Recently I was surprised to discover that many participants at a conference in Washington DC could not locate the Caribbean on a map. Some said it was close to Africa while others simply believed that the Caribbean was a sun, sea and sand destination that was somewhere out there. This definition of the physical boundaries of the Caribbean should therefore shed some light on the physical location of Caribbean neighbors.
The Caribbean islands are a broad crescent stretching from the Bahamas and Cuba just off the southern tip of Florida southwards to Trinidad located just off Venezuela. The broad crescent is further subdivided into the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Haiti/Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Jamaica) and the Lesser Antilles- Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, as well as the inner chain of islands running through to Grenada. The islands of Trinidad and Tobago that lie just south of this chain with Barbados to the east, complete the crescent of Caribbean islands.
The islands of the Lesser Antilles can be further subdivided into Leeward Islands- the northernmost islands from the Virgin Islands to Guadeloupe, and the Windward Islands Dominica, Martinique, St, Lucia, St. Vincent the Grenadines and Grenada.
Apart from the island chain south and Central American countries on the mainland surrounding the Caribbean Sea are also often considered Caribbean. In particular Guyana and Belize historically tied to the islands through trade and regional population movement are also featured in definitions of the Caribbean. The map shows the region described. It also highlights that the islands have historical links to European countries like the UK, Spain and France as well as the US.