THE ISLAND NATION OF

BARBADOS
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Barbados

Indepentent Carribean Nation, member of the Commonwealth


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BARBADOS

The easternmost island of the West Indies is the small nation of Barbados. A former British colony, it lies in the Atlantic Ocean, 160 kilometers (100 miles) east of the Windward Islands.

Barbados has a total area of 430 square kilometers (166 square miles). Its coasts are fringed with coral reefs. The north-central portion is elevated, and Mount Hillaby at 340 meters (1,115 feet) is the island's highest point. Although the climate is ordinarily mild, the island has had several devastating hurricanes during the past two centuries.

Most of Barbados is under cultivation. Sugarcane is the chief industrial crop, but fruits and vegetables are raised for local consumption. Flying fish are the most important catch of the Barbadian fisheries and are frozen and exported to England. The leading exports are sugar, molasses, and rum. Tourism is the major source of income, and some light industry has developed, including food processing, textiles, furniture, and local handicrafts.

Barbados is one of the world's most densely populated countries. The vast majority of its people are descendants of African slaves who were freed in 1834. The rest are of British or British-African descent.

The largest city and only seaport is the capital, Bridgetown (population, 1980 census, 7,552). A shipping center, it has a deepwater harbor, completed in 1961. Its colonial-style government buildings have an Old World charm. The Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies is in Bridgetown. The island has a museum and a library.

Barbados (the Portuguese word for "bearded") (a) probably takes its name from the bearded fig trees that grow there. When British colonization began, in 1627, the island was uninhabited because the Spanish had earlier deported the native Arawak Indians to Hispanola to work in the mines there. Its first parliamentary body was established in 1639. Under British rule, attempts were made to administer Barbados jointly with other islands. From 1958 to 1962 it was part of the short-lived West Indies Federation. Barbados was granted internal self-government in 1961. It became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations on Nov. 30, 1966.
The government is headed by a prime minister. A governor-general represents the British Crown. Parliament consists of the Senate and the House of Assembly. Barbados is a member of the United Nations and a member of the Caribbean Community (Caricom). Population (1988 estimate), 254,000.

(a) Also "Barbados" is the Portuguese name of a kind of north-east South American coast fish.



Barbados

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The Abreviated History of Barbados

Barbados is the eastern most Caribbean island. It is located at 13.4N, 54.4W. The island, which is less that one million years old, was created by the collision of the Atlantic crustal and Caribbean plates, along with a volcanic eruption. Later coral formed, accumulating to approx. 300 feet. It is geologically unique, being actually two land masses that merged together over the years.

Very Early. - The history of the early settlement of Barbados is being rewritten based on recent archaeological discoveries unearthed at the site of Port St. Charles. Artifacts and evidence points to settlement some time around 1623 B.C.
The first indigenous people were Amerindians who arrived here from Venezuela. Paddling long dugout canoes they crossed oceans and currents that challenge modern sailing vessels. On the north end of Venezuela a narrow sea channel called the Dragons mouth acts as a funnel to the Caribbean sea and the nearest Island of Trinidad. Its a formidable passage of swift flowing water and cross currents. It is dangerous water for an open dugout canoe. But they came, families and villages, adventurers, descendants of the the first people who traveled across the Alaska land bridge, down through Canada and the Americas to the South.
They made their new home in Barbados along the coast, leaving behind hardly a trace, only a hint of evidence for the archeologist to date and dream about. Fragments of tools made of shell, utensils, refuse and burial places convey but a mystery of their time.

Amerindian Civilisation. - The Arawaks were short, olive-skinned people who bound their foreheads during infancy to slope it into a point. They considered this along with black and white body painting to be attractive. The Caiques (chiefs) and influential members of the tribe wore nose plugs and/or rings made of copper and gold alloys (History of Barbados). They were an agricultural people and grew cotton, cassava, corn, peanuts, guavas, and papaws (papaya). The cotton was wove and used for armbands and hammocks. Cassava was ground and grated to be made into casareep, a seasoning used in cooking. The Arawaks also used harpoons, nets, and hooks, to fish for food.

