The islands of the Caribbean Sea are also known as West Indies . Within the West Indies, the islands can be further divided into two groups: the Bahamas and the Antilles.
The islands of the Antilles are further divided into two subgroups:
- The Greater Antilles: located to the south-east of the United States, it contains the islands of Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and the islands that make up the Cayman Islands.
- The Lesser Antilles: contains smaller archipelagos such as the US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Barbados, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago and Aruba.
Within the Lesser Antilles, the islands can be further divided into two groups: the Leeward Islands (away from the wind) and the Windward Islands (exposed to the wind) .
Why the distinction?
The Greater Antilles islands are larger than the Lesser Antilles, but the contrasts do not end there. The geographical position of the two groups is different, with the Greater Antilles located in the northern part of the Caribbean Sea, south of the United States. The Lesser Antilles are located in the southern part of the Caribbean Sea, near South America. Furthermore, the Greater Antilles are made up of continental rocks while the Lesser Antilles are mostly constituted by coral islands or volcanic rocks. It is thought that the land of the Greater Antilles is much older than the land of the Lesser Antilles.
The Great and Small Antilles also demonstrate different evolutionary models for native flora and fauna. Sometimes, most of the Greater Antilles islands (ie Cuba, Dominican Republic and Cuba) are considered part of the culture of Latin America, and not of Caribbean culture, although many argue that this distinction is too general to be valid.