Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

West Indies

The West Indies is an archipelago that extends in an arc from near southern Florida to the coast of Venezuela. The West Indies archipelago, which includes thousands of tiny islands, forms a breakwater 3,200-km (2,000-mi) long against the Atlantic Ocean, separating it from the Caribbean Sea.

The West Indies archipelago is known by a variety of names. The earliest name, and the one most frequently used, is West Indies. European explorer Christopher Columbus gave the region that name in error when he arrived in 1492. He assumed that the islands were near the coast of India.

With the passage of time, other names came into use. Spain and France called the islands the Antilles, named after the mythological Atlantic island of Antilia, or Antilla. The larger islands (Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico) came to be known as the Greater Antilles, while the remaining smaller islands were called the Lesser Antilles. The Lesser Antilles were also further divided into the Windward Islands and Leeward Islands, names referring to the position of the islands relative to the trade winds that blow steadily from the northeast.

Geographically a part of the Americas, the islands of the West Indies have close cultural and historical ties with Europe, Africa, and Asia. No other region in the Americas exhibits such a diverse range of cultural patterns and social and political institutions. Beginning in the 15th century, European nations began to colonize the West Indies, bringing their culture, language, and social influences to the islands. The majority of the islands remained colonies for a longer period than any other part of the Americas. Most West Indian nations attained independence from the late 19th to the late 20th century.

MSN Encarta: West Indies
Photo by Tulane graduate student Shelby Lloyd, Department of Tropical Medicine

West Indies + People View All
Dave Davis
Professor Emeritus - Director, Institutional Research
Thomas A. Klingler
Professor - French & Italian

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Upcoming Events

Final Push Fridays: Graduate Research & Writing Support

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Every Friday from 10am-12pm CDT, The Latin American Library and Stone Center are co-hosting a virtual work-along for Latin Americanist graduate students to support each other in their research and writing goals. The Zoom meeting has two break-out options: participants may choose to troubleshoot research and methodological questions with an LAL librarian and/or work towards their writing objectives alongside a community of their peers. We hope you will join us when you can!

Central America, People and the Environment Educator Institute 2021

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This summer educator institute is the third institute in a series being offered by Tulane University, The University of Georgia and Vanderbilt University. This series of institutes is designed to enhance the presence of Central America in the K-12 classroom. Each year, participants engage with presenters, resources and other K-12 colleagues to explore diverse topics in Central America with a focus on people and the environment.

While at Tulane, the institute will explore the historic connections between the United States and Central America focusing on indigenous communities and environment while highlighting topics of social justice and environmental conservation. Join us to explore Central America and teaching strategies to implement into the classroom.

Additional details and registration will be available in the late fall 2020. For more information, please email dwolteri@tulane.edu or call 504.865.5164.