See the map of Caribbean islands. Various Native American peoples originally occupied the islands of the Caribbean, but Spain began to colonize the region in 1496. In the 1600s, other European countries, especially France, England, and Netherlands, challenged Spanish dominance by founding their own island colonies. Haiti and the Dominican Republic—on Hispaniola, one of the Greater Antilles—won independence from France and Spain during the 1800s. Cuba and Puerto Rico were seeking independence from Spain when the United States seized them in 1898—the first of several U.S. military interventions in the region.
Cuba achieved independence in 1902. The former British colonies of Jamaica and The Bahamas won independence in 1962 and 1973, respectively. The Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands remain British possessions. Many of the Lesser Antilles, to the east, remained colonies into the late 20th century.