Greater Antilles

The Greater Antilles is a grouping of the larger islands in the Caribbean Sea, including Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Cayman Islands. Six island states share the region of the Greater Antilles in total, with Haiti and the Dominican Republic sharing the island of Hispaniola. At an area of 207,411 kilometres squared, The Greater Antilles constitute nearly 90% of the land mass of the entire West Indies,[1] as well as over 90% of its population. The remainder of the land belongs to the archipelago of the Lesser Antilles, which is a chain of islands to the east, running north-south and encompassing the eastern edge of the Caribbean Sea where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, as well as to the south ,running east-west off the northern coast of South America. The Lucayan Archipelago is not considered to be a part of the Antilles archipelagos but rather of the North Atlantic.

While most of the Greater Antilles consists of independent countries, the island of Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States, while the Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Territory. The largest island by area and population is Cuba, which extends to the western end of the island group. Puerto Rico lies on the eastern end, and the island of Hispaniola is located in the middle. Jamaica lies to the south of Cuba, while the Cayman Islands are located to the west. The state of Florida contains the closest point to the Greater Antilles within the U.S mainland, while the Florida Keys, although not within the Greater Antilles, is an island group north of Cuba.

The Greater Antilles is considered to be a part of Latin America. With a population of 38 million, it makes up 6% of Latin America's total population. Havana, the capital of Cuba is the largest city in the Greater Antilles at a population of 2 million. Other large cities include Santo Domingo, Port-au-Prince, and San Juan. The quality of life within the Greater Antilles is similar among Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, whose Human Development Index categorizes them as "high human development". Cuba, the independent nation with the highest HDI, nevertheless follows Puerto Rico and the Cayman Islands, who have "high" and "very high" human development respectively. Haiti his an exception, having the lowest Human Development Index in the Greater Antilles and in all of the Americas at 0.498, which categorizes it as having "Low human development".[2]

Languages spoken in the Greater Antilles are mostly Colonial languages, along with some Creole influence. Haiti is the only country to have a Creole language, Hatian Creole as one of its official languages, alongside French. Otherwise, Spanish and English are spoken in the remainder of the Greater Antilles.

Greater Antilles
Grandes Antilles ‹See Tfd›(in French)
Antillas Mayores ‹See Tfd›(in Spanish)
Location within the Caribbean
Location within the Caribbean
Island States
 • Total207,411 km2 (80,081 sq mi)
 • Total38,400,500
 • Density171.45/km2 (444.1/sq mi)
Demonym(s)Greater Antillean
Time zoneAST: UTC-4/ADT: UTC-3


The word Antilles originated in the period before the European conquest of the New World. Europeans used the term Antillia as one of the mysterious lands featured on medieval charts, sometimes as an archipelago, sometimes as continuous land of greater or lesser extent, its location fluctuating in mid-ocean between the Canary Islands and Eurasia. The first European contact with the Greater Antilles came from Christopher Columbus' first voyage to the Americas, as he sailed south from the Bahamas to explore the northeast coast of Cuba and the northern coast of Hispaniola. The Spanish began to create permanent settlements on Cuba and Hispaniola. The Atlantic slave trade brought many Africans towards the islands. France began to exert influence over the area of Haiti from 1625, dividing Hispaniola into two halves. Neighbouring Jamaica was invaded by the British, defeating the Spanish colonists.

The Haitian Revolution was the first and only successful anti-slavery and anti-colonial insurrection by self-liberated slaves, and it established the independent nation of Haiti, which became the first independent nation of the Greater Antilles, the Caribbean, and Latin America as a whole.[3] The next nation to achieve independence, the Dominican Republic, was also on Hispaniola, declaring independence from Spain in 1821. It was quickly absorbed by Haiti under the Unification of Hispaniola. Dominica regained independence in 1844, through the Dominican War of Independence. The rest of the Greater Antilles would remain under colonial rule for another hundred years. Along with the Philippines in Asia, Spain transferred possession of Cuba and Puerto Rico to the United States as a result of its loss at the Spanish-American War in 1898, coinciding with the Cuban War of Independence. This would be the final loss of Spain's territorial possessions in the Americas. U.S. military rule of the island lasted until 1902 when Cuba was finally granted formal independence. The U.S formally granted Cuba independence in 1902.

The Cuban Revolution in 1959 established Cuba as the only Communist state the Greater Antilles.[4] The process of decolonisation took place in Jamaica, with the U.K granting it independence in August 1962, becoming the last currently independent state in the Greater Antilles to achieve independence.


The Greater Antilles comprises four major islands and numerous smaller ones. The island of Cuba is the largest island in the Greater Antilles, in Latin America, and in the Caribbean. It is followed by Hispaniola.

