Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda is a country in the West Indies in the Americas, lying between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

The capital and largest port and city is St. John’s on Antigua island.

Antigua and Barbuda remains a member of the Commonwealth and Elizabeth II is the country’s queen and head of state.

Geography & Administracion

The country consists of two major islands, Antigua and Barbuda, and a number of smaller islands such as Great Bird, Green, Guiana, Long, Maiden and York Islands and further south, the island of Redonda.

Lying near each other in just 30 nautical miles, Antigua and Barbuda are in the middle of the Leeward Islands, part of the Lesser Antilles, roughly at 17°N of the equator.

Antigua and Barbuda both are generally low-lying islands whose terrain has been influenced more by limestone formations than volcanic activity. The highest point on Antigua is Mount Obama (formerly Boggy Peak), the remnant of a volcanic crater rising 402 metres (1,319 feet).

The shorelines of both islands are greatly indented with beaches, lagoons, and natural harbours. The islands are rimmed by reefs and shoals. There are few streams as rainfall is slight. Both islands lack adequate amounts of fresh groundwater.

Flora & Fauna

Rainfall averages 990 mm (39 in) per year, with the amount varying widely from season to season.

The national bird is the frigate bird, and the national tree is the Talipariti elatum (Blue Mahoe tree).

The sandy soil on much of the islands has only scrub vegetation. Some parts of Antigua are more fertile–most notably the central plain–due to the volcanic ash in the soil. These areas support some tropical vegetation and agricultural uses. The planting of acacia, mahogany, and red and white cedar on Antigua has led to as much as 11% of the land becoming forested, helping to conserve the soil and water.

Demographics & Language

The permanent population numbers about 81,800 (at the 2011 Census).

Antigua has a population of 100,963, mostly made up of people of West African, British, and Madeiran descent. An estimated 4,500 American citizens also make their home in Antigua and Barbuda, making their numbers one of the largest American populations in the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean.

Languages

English is the official language. The Barbudan accent is slightly different from the Antiguan.

In the years before Antigua and Barbuda’s independence, Standard English was widely spoken in preference to Antiguan Creole. Generally, the upper and middle classes shun Antiguan Creole. The educational system dissuades the use of Antiguan Creole and instruction is done in Standard (British) English.

Many of the words used in the Antiguan dialect are derived from British as well as African languages. This can be easily seen in phrases such as: “Ent it?” meaning “Ain’t it?” which is itself dialectal and means “Isn’t it?”. Common island proverbs can often be traced to Africa.

Spanish is spoken by around 10,000 inhabitants.

Origin of the name + History

Antigua is Spanish for “ancient” and barbuda is Spanish for “bearded”. The island of Antigua was originally called Wadadli by Arawaks and is locally known by that name today; Caribs possibly called it Wa’omoni. The island of Antigua was explored by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and named for the Church of Santa María La Antigua, after an icon in the Spanish Seville Cathedral.

History

Antigua was first settled by archaic age hunter-gatherer Amerindians called the Ciboney. Carbon dating has established the earliest settlements started around 3100 BC. They were succeeded by the ceramic age pre-Columbian Arawak-speaking Saladoid people who migrated from the lower Orinoco River.

The Arawaks introduced agriculture, raising, among other crops, the famous Antigua black pineapple (Moris cultivar of Ananas comosus), corn, sweet potatoes, chiles, guava, tobacco, and cotton.

The indigenous West Indians made excellent seagoing vessels which they used to sail around on the Atlantic and the Caribbean. As a result, Caribs and Arawaks were able to colonize much of South America and the Caribbean Islands. Their descendants still live there, notably in Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia.

Most Arawaks left Antigua around 1100 AD; those who remained were later raided by the Caribs. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Caribs’ superior weapons and seafaring prowess allowed them to defeat most of the West Indian Arawak nations, enslaving some and possibly cannibalising others.

The Catholic Encyclopedia makes it clear that the European invaders had difficulty differentiating between the various groups of the native peoples they encountered. As a result, the number and types of ethnic/tribal groups in existence at that time may have been much more varied and numerous than just the two mentioned in this article.

European and African diseases, malnutrition, and slavery eventually killed most of the Caribbean’s native population. Smallpox was probably the greatest killer. Some historians believe that the psychological stress of slavery may also have played a part in the massive number of deaths amongst enslaved natives. Others believe the reportedly abundant but starchy, low-protein diet may have contributed to their severe malnutrition as they were used to a diet fortified with protein from the sea.

The Spaniards did not colonise Antigua because it lacked fresh water but not aggressive Caribs.

The English settled on Antigua in 1632; Barbuda island was first colonized in 1678. Christopher Codrington settled on Barbuda in 1684. Slavery, established to run sugar plantations around 1684, was abolished in 1834. The British ruled from 1632 to 1981, with a brief French interlude in 1666.

The islands became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations on 1 November 1981, with Elizabeth II as the first Queen of Antigua and Barbuda. Vere Cornwall Bird Sr became the first Prime Minister.

Most of Barbuda was devastated in early September 2017 by Hurricane Irma, which brought winds with speeds reaching 295 km/h (185 mph). The storm damaged or destroyed 95% of the island’s buildings and infrastructure, leaving Barbuda “barely habitable” according to Prime Minister Gaston Browne. Nearly everyone on the island was evacuated to Antigua.

Traditions, Holidays & Festivals

The culture is predominantly a mixture of West African and British cultural influences.

Cricket is the national sport. Other popular sports include football, boat racing and surfing. (Antigua Sailing Week attracts locals and visitors from all over the world).

Calypso and soca music, both originating primarily out of Trinidad, are important in Antigua and Barbuda.

Festivals

The national Carnival held each August commemorates the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies, although on some islands, Carnival may celebrate the coming of Lent. Its festive pageants, shows, contests and other activities are a major tourist attraction.

Gastronomy & Cuisine

Corn and sweet potatoes play an important role in Antiguan cuisine. For example, a popular Antiguan dish, Dukuna is a sweet, steamed dumpling made from grated sweet potatoes, flour and spices. One of the Antiguan staple foods, fungi, is a cooked paste made of cornmeal and water.

Transportation

Antigua and Barbuda’s transport systems include both public and privately run services. Roads in the country are steep, winding, unpaved, and full of potholes. Driving is on the left-hand side. Volcanic ash which sometimes covers roads can make them slippery. The speed limit is set at 40 mph, but it isn’t well-enforced. Because there are few traffic signs, driving in unfamiliar areas can be confusing.

Public transportation vehicles contain the letters “BUS” for buses or “TX” for taxis on their yellow licence plates. The government regulates taxi service, setting fixed fares rather than using a metered system. Taxi cabs are supposed to keep a copy of the rates inside the vehicle. On Antigua, taxis are easily found, particularly at the airport and at major hotels. Many taxi drivers also will act as tour guides.

Buses operate from 5:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily on Antigua, running between the capital city, St. John’s, and various villages. However, buses do not stop at the airport or the northern tourist area. Although departure times are often left up to the driver, buses generally follow a set schedule. Most buses have their routes posted in the front windows, and they’re usually privately owned mini-vans seating about 15 people. St. John’s has two bