History 101: Why is the West Indies the “West Indies”, anyways?

History 101: Why is the West Indies the “West Indies”, anyways?

Did you know that the West Indies actually have nothing to do with India?


In fact, the island chain in the Caribbean was named the West Indies because when Christopher Columbus landed on the island of Hispaniola, he thought that he was in India! Wild, right?!
The West Indies is a subregion of North America that includes 13 independent island countries and 18 dependent territories and some other territories that are classified into 3 major groups of islands: The Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles, and the Lucayan Archipelago.
The West Indies islands are an incredibly culture-rich and diverse place! With indigenous cultures mixed with French, English, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese influences. The island of St. Maarten/ Sint Martin which we lived on for a decade, is actually split in half: The Dutch side and the French side! Despite being one tiny island, the language, culture, and vibe are incredibly different from one side to the other. Crazy, right?!
But, how did that come about? Well, in the 1600s Holland sent settlers to St. Maarten to exploit the island’s salt reserves, and in an unprecedented example of unity, the French and the Dutch signed a treaty to share the island. As history tells it, the dividing line was determined by two walkers, a Frenchman and a Dutchman. Standing back-to-back, they began walking in opposite directions along the coastline. The history of St. Martin is based on mutual respect between two nations and no physical border was to ever be built.
This is a fun history lesson, Kim! But what does this have to do with my pretty clothes? Well, these days the term “West Indies” is basically interchangeable with “the Caribbean” but 16 years ago when I was creating my clothing brand, I found that the people of the Caribbean wholeheartedly and proudly claimed the “West Indian” label. Likely still true today, being “West Indian” Is not just a name but a culture, a unity, a melting pot of people who have heritage from all parts of the world but have come together in the West Indies and formed similar cultures on each island with just a little extra uniqueness and island spice. The same is true of the clothing label that I have built over all these years. Proudly West Indian and loyal to her Caribbean heritage. Unique in style. Exceptionally laid back. Immensely joyful. Tremendously adventurous. Extraordinarily inclusive. And… well… Perhaps just a little bit “EXTRA”.     
The West Indies Wear style is a vibrant yet comfortable reflection of the Caribbean islands and their cultural heritage. From bright colors to tropical pattern prints, to cool cotton fabric, our resort wear is always trending and always inspiring your daydreams. Wearing West Indies Wear is a fun way to bring your vacation style home with you! Inspired by walks along sparkling, turquoise shores and the sun-drenched glow that emerges from true relaxation in perfect paradise, West Indies Wear provides island lovers with comfortable, soft-cotton clothing and sarongs in fresh Caribbean colors and tropical prints.
I sure hope you enjoyed this little history lesson and how the rich cultural heritage of the West Indies has influenced the brand we love over the past 16 years.
One Love Island Girls,
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Kim- love his history lesson. Have never been to St. Maarten but must go. We were in St. Lucia on their Independence Day and met people coming in from all the surrounding islands to celebrate. So special and we got a real taste of the West Indies. It always draws us back because of the laid back, comfortable, beauty. Oh wait, I just described West Indies Wear! 😉
Island Girl Forever,
Amazing Grace 🌺🏝️🌊☀️🕶️

Grace Lordemann

I have vacationed in St. Maarten in my timeshare there for many years, and really appreciated reading your article about the West Indies because it sums up life on this island. It is a great little history lesson. Thank you for sharing.

Carole Dahl Weidemiller

Loved this history lesson!!

Rebecca Peterson

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