Roots of the Caribbean Mural

The Flamboyant Tree (Delonix Regia), also called the royal poinciana, and renowned for its bright red flowers, is a symbol of Puerto Rico. It is native to Madagascar but grows throughout the Circum-Caribbean. Source:

(September 25, 1911 – March 29, 1981) The first Prime Minister of the twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago from 1962 to 1981. Known for being the “Father of the Nation” and the author of the first major work about sugar and enslavement in the Caribbean, Capitalism and Slavery. Source:…

(January 28, 1853 – May 19, 1895) A Cuban poet who is celebrated for his work in Latin American literature. He is also known for playing a pivotal role in Cuban gaining independence from Spain and helping to create the Cuban Revolutionary Party in 1892. Source:

Although women in the Caribbean were excluded from professions like colonial administration and the clergy, they still played valuable and important roles in the economy. Women were known for their work in cloth production, sewing, and basket-making. Those who were talented in these areas could get their vending license, and in some cases, enslaved women could raise money to buy their freedom. Source:

The Caribbean region is well known for its abundant and diverse fruits and vegetables, such as, Mango, Pineapples, Plantains, Quenépas, Starfruit, Yuca and more.

Latin America has played a dominate role in exporting bananas to the United States. Large US-owned companies such as, Chiquita (United Fruit Company) and Dole (Standard Fruit Company), have had great influence in the world market and their massive plantations have spread throughout Latin America, this has had impacts on plantation workers and the environment. Workers must undergo harsh working conditions with extremely low wages.

The Caribbean has a long history of coffee production, and it was first introduced to the Americas in the 18th century. The islands of this region provide rich soil, mountainous terrain, and the perfect climate for growing coffee.

The invention of the sugar mill made sugar the most lucrative crop in Latin America in the 18th century. The first iteration of the sugar mill was small, which limited the amount of sugar that could be milled. Often, the supply could not keep up with the demand and a lot of harvested sugar cane would go to waste. Eventually, the mill evolved and got bigger in size and was powered by either animals or people. As time went on, they started incorporating renewable energy. This included both water and wind powered sugar mills. Source:

Tobacco workers in Latin America and around the world all face health issues due to the conditions in their line of work. In the 18th century, there were accounts from tobacco workers who were concerned about the lack of ventilation in the workplace. These workers also had symptoms to report, including nausea, vomiting, and headaches. Some problems are respiratory, with workers constantly inhaling dust from tobacco processing plants. The dust also accounts for discomfort and changes in other parts of the body, such as the eyes. Source:

Although they are the backbone of the industry, sugar cane workers have been mistreated in the workplace for hundreds of years.. The working conditions have been dangerous, with the threat of malnutrition, exhaustion, and recently, chronic kidney disease taking the lives of laborers. Source:

Back when it was harder to cultivate, sugar was a sweetener only used by the rich. Eventually, it became a staple in food and drink all around the world. African slave labor was the most efficient and profitable way to harvest and mill the crop. Although many slaves were sent to America, they only accounted for about six percent of total slave population. Most enslaved Africans were sent to Brazil and the Caribbean. Source:

The Cemí is a sculpture that is meant to represent the spirit of an ancestor. They are said to have strong spiritual energy and magical powers They vary in appearance. Some are in the form of stone necklaces and face masks, while some are just large stone heads. Caciques (or chiefs) in Taino culture underwent “cemification” where the bodies were burned, and the skulls would be kept since they held immense power. Source:

The Amazona Vittata is a parrot native to the island of Puerto Rico, often representing a symbol of pride. As recent as 2021, it qualifies as an endangered species. In the 1970’s, there were only 13 surviving birds. This was due to a variety of factors, including changes in the environment, natural disasters, and an increase in predatory species. Since then, organizations have worked to revitalize the species. Source:,

The Taíno people created all kinds of different pottery styles and commonly featured abstracted anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures and geometric line work. The Taino had their own religious beliefs and practices before the introduction to Catholicism in the 18th Century by the Spanish. Catholicism would eventually become one of the main religions practiced in the Caribbean and Latin America. Source:…

The Flamboyant tree, formally known as the Royal Poinciana, is explosive in color with a beautiful bloom. The flower of the Flamboyant tree contains six pedals and can consist of orange, red and yellow. Not only is it appealing to the eye but the seeds from the Flamboyant tree can used as a musical instrument that is similar to the Muracas, known as shack-shacks. The tree also provides fruit during certain seasons. Source:

Sugar mills dotted the landscape of many Caribbean countries. And their stone remnants are still standing. These complexes included the buildings for converting sugar into molasses and rum, as well as the living and work quarters. Enslaved Africans were the source of labor in these areas, and the mills were often built and controlled by colonial powers.

