The Caribbean

The Caribbean – BLACK IN THE WORLD

The archipelagos and islands of the Caribbean were the first sites of African dispersal in the western Atlantic during the post-Columbian era. Specifically, in 1492, Pedro Alonso Niño, a black Spanish seafarer, piloted one of Columbus’s ships. He returned in 1499, but did not settle. In the early 16th century, more Africans began to enter the population of the Spanish Caribbean colonies, sometimes as freedmen, but most often as enslaved servants and workers. Demand for African labour increased in the Caribbean because of the massive deaths among the Taino and other indigenous populations, resulting primarily from Eurasian infectious diseases to which they had no immunity, as well as conflict with the Spanish, and harsh working conditions. By the mid-16th century, slave trade from Africa to the Caribbean was so profitable that the Englishmen Francis Drake and John Hawkins engaged in piracy and violated Spanish colonial laws, in order to forcibly transport approximately 1500 enslaved people from Sierra Leone to Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic).


Policy & Politics


Policy & Politics in The Caribbean

There were several migration waves and relocations which took place and affected people of African descent.  Their place in society and opportunities of advancement remains challenged to various degrees in different parts of the world.  In our Monthly Highlights section we feature individuals who have overcome, and who are testament of the redeeming power of determination and talent.  Below are the accomplished individuals in Policy & Politics in The Caribbean.

Business & Education


Business & Education in The Caribbean

There were several migration waves and relocations which took place and affected people of African descent.  Their place in society and opportunities of advancement remains challenged to various degrees in different parts of the world.  In our Monthly Highlights section we feature individuals who have overcome, and who are testament of the redeeming power of determination and talent.  Below are the accomplished individuals in Business & Education in The Caribbean.

Art & Culture


Art & Culture in The Caribbean

There were several migration waves and relocations which took place and affected people of African descent.  Their place in society and opportunities of advancement remains challenged to various degrees in different parts of the world.  In our Monthly Highlights section we feature individuals who have overcome, and who are testament of the redeeming power of determination and talent.  Below are the accomplished individuals in Art & Culture in The Caribbean.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, European colonialism in the Caribbean became increasingly reliant on plantation slavery, so that, by the end of the 18th century, on many islands, enslavedAfro-Caribbeans far outnumbered their European masters.[66] A total of 1,840,000 slaves arrived at other British colonies, chiefly the West Indies in the Caribbean.[66]

Beginning in the late 18th century, harsh conditions, constant inter-imperial warfare, and growing human rights goals resulted in the Haitian Revolution in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, led by Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean Jacques Dessalines. In 1804, Haiti, with what had been an overwhelmingly black slave population and leadership, became the second nation in the Americas to win independence from a European state and create a republic. Continuous waves of rebellion, such as the Baptist War led by Sam Sharpe in Jamaica, created the conditions for the incremental abolition of slavery in the region, with Great Britain abolishing it in 1838. Cuba (under the Spanish Crown) was the last island to emancipate its slaves.

During the 20th century, Afro-Caribbean people began to assert their cultural, economic and political rights on the world stage. The Jamaican Marcus Garvey formed the UNIA movement in the U.S., continuing with Aimé Césaire‘s négritude movement, which was intended to create a pan-African movement across national lines. From the 1960s, the former slave populations in the Caribbean began to win their independence from British colonial rule. They were pre-eminent in creating new cultural forms such as calypsoreggae music, and rastafarianism within the Caribbean. Beyond the region, a new Afro-Caribbean diaspora, including such figures as Stokely Carmichael and DJ Kool Herc in the United States, was influential in the creation of the black power and Hip Hop movements. Influential political theorists such as Walter Rodney, Frantz Fanon and Stuart Hall contributed to anti-colonial theory and movements in Africa, as well as cultural developments in Europe.



Main article: Afro-Cuban

According to a 2001 national census which surveyed 11.2 million Cubans, 1.1 million Cubans described themselves as Black, while 5.8 million considered themselves to be “mulatto” or “mestizo” or “javao” or “moro”.[78] Many Cubans still locate their origins in specific African ethnic groups or regions, particularly YorubaIgbo and Congo, but also Arará, Carabalí, Mandingo, Fula and others.

