Saturday, December 14, 2013


This makes the second country that I’ve come across since doing this blog where I’ve learned that I’ve been pronouncing it wrong my entire life.  (The other was Benin.)  In fact, I’m sure 99.7% of Americans probably pronounce it wrong.  What I’ve always called “duh-MIN-i-kuh” is actually pronounced “DOM-ee-NEE-kuh.”  Partly to confuse everyone, but mostly to try to keep it separate from the Dominican Republic (which I get to next).  I’m sure the effort was lost on Americans. We try to make anything remotely close pronounced the same way – especially if you live in the South or various places in the Midwest.  (Which is why when we read MacBeth in high school, the line “All hail MacBeth” came out as “Aww hell, MacBeth.”) 

 The island of Dominica lies in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean islands, right between the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.  It’s sometimes referred to as the Windward Islands or the Leeward Islands.  Although this youngest island in the Lesser Antilles is known for its mountains, rainforests, flora and fauna, it’s also home to the second-largest hot spring called Boiling Lake.  The Sisserou Parrot is so important to Dominicans that they put it in the middle of their flag.  Morne Trois Pitons National Park was recognized as a World Heritage Site, showing off Dominica’s natural volcanic beauty.  It’s also a great place to do some whale watching – the coastal waters are teeming with sperm whales year round, but is also home to a variety of other species of whales and dolphins. 

 The island of Dominica was named by Christopher Columbus, the name referring to the day of the week that he spotted the island.  Both the French and the English had their eyes on this island, and France ending up counting it as part of the French Antilles; however, they did little as far as settlement goes.  During the early part of the 1700s, some of the white residents of Martinique to the south migrated to Dominica. France decided to make Dominica a coffee-producing territory.  When France lost out to Britain after the Seven Year’s War, the Treaty of Paris granted the island to be handed over to British rule. Within 60 years of the British taking over, they freed all the Africans that were there as slave labor and became one of the few British colonies whose legislature was made up of a majority of African members.  It became a member of various Caribbean island political organizations, and the Commonwealth of Dominica was granted its independence from England in 1978. 

 The capital is Roseau, which is the French word for “reed” – the French tended to give city names based on what they saw there.  With about 16,500 people – about the size of Frankfort, Indiana – it is one of the main ports on the island, which is important for major exports including bananas, grapefruit, oranges, bay oil, and cocoa.  It’s located on the Roseau River and has very little green space, although it does boast a Botanical Garden.  The architecture is reminiscent of French-influenced style mixed with modern designs.  Even though the city is only about 80 blocks spread across 74 acres, I read that its city planning is irregular and makes it easy to get lost, although I suppose that's a matter of opinion.  As with most capital cities, it not only houses the central government, but also universities and colleges, sport facilities, theatres, restaurants, etc. 

In recent years, Dominica has suffered from an economic depression and general economic instability.  It’s been trying to push forward a tourism industry (and especially an eco-tourism industry) since in the past, it has come in with the least amount of visitors in comparison to other Caribbean island – half as many as even Haiti.  The island is subject to hurricanes that come in off of the Atlantic, which devastate the country’s infrastructure and its agricultural industry.  Most of its exports include exotic tropical fruits, coffee, aloe vera, patchouli, cut flowers, and soap.  And actually, I read that if I had a lot of money (like around $130,000 for my family), I could buy a second passport to Dominica and bypass the seven years residence.  I better start selling a lot of books. 

The official language is English, which is spoken and understood by the vast majority of the population, although French Creole, English Creole, and a Dominican Creole are also utilized by many of the locals as well. 

Because of the European influence on its history, around 80% of Dominicans consider themselves Catholic and have their own diocese in Roseau.  They also have a small Muslim population – the country’s first mosque was erected near Ross University in Roseau.

 Dominica has one of the remaining populations of Caribs, the pre-Columbian native peoples who inhabited these islands. Most of them were either killed off or fled to other islands, including Dominica.  There are about 3000 Caribs living in a designated protected area on the eastern side of the island. Dominica also has a large number of centenarians (people over 100 years old) in comparison with the total population.  Students at Ross University are studying to find out what exactly causes or impacts this phenomenon.  (My guess would be a slower pace of life and less chemicals in their food, perhaps?) 

Check out for a different perspective from Americans (I'm assuming) living in Dominica. I read a few posts; there are some great photos. 
The island has made headlines throughout the years.  They elected their first female head of state, Mary Eugenia Charles, in the early 1980s (something the US has yet to do).  Parts of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies were filmed in and around Dominica (especially scenes from the second and third films, “Dead Man’s Chest” and “At World’s End”).  Dominica also does have a large number of active volcanos; however, there hasn’t been an eruption for centuries.  I look through photos of places in Dominica, and then I look outside my window as it’s snowing another couple of inches, and I think, “I’d much rather be there than here. I wonder if my company would let me work remote that far away.”  That being said, I’m excited to delve into Domi-NI-ca and its food, a country that I feel is calling my name.

Up next: holidays and celebrations

1 comment:

  1. Nice! I just barely saw your comment awaiting moderation on my Shumwayfamilyblog! Great job on this site :) I wish I had gotten it earlier so I could tell you what the most common things they eat are and some recipes, but it's all good :) I had a family that lived by me that I became friends with who were typical Dominicans- they had a cooking shack in their yard (next to where they went to the bathroom) no oven or stove. no running water- they go to the "pipe" down the street for that (a spigot in someone's yard)