This sovereign island-country in the Eastern Caribbean is almost in the Atlantic Ocean, but not quite. It is part of the Lesser Antilles and enjoys a limited union with the islands of Dominica, Grenada and St. Vincent which is just north/northeast of St. Lucia. St Lucia is north-west of Barbados and south of Martinique.
St Lucia’s weather is hot and humid but has the advantage of cooling trade winds. The wettest season is from June through to November and the dry weather begins in December and continues until May. The hurricane season is between June and November.
History of Saint Lucia
It is thought that the island was first inhabited by the Ciboney, a Stone Age hunter-gather people who most probably migrated from the southern parts of North America. However, later, those who were not killed were absorbed into the tribes of the Arawak Indians when they arrived on the island. The Arawak originated in the north of South America and were an agrarian people today often referred to as the Taino and the Igneri people.
After the Arawak came the aggressive Carib people who arrived around 800 AD. This aggressive and warlike people did to the Arawak as the Arawak had done to the Ciboney, killing off the men and intermarrying with the Arawak women. These Carib people were much feared by the Europeans as they often attacked ships that came to their shores setting out in their war canoes and often overrunning the ships before they were able to sail out of harm’s way.
Although it has been claimed that the island of St Lucia was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 there is evidence to suggest that this is not true, nor is there any evidence that the explorer Juan de la Cosa did either. However, what is known is that in the late 1550s the island was known to the French pirate Jambe de Bois (François de Clerc) as it was from the Caribbean islands that he attacked Spanish merchant vessels.
The British made several attempts to colonise the island but always met with disaster, either from disease or constant attacks from the Caribs. The largest number of British colonists were brought to the island in 1664 when, in order to keep the island in British hands, 1000 settlers were brought out to the island, but as with other attempts this too ended in disaster, leaving only 89 survivors within 2 years.
The French of the French West India Company then took control of the island and it became an official French colony in 1666 and in 1722 a further attempt by the British to re-settle the islands, found a very resistant French force that very quickly had them on the run.
The 18th century has a record of the island changing hands on a constant from the French to the British and visa versa until finally, in 1803 the British were successful and although the slaves of the island had been freed by the French Governor in 1794, as a result of the slave revolt on the island, the British re-established the practice as cheap labour was desperately needed on the many sugar plantations. The British government abolished slave labour in 1807, however, this was of little benefit for those already enslaved on the island as it took until 1834 before the ‘institution of slavery’ ended and only 1838 were all the remaining slaves set free when St. Lucia was incorporated into the Windward Islands administered from Barbados. In 1885 the administration of the islands was moved to Grenada.
The 20th century saw the island move toward independence. First came its own representative government in 1924 and in 1951 universal adult suffrage came into being. Then in 1956 Ministerial government was introduced which led to St Lucia joining the West Indies Federation in 1958. However, when Jamaica left the Federation in 1962 the Federation fell apart leaving St Lucia on its own.
From 1967 to 1979 St. Lucia was an associated state of the United Kingdom, which meant that it could determine its own internal policies while leaving Britain responsible for its external affairs and its defence. Finally St Lucia achieved full independence in February 1979 although it has remained a sovereign state with Queen Elizabeth as its head of state. St Lucia is a member state of the Caribbean common market (CARICOM), and the East Caribbean Common Market (ECCM).
The people and culture of Saint Lucia
The People: The warm and friendly people of St. Lucia speak English which is the official lingua franca of the island, although amongst themselves they speak their own unique French patois. Although there is an eclectic mix of religions on the island the majority of St, Lucians are catholic and Holy Week, in April is a quiet time on the islands.
The Food: Historically the choice of foods on the island was fairly limited as there were no domestic animals. The locals relied upon the fruits of the island to which they added fish when they had a successful catch. However, with the arrival of the first colonisers came the addition of plantains (a type of banana), pineapples, sweet potatoes, maize (corn), cassava, coconuts, beans and many of the spices used in the preparation of many of the island’s speciality dishes.
The French introduced cattle to the island and with beef came French cooking techniques. As with the French, the British also brought their own favoured spices, fruits and vegetables as well as their own particular ways of cooking. A left-over from the days of slavery, when slave owners fed their slaves as cheaply as possible, rice, maize, beans and potatoes are very much part of the local diet.
International cuisine is on offer throughout the island with local speciality dishes offering a treat for any palate and to celebrate their love for food and most especially seafood, there is the Dennery Fish Festival which is held on the last Sunday of June each year.
Carnival: The warmth and love of celebration is evident during the island’s June Carnival when calypso music sets the feet tapping as costumed dancers parade in the streets of Casteries on Carnival Tuesday.