An autosomal study from 2014 has found out the genetic ancestry in Cuba to be 72% European, 20% African and 8% Native American.[79]

There is also a significant presence of black Haitian immigrants in the country. Creole language and culture first entered Cuba with the arrival of Haitian immigrants at the start of the 19th century. Haiti was a French colony, and the final years of the 1791–1804 Haitian Revolution brought a wave of French settlers fleeing with their Haitian slaves to Cuba. They came mainly to the east, and especially Guantanamo, where the French later introduced sugar cultivation, constructed sugar refineries and developed coffee plantations. By 1804 some 30,000 French were living in Baracoa and Maisi, the furthest eastern municipalities of the province. Later, Haitians continued to come to Cuba to work as brazeros (hand workers, from the Spanish word brazo, meaning “arm”) in the fields cutting cane. Their living and working conditions were not much better than slavery. Although they planned to return to Haiti, most stayed on in Cuba. For years, many Haitians and their descendants in Cuba did not identify themselves as such or speak Creole. In the eastern part of the island many Haitians suffered discrimination. But since 1959 the Castro regime claims that discrimination against Cubans of Haitian descent has stopped. After Spanish, Creole is the second most-spoken language in Cuba. Over 400,000 Cubans either speak it fluently, understand it but speak with difficulty, or have at least some familiarity with the language. It is mainly in those communities, where Haitians and their descendants live, that Creole is most spoken. In addition to the eastern provinces there are also communities in Ciego de Avila and Camaguey provinces where the population still maintains Creole, their mother tongue. Classes in Creole are offered in Guantanamo, Matanzas and the City of Havana. There is a Creole-language radio program.

Among the most famous Afro-Cubanos are: writers Nicolás GuillénGastón BaqueroNancy Morejón, Alberto Guerra Naranjo and; salsa legend Celia CruzCompay SegundoRubén González,Orlando “Cachaito” LópezOmara Portuondo and Ibrahim Ferrer of the Buena Vista Social Club; jazz musicians including Mario BauzáMongo SantamaríaChucho ValdésGonzalo Rubalcaba,Alfredo TerryAnga Díaz, Orlando Valle “Maraca”, Jorge Varona and Jorge Alfonso “el Niño”; songwriters like Carlos Alfonso, X AlfonsoPablo Milanés and Gerardo Alfonso; other musicians such as Bebo ValdésIsrael “Cachao” LópezOrestes LópezRichard EgüesDámaso Pérez PradoRolando LaserieMiguelito Cuni and Tata Güines; and politicians Juan Almeida and Esteban Lazo.


Dominican Republic

Main article: Afro-Dominican (Dominican Republic)

According to the recent sources, 11% of the Dominican population is black, 16% is white and 73% is Mixed from white European and black African & Native American ancestry.[80][81] Other sources give similar figures,[82][83] but also without naming a specific study.

Some Afrocentric commentators and race/ethnicity scholars have been harshly critical of Dominicans of mixed racial background for their reluctance to self-identify as “Black”.[82][83] However, this reluctance is shared by many people of multiracial background, who find inappropriate to identify with only one side of their ancestry.[84][85] Those people refuse to express a preference for any of the races that make up their background, and resent being ascribed to any single race.

Dominican culture is a mixture of Taino Amerindian, Spanish European, and West African origins. While Taino influences are present in many Dominican traditions, the European and West African influences are the most noticeable.

Afro-Dominicans can be found all over the island, but they makeup the vast majorities in the southwest, south, east, and the north parts of the country. In El Cibao you can find people of either European, Mixed, and African descent.

Most Afro-Dominicans descend from the Bantu tribes of The Congo Region of Central Africa (AngolaDemocratic Republic of the CongoGabonCameroonRepublic of Congo), and as well as the Ga people of west Ghana.

Notable Dominicans whose physical features suggest full or predominant Black African ancestry include bachata singer Antony Santos, baseballer Sammy Sosa and salsa singer Jose Alberto, and basketballer Al Horford, among others. However, there is no reliable procedure to ascertain the degree, if any, to which their ancestry is Black African.

system of racial stratification was imposed on Santo Domingo by Spain, as elsewhere in the Spanish Empire.


Main article: Afro-Haitians

Note: Haiti is the first Latin American country to gain independence.

The population of Haiti is 9.9 million, of which 80-85% are of mixed African descent and other racial makeup; 15-20% is mulatto and white.[86] Slavery in Haiti was established by the Spanishand French colonialist. Many Haitians are also descendants of Taino or Caribs who cohabited with the descendant population.

Haiti is an Afro-Latin nation with strong African contributions to the culture as well as its language, music and religion with a fusion of French and Taino, with a sizeable degree of Spaniard; all relating but not limited to its food, art, music, folk religion and other customs. Arab customs are also present in their society today.[87]


Main article: Demographics of Martinique

Note: Popular definitions of Latin America do not include Martinique

The population of Martinique, an overseas region of France, is 397,730 (1 January 2007 est.); 90% of the population has African and African-white-Indian mixture which emphasizes its diversity.[88] Their West African ancestors were imported from the Guinean Coast for sugar cane plantation labor during the 17th and 18th centuries.[89]

Antillean Creole – which is a French-based creole, is widely local language spoken among the natives of the island and even the immigrants who have been living on the island for a couple of years. French – the official language, is still the most common language used and heard on the island. Used during more intimate/friendly conversations, Martiniquean people switch to French – which is their first and native language, when in public.[90]