1200 Carib Indians - In 1200, the Arawaks were taken over by the Caribs. The Caribs were a taller and stronger Amerindian tribe than the Arawaks. They were also cannibals. They were a warlike and savage people who are reported to have barbecued their captives and washed them down with cassava beer. In the History of Barbados, for example, it is reported that Caribs ate an entire French crew in 1596. They were incredibly accurate bowmen and used powerful poison to paralyze their prey.

Portugese - The Portugese came to Barbados en route to Brazil. It is here that the island was named Los Barbados (bearded-ones) by the Portugese explorer Pedro a Campos. It was so named, presumably, after the islands fig trees, who have a beard – like resemblance.

1492 Spanish - Despite the Caribs' ruthless warlike abilities, the island was taken over by the Spanish in 1492. The Spanish required brutal slavery of the Caribs. The latter and the contagious European small pox and tuberculosis ended the Caribs' existence. Spain, although, passed Barbados over in favor of the larger Caribbean islands. This left the island open for anyone who wanted to colonize it.

1625 – 1644 – English Colonisation - The first English ship touched the island on May 14th 1625 under the command of Captain John Powell. The island was therefore claimed on behalf of King James I.
On February 17th 1627, Captain Henry Powell landed with a party of 80 settlers and 10 slaves to occupy and settle the island. This expedition landed in Holetown formally known as Jamestown. The colonists established a House of Assembly in 1639. It was the 3rd ever Parliamentary Democracy in the world.
People with good financial backgrounds and social connections with England were allocated land. Within a few years much of the land had been deforested to make way for tobacco and cotton plantations.
During the 1630’s, sugar cane was introduced to the agriculture. The production of sugar, tobacco and cotton was heavily reliant on the indenture of servants. White civilians who wanted to emigrate overseas could do so by signing an agreement to serve a planter in Barbados for a period of 5 or 7 years. To meet the labor demands, servants were also derived from kidnapping and convicted criminals were shipped over. Descendants of the white slaves and indentured labour (referred to as Red Legs) still live in Barbados, they live amongst the black population in St. Martin River and other east coast regions. At one time they lived in Caves in this region.

1644 – 1700 – Sugar and Slavery - A potential market formed for slaves and sugar-making machinery by the Dutch Merchants who were to supply Barbados with their requirements of forced labour from West Africa. The slaves came from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Cameroon. Many slaves did not survive the journey from Africa, but many thousands still reached their destination.
The Barbadians dominated the Caribbean Sugar Industry in these early years. The sugar plantation owners were powerful and successful businessmen who had arrived in Barbados in the early years.
Many natural disasters occurred in the late 1600’s, such as the locust plague of 1663, the Bridgetown fire and a major hurricane in 1667. Drought in 1668 ruined some planters and excessive rain in 1669 added to their financial problems. However, investment continued in sugar and slaves and were seen to be hopeful about future prospects.
By 1720 Barbadians were no longer a dominant force within the sugar industry. They had been surpassed by the Leeward Islands and the Jamaicans.

1807 – 1838 – Abolition, rebellion and emancipation - After slavery was abolished in 1834, many of the new citizens of Barbados took advantage of the superb education available on the island. After these citizens had been educated, they wanted something more than working in the cane fields. Some of them took up prominent office in Barbados. Others worked common jobs, and still other stayed in the cane fields.
Many people were drawn to Barbados because of the climate and slow pace of life. The island was thought of as a cure for "the vapors" (Barbados History). Even Major George Washington visited the island with his tuberculosis-stricken half brother" in hope of ameliorating his illness.
Slavery, abolished in 1834, was followed by a 4 year apprenticeship period where free men continued to work a 45-hour week without pay in exchange for living in the tiny huts provided by the plantation owners. Freedom from slavery was celebrated in 1838 at the end of the apprentice period with over 70,000 Barbadians of African decent taking to the streets with the Barbados folk song:

"Lick an Lock-up Done Wid, Hurray fuh Jin-Jin.
De Queen come from England to set we free
Now Lick an Lock-up Done Wid, Hurray fuh Jin-Jin "


See the Bussa statue, the work of Barbados' best known sculptor Karl Broodhagen. It is in memory of Bussa, a slave who inspired a revolt against slavery in Barbados.

