As it’s Black History Month, this post may be of interest to fellow Frocaribs (Afro-Caribbeans). True, it’s not directly related to us but I feel it’s a good bit of knowledge nonetheless…
From my experience most people are totally ignorant of the Caribbean (aka. West Indies/ Windies/ Antilles). I find that most people, especially South Asians, assume because it’s mostly populated by ‘black’ people that makes the Caribbean part of Africa. I also find they think the Caribbean is one country.
Geography 101: the Caribbean is nowhere near Africa; in fact it’s on the opposite side of the planet! That’s how far we were kidnapped during the TAST. It’s a group of islands, technically part of the American continent between the USA (North) and South America (South). But many of us won’t admit that because we don’t like being associated with Americans.
Or rather we didn’t, but nowadays mainstream American culture is becoming more and more accepted on the islands. You see it in the clothes, the music choices, and especially the food. Caribbeans’ obesity & diabetes rates are now pretty similar to those in the USA!
But that’s now. Back in pre-European days the natives had their own names for the individual islands, some of which are listed below along with origin language & meaning:
Jamaica – Xyamaca/ Xaymaca (Arawak & Taino; Land of Wood & Water/ Land of Springs)
Haiti – Ayti (Taino; Mountainous Land)
Tobago – Tobago (Kalinago; Tobacco Pipe)
Canouan – Cannouan (Kalinago; Island of Turtles)
Carriacou – Kayryouacou (Kalinago; Island of Reefs)
Martinique – Madinina (Kalinago; Land of Flowers)
Example of native Caribbean – Carib man from St Lucia
Examples of native Caribbeans – Tainos from Puerto Rico
[Note: so far I’ve only listed the islands whose current names sound similar to their originals. Now I’m going to list others whose native names are completely different]
Saint Kitts – Liamuiga (Kalinago; Fertile Land)
Nevis – Oualie (Kalinago; Land of Beautiful Water)
Montserrat – Alliouagana (Kalinago; Land of Prickly Bush)
Antigua – Waladli (Kalinago; Land of Fish Oil)
Barbuda – Wa’omoni (Kalinago; meaning unknown)
Barbados – Ichirouganaim (Arawak; Red Land/ Island with White Teeth)
Dominican Republic – Kiskeya/ Quisqueya (Taino; Highest Land)
Saint Lucia – Hiwanarau/ Hewanorra (Kalinago; Land of the Iguana)
Trinidad – Kairi/ Lele (Kalinago; Land of the Hummingbird)
Saint Vincent – Hairoun (Kalinago; Land of the Blessed)
Anguilla – Malliouhana (Arawak; Arrow-shaped Sea Serpent)
Garinagu (plural of Garifuna) people in Dominica. Garinagu are a mixture of the native Caribbeans & the African abductees
I’ll continue to update this list as and when I find more names.