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Robert Curley

How Do You Define the Caribbean?

By January 2, 2013

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Caribbean mapAnyone who has browsed around the About Caribbean Travel site knows that I take a fairly liberal viewpoint on what constitutes the "Caribbean." Without looking at a map, you might assume it's a simple question: the Caribbean should consist of all of the islands in the Caribbean Sea. But there actually are relatively few islands located entirely within the Caribbean Sea (Jamaica, for example, and Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire). A more generous viewpoint would include all islands with at least one Caribbean coastline, such as Puerto Rico and Hispaniola (home of the Dominican Republic and Haiti), which face the Caribbean on one side and the Atlantic on the other.

However, if we're counting coastlines, then we also need to include (and I do) the Caribbean-facing countries of Central and South America, not to mention the Caribbean coastal areas of Mexico (and who's prepared to argue that Cancun isn't a Caribbean destination? Not this guy). So now we've got a Caribbean that includes everything from the Yucatan Peninsula to Venezuela.

But, wait. What about the Bahamas? Can you get any more quintessentially "Caribbean" than this far-flung archipelago? Except that the whole thing lies outside of the Caribbean, in the North Atlantic Ocean. Even further north is Bermuda, which is closer to Washington, D.C., than Nassau. In my Caribbean club, these two are "definitely in" and "in because, well, where else does it belong?"

Finally, there's Guyana, which is culturally a Caribbean nation even though it's in South America and its entire coastline faces the Atlantic Ocean. In. The same, I contend, goes for the Florida Keys -- and especially Key West -- which occupy the Strait of Florida between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic ... Caribbean at heart, if not location.

Such are the judgments you make when putting together a travel website. Do you think I made the right calls? Which countries do you think deserve to be called "Caribbean" (or not), and why?

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