The islands of the Caribbean, collectively known as the West Indies are sorted by size and location into the Bahamas, the Lesser Antilles and the Greater Antilles. The Greater Antilles are Cuba, Jamaica, the island of La Hispaniola (composed of Haiti on the west side and the Dominican Republic on the east side) and Puerto Rico. By language affinity and tradition, they are also considered part of Latin America

The Greater Antilles had clear strategic importance as a gateway to the Americas and during the years when sea power defined a country's might, they were the battlegrounds for waxing and waning imperial powers. First they were exploited for their own resources, then as first arrival and final launching point for ships coming and going from Europe, and finally as the guardians to the entrance of the Panama Canal. Now air power has diminished their strategic importance.

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