Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda (Spanish for “ancient” and “bearded”) is a twin-island nation lying between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. There is also a number of smaller islands (including Great Bird, Green, Guinea, Long, Maiden and York Islands and further south, the island of Redonda). The permanent population numbers approximately 81,800 (at the 2011 Census) and the capital and largest port and city is St. John’s, on Antigua.
Separated by a few nautical miles, Antigua and Barbuda are in the middle of the Leeward Islands, part of the Lesser Antilles, roughly at 17 degrees north of the Equator. The country is nicknamed “Land of 365 Beaches” due to the many beaches surrounding the islands. Its governance, language, and culture have all been strongly influenced by the British Empire, of which the country was formerly a part.
Antigua was first settled by Archaic Age hunter-gatherer Amerindians, erroneously referred to as Siboney or Ciboney. Carbon-dating has established that the earliest settlements started around 3100 BC. They were succeeded by the Arawak-speaking Saladoid people who migrated from the lower Orinoco River.
The Arawaks introduced agriculture, raising, among other crops, the famous Antigua Black Pineapple, corn, white sweet potatoes, chiles, guava, tobacco and cotton.
The West Indians made seagoing vessels which they used to sail the Atlantic and the Caribbean. As a result, Caribs and Arawaks were able to colonize much of South America and the Caribbean Islands. Their descendants still live there, notably in Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia.
Most Arawaks left Antigua around 1100 AD; those who remained were later raided by the Caribs. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Caribs’ superior weapons and seafaring prowess allowed them to defeat most of the West Indian Arawak nations.
The Catholic Encyclopedia makes it clear that the European invaders had some difficulty differentiating between the native peoples they encountered. As a result, the number and types of ethnic/tribal groups in existence at that time may have been much more varied and numerous than just the two mentioned in this article.
European diseases, malnutrition and slavery eventually killed most of the Caribbean’s native population. Smallpox was probably the greatest killer.
The island of Antigua, originally called “Wa’ladli” by Arawaks, is today called “Wadadli” by locals.
The Spaniards did not colonize Antigua because it lacked fresh water but not aggressive Caribs. The English settled on Antigua in 1632; Christopher Codrington settled on Barbuda in 1684. Slavery, established to run sugar plantations around 1684, was ormally abolished in 1834. The British ruled from 1632 to 1981, with a brief French interlude in 1666.
The islands became an independent state within the Commonwealth Realm system on 1 November 1981, with Elizabeth II as the first Queen of Antigua and Barbuda. The Right Honourable Vere Cornwall Bird became the first Prime Minister.
Antigua has a population of 85,632, mostly made up of people of West African, British, and Portuguese descent. Christian Levantine Arabs, and a small number of Asians and Sephardic Jews make up the remainder of the population.
Behind the late 20th-century revival and redefinition of the role of Afro-Antiguans and Barbudans in the society’s cultural life is a history of racial/ethnic tensions which systematically excluded non-Whites. Within the colonial framework established by the British soon after their initial settlement of Antigua in 1623, five distinct and carefully ranked racial/ethnic groups emerged.
At the top of this social structure were the British rulers. Amongst them were divisions between British and British Antiguans. In short, this was a racial/ethnic hierarchy which gave maximum recognition to people and cultural practices of Anglican origin.
Immediately below the British were the mulattos, a mixed-race group of Afro-European origin. Mulattos, lighter in shade than most Africans, complied to a complex system based on skin shade. They identified with their European parents and claimed an according status. The Europeans used the mulattos to keep the Africans oppressed. This system was in accordance with the British White Supremacy ideology.
The Portuguese, 2,500 of whom migrated as workers from Madeira (a Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic, to the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula) between 1847 and 1852 because of a severe famine there, joined ranks with the mulatto class. The British never considered the Portuguese as Whites and did not allow them into their ranks. Amongst Antiguans and Barbudans of Portuguese descent, status differences were based on the varying degrees of assimilation into the dominant group’s Anglicized practices.
Next to the bottom were Middle Easterners who began migrating to Antigua and Barbuda around the turn of the 20th century. Starting as itinerant traders, they soon worked their way into the social mix. Although Middle Easterners came from a variety of areas, as a group they are usually referred to as Syrians.
Afro-Antiguans and Afro-Barbudans were at the bottom. Forced into slavery, Africans started arriving in Antigua and Barbuda in large numbers during the 1670s. Very quickly, they grew into the largest racial/ethnic group. Their entry into the local social structure was marked by a profound racialization: They ceased being Yoruba, Igbo, or Akan and became Negroes or Blacks
More recently, Spanish-speaking immigrants from the Dominican Republic and Afro-Caribbean immigrants from Guyana and Dominica were added to the ethnic mosaic. They entered at the social structure’s bottom.
Today, an increasingly large percentage of the population lives abroad, most notably in the United Kingdom (Antiguan Britons), United States and Canada.
A minority of Antiguan residents are immigrants from other countries, particularly from Dominica, Guyana and Jamaica, and, increasing, from the Dominican Republic, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Nigeria. An estimated 4,500 American citizens also make their home in Antigua and Barbuda, making their numbers one of the largest American populations in the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean.
English is the official language, but many of the locals speak Antiguan Creole. The Barbudan accent is slightly different from the Antiguan. Spanish is spoken by around 10,000 inhabitants of the country.
In the years before Antigua and Barbuda’s independence, Standard English was widely spoken in preference to Antiguan Creole, but afterwards Antiguans began treating Antiguan Creole as a respectable aspect of their culture. Generally, the upper and middle classes shun Antiguan Creole. The educational system dissuades the use of Antiguan Creole and instruction is done in Standard (British) English.