List of Countries

Name Area
Population density
(per km²)
Capital Official language
Cayman Islands (UK) 264 58,441 207.9 George Town English
Cuba 110,860 11,147,407 102.4 Havana Spanish
Dominican Republic 48,442 10,734,247 183.7 Santo Domingo Spanish
Haiti 27,750 10,646,714 292.7 Port-au-Prince Haitian Creole, French
Jamaica 10,991 2,990,561 248.6 Kingston English
Puerto Rico (US) 9,104 3,351,827 430.2 San Juan Spanish, English
Total 207,411 38,929,197 169.05


  1. ^ "Greater Antilles". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  2. ^ "Human Development Report 2018 – "Human Development Indices and Indicators"" (PDF). HDRO (Human Development Report Office) United Nations Development Programme. pp. 22–25. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Haiti | History, Geography, & Culture". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  4. ^ "Cuba Marks 50 Years Since 'Triumphant Revolution'". Retrieved 14 June 2019.

Further reading

External links

Media related to Greater Antilles at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 21°59′N 79°02′W / 21.983°N 79.033°W

1909 Greater Antilles hurricane

The 1909 Greater Antilles hurricane was a rare, late-season tropical cyclone that caused extensive damage and loss of life in Jamaica and Haiti. Forming out of a large disturbance in early November, the hurricane began as a minimal tropical storm over the southwestern Caribbean Sea on November 8. Slowly tracking northeastward, the system gradually intensified. Late on November 11, the storm brushed the eastern tip of Jamaica before attaining hurricane status. The following afternoon, the storm made landfall in northwest Haiti with winds of 85 mph (140 km/h). After moving over the Atlantic Ocean, the hurricane further intensified and attained its peak winds of 105 mph (165 km/h) on November 13. The system rapidly transitioned into an extratropical cyclone the following day before being absorbed by a frontal system northeast of the Lesser Antilles.

Including rainfall from the precursor to the hurricane, rainfall in Jamaica peaked at 114.50 in (2,908 mm) Silver Hill Plantation. These extreme rains led to widespread flooding that killed 30 people and left $7 million in damage throughout the country. The worst damage in Haiti was caused by rains exceeding 24 in (610 mm) that led to catastrophic flooding. At least 166 people are known to have been killed in the country; however, reports indicate that hundreds likely died during the storm.


The Antilles (; Antilles [ɑ̃.tij] in French; Antillas in Spanish; Antillen in Dutch and Antilhas in Portuguese) is an archipelago bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the south and west, the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest, and the Atlantic Ocean to the north and east.

The Antillean islands are divided into two smaller groupings: the Greater Antilles and the Lesser Antilles. The Greater Antilles includes the larger islands of Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola (subdivided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic) and the Cayman Islands. The Lesser Antilles contains the northerly Leeward Islands, the southeasterly Windward Islands, and the Leeward Antilles just north of Venezuela. The Lucayan Archipelago (consisting of the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands), though part of the West Indies, are generally not included among the Antillean islands.Geographically, the Antillean islands are generally considered a subregion of North America. Culturally speaking, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico – and sometimes the whole of the Antilles – are included in Latin America, although some sources avoid this socio-economic oversimplification by using the phrase "Latin America and the Caribbean" instead (see Latin America, "In Contemporary Usage"). In terms of geology, the Greater Antilles are made up of continental rock, as distinct from the Lesser Antilles, which are mostly young volcanic or coral islands.

Cave swallow

The cave swallow (Petrochelidon fulva) is a medium-sized, squarish tailed swallow belonging to the same genus as the more familiar and widespread cliff swallow of North America. The cave swallow, also native to the Americas, nests and roosts primarily in caves and sinkholes.

Cave swallows are found in Mexico and the Greater Antilles, with fall and winter vagrants reaching the east and Gulf Coasts of the U.S. Breeding colonies occur in south-eastern New Mexico, Texas, Florida, the Greater Antilles, portions of southern Mexico, and along the west coast of South America. Five subspecies are currently recognized according to Birds of North America, three occurring in North America and two in South America.

Chinese Caribbeans

Chinese Caribbeans (sometimes Sino-Caribbeans) are people of Han Chinese ethnic origin living in the Caribbean. There are small but significant populations of Chinese and their descendants in all countries of the Greater Antilles. They are all part of the large Chinese diaspora known as Overseas Chinese.


