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The French call it Les Caraïbes - literally “The Caribbeans,” a fitting use of the plural to denote a multitudinous region. Islands abound by the hundreds in these waters, salty to the taste but warm to the touch - and pleasing to the eye, more often turquoise than gray. Admiring a vintage American car in front of a colonial patio in old Havana, swaying to a catchy bachata beat in Santo Domingo, cooling down with a piña colada in the shade of blue guayacán blossoms in Puerto Rico, gyrating along with the crowd of colorfully costumed dancers at the Trinidad Carnival… It’s impossible to exhaust the list of local customs and pleasures — and so much the better! From island to island, the diversity of the Caribbean is experienced in its extraordinary cuisine (the mere mention of chicken colombo, Cuban ajiaco or a warm chayote salad is enough to make the tastebuds tingle), and in the peoples’ passion for music, which can be heard anywhere at any time of day — especially when it’s time to go to bed…

Calypso, merengue, salsa, soca, reggae and reggaeton, zouk and rhumba: the catalogue of styles and rhythms goes on and on. And, if we summon up the stars of the past in their white trousers and elaborately embroidered shirts, the repertoire can be expanded to include legendary dances like the mambo, Charleston and bolero. Indeed, nostalgia seems to come regionly at these latitudes — just like poetry, in a place with so many names that resonate like incantations from a book of magic spells. Here we find the Florida Keys, John Huston’s inspiration for the unforgettable storm scene in Key Largo, the West Indies, so-called because Columbus thought he had reached Japan when he came ashore in the Bahamas, the Greater and Lesser Antilles, the Windward and Leeward Islands… Then there are the famous duos: Turks and Caicos, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Kitts and Nevis. Etymology becomes a game of stereotypes: the natives chew tobacco in Tobago, pray to Saint Martin in Martinique, grow beards in Barbados and wear shorts in Bermuda. Are there caimans in the Cayman Islands? Now if only everyone in Puerto Rico were rich…

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