The islands of the Lesser Antilles stretch in a gentle curve from the Greater Antilles island of Puerto Rico in the north, down to the coast of South America. Once on European colonies, most of the islands are now independent. However, the background of African, European, and Asian influences has resulted in a vibrant and distinctive culture, highlighted in music and festivals. Bananas, which thrive in the heat and high rainfall, remain a major export, although some producers are at risk from hurricanes, which can devastate the land.
In the past, people and goods were transported by boat between the islands. Today, ships are still the most economic way to move cargo, and ports, such as Castries in St. Lucia, handle the islands’ exports. Most islands have no railroads and main roads are often confined to the coasts, making the interior difficult to reach. Antigua, Barbados, Martinique, and other islands now have large airports capable of handling jumbo jets.
Cricket is the national game of the English-speaking islands. Children learn to play on sun-dried turf that allows the ball to be “bowled” at high speeds. As adults they can play for the West Indies team, drawn from the best players on each island. The team has included many great bowlers and batsmen.
The main industry in the Caribbean is tourism, which provides work for local people in restaurants, hotels, shops, and beach stalls. However the work is mainly seasonal, since most visitors only come to escape cold at home. Also, many hotels are owned by foreign companies, and money does not always remain on the islands. Some local governments are trying to reduce their dependence on tourism.
Food from the land
Because of the shortage of land, most island farms are small. Farmers grow food for themselves, and sell a wide range of crops in local markets, including yams, sweet potatoes, okra, and salad crops, as well as fruits such as mangoes, limes, coconuts, and bananas. They also grow cash crops for export. The main crop varies from island to island, with nutmeg grown in Grenada, coffee in Trinidad, arrowroot in St. Vincent, and sugar and bananas almost everywhere.