Sunday, November 23, 2014


The island of spice: Grenada is especially known for nutmeg, a spice that is known to cause psychoactive effects if taken in large doses. But in small doses, it’s quite tasty. The nutmeg is actually an interesting seed because it produces two distinctive spices: nutmeg and mace.  (Not the kind of mace you ward off potential attackers with, and it doesn’t contain the spice mace at all, so don’t start spraying down your food. Please, don’t do that.)

Grenada is a small island in the South Caribbean, just south of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and north of Trinidad and Tobago as well as Venezuela. It’s actually the largest island of the Grenadine Islands and includes several smaller islands in the chain. (The others belong to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which I always think sounds like a great band name.) The islands are volcanic in origin, and Mt. Catherine is the highest peak.  Grenada has distinct rainy and dry seasons typical of its tropic climate. The islands are also subject to Atlantic Ocean hurricanes and suffered greatly during Hurricane Janet (1955), Hurricane Ivan (2004), and Hurricane Emily (2005). The term Grenada comes from the French “La Grenade” and from the earlier Spanish “Granada,” a reference to a province of southern Spain of the same name, originally serving as a Moorish emirate.

The French were the first Europeans to land on the island and essentially forced the indigenous peoples to move to other islands. Some of them refused and opted to jump off cliffs rather than be relocated by the French. The island was mostly used to grow sugarcane and indigo at that time. It was formally handed over to the British but then the French took it back after the American Revolutionary War, which was then toggled back to the British with the Treaty of Versailles. A merchant ship on its way back from the East Indies stopped in Grenada and left a small number of nutmeg trees behind – the start of Grenada’s nutmeg industry.  The island country became a Crown colony in 1877, and by the mid-20th century, Grenadians were striking for better working conditions and held their first elections in regards to universal suffrage (to oppose the system that was put into place which tied eligible voters to property ownership and wealth, only allowing them to vote for 1/3 of the available seats for the Legislative Council).  Independence was finally granted to the Grenadians in 1974, and several coups took place in the decades afterwards. During the early 1980s, a pro-communist group took over, and the US, along with the support of nearby countries and regional groups, invaded Grenada in 1983 and stopped this radical group.  While other countries criticized the invasion and other military tactics, democracy and general peace were established once again. Hurricanes have ravished the island several times in recent times, destroying homes and businesses and straining their economy and resources.

The capital city is St. George’s. Named after the patron saint of England, it was first discovered by Christopher Columbus. St. George’s is known for its Carnival festival, which takes place every August and celebrates the emancipation of the slaves. The city is also famous for the Grenada National Museum, Queen’s Park Stadium Complex, a large marketplace, several famous churches, beaches, and shopping centers.

Grenada is known for its spices, namely cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, clove, ginger, allspice, and sugar cane. Oranges, coffee, and cocoa/chocolate (like Grenada Chocolate Company) are also produced here as well. Grenada is the second largest producer of nutmeg (after Indonesia), and in fact, it’s so important to the Grenadian economy, that they put it on the flag. Tourism, especially eco-tourism, is also a huge economic driver. Its beautiful beaches (both black sand and white sand), pristine mountainous environment, and tropical climate make Grenada the perfect vacation location. St. Georges University with an enrollment of nearly 5000 students is the country’s largest employer.

The vast majority of Grenadians adhere to some denomination of Christianity with Roman Catholic making up the largest portion, followed by Protestants, and then Anglicans.  There are a small number of Rastafari, Hindi, Muslim, Buddhist, and Baha’i followers.  

Because of Grenada’s history as a Crown colony of England, English became the official language of the country.  However, Grenadian Creole English is the major spoken language and has influences from European, African, and Indian words and phrases. Grenadian Creole French is also spoken, but mainly in the rural areas.  It’s sometimes known as Patois or Kwéyòl.  

The main island of Grenada is divided into six parishes, named after the patron saints of the United Kingdom: St. George (English), St. Patrick (Ireland), St. Andrew (Scotland), and St. David (Wales). The other two parishes are named after two New Testament writers, St. John and St. Mark. Because the country’s origins are volcanic, there is a crater lake called Grand Etang that is essentially bottomless. Even sonar has not been able to find the bottom. (It makes you wonder what kind of strange sci-fi creatures lives down there. Or how many bodies have been dumped there.)  Most countries have a long form of their name (like People’s Republic of China) and a short form of its name (everyone calls it China).  However, Grenada is one of those few countries that only has a short form; it’s just Grenada. (Canada is another short-form-only country.)  Their cuisine is pretty typical of the Caribbean – except with the largest number of recipes containing nutmeg that I’ve ever seen – and it all sounds super tasty.  

Up next: art and literature

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