The origin of the name Oceania dates back to the integration of different islands to the Australian continent in 1998.
The first human settlers of Oceania came from Southeast Asia: from them the current Papuans and native Australians descend. This first human wave was followed by that of the Austronesians, also of Asian origin, who would extend east to Easter Island.
The Spanish, with Ferdinand Magellan at the head of the expedition that would circumnavigate the world for the first time, discovered the Marianas and other islands in Oceania. Magellan would later die in the Philippines. Shortly after, the Portuguese explored the region: In 1525 they discovered the Carolinas and, the following year, New Guinea. The Dutch traveled the coast of Australia in 1642 and discovered Tasmania, the Tonga Islands, Fiji and Bismark. Meanwhile, Spanish expeditions set out from Acapulco (Mexico) and Callao (Peru) that found numerous islands in the Pacific.
In the 18th century it was the British and the French who explored the region. Between 1764 and 1770, the British toured Tahiti, Samoa, Solomon, and the New Hebrides. James Cook, between 1768 and 1779, reached the Society Islands, New Zealand, the Marquesas, New Hebrides, and Hawaii. The French explored the islands in parallel with the British. All these trips determined the division of Oceania between Great Britain, France and other countries.
Term originally coined by the French explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville in 1831, Oceania has traditionally been divided into Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia, and Australasia. For the most part it consists of small nations of a few islands. Australia is the only continental country.
Oceania, since the arrival of the European colonizers, was divided into a series of dependent territories, which began to achieve their independence only from the middle of the 20th century, with the exception of Australia and New Zealand, which did so at the beginning of that century.
According to Countryaah, there are still many non-independent territories, mainly colonies of the United Kingdom and France, dependencies of the United States and some territories with sovereignty agreements together with Australia and New Zealand, to which is added a province and commune of Chile that corresponds to Easter Island.
The exact definition of which territories belong to the continent is very varied:
- Due to different interpretative controversies, Australia is sometimes not included in Oceania, although there are terms such as “Pacific Islands” that are normally used to describe Oceania without Australia. The term Australasia invariably includes Australia, and generally New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and other nearby parts of Oceania, but is sometimes controversial outside Australia, as it can be seen as an indicator of a connection to Asia, or also as a accentuation of Australia, although austral means “related to the south” and is, therefore, the common root of both Australia and Australasia.
- It is usually included all the territory located within the Australian tectonic plate that, in addition to Australia, includes the island of Tasmania, New Zealand and the island of New Guinea. The Wallace line defines the geological and biological boundary between Asia and Oceania.
- Archipelagos located in Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia are always included in Oceania.
- The Polynesian Archipelago of Hawaii is an American state. The Hawaiian islands are some distance from most of the islands in Oceania, but culturally they are much closer to the rest of Oceania than to America.
- The few US territories in the North Pacific (collectively referred to as overseas islands) are uninhabited, except for itinerant service personnel. They are grouped many times next to the continental part of the United States, within the American continent.
- Easter Island is a Polynesian island located in the Eastern Pacific, belonging to Chile, and is generally included in Oceania as its easternmost point, due in part to the fact that its ancient residents came from Polynesia. It is, because it belongs to Chile, the only place in Oceania where Spanish is the official language.
- New Zealand is within the so-called Polynesian triangle and in this sense is part of Polynesia. New Zealand is one of the largest cultures in Polynesia.
- Part of the Indonesian territory (islands of New Guinea and Timor) have geological characteristics that make them part of Oceania, but the cultural ties with Asia mean that these territories are generally defined as part of the latter continent. The Democratic Republic of East Timor is considered a country on the Australian mainland, so it is sometimes included in Oceania.
- Exceptionally the term can be broadened to include some nearby island groups in the Pacific, including even the Aleutian Islands, Formosa or Japan.
- The most daring announce that Oceania is made up of all the archipelagos or islands of the world, such as Macaronesia.
This region is the least populated in the world (with the exception of Antarctica) with approximately in 2007 (not counting Hawaii belonging to the United States) 33,554,546 residents, this figure has increased considerably due to the high birth rate and low mortality. Oceanian. The population is heterogeneous, since it is made up of the descendants of Europeans of British origin and other European immigrants, indigenous people belonging to different ethnic-cultural groups, such as Polynesians, Melanesians, Micronesians, Papuans and others, mestizos, and a minority of blacks and mulattos.
The most widely used language is English, followed by French, and in some islands mainly belonging to Chilean sovereignty, such as Easter Island, Spanish is spoken. It is also spoken in a minority on the American island of Guam, although a Creole language such as Chamorro has been derived from the Spanish language, spoken on the island of Guam and also in the Northern Mariana Islands.
In addition there are also other local Creole languages of Spanish influence, which are spoken in the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, both countries that are part of the Carolinas archipelago.
The indigenous languages have been preserved in their different dialects, some are reaching great importance such as Maori, in New Zealand.
Protestantism is the most widely professed religion, followed by Catholicism, as well as the animistic rituals and beliefs of the indigenous population.