Puerto Rico

Main article: Afro-Puerto Rican

According to the 2010 U.S. Census taken in Puerto Rico, 75.8% of Puerto Ricans identified as being white, 12.4% of the population as being black or African American and 11.1% as mixed or of another ethnicity.[91] An island-wide mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) study conducted by the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez revealed that 61% of Puerto Ricans have maternal Native American ancestry, 26.4% have maternal West or Central African ancestry, and 12.6% have maternal European ancestry.[92] On the other hand, the Y chromosome evidence showed Puerto Ricans’ patrilineage to be approximately 75% European, 20% African, and less than 5% indigenous[not in citation given]. The combined results reveal a mostly mestizo (Taino and European) population with important African elements (Demographics of Puerto Rico).

An interesting anecdote to consider was that during this whole period, Puerto Rico had laws like the Regla del Sacar or Gracias al Sacar where a person of African ancestry could be considered legally white so long as they could prove that at least one person per generation in the last four generations had also been legally white descent. Therefore, people of African ancestry with known European lineage were classified as “whites”, the opposite of the “one-drop rule” in the United States.[93][page needed]

These critics maintain that a majority of Puerto Ricans are ethnically mixed, but do not feel the need to identify as such. They argue, furthermore, that Puerto Ricans tend to assume that they are of African, Native American, and European ancestry and only identify themselves as “mixed” if parents visibly “appear” to be of some other ethnicity. It should also be noted that Puerto Rico underwent a “whitening” process while under U.S. rule. The census-takers at the turn of the 20th Century recorded a huge disparity in the number of “black” and “white” Puerto Ricans (both, erroneous skin classifications) between the 1910 and 1920 censuses. The term “black” suddenly began to disappear from one census to another (within 10 years’ time), possibly due to redefinition. It also appears that the “black” element within the culture was simply disappearing possibly due to the popular idea that in the U.S. one could only advance economically and socially if one were to pass for “white”.[94]

Misinformation of ethnic populations within Puerto Rico also existed under Spanish rule, when the Native American (Taino) populations were recorded as being “extinct”. Biological science has now rewritten their history books. These tribes were not voluntary travelers, but have since blended into the mainstream Puerto Rican population (as all the others have been) with Taino ancestry being the common thread that binds.

Many persons of African descent in Puerto Rico are found along coastal areas, areas traditionally associated with sugar cane plantations, especially in the towns LoizaCarolinaFajardo, andGuayama. Although, due to the DNA evidence that is being presented by UPR at Mayaguez, many African bloodlines have been recorded in the central mountains of the island, though not written in the Spanish history books of the time. Consequently, Taino bloodlines have begun appearing in the coastal towns. All this suggesting that escaped enslaved Africans ran off to the mountains to escape the slaveowners, while some Tainos remained close to their main staple food, fish.

The Puerto Rican musical genres of bomba and plena are of West African and Caribbean origin, respectively; they are danced to during parties and West African-derived festivals. Most Puerto Ricans who have African ancestry are descendants of enslaved CongoYorubaIgbo and Fon from West and Central Africa. After the abolition of slavery in 1873 and the Spanish–American War of 1898, a number of African Americans have also migrated and settled in Puerto Rico.

Three of the most famous Afro-Latin Americans are Puerto Rican Boxer Felix “Tito” Trinidad, Hall of Fame baseball player Roberto Clemente and Bernie WilliamsNew York Yankees outfielder and jazz guitarist.

Continent or region

Country population


[16] Black and black-mixed population

Caribbean 39,148,115 73.2% 22,715,518
Haiti 9,719,932 95% 9,233,935 + 476,277
Dominican Republic [17][18] 10,090,000 84% 1,109,900 + 7,365,700
Cuba[19] 11,239,363 34.9% 1,132,928 + 2,794,106
Jamaica[20] 2,909,714 97.4% 2,653,659 + 180,402
Trinidad and Tobago 1,328,019 34.2% [21] 454,182
Puerto Rico[22] 3,725,789 15.7% 461,998 + 122,951
Barbados 281,968 90.0% 253,771
The Bahamas[23] 307,451 85.0% 209,000
Netherlands Antilles 225,369 85.0% 191,564
Saint Lucia 172,884 82.5% 142,629
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 118,432 85.0% 100,667
Grenada 110,000 91.0% 101,309
US Virgin Islands 108,210 79.7% 86,243
Dominica 71,293 95.7% (86.8% Black + 8.9% Mixed) 61,882 + 9,411
Antigua and Barbuda 78,000 94.9% 63,000
Bermuda 66,536 61.2% 40,720
Saint Kitts and Nevis 39,619 98.0% 38,827
Cayman Islands 47,862 60.0% 28,717
British Virgin Islands 24,004 83.0% 19,923
Turks and Caicos islands[24] 26,000 > 90.0% 18,000