gt Sto "a4 P"ictuzes
Uthographed In the U.SA.
WHITMAN AND COMPANY
SL L I N 0 IS
Copyright, 1941, by Albert Whitman & Company
Just off the toe of Florida, a
string of green islands curves around
S the Caribbean Sea.
The islands are known as the
They look like great rocks rolled
into place for some giant to walk on
across the sea.
In 1492 when Christopher Co-
lumbus discovered them, he thought
he had found India, so he named the
islands the West Indies.
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There is a Spanish word Antilia
that means some far away place on
the other side of the world. Colum-
bus thought that Antilia described
these far away islands, so he also
called them the Antilles.
Today, the big islands of the West
Indies are part of the Greater An-
tilles, and the tiny pin-point islands
are called the Lesser Antilles.
Each island is different. Like
children of the same family, no two are
Yet they all have family resemblances.
Coconut trees grow from the very edge of
the sea. Banana patches blossom in front
yards. Blue waves lap the shores. And Negro
women carry trays of strange, tropical fruits on
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The climate too is pretty much the same. All the days are .
warm and drowsy, while the nights are cool and refreshing. -
Even though the islands are in the Tropics, fresh north-
east trade winds blow steadily most of the year. Often sum-- ..
mer days in the United States will be hotter than summer
days in the West Indies.
It is hard to tell any difference between summer and win-
ter in these islands. Except for daily showers during the rainy .iA Z=
season and an occasional hurricane sometimes in the fall, the ""'
climate is soft and mild. '"-
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Ages ago there was a mountain range connecting North
. and South America. Gradually the mountain settled down
,: into the sea, leaving nothing but green peaks to dot the sur-
Sface of the water. It is these peaks that make the curving
Chain of the West Indies.
When the Spaniards came to settle there, the islands were
inhabited by copper-colored Carib Indians. These Indians
knew only a life of freedom, and when the Spanish people
made slaves of them, the Indians died off.
Then the Spaniards brought shiploads of slaves from
Africa. That's why there are so many Negroes on the islands.
But today they are not slaves. They work in the fields, they
fish and they laugh, and they doze in the sun.
For a century or more, all of the West Indies belonged
to Spain. Then, one by one, other countries took them over,
or they became free.
The English took the Bahama Islands, where they have
granted rights to the United States to build a naval base.
The Bahamas come close to the coast of Florida, and then
scatter helter-skelter southeast. They are known as the coral
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Many people think corals are shells. But they are really
tiny sea creatures living in crowded coral villages. After
hundreds of years the skeletons of the old corals have piled
up into beautiful coral reefs and islands.
Endless coral reefs grow close to the Bahama shores. These
are tinted all the colors of the rainbow, and many of them
look like delicate lace, or fine feathers, or waving flower stems.
Rainbow fish, as gay as the coral itself, dart in and out
of the reefs.
The coral rock of the Bahama Islands furnishes fine stone
for buildings and houses.
The Bahamas are famous for their sponges. Hundreds of
men in little boats pry sponges loose from the bottom of the
sea. They use great long forks instead of fish poles.
After the sponges are washed and spread out on the beach
to dry, they are sent to Nassau, the capital city. Here men
and women in great flopping hats sit out in the sun, clipping
and sorting them.
Many sponges are sold to glass factories, for sponge is a
material which doesn't burn when it touches hot glass.
Cheap grades are used in manufacturing linoleum, in stuff-
ing furniture, and washing windows.
The biggest of all the islands is
the Republic of Cuba. It has low roll-
ing hills covered with acres and acres
of sugar and tobacco plantations.
When Cuban tobacco growers
want to raise fine silky leaves for
wrapping cigars, they cover the young
plants with squares of white net.
All through the early growing sea-
son, the fields look as if they were
sleeping under mosquito netting. In-
stead, the plants are growing delicate
I leaves of an even color.
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Havana cigars are known the world over. They are named
after the capital city of Cuba which the natives call Habana.
Habana is a big city of wide boulevards and narrow, twist-
ing streets, of modern white coral buildings and old, crum-
bling gray churches, of donkey carts and shining limousines.
At night, bands play in the park by the sea, while the
city hums with gaiety and the lights sparkle far off into the
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Cuba was not always a republic. For four hundred years
she belonged to Spain. Finally in 1898 the United States
went to war against Spain and helped Cuba win her freedom.
After the Spanish-American War was over, the United
States went to war against the poison mosquitoes in Cuba.
Soldiers, scientists, engineers, and teachers put on a Cleanup
Campaign until Cuba became one of the healthiest islands in
the West Indies.
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Just south of Cuba lies the island of Jamaica. Jamaica
belongs to England, and its Negroes are as English as the
Cubans are Spanish.
Jamaica is known as Banana Island, all because of a Bos-
ton captain named Baker. After unloading his ship at Jamaica,
Captain Baker did not want to return without ballast. He
looked around him and all he saw was bananas. So he loaded
his ship with the green fruit. When he arrived at Boston the
bananas had turned as yellow as buttercups, and the people
found they were delicious to eat.
Captain Baker returned to Jamaica again and again. He
finally bought plantations of his own and started the fruit-
growing business that is now called the United Fruit Com-
In the middle of the Greater Antilles there is a frog-shaped
island called Hispaniola. It is shared by two republics that
are as different as two countries could possibly be.
Haiti, in the western third of the island, is the only French-
speaking republic in America; and Santo Domingo, in the big
eastern part of the island, is very Spanish.