1961-1966 Independence - Barbados was first occupied by the British in 1627 and remained a British colony until internal autonomy was granted in 1961. The Island gained full independence in 1966, and maintains ties to the Britain monarch represented in Barbados by the Governor General. It is a member of the Commonwealth. The first leader of Barbados as a free nation was Errol Walton Barrow, of the Democratic Labour Party. The other major political party is the Barbados Labour Party, led by the current Prime Minister - The Right Honourable Owen Arthur. In 1984, the National Democratic Party was formed.

Fun Barbados


map of Barbados

Barbados

Travel Introduction

Tourists pour into Barbados from all over the world, drawn by the delightful climate, the big blue sea and brilliant white sandy beaches. Many of them rarely stray far from their hotels and guesthouses, but those who make an effort find a proud island scattered with an impressive range of historic sites and, away from the mostly gently rolling landscape, dramatic scenery in hidden caves, cliffs and gullies. Chief among the island's attractions are its old plantation houses - places like St Nicholas Abbey and Francia - superb botanical gardens at Andromeda and the Flower Forest, and the military forts and signal stations at Gun Hill and Grenade Hall. The capital Bridgetown is a lively place to visit, with an excellent national museum and great nightlife in its bars and clubs, some of them located right on the beach. No other town begins to approach the capital in size, but the small and largely untouristed Speightstown - once a thriving and wealthy port - is a good place to wander for a couple of hours then grab a drink on a terrace overlooking the sea. And, of course, there are the beaches, from the often crowded strips such as Accra Beach and Mullins Bay to tiny but superb patches of palm-fringed sand like Bottom Bay in the southeast.

For more than three centuries Barbados was a British colony and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it retains something of a British feel: the place names, the cricket, horse-racing and polo, Anglican parish churches, and even a hilly district known as Scotland. But the Britishness is often exaggerated, for this is a distinctly West Indian country, covered by a patchwork of sugarcane fields and dotted with tiny rum shops, where calypso is the music of choice, flying fish the favoured food, and cultural influences as likely to emanate from Africa as from Europe.

The people of Barbados, known as Bajans, take great pride in their tiny island of 430 square kilometres and 250,000 people. Literacy is as high as you'll find in any European nation, and Bajans have a deserved reputation for being well-informed and articulate. In writers like George Lamming and calypsonians like the Mighty Gabby the island has produced some of the finest artists in the English-speaking West Indies, while around the world its cricket players - including the great Sir Gary Sobers - have for decades had an influence way out of proportion to the size of their home country.

Tourism of course plays a major part in the country's economy and, in a mature and flourishing democracy, it is obvious that the revenues have been put to good use. The infrastructure is first-rate, with excellent roads, schools and public transport, and there is no sign of the poverty that continues to bedevil some Caribbean islands. Critics of development argue that the island has sold its soul for tourism but, in many ways, Barbados has been a model of how to cope with the new role of tourist mecca suddenly thrust upon many West Indian islands since the 1960s. Development has mostly been pretty discreet, many of the facilities are Bajan-owned, there are no private beaches and no sign of the American fast-food franchises that blight other islands in the region.

Admittedly, there are areas on both the south and west coasts where tourism is utterly dominant and Bajans massively outnumbered by European and American visitors. But, if you want to, it's easy to get away from it. Jump in a bus or a rental car and see the rest of the island: the sugar-growing central parishes, the thinly populated and little-explored north, and the ruggedly beautiful east coast, where you can hike for miles along the beach with only seabirds and the occasional surfer in sight.

Travel Guide to Barbados




Barbados


Sources: Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia and provided links.




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