)
A Rich History of Caribbean Immigration to the US – YouTube
CaribBeing of Brooklyn, NY has created an excellent virtual exhibit in which the viewer scrolls to the next image with a brief excerpt. It’s a concise and fascinating history of Americans of Caribbean heritage including Malcolm X, Shirley Chisholm, Kamala Harris, Colin Powell, and many others.
Caribbean Spirit — Google Arts & Culture
Local Caribbean Food: Caribbean Haven located at 1780 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura Caribbean Haven – Caribbean Haven Restaurant & Catering – Caribbean Restaurant in CA
Island Space opened in 2020 as the United States first Caribbean heritage museum: Island SPACE: Celebrating Authentic Caribbean Culture (islandspacefl.org)
Carribean Heritage Festival, LA. This event is in September this year. To learn more, visit: Caribbean Heritage Festival LA