The history of the Caribbean reveals the significant role the region played in the colonial struggles of the European powers since the 15th century. In the 20th century the Caribbean was again important during World War II, in the decolonization wave during the post-war period, and in the tension between Communist Cuba and the United States. Genocide, slavery, immigration and rivalry between world powers have given Caribbean history an impact disproportionate to the size of this small region.
The oldest evidence of human settlement in the Caribbean has been found at Ortoiroid sites on Trinidad dating to the mid-6th millennium BC.  They had reached Hispaniola and Cuba by the mid-5th millennium BCE, where their society is also known as the Casirimoid. The hunter-gatherer Guanahatabey present in western Cuba at the time of Columbus"s arrival may have represented a continuation of their culture or more recent arrivals from southern Florida or the Yucatan.
The islands were then repopulated by successive waves of invaders travelling south to north from initial bases in the Orinoco River valley. Between 400 and 200 BC, the Saladoid spread north from Trinidad, introducing agriculture and ceramic pottery. Sometime after AD 250, the Barrancoid followed and replaced them on Trinidad. This society"s settlements in the Orinoco collapsed around 650 and another group, the Arauquinoid (the later "Taíno" or "Arawaks"), expanded into the area and northward along the island chain. Around 1200 or 1300, a fourth group, the Mayoid (the later "Caribs"), entered Trinidad. They remained dominant until the Spanish conquest.
At the time of the European arrival, three major Amerindian indigenous peoples lived on the islands: the Taíno in the Greater Antilles, The Bahamas and the Leeward Islands; the Island Caribs and Galibi in the Windward Islands; and the Ciboney in western Cuba. The Taínos are subdivided into Classic Taínos, who occupied Hispaniola and Puerto Rico, Western Taínos, who occupied Cuba, Jamaica, and