THE CARIBBEAN -
SETTLEMENT AND CONTRIBUTION OF THE JEWS TO THE LEEWARD AND WINDWARD ISLANDS
ORIGIN OF THE NAME
The name of this island group, Leeward Islands, dates from previous centuries, when sailing ships were the sole form of transportation across the Atlantic Ocean. In the West Indies, the prevailing winds, known as the trade winds, blow from the northeast to the southwest. The early Spanish colonizers called Puerto Rico and the islands to the west Sotavento, meaning leeward. The islands to the south and east of Puerto Rico were called Islas de Barlovento, meaning windward islands. When the British gained control of many of the Lesser Antilles, they designated Antigua, Montserrat, and the islands to the north "Leeward Islands". Dominica is the dividing line between the Windward and Leeward islands. Guadeloupe and the islands to the south were designated "Windward Islands". Later on, all islands north of Martinique became known as the Leeward Islands. However, even in modern usage in languages other than English, e.g., Spanish, French and Dutch, all of the Lesser Antilles from the Virgin Islands to Trinidad and Tobago are known as the Windward Islands (Iles du Vent in French, Bovenwindse Eilanden in Dutch, and Islas de Barlovento in Spanish). The islands along the Venezuelan coast, known in English as the Leeward Antilles, in languages other than English are known as the Leeward Islands.
LIST OF THE LEEWARD ISLANDS
From the northwest to the southeast, the islands are:
- Puerto Rico Puerto Rican Virgin Islands: Vieques, Culebra (U.S.)
- United States Virgin Islands U.S. Virgin Islands: St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix, Water Island (U.S.)
- British Virgin Islands British Virgin Islands: Jost Van Dyke, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada (U.K.)
- Anguilla Anguilla (U.K., under the British crown)
- Collectivity of Saint Martin Sint Maarten Saint Martin/Sint Maarten (Fr./Neth.)
- Saint Barthélemy Saint-Barthélemy (Fr.)
- Saba Saba (Neth.)
- Sint Eustatius Sint Eustatius (Neth.)
- Saint Kitts Saint Kitts (Commonwealth, forms a state under the British crown with St. Kitts, see Nevis)
- Nevis Nevis (Commonwealth, see St. Kitts)
- Antigua and Barbuda Barbuda (Commonwealth, see Antigua)
- Antigua and Barbuda Antigua (Commonwealth, forms a state under the British crown with Barbuda)
- Antigua and Barbuda Redonda (uninhabited part of Antigua & Barbuda, cfr supra)
- Montserrat Montserrat (U.K.)
- Guadeloupe Guadeloupe (Fr. overseas department)
- Guadeloupe la Désirade (dependency of Guadeloupe, Fr.)
- Guadeloupe Îles des Saintes (dependency of Guadeloupe, Fr.)
- Guadeloupe Marie-Galante (dependency of Guadeloupe, Fr.)
- Dominica Dominica (Commonwealth; sometimes in- or excluded)
THE WINDWARD ISLANDS
The Windward Islands are called such because they were more windward to sailing ships arriving to the New World than the Leeward Islands, given that the prevailing trade winds in the West Indies blow east to west. The trans-Atlantic currents and winds that provided the fastest route across the ocean brought these ships to the rough dividing line between the Windward and Leeward islands.
Dominica is the dividing line between the Windward and Leeward islands. Guadeloupe and the islands to the south were designated "Windward Islands". Later on, all islands north of Martinique became known as the "Leeward Islands".
Vessels in the Atlantic slave trade departing from the British Gold Coast and Gulf of Guinea in Africa would first encounter the southeastern most "Windward" islands of the Lesser Antilles in their west-northwesterly heading to final destinations in the Caribbean and North and Central America. The chain of Windward Islands forms a part of the easternmost boundary of the Caribbean Sea.
Most of the present "Windward Islands" were once colonial island territories of France, also known as the French Antilles.
List of the Windward Islands
- Dominica Dominica (formerly administered as part of the colonial Leeward Islands)
- Martinique Martinique
- Saint Lucia Saint Lucia
- Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
- Grenada Grenada