CARIBBEAN / Human Geography in the Caribbean
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The Caribbean Sea is the geographic center of the American continents. It consists of 31 countries on islands and coastal areas of the American continents. The population lives in a region of great topographic, geologic and geomorphologic diversity. In addition to these characteristics, the Caribbean is exposed to hurricanes, seismic activity, volcanic activity, long periods of rain and drought. These physical variations have led to the heterogeneity of its pre-Columbian, modern and contemporary cultures.

The Caribbean continental region consists of the coastal areas of Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Panama to the west and the northern coasts of Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname to the south. The islands of Cuba, the Bahamas, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas are situated to the north of the Caribbean Sea and the islands of Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Barbuda, Bonaire, Dominica, Grenada, Guadalupe, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Barts, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago are part of the western Caribbean island region. This arc of islands defines the northern and western limits of the Caribbean Sea.

The Lesser Antilles, as the islands on the western edge of the Caribbean are commonly called, include the largest number of countries in the region. They consist of 58 islands and small archipelagos that make up 19 countries or dependencies of other countries.

In the interior of the region are the islands of Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Curacao, Margarita, Utila, Barbareta, Guanaja, Providencia, San Andres, Maíz, Saba and St. Eustatius. The Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Barbados are not touched by the Caribbean Sea, but they are considered part of the Caribbean Antilles because they share common cultural and physical elements. Many historians and geographers also include Guyana (former British Guyana), French Guiana and Suriname (former Dutch Guyana) as part of the Caribbean region, due to their ethic and racial makeup and historical connections to the Lesser Antilles. The collection of all of these countries makes up the Greater Caribbean. It covers 7,885,010 square kilometers, or 39% of all of the Americas.

The heterogeneity of the Greater Caribbean region is the result of three main factors: the legacy of the indigenous cultures, the local physical geography and the impact of European colonization. These characteristics have generated a cultural mosaic that goes beyond the political borders of the nations that make up the region. Each country, in turn, has its own sub-regional characteristics that lead to greater cultural diversification. Countries with large territorial expanses, such as those in Central America and along the northern coast of South America, contain a greater variety of ethnic and racial diversity, while the smaller countries, mostly islands, have less variation within them.

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