(April 8, 1827 – September 16, 1898) Ramon Emeterio Betances used his medical degree from the university of Paris to open a hospital to aid those effected by the cholera epidemic. He is also known for his literature and his role in fighting against slavery. Betances organized an expedition which further led to what is known today as Grito de Lares. Source:

There are different versions of this instrument since it has changed overtime. “Cuarto” is in dedication to the strings, which there were four of. Source:

The vejigante is a demon-like mask (careta) with horns sometimes worn with a full costume in Carnival festivals. The person wearing it dances around the crowds. Source:,cultural%20symbol%20of%20Puerto%20Rico

Three kings' day is a holiday dedication to the Three Wise Men that takes place, usually, on January 6th. It is celebrated in multiple places and has many traditions to it including giving gifts, having feasts, and spending time with family. Source:

Cart which originated in Costa Rica and was used to transport goods. Its wheels were designed to cut through mud and are specifically painted to help identify where the driver is coming from. Source:

Bomba dance is said to be created by enslaved Africans who were forced to work on the coast of Puerto Rico. This style of dance is still used today and is highly appreciated in places such as Puerto Rico. It contains many components since there are different kinds of Bomba instrumentations and improvisation can be used while dancing. Source:

Afro-Caribbean dance that is today widely used in parties. It is said to have originated from enslaved Africans to symbolize the tight spaces they had to overcome when being transported in large groups. Even though the limbo dance was used at somber events at first the tone of limbo was shifted around the 1950’s after it was paired with upbeat music and presented to a wide audience. Source:

Also known as the national Instrument for Trinidad and Tobago, this metal instrument dates to the 1800’s. Metal drums were at one point banned since the ruling class suspected the instrument was being used for secret communication among freed slaves in festivities. However, the instrument was officially reintroduced in the 1930’s and has been evolving ever since. Source:

Straw basket makers were equipped with plenty of knowledge on weaving. They also needed to know how to grow and harvest a variety of different materials. Among some of them were agave, wild pineapple, straw, reed, and bamboo. These basket makers also knew how to create different items, including rope, mats, and headgear. Source:…

Daily prayer and leaving offerings is a big tradition in the Afro-Caribbean religion. As for other active devotees of the religion, such as priests, they hold rituals and worship. Each Afro-Caribbean practitioner has their own set of traditions such as divination, singing & dancing at religious services, and dieting. During rituals some wear certain jewelry to scare evil spirits away from them as well as wear certain attire to express their fate. Source:…

Maracas are common instruments used in a variety of music today and are also known as “rumba shakers”. The sound is produced when the instrument is shaken since the beans, pebbles or beads used rattle around inside. The shell of turtles and/or dried calabash gourd was traditionally used to enclose these beans, pebbles or beads. Today, maracas have evolved and can now be found in numerous different materials including wood, plastic, fiber, etc. Source:

(September 12, 1891 – April 21, 1965) Considered the father of the Puerto Rican Independence movement, Pedro Albizu Campos was an attorney who spent most of his life fighting to make Puerto Rico and independent nation. Source:

(1825-1903) Mariana is known for being a leader during the Puerto Rican independence movement in the 1860’s and knitting the flag for the Grito de Lares uprising.

(January 11, 1839 – August 11, 1903) Puerto Rican educator and writer. He studied law in Spain and fought to free Cuba and Puerto Rico from Spain’s colonial rule. His work and ideas have influenced Caribbean identity, culture, and political development for many years. Source:

The artist of this painting is Jorge Luis Morales-Torres, a native of Puerto Rico. Morales created the mural in Central’s art building and often worked with his family by his side.

The Hibiscus flower has great significance in the Caribbean islands. The Puerto Rican national flower, Flor de Maga, is a type of Hibiscus. They are pink or red with 5 petals and grow on trees.

Cockfighting is when two specially bred roosters are placed in a pit to fight each other for entertainment purposes. For many Caribbean islands, cockfighting has been a part of their culture since colonial times. In places such as Puerto Rico the sport even has economic importance but has been met with controversy because of animal cruelty. Source:

The coconut tree is an important symbol of the Caribbean and for the people who live there. It’s a part of the palm tree family and it can grow up to 100 feet tall with feathery leaves that can be up to 20 feet long. The coconut fruit has a hard exterior with a white meat beneath and a hollow center that holds coconut milk. Coconuts have a variety of different uses, such as: making food, drinks, medicine, cosmetics, and even for shelter. Source:

The Blue Land crab, also known by its scientific name Cardisoma Guanhumi, is found along the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea throughout the southeastern United States, Central America, the northern tip of South America, and parts of the Caribbean Islands. They burrow in dense shrubbery, mud, and coastal sand. For various parts of the Caribbean, they are considered an important food source, but there is a concern of excessive harvesting by conservationist. Source:

This young woman represents the millions of young women who call the Caribbean home.

(1804 – May 23, 1832) Samuel Sharpe was a well-read, enslaved Jamaican known for leading the 1831 slave rebellion credited with contributing to the final abolition of slavery in the British Empire. The British executed him for his role in the rebellion, but he has since become a national hero. Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College in Montego Bay, Jamaica, is named for him. Source:

The Americas have been the main producers of the world’s coffee for many years. Farming and production of coffee has greatly impacted the economics of these regions. The Caribbean was the first region in the Americas to be introduced to coffee in the 18th century Source:

Contact Information

Latin American, Latino, and Caribbean Center
Mary Ann Mahony
Latin American, Latino, & Caribbean Center
Member, Latin American Studies Committee
International Studies
Ebenezer D. Bassett Hall
Melody Lozano
Latin American, Latino, & Caribbean Center