only visited Barbados once when I was on a
cruise ship. I wandered around
Bridgetown shopping for the typical
souvenirs then stopped in a bank to do
some banking. I got distracted
talking to the clerk, asking her for
directions to their largest store, as I
wanted to buy an English china teapot to
add to my collection of teapots. When I
arrived about an hour later at the store,
I indecisively hovered over an array of
French perfumes, trying to decide on a
lighter fragrance in a gold flacon. As I
at the sample of the
Bergamot, tuberose, and frankincense, deep
in thought at the price, a police officer
came up to me and said my name out loud.
I jumped, stunned that somebody knew me in
Barbados. What had I done? He
smiled and told me that the bank had
called ahead to say that they still had my
passport, and would I retrieve it
prior to boarding the ship. Of
course I would! I was very impressed
with their service and kindness.
Needless to say, I came away with a very
good impression of the tiny island.
Barbados is the most eastern Caribbean
island off the coast of Venezuela.
It was created by the collision of the
Atlantic crustal and Caribbean plates,
along with a volcanic eruption. Later
coral formed, accumulating about 300 feet
of the island. New evidence points
to settlements as early as 1623 B.C.
The first indigenous people there were the
Amerindians from Venezuela, who got there
on their canoes. The Arawaks, part
of the Amerindian civilization, were an
agricultural people who grew cotton,
cassava, corn, peanuts, guavas and
papayas. In 1200 the Arawaks were
conquered by the Caribs, who were
cannibals. It is reported they once
ate an entire French crew in 1596,
barbecued them and washed them down with
The Portuguese arrived in Barbados en
route to Brazil. It was then that the
lonely island was named Barbados
(bearded-ones) after the island fig
trees which have a beard-like appearance.
In 1492 the Spanish stopped by, and
imposed slavery on the Caribs, but decided
to overlook the island for the larger
Caribbean ones. This left the island
open to anybody else who wanted to
The English claimed it for King James
I, in 1625. The colonists
established a House of Assembly in 1639.
It was the 3rd only Parliamentary
Democracy in the world at the time. Englishmen
with good financial and social backgrounds
were allocated land by the Crown to grow
tobacco and cotton. During the 1630s
sugar cane was introduced, and in 1644 it became
a potential market formed by slaves and
the sugar-making machinery of the
Dutch merchants who were supplying
Barbados with their requirements of forced
labor from West Africa. These sugar
plantation owners were powerful and
successful businessmen. But by 1720
Barbadians were no longer a dominant force
in the sugar industry, as they had been
surpassed by Jamaica.
After slavery was abolished in 1834, many
of the new citizens of Barbados took
advantage of the superb English education
made available on the island. Some
of them, decided to leave the sugar cane
fields and gained prominent offices in
Barbados. Freedom from slavery was
celebrated in 1838 with over 70,000
Barbadians of African descent from Cameroon,
Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra
Leone, singing in the streets:
"Lick an lock-up done wid, hurray fuh
Jin-Jin (Queen Victoria) de queen come
from England to set we free. Now
lick and lock-up done wid, hurray fuh
Barbados remained a British colony until
autonomy was granted in 1961, but still
retains ties to the British monarch.
Tourism recently surpassed the sugar
industry. Queen Elizabeth is Chief
of State, represented by Governor General
Sir Clifford Husbands. There are no
elections as the monarchy is hereditary.
The Bicameral Parliament consists of the
Senate and the House of Assembly, whose
members are elected by popular vote to
serve five years.
Unfortunately, it is one of the many
Caribbean transshipment points for
narcotics bound for Europe and USA.
Overall, it is safe, the weather is
fantastic, and I would not hesitate to
return for another visit.