Many of the words used in the Antiguan dialect are derived from British as well as African languages. Common island proverbs can often be traced to Africa.
74% of Antiguans are Christians, with the Anglican denomination (about 44%) being the largest. Other Christian denominations present are Baptists, Presbyterians and Catholics. Non-Christian religions practiced in the islands include the Rastafari Movement, Islam, Judaism and the Bahá’í Faith.
Elizabeth II is the present Queen of Antigua and Barbuda, having served in that position since the islands’ independence from the United Kingdom in 1981. The Queen is currently represented by Governor General Dame Louise Lake-Tack (1944–) who became the first woman to hold this position. A Council of Ministers is appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister, currently Winston Baldwin Spencer (1948–). The Prime Minister is the Head of Government.
Antigua and Barbuda is a member of the United Nations, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Caribbean Community, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the Organization of American States, the World Trade Organization and the Eastern Caribbean’s Regional Security System.
Antigua and Barbuda is also a member of the International Criminal Court (with a Bilateral Immunity Agreement of Protection for the US military as covered under Article 98).
Tourism dominates the economy, accounting for more than half of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Antigua is famous for its many luxury resorts. Weak tourist activity since early 2000 has slowed the economy, and squeezed the government into a tight fiscal corner.
Investment banking and financial services also make up an important part of the economy. Major world banks with offices in Antigua include the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and Scotia Bank. Financial-services corporations with offices in Antigua include PriceWaterhouseCoopers. The US Securities and Exchange Commission has accused the Antigua-based Stanford International Bank, owned by Texas billionaire Allen Stanford, of orchestrating a huge fraud.
The twin-island nation’s agricultural production is focused on its domestic market and constrained by a limited water supply and a labor shortage stemming from the lure of higher wages in tourism and construction work.
Manufacturing is made up of enclave-type assembly for export, the major products being bedding, handicrafts and electronic components. Prospects for economic growth in the medium term will continue to depend on income growth in the industrialized world, especially in the United States, from which about one-third of all tourists come.
Following the opening of the American University of Antigua College of Medicine by investor and attorney Neil Simon in 2003, a new source of revenue was established. The university employs many local Antiguans and the approximate 1000 students consume a large amount of the goods and services.
The people of Antigua & Barbuda enjoy a more-than-90% literacy rate.
In 1998, Antigua and Barbuda adopted a national mandate to become the pre-eminent provider of medical services in the Caribbean. As part of this mission, Antigua and Barbuda built the most technologically advanced hospital in the Caribbean, the Mt. St. John Medical Centre. The island of Antigua currently has two medical schools, the American University of Antigua (AUA), founded in 2004, and The University of Health Sciences Antigua (UHSA), founded in 1982.
There is also a government owned state college in Antigua as well as the Antigua and Barbuda Institute of Information Technology (ABIIT) and the Antigua and Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute (ABHTI). The University of the West Indies has a branch in Antigua for locals to continue university studies.
Antigua has two international primary/secondary schools. CCSET International, which offers the Ontario Secondary School Diploma, and Island Academy, which offers the International Baccalaureate. There are also many other private schools but these institutions tend to follow the same local curriculum as government schools.
Up until April 2010 there were two daily newspapers: Daily Observer and which also published newspapers on other Caribbean islands. Antigua Sun has ceased operation in April. It has been in circulation for 13 years. Besides most American television networks, the local channel ABS TV 10 is available (it is the only station which shows exclusively local programs). There are also several local and regional radio stations.
The culture is predominantly British. For example, cricket is the national sport and Antigua has produced several famous cricket players including Sir Vivian Richards, Anderson “Andy” Roberts, and Richard “Richie” Richardson. Other popular sports include football, boat racing and surfing. Antigua Sailing Week attracts locals and visitors from all over the world.
Athletics are popular. Talented athletes are trained from a young age, and Antigua and Barbuda has produced a few fairly adept athletes. Janill Williams, a young athlete with much promise comes from Gray’s Farm, Antigua. Sonia Williams and Heather Samuel represented Antigua and Barbuda at the Olympic Games. Other prominent rising stars include Brendan Christian (100 m, 200 m), Daniel Bailey (100 m, 200 m) and James Grayman (high jump).
American popular culture and fashion also have a heavy influence. Most of the country’s media is made up of major United States networks. Many Antiguans prefer to make a special shopping trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Family and religion play an important roles in the lives of Antiguans. Most attend religious services on Sunday, although there is a growing number of Seventh-day Adventists who observe the Sabbath on Saturday.
The national Carnival held each August commemorates the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies, although on some islands, Carnival may celebrate the coming of Lent. Its festive pageants, shows, contests and other activities are a major tourist attraction.
Calypso and soca music, both originating primarily out of Trinidad, are important in Antigua and Barbuda.
Antigua and Barbuda cuisine refers to the cuisines of the Caribbean islands Antigua and Barbuda. The national dish is fungie (pronounced “foon-jee”) and pepper pot. Fungie is a dish that’s similar to Italian Polenta, made mostly with cornmeal. Other local dishes include ducana, seasoned rice, saltfish and lobster (from Barbuda). There are also local confectionaries which include: sugarcake, fudge, raspberry and tamarind stew, and peanut brittle.
Local drinks are mauby, seamoss, tamarind juice, raspberry juice, mango juice, lemonade, coconut milk, hibiscus juice, ginger beer, passion fruit juice, guava juice, soursop juice and ginger beer, a soft drink. Alcoholic drinks include beer, malts and rums, many of which are made locally, including Wadadli beer and English Harbour Rum.
Main newspaper: http://www.antiguaobserver.com/