Saturday, April 21, 2012


Sun. Beaches. Caribbean breezes. The island nation of Antigua and Barbuda lies in the middle of all this. It’s been inhabited by several different groups of people throughout its history, starting mostly with the Arawak and Carib Indians, then the Spanish and French, followed by the British who brought African slaves with them to work the sugar plantations. (Slavery was abolished here about a decade before the United States could even get their act together on the issue.)

The name Antigua comes from the Spanish word for “ancient,”possibly a shortening of Santa Maria la Antigua, ultimately referring to a sacred icon in a cathedral in Seville, Spain; Christopher Columbus bestowed the name himself. The name Barbuda comes from the Spanish word for “bearded,” possibly from either the way the fig trees looked or possibly from the beards the natives sported. And apparently, I have been pronouncing it wrong all these years: it’s an-TEE-guh and bar-BOO-duh (although Wikipedia says it's also pronounced bar-BYOO-duh. If you know which is right, or if they're both acceptable, please let me know!) 

English is spoken in Antigua and Barbuda, although Antiguan Creole is more widely spoken. While most people can speak Standard English, in most social situations, people will choose to speak creole. This is especially true after gaining independence.

Antigua and Barbuda are located just southeast of the island of Puerto Rico. It’s roughly the size of Tampa, Florida when it comes to area. The entire country has about 89,000 people, which is roughly the same as Reading, Pennsylvania. The island of Antigua is the main island and the one most populated. The capital, St. John’s, is here. (As a grammarian, the use of theapostrophe bothers me. It’s like, I’m constantly asking, “St. John’s what?”)  The island of Barbuda is to the northeast a bit and is much more rural; it’s largest city is Codrington. There are actually several other smaller islands that also belong to Antigua and Barbuda.

The country itself has a fairly high percentage of clean water and sanitation, even in the rural areas. Only about 86% of the people are literate though, and there is high unemployment. Antiguans’ main industry is tourism, although there is light manufacturing and construction also contributes to the economy as well.

One of the problems that Antigua and Barbuda has is a problem with offshore banking. In 2009, Texas billionaire Allen Stanford wasarrested for a $7 billion multi-national Ponzi scheme involving 30,000 investors. He was recently convicted of 13 of 14 counts last month, and I think he’s facing around 20 years in prison. He based himself in Antigua and fronted a lot of money to the island nation. In return for being allowed to stay there (after he was forced to leave the island of Montserrat after authorities closed his offshore bank back in the 1980s), he did pay his workers first-world wages, which they, in turn, used to pay other people for services, such as gardeners, nannies, etc. When Stanford was arrested and brought back to the US, the people who worked for him were fired, and they were forced to fire those who did services for them as well: a trickle-down effect to stagnant waters. After all that’s said and done, thousands were left without jobs, and the money dried up.

But Antigua and Barbuda’s natural beauty and tropical climate will continue to attract people from all over the world. The fusions ofcultures and laid-back auras of the Caribbean continue to perpetuate a fascination with Antigua and Barbuda.

Up next: Holidays and Celebrations

CIA World Factbook: Antigua and Barbuda
Wikipedia: “Antigua and Barbuda” “Etymology of country names”

No comments:

Post a Comment