But even though they speak different languages, they both
raise coffee on their mountain slopes and sugar on their plains.
The last of the Greater Antilles is Puerto Rico. It was
given to the United States after the Spanish-American War, I
but it still seems very Spanish.
When Columbus discovered the island, one of his sailors
said, "All of the Antilles are very handsome and of very good
earth, but this one seemed to everybody the best."
This sailor was right. The flat lands by the sea are so
fertile that juicy pineapples grow in endless golden rows and
the sugar cane is six feet tall.
Thousands of men and women are kept busy cutting the
cane, loading it on oxcarts, and taking it to the sugar mills.
Sugar mills are called Centrals. They have their own lit-
tle railroads and storehouses and workers' homes.
Often the big Centrals will have a nursery school for the
youngest children and a grade school for the older ones. Part
of the time the children are taught in English and part of the
time in Spanish.
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Even the mountain range in the center of Puerto Rico is 0
planted right up to the top. Farmers sow tobacco in the warm
foothills and plant coffee trees on the cool mountain sides.
When the tobacco leaves are ripe, they are taken to the
factory. It is fun to visit a cigar factory. A reader stands in
one corer of the room holding newspapers. He is reading
these aloud to keep the workers contented while they roll the
tobacco and wrap it into black cigars.
In little thatched huts in the hills, the women of Puerto
Rico sit in their dooryards and do beautiful needlework. Great
trunk-loads of fine tablecloths and materials come to Puerto
Rico from New York. After they have been embroidered by
the native women, they are sent to San Juan, the capital of
the island, and shipped back to New York to be sold.
San Juan is famous for its El Morro Castle. Hundreds
of years ago when El Morro was a storehouse for gold from
Peru and Mexico, pirates would think the castle was part of
the mountains; that is, until its cannons began to spit fire!
Even the sly pirate Henry Morgan was fooled by the for-
tress that looks like a mountain.
Today, a regiment of United States soldiers is stationed in
the castle, and the old parade ground is a strange golf course
where players drive their balls over dikes and bridges.
Much has happened since the United States took over
Puerto Rico. There are now twice as many people on the
island as before, and they are healthier, especially the babies.
The Virgin Islands are next-door neighbors to Puerto Rico.
Among those that this country owns are the three important
little islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John.
For the most part the Negro natives speak English. Yet
every now and then they tuck in a French or Dutch or Danish
word until visiting Americans have no idea what the natives
are talking about.
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The three Saint islands were bought from Denmark in
1917 because the United States wanted an eastern base for
the Navy, and for added safety for the Panama Canal.
Today, the fliers of our Marine Corps practice formations
in the air, and then glide to the landing field at Lindbergh
Bay on St. Thomas. When the planes are all lined up in a
row, they look like silver arrows.
When Columbus sailed the seas, he thought that the beau-
tiful horseshoe harbor of St. Thomas was the very finest har-
bor between Spain and the New World.
Later, pirates found it a good place to hide. Today ships
on their way to the Panama Canal stop here to take on coal
Smiling black natives sell little bottles of bay rum at the
docks. Bay rum is made from the leaves of the bayberry tree.
It is a fragrant lotion used by barbers as a tonic for the skin.
St. Croix is the most modern of
the three islands. Many families are
living in well-built cottages on their own
patches of land. Coconut trees bend over ..
their dooryards and red flowers climb to the
The United States government has built these
cottages, and the natives are buying them with the
money they earn working in the sugar cane fields.
The smallest of the three islands is St. John. There are
no regular towns there, and no automobiles, and the people
do not want any. Narrow trails crisscross through the hills,
and fuzzy gray donkeys carry the natives wherever they
want to go.
The people of St. John don't bother when their cupboards
are bare. The blue waters are full of fish, and Mother Nature
drops tropical fruits and vegetables right in their front yards:
custard apples and mangoes and plantains and limes and
When they want to work, they can always weave baskets
or gather branches of the bayberry tree to make bay oil.
The rest of the Lesser Antilles are little parcels of France
and Holland and England set down in the Caribbean Sea.
Some are famous for their spices and some for their sea-island l
cotton; and each has its own quaint customs.
The little isle of Santa Lucia is remembered for its wooded I
beauty of course, but mostly for the strong black women who
load the ships with coal. They swing up the gangplanks bal-
ancing great baskets of coal on their heads, laughing and sing-
ing together in rich low voices.
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Close to South America lies Trinidad, the last island in
*-, the long curve which is the West Indies. Trinidad is impor-
tant for its curious asphalt lake. Instead of clear blue water,
& this solid lake is gray and crinkled, like a hippopotamus' back.
S.,- Before sunup, gangs of men are working on the surface of
the lake. They are busy loading chunks of asphalt in little
railroad cars. There are six men to a gang: one digger and
five "headers." The digger loosens up the asphalt with a pick-
axe, and the headers carry the lumps to the railroad cars.
Sometimes the lumps weigh a hundred pounds.
Many streets in America are paved with asphalt from
Life is simple in the West Indies. No one seems to hurry
and no one seems to worry. The sea is full of fish, the trees
are loaded with fruit, and drinking water comes from the
skies. Often the children hold out their cups to catch the rain-
drops instead of dipping into the rain barrel.
There are no wild beasts in any of the islands, only harm-
less lizards blinking in the sun, pink flamingoes on white
sandy beaches, and the songs of nightingales and doves among