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The Cultures of Caribbean

The Caribbean culture was made up of a group of people who inhabited the Lesser Antilles, according to roguesinparadise.com, and the Caribs stood out for being Amerindian people with origins in the Caribbean region and the northern coast of South America. The inhabitants lived in separate villages on the islands of Grenada, Tobago, Dominica and Saint Vincent. On the other hand, they also stood out for being great navigators and shipbuilders.

The members of the culture only spoke the language of the Caribs, but other groups allowed women to speak the macro-Arawak language. The Carib groups were concentrated on the coast of Venezuela, Colombia, Guyana and some islands of the Antilles.

Many considered the Caribs as a discrepant and aggressive tribe, their name comes from the word Cariba and shortly after they became known as Arawak, since they gradually adapted to their enemies and to the consumption of human flesh. They were also known as caríbales, which was the mother of other languages.

History of caribbean culture

The Caribbean culture stood out for having two important stages during the course of history:


The main characteristic of the culture was the expansionist nature, the groups covered territories from the Amazon to the Andes. They crossed the Orinoco River reaching the jungle, they crossed territories of Guyana and some of Brazil. Some tribes such as Carijonas, Mocoas, Chaparros, Caratos, Parisis, Yuma, Palmella, etc. also stood out among them.

Much of the expansionism took place in AD 1200, in northern Colombia and Venezuela, as well as Cuba and Hispaniola. They also invaded the territory of Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Dominica, and the Grenadines, displacing the Taino. Later, they managed to invade Puerto Rico.


Once America was discovered by Christopher Columbus, conflicts began between the Lesser Antilles and the Spanish. But to the surprise of many, the lands were conquered by the English and French. In 1660, an agreement is signed with the indigenous people, deporting them from the Lesser Antilles. However, the agreement was violated and the English managed to gain access to the territory of the islands, around 1763.

In Saint Vincent, after the miscegenation between Caribs and African slaves, the so-called Garífunas or Black Caribs were born. But they were deported by the English around 1795 to Honduras, and today we can still find them in this territory. In turn, in Guadeloupe other groups could also be found until the end of the 19th century.

Highlights of Caribbean culture

Among some characteristics that we can find of the Caribbean culture, are the following:

Social organization

The Caribbean culture was made up of family clans, and each of them had a link. The maternal caste was the one that predominated, but it was the men who dominated in family life. The houses were built with materials of wood, palm leaf or cane.

Economic activity

In general terms, the culture was dedicated to hunting, fishing, gathering and trading. Since they were very close to the rivers and oceans, they were able to carry out various fishing activities as their main source of food. For this reason, they had to develop various conservation techniques such as smoking, drying and salting.

Body paint

They were characterized by making body designs with paintings made of plant origin to distinguish each family and ethnic group. On their faces they drew the animal or the name of the family to which they belonged.


The Caribs were feared by other groups and were the main nightmare of the Spanish, since they used to practice cannibalism. Although many researchers have disputed this point, it was their custom to prey on the enemy, and not necessarily to satisfy their hunger.


In the religious sphere, the Caribs practiced ancestor worship. On the other hand, the main function of the shamans or buyeis was to treat the sick with herbs or spells. They believed in the Maybouya spirit, which was appeased by the buyeis, to prevent evil from spreading. When religious ceremonies were performed, they smoked tobacco and performed human sacrifices.

Caribbean culture in Colombia and Venezuela

The Caribbean culture spread to the north of Colombia. In general, they inhabited the coasts and the plains of the rivers.

The tribes managed to stand out in Colombian territory were:

  • Muzos, scattered along the Magdalena, Sogamoso, Ermitaño and Suárez rivers.
  • Pijaos, they inhabited what is now the territory of Tolima and Caldas.
  • Panches, distributed in the Negros, Guarimó, Coello and Fusagasugá rivers.
  • Quimbaya, located in Quindío.
  • Motilones, can still be found on the banks of the Catatumbo River in northern Santander.

A large part of the Carib groups stood out for being nomads, forming some tribes located in the Antilles while the Quimbayas were sedentary and achieved numerous advances in terms of ceramics and goldsmith techniques. On the other hand, the pijaos, panches and muzos also stood out for doing similar jobs, but they stood out more for preparing poison.

In general, they were naked and the men covered themselves with loincloths and women with skirts made of cotton. Both genders also used to cover their bodies with paint.

In Venezuela, the Carib groups were distributed throughout the northern coastal and mountainous region of the country, from the Gulf of Paria to Yaracuy, as well as moving to Lake Maracaibo and the limits of the Orinoco River. They displaced the Arawaks to the west of the country.