Caribbean Atlas

What are the driving forces currently shaping the Greater Caribbean?

It is this central question that this regularly updated electronic atlas seeks to address.

For an archipelago extending over nearly 4 000 km - from the tip of Florida or the Yucatan coast to Venezuela - to its continental rim, from Panama to Puerto Rico or Cuba to Trinidad, the local realities vary greatly whilst at the same time sharing common traits, as much in their history as in their daily life, and in the view held by their inhabitants of the outside world.

The caribbean is a mozaic

Here is a mosaic of tiny entities across the archipelago, a mosaic of larger islands in the Greater Antilles, or again a coastal mosaic divided between the large states around its margins, also part of the Greater Caribbean even if this sense of belonging has been differently perceived over pas centuries.

It is the sea, covering 4.3 million km² of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, that defines the Greater Caribbean. This sea has been the vehicle of its very construction, historical, economic, political and cultural, of all its constituent societies, with their common family ties as well as their variations and differences. It is an American "Mediterranean."

An american mediterranean

After having provided during the era of the sugar islands a key resource in the generation of wealth for the colonial powers, a bridge for the colonisation of the New World, for more than a century now the region has remained under the tutelage of the United States, the foremost economic and military power of the 20th century.

American influence may be decisive, omnipresent, yet the Caribbean is far from being simply reduced to that status. With the exception of Cuba, numerous events over recent decades indicate the regular occurrence of initiatives pursued in common across this great spatial mosaic. Constantly at play in a combination of a central role by the major regional power, the self-assertiveness of each Caribbean entity, and attempts to arrive at cooperative outcomes albeit shaped by differing geometries.

The histories specific to each political entity, their relations with former colonial powers, the residual direct presence of a few European states, the current links to the European Union, the recent influence being exerted by Asian countries, the resonances shared with countries of South and Central America, global economic changes, including energy production, the particular role of Miami as primate city of the Caribbean? all in turn contribute to a constant reformulation of a Caribbean position. This may relate as much to the economic health of individual societies as to their place in wealth creation, in international exchange, their cultural identity, their degree of cooperation regionally, or their political standing in the contemporary world.

It is about this diversity as much as these common trajectories, this construction of plural identities, that the Atlas of the Caribbean will provide an on-going analysis.

Author: Pascal Buleon