Dominican may refer to:

Someone or something from or related to the Dominican Republic ( də-MIN-nih-kən, stress on the "mi"), on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles, in the Caribbean

People of the Dominican Republic

Demographics of the Dominican Republic

Culture of the Dominican Republic

Someone or something from or related to the Commonwealth of Dominica ( dom-ih-NEE-kə, stress on the "ni"), an island nation in the Lesser Antilles, in the Caribbean

People of Dominica

Demographics of Dominica

Culture of Dominica

Dominican Order, a Catholic religious order

Effects of Hurricane Dean in the Greater Antilles

The effects of Hurricane Dean in the Greater Antilles were spread over six countries and included 20 deaths. Hurricane Dean formed in the Atlantic Ocean west of Cape Verde on August 14 as part of the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season. The Cape Verde-type hurricane tracked steadily westward into the Caribbean, where it rapidly intensified. Its outer bands swept over the Greater Antilles; the storm surge was felt from the eastern side of Puerto Rico to the western tip of Cuba. It brushed the island of Jamaica as a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale before striking Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula at Category 5 strength.

National governments, domestic non-governmental organizations, and international aid agencies established hundreds of shelters, evacuated hundreds of thousands of people, raised millions of dollars of resources, and rallied thousands of rescue workers as the powerful hurricane churned through the Caribbean. Despite a number of near misses, Hurricane Dean did not make landfall in the Greater Antilles and the islands were spared the brunt of the storm.

Six people were killed in the Dominican Republic and another fourteen in Haiti. Three were killed in Jamaica, which also suffered US$310 million of damage—the heaviest in the Caribbean. The most severe damage there was to the agricultural sector; nearly the entire banana crop was destroyed. Global aid organizations contributed to the subsequent recovery effort; immediate life-saving needs were met within days, but the damage to Jamaica's infrastructure and economy took much longer to repair. With loans and grants from the local government, the European Union, and the United Nations, normality was restored by the following summer.

Effects of Hurricane Ivan in the Greater Antilles

From September 8 to 14, 2004, Hurricane Ivan moved through the Caribbean Sea, affecting all of the Greater Antilles. Reaching peak winds of 165 mph (270 km/h), Ivan attained Category 5 strength on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, the strongest possible category, on three times in the Caribbean. It first lashed the southern coasts of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola with high waves, killing five people in the Dominican Republic and Haiti; in the latter country, two others drowned due to storm flooding. The effects in Jamaica were among the worst from a tropical cyclone in the island's recorded history. The storm caused severe damage which left 18,000 people homeless. An estimated 17 people on the island were killed by Ivan.

Grasshopper sparrow

The grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum) is a small American sparrow. The genus Ammodramus contains nine species that inhabit grasslands and prairies.

The Florida grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum floridanus) is endangered.

Greater Antillean grackle

The Greater Antillean grackle (Quiscalus niger) is a grackle found throughout the Greater Antilles as well as smaller, nearby islands. Like all Quiscalus grackles, it is a rather large, gregarious bird. It lives largely in heavily settled areas.


Hispaniola (Spanish: La Española; Latin and French: Hispaniola; Haitian Creole: Ispayola; Taino: Haiti) is an island in the Caribbean archipelago known as the Greater Antilles. It is the second largest island in the West Indies after Cuba, and the most populous island in the West Indies; it is also the eleventh most populous island in the world.

The 76,192-square-kilometre (29,418 sq mi) island is divided between two separate, sovereign nations: the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic (48,445 km2, 18,705 sq mi) to the east, and French / French-based Haitian Creole-speaking Haiti (27,750 km2, 10,710 sq mi) to the west. The only other shared island in the Caribbean is Saint Martin, which is shared between France (Saint-Martin) and the Netherlands (Sint Maarten).

Hispaniola is the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, founded by Christopher Columbus on his voyages in 1492 and 1493.

Key West quail-dove

The Key West quail-dove (Geotrygon chrysia) is a species of bird from the doves and pigeon family Columbidae. It is probably most closely related to the bridled quail-dove.The Key West quail-dove breeds in the Bahamas and, except for Jamaica, throughout the Greater Antilles. It formerly bred in the Florida Keys and southernmost mainland Florida. It was discovered on Key West and that is how the bird received its name. Although no longer breeding in Florida, it occasionally is still recorded in the Keys and southernmost mainland Florida as a vagrant. It lays two buff-colored eggs on a flimsy platform built on a shrub. Some nests are built on the ground.The Key West quail-dove is approximately 27–31 cm in length. The bird is distinguished by having a dark rust-colored back and similarly colored wings. It has some amethyst or bronze green iridescence on its crown, nape and in the back of its neck. The mantle, back, rump and inner wing coverts show some purplish red iridescence. It also has a bold white facial stripe. Its call is similar that of the white-tipped dove.This bird is found in tropical and subtropical dry forests, shrublands, and lowland moist forests. These birds forage on the ground, mainly eating seeds, berries and fallen fruit. It is fond of poisonwood fruit. It will also take snails in its diet.

