"Pride and Work"
Barbados is a country located in the Caribbean Sea in the Lesser Antilles. Because of its small area of 430 km² and its estimated low population of less than 300,000, Barbados is considered as a micro-state. It is also an island state with a single island.
Although Barbados has been independent since 1966, it remains a Commonwealth Kingdom and the Queen of England is its sovereign, a legacy of the country's past that has been occupied by the British for more than three centuries.
Barbados at a glance
Constitutional monarchy, member of the Commonwealth
Administrative divisions: 11 parishes
Population: more than 290,000 inhabitants
Main languages: English and bajan
Main religion: Christianity
Current monarch: Elizabeth II of England
Current Governor: Elliott Belgrave
Current Prime Minister: Freundel Stuart
Currency: Barbadian dollar (1 Barbadian dollar = 100 cents)
Conversion into euro: 100 Barbadian dollars = 44.86 euros
Tourism: slight restriction due to delinquency and health risks (dengue, zika, chikungunya)
The Lesser Antilles
Barbados is the easternmost island of the Lesser Antilles archipelago that forms a line of islands between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
The Lesser Antilles islands are the result of plate tectonics. They emerged due to the subduction of the South Atlantic plate under the Caribbean plate.
Barbados is an island born 55 million years ago, it belongs to the Caribbean arc although it is slightly decentered. These islands have been gradually covered with limestone layers of coral origin. This arc differs from the second Caribbean arc that appeared less than 5 million years ago and which still today has an important volcanic activity.
Unlike the islands of the second arc, Barbados is made up of sedimentary rocks and has no volcanic origin. Its relatively flat relief presents only a few mountains in the interior. The highest peak in Barbados is Mount Hillaby which rises to 336 meters above sea level.
The island counts 97 km of coast. A 100-meter high coral cliff forms a rocky spur dubbed Pico Teneriffe in the northeast of the island.
Barbados enjoys a tropical climate, a rainy season or hot cyclone, from June to December and a dry season but cooler from December to June.
There are few species of endemic animals on the island due to its remote location but also the introduction by settlers of European species that have impoverished or exterminated Barbadian fauna and the destruction of their habitat by men.
The birds more able to cross the waters are however numerous. Let us note the presence of shiny cowbirds that squat the nests of the other species and Sporophiles of Barbados also baptized Pèrenoirs of Barbados, the endemic passerines.
Some reptiles, amphibians, brackish or brackish fish and sea turtles are also present on the island.
An unknown origin
The history of the settlement of Barbados before colonization is little known. It is likely that Arawaks from the Amazon rainforest arrived in the Caribbean in the 4th century BC but the island may have been inhabited long before.
The Caribbean Amerindians of Venezuela (also called Kalinagos) will in turn migrate and reach the Lesser Antilles from the 9th century of our era. They would have arrived in Barbados around 1.200.
However, the contradictory theses are supported by historians. Some claim that the Caribs have exterminated the Arawaks, others believe that the Caribs and Arawaks belong to the same civilization or that the Arawak culture has simply disappeared to give birth to the Caribbean civilization.
The Europeans describe wild peoples practicing cannibalism but this belief is questioned by historians who believe it rests on the discovery of a funeral ritual consisting of preserving the bones of the deceased in the houses.
The supposed cannibalism would then have simply served the settlers to justify the need to subdue the local population and to enslave it.
The arrival of Europeans
The island, which was probably referred to as Ichirouganaim by the natives, was first discovered by Portuguese explorers who sailed to Brazil in 1536. It was they who renamed it "Os Barbudos" meaning "the bearded" The aerial roots of the fig trees of the island.
In 1625, John Powell, a British navigator, landed in Barbados, and a first colony settled there two years later for the earl of a London merchant, William Courteen, who operated a first tobacco plantation there. His sudden wealth provoked the lust of King Charles I of England who ordered James Hay, Earl of Carlisle to seize the island. Thus, in 1629, two ships chartered by the count and commanded by Captain Henry Haley and Colonel Roydon landed on the shores of Barbados and put John Powell under arrest.
Henry Hawley is appointed governor of the island. Under his authority, the island is undergoing a period of restriction, the rights of tobacco growers are limited. A wave of Irish immigrants dispossessed of their land by the English crown landed in Barbados in the 1630s.
