The word ‘Caribbean’ is said to be derived from the indigenous people’s name for themselves, ‘Carib’. The term ‘West Indies’ which is often used interchangeably with Caribbean is the name given to the region by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
As with the inexact name of the region so to is there little agreement on what area is included within the Caribbean. Different criteria are used to define the region.
For political purposes the concept of CARICOM is used to define the Caribbean. But this definition was limited to the eleven island states and territories and two mainland countries until Suriname and Haiti were added to the grouping in 1995 and 2000 respectively
A more recent definition is based on the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) formed in 1994. This definition incorporates all the countries in Central America including Mexico and Panama, all the countries in South America and all the islands in and around the Caribbean Sea as well as Bahamas and Barbados.