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West Indies

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Countless of years ago a great mountain range stretched north from what is now the topmost coast of South America, the range was in a constant state of upheaval, lashed by continuous rains, swept by storms, with fire spouting from every peak finally the mountains dropped beneath the sea, quieted most of the volcanoes. The exposed peaks were covered with verdure of fantastic beauty, and left these peaks above the sea to form the chain of West Indian islands as we know today. Although they were islands surrounded by the Caribbean Sea, and are nowhere near Asian India, they were still considered the West Indian islands. Then why the concept of West Indian, we ask? Christopher Columbus, who discovered these islands, can surely explain why he gave such a name to islands that were never Indian descent.

Discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus the West Indies were given this name through his mistaken belief that he had reached the Indies, and he himself wrote of them as Las Yndias Ocidentales, referred to as the accidental Indies. After the mistake was realized they were later called them West Indies to distinguish them from the East Indies and at the time in the sixteenth century they were known as the Little Indies, while the East Indies were called the Great Indies. The native inhabitants of the West Indies and America were called Indians as a result of the same error. To distinguish them from the inhabitants of India they were to be called Amerindians or Red Indians. The islands are divided into three major groups: the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles, and the Lesser Antilles. The Greater Antilles consist of Cuba, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica, and all the rest, except the Bahamas, are included in the group of Lesser Antilles, and were also called the Caribee Islands.

The name West Indies is often loosely applied to the mainland territories of South and Central America (the Spanish Main) and in the past was even applied to those in North America. The name America has been used as including the West Indies. The British use of Windward Islands and Leeward Islands has brought up confusion. The Spaniards correctly called all the eastern islands of the West Indian chain the Windward Islands, Islas de Balovento, and the small islands close to the northern shores of South America the Leeward Islands, Islas de Sotavento. The British, however, gave the name of Leeward Caribee Islands to those which now form the British colony of the Leeward Islands: Antigua, Montserrat, Nevis, St. Kitts and the Virgin Islands. At a later date other British Islands to the south of the Leeward Islands colony were called the Windward Islands; the Windward Islands includes Grenada, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It is said the British Leeward Islands are not to leeward of the Windward Islands and the nomenclature is incorrect and misleading.

Many said that Christopher Columbus did not discover the West Indies due to the fact the people he said he saw were not of his descriptions for Indians. He claimed,



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