Anthropological genetic insights on Caribbean population history


By Maria Alejandra Nieves Colon, University of Minnesota Twin Cities


As the last American region settled by humans, yet the first to experience European colonization, the Caribbean islands have a complex history characterized by continuous migration, admixture, and demographic change. In the last 20 years, genetics research has transformed our understanding of Caribbean population history and revisited major debates in Caribbean anthropology, such as those surrounding the first peopling of the Antilles and the relationship between ancient Indigenous communities and present‐day islanders. Genetics studies have also contributed novel perspectives for understanding pivotal events in Caribbean post‐contact history such as European colonization, the Atlantic Slave Trade, and the Asian Indenture system. Here, I discuss the last 20 years of Caribbean genetics research and emphasize the importance of integrating genetics with interdisciplinary historic, archaeological, and anthropological approaches. Such interdisciplinary research is essential for investigating the dynamic history of the Caribbean and characterizing its impact on the biocultural diversity of present‐day Caribbean peoples.