The massive influx of these farmers causes an overproduction of tobacco and the beginning of sugar cultivation. At the same time, in 1636, the British law authorizing slavery for life was promulgated. The black and Indian slaves were sent to the island.
The creation and success of sugar plantations play a predominant role in the history of Barbados. Indeed, land quickly takes on a value never reached and their purchase becomes inaccessible for the white emigrants too poor. They flee the colony towards the other islands, sometimes becoming buccaneers. As early as 1650, the whites, mostly Irish, were a minority in Barbados.
From Cromwell to the Independence
At the same time, the civil war was in full swing in England. It ends with the execution of Charles I accused of high treason and by the victory of Olivier Cromwell who becomes Lord Protector. For about ten years, England retained the status of a Republic. In 1661, the monarchy was restored.
During the civil war, the sugar planters of Barbados supported the Royalists what Cromwell cannot tolerate. In 1650, he prepared the Barbados expedition while imposing a blockade prohibiting the importation of sugar from Barbados but also from Bermuda and Virginia, lands for Royalists.
The Republicans seized the island and destroyed many plantations before the capitulation of the planters. A deputy governor remained in place to defend the interests of Cromwell until 1661, the date of the restoration of the monarchy.
Many planters from Barbados will swarm to other islands and to the American continent to find new land and escape the island's real estate speculation, which will nevertheless remain the main producer of sugar until the 18th century.
The slavery was abolished in 1838, but most of the black population was left out of power. Indeed, the tax (cens) giving a citizen the right to vote and eligibility is too high. It will not be revised down until 1942, shortly before the introduction of universal suffrage, thanks to the work of the Progressive League of Barbados, which was created in 1938 and which will give birth to the Labor Party of Barbados.
Barbados is gaining more and more autonomy which will naturally lead to its independence in 1966.
Barbados is a multi-party parliamentary monarchy administered by a Governor General (currently Elliott Belgrave), representing Queen Elizabeth II of England.
The executive power is entrusted to the Prime Minister (now Freundel Stuart) appointed by the Governor General and validated by the British monarchy after the legislative elections.
The Prime Minister is traditionally the leader of the majority party in Parliament. There are currently two main parties in Barbados, the Labor Party of Barbados (BLP) and the Labor Democratic Party (DLP).
The legislative power is entrusted to a bicameral Parliament consisting of an Assembly and a Senate.
The judiciary is assured by the Supreme Court (High Court and Court of Appeal). The Caribbean Court of Justice based in Trinidad and Tobago can be seized as a last resort.
An economy based on tourism
The main resource of the island of Barbados is tourism even though the plantations of sugar cane are still active in the interior. A major hotel infrastructure has been set up in the south of the country. The beaches appeal to surfing enthusiasts.
The bajane culture
90% of the population of Barbados descends in a straight line from black slaves bought in Africa to serve as laborers in plantations. The rest of the inhabitants are of European origin, mainly English and Irish.
95% of the inhabitants of Barbados are Christians, mostly Anglicans.
The official language of the island remains English which is used in particular in the administration. The Barbadians speak an English mixed with Caribbean terms of origin called bajan or Barbadian Creole.
We also speak of bajane cuisine to designate dishes with European, Creole, African and of course Caribbean influences. The fish and the shellfish are ubiquitous but you can also enjoy some fried meat, accompanied by rice, pasta and vegetables. The mangoes and the papayas grow abundantly on the island and are integrated into the recipes or tasted as such. The curry imported by the English from their Indian colonies has naturally found its place in the gastronomy of Barbados.
The rum is served throughout the island, especially in the Rum shops.
As in all countries where slavery has caused a massive influx of Africans, the music is part of a daily life of Barbadians. The traditional music of Barbados combines with that of the Tuk bands, musical groups resuming rhythms specific to the British army.
A real institution, the game of dominoes is practiced throughout the island. A championship of dominoes held every two years is regularly won by Barbados.
Barbados is a true paradise for tourists in search of surf spots, blue sea, grills on the beach and luxury amenities.
The island also offers its visitors an important cultural heritage such as the beautiful colonial houses called Great houses, plantations and small houses of plantation workers, Chattel houses which had the peculiarity of being demountable in order to follow the workers on their new place of work.
The capital Bridgetown offers a striking contrast between modern buildings and the typical neighborhoods with its open-air markets offering meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and handicrafts to passers-by, all close to the beach and the marina.