Lesser Antilles

The Lesser Antilles is a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea. Most form a long, partly volcanic island arc between the Greater Antilles to the north-west and the continent of South America. The islands form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. Together, the Lesser Antilles and the Greater Antilles compose the Antilles (or the Caribbean in its narrowest definition). When combined with the Lucayan Archipelago, all three are known as the West Indies.

Navassa Island

Navassa Island (; French: l'île de la Navasse; also La Navasse, La Navase) is a small uninhabited island in the Caribbean Sea. Located northeast of Jamaica, south of Cuba, 40 nautical miles (46 mi; 74 km) west of Jérémie on the south west peninsula of Haiti, the island is subject to an ongoing territorial dispute between Haiti and the United States, which officially administers it through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The U.S. has claimed the island since 1857, based on the Guano Islands Act of 1856. Haiti's claim over Navassa goes back to the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 that established French possessions in mainland Hispaniola, that were transferred from Spain by the treaty. As well as the western half of the main island and certain other specifically named nearby islands, Haiti's 1801 constitution also claimed "other adjacent (but unnamed) islands". Navassa was not one of the named islands. Since its 1874 Constitution, and after the establishment of the 1857 U.S. claim, Haiti has explicitly named "la Navase" as one of the territories it claims.

Plain pigeon

The plain pigeon (Patagioenas inornata) is a species of bird in the family Columbidae. It is found in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. Its natural habitats are forest, woodland, coastal desert, mangrove and swampy areas. It is threatened by habitat loss.

Pre-Arawakan languages of the Greater Antilles

Several languages of the Greater Antilles, specifically Cuba and Hispaniola, appear to have preceded the Arawakan Taíno. Almost nothing is known of them, though a couple recorded words, along with a few toponyms, suggest they were not Arawakan or Cariban, the families of the attested languages of the Antilles. Three languages are recorded: Guanahatabey, Macoris (or Macorix, apparently in two dialects), and Ciguayo.

Guanahatabey has in the past been called "Ciboney". The name is a misnomer. The Ciboney were an apparently Taíno population of the western Great Antilles, whose language is also unattested. A misreading of historical sources confused the Ciboney with the pre-Arawakan population of the islands.


Pseudothelphusidae is a family of freshwater crabs found chiefly in mountain streams in the Neotropics. They are believed to have originated in the Greater Antilles and then crossed to Central America via a Pliocene land bridge.

Scissor-tailed flycatcher

The scissor-tailed flycatcher (Tyrannus forficatus), also known as the Texas bird-of-paradise and swallow-tailed flycatcher, is a long-tailed bird of the genus Tyrannus, whose members are collectively referred to as kingbirds. The kingbirds are a group of large insectivorous (insect-eating) birds in the tyrant flycatcher (Tyrannidae) family. The scissor-tailed flycatcher is found in North and Central America.

Tropical and subtropical coniferous forests

Tropical and subtropical coniferous forests are a tropical forest habitat type defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature. These forests are found predominantly in North and Central America and experience low levels of precipitation and moderate variability in temperature. Tropical and subtropical coniferous forests are characterized by diverse species of conifers, whose needles are adapted to deal with the variable climatic conditions. Most tropical and subtropical coniferous forest ecoregions are found in the Nearctic and Neotropic ecozones, from the Mid-Atlantic states to Nicaragua and on the Greater Antilles, Bahamas, and Bermuda. Other tropical and subtropical coniferous forests ecoregions occur in Asia. Mexico harbors the world's richest and most complex subtropical coniferous forests. The conifer forests of the Greater Antilles contain many endemics and relictual taxa.Many migratory birds and butterflies spend winter in tropical and subtropical conifer forests. This biome features a thick, closed canopy which blocks light to the floor and allows little underbrush. As a result, the ground is often covered with fungi and ferns. Shrubs and small trees compose a diverse understory.

West Indies

The West Indies is a region of the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean that includes the island countries and surrounding waters of three major archipelagos: the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles, and the Lucayan Archipelago.The region includes all the islands in or bordering the Caribbean Sea, plus The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, which are in the Atlantic Ocean. Depending on the context, some references to the West Indies may include some nations of northern South America that share the history and culture of the West Indian islands.

Greater Antilles
Leeward Antilles
Leeward Islands
Windward Islands
Other islands
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