Hispanic Heritage Month - The Caribbean Islands

Banner with Polaroid Photos of Caribbean scenery


Each year from Sept. 15 to Oct.15, the United States celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month as a way of honoring the exceptional culture and contributions of Hispanic people.

This year, we're celebrating by taking a trip around the world to explore major Hispanic regions and countries. Now we're going to learn all about the Hispanic islands of the Caribbean


Map of the Greater Antilles Islands


The islands of the Caribbean stretch through the Caribbean Sea which is located south of the state of Florida, east of Mexico, and north of South America. Though the region contains more than 20 states and territories, the three Hispanic Caribbean nations make up the largest islands in the region; Cuba, the Dominican Republic (which shares the island of Hispaniola with French- and Creole-speaking Haiti), and Puerto Rico. These islands along with Jamaica, make up a region known as the Greater Antilles.


Flag of Cuba



Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and home to a population of over 11 million. It is a long and narrow island. It stretches 750 miles from east to Photo of a Bee Hummingbirdwest but is only about 60 miles wide.

The capital of Cuba is Havana, which is located on the northwestern coast. 

Cuba is a socialist state run by the Cuban Communist Party and has been so since 1959. 

Though Cuba is home to a wealth of flora and fauna, one of the most famous is the Bee Hummingbird; the world's smallest bird. 



Flag of the Dominican Republic


Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern two-thirds of Hispaniola. The country of Haiti occupies the western third of the island.

Dominican Merengue DancersThe capital of the Dominican Republic is Santo Domingo and is located on the southern coast.

The Dominican Republic is home to many imposing mountains especially the Cordillera Central range. In fact, Duarte Peak rises to over 10,000 feet making it the highest mountain in the Caribbean.

Music and dance are important elements of culture in the Dominican Republic. Bachata and Merengue are two styles of music that were developed in the Dominican Republic but have become popular throughout the United States and Latin America. 




Flag of Puerto RicoPuerto Rico 

Puerto Rico is home to more than 3 million and the city of San Juan on the northern coast is the capital. 

Puerto Rico's official title is the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This means that while Puerto Rico is locally self-governing (mayors, a governor, etc.), the island is the property of the UnitedPhoto of Puerto Rican Amazon Parrot  States. Though Puerto Ricans living on the island cannot vote in federal elections, Puerto Ricans have been official U.S. citizens since 1917.

Both Spanish and English are official languages in Puerto Rico and though the majority of the population continues to be Spanish-speaking, many Puerto Ricans are bilingual and fluent in English as well. 

El Yunque National Forest is a forest located in northeastern Puerto Rico. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the United States National Forest System and is home to diverse flora and fauna including the critically endangered Puerto Rican Amazon Parrot (also known as the Iguaca) and the beloved singing Coqui frog


Important Note: While we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and honor the current uses of the Spanish language in the Hispanic Caribbean, it's important to remember that the Spanish language reached the Caribbean through Spanish Colonization which was both violent and deadly. Prior to Spanish colonization and the influx of European and African (in the form of enslaved people trafficked by the Spanish) languages and cultures, the islands of the Greater Antilles were populated by the indigenous Taino people who spoke Arawakan languages and had a rich culture, religion, and agriculture all their own. Even today, both the Spanish and English languages are peppered with words and names that were passed down from the language of the Taino people. Here are just a few examples: 

  • barbacoa (barbecue)
  • hamaca (hammock)
  • kanoa (canoe)
  • juracán (hurricane)

Though many remnants of Taino life and culture have been destroyed by time and carelessness, one of the most important Taino archeological sites can be visited in Utuado, Puerto Rico at the Caguana Indigenous Ceremonial Site.

Photos of Taino Artifacts


Now that we've learned just a little about these beautiful, tropical nations we hope we've sparked your interest to learn even more. Check out the lists below for some of the resources you can explore at your local Alachua County Library District. 


The People

José Martí: Selected Writings edited and translated by Esther Allen The Cubans: Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times by Anthony DePalmaPedro by Pedro Martinez with Michael SilvermanThe Pitcher and the Dictator: Satchel Paige's Unlikely Season in the Dominican Republic by Averell "Ace" SmithMy Beloved World by Sonia SotomayorMolina: The Story of the Father who Raised an Unlikely Baseball Dynasty by Bengie Molina with Joan RyanInventing Latinos: A New Story of American Racism by Laura E. Gómez


The History

Cuba: An American history by Ada FerrerCuba Libre: A 500-year Quest for Independence by Philip Brenner and Peter EisnerColumbus's Outpost Among the Taínos : Spain and America at La Isabela, 1493-1498 by Kathleen Deagan and José María CruxentThe Indigenous People of the Caribbean edited by Samuel M. WilsonWar Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America's Colony by Nelson A. DenisWhen the Sky Fell: Hurricane Maria and the United States in Puerto Rico by Michael DeibertIsland People: The Caribbean and the World by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro


The Sights 

Cuba by Brendan Sainsbury, Carolyn McCarthyWeekend in Havana produced by WTTW for PBSDominican Republic by Lebawit Lily GirmaBlack in Latin America a production of Inkwell FilmsFodor's Puerto Rico by Julie Schwietert Collazo & Paulina SalachViva Puerto Rico writer and director Peter Fison Caribbean Islands by Mara Vorhees


The Food 

 The Cuban Table: A Celebration of Food, Flavors, and History by Ana Sofia Pelaez with photographs by Ellen SilvermanCuba!: Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen by Dan Goldberg, Andrea Kuhn, and Jody EddyGran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America by Maricel E. Presilla with photographs by Gentl & Hyers/Edge with food styling by Andrea Gentl and drawings by Julio FigueroaHealthy Latin Eating: Our Favorite Family Recipes Remixed by Angie Martinez & Angelo Sosa with Shirley Fan and photographs by Christina HolmesPuerto Rican Cookery by Carmen Aboy ValldejuliCoconuts & Collards: Recipes and Stories from Puerto Rico to the Deep South by Von Diaz with photographs by Cybelle CodishProvisions: The Roots of Caribbean Cooking by Michelle Rousseau and Suzanne Rousseau


Just for Kids - These titles explore the lands and people of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico but are leveled-down to be perfect for our youngest friends and family. 

Cuba by Laura L. SullivanAlicia Alonso Takes the Stage by Nancy Ohlin with illustrations by Josefina PreumayrIf Dominican were a Color written by Sili Recio & illustrated by Brianna McCarthyThe Good Stranger's Sancocho Surprise by John J. McLaughlin and Ruddy Núñez Translated by Verónica EstebanParrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy TrumborePlanting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré words by Anika Aldamuy Denise with illustrations by Paola EscobarThe Caribbean Islands: Facts and Figures by Romel Hernandez


Want to keep celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month? We've got you covered! Learn all about SpainMexico & Central AmericaSouth AmericaHispanic Films, and Hispanic Music with your library! 


Sources:  Babbel, CaribbeanIslands.com, Encyclopedia Britannica, National Geographic

Posted by LiselyL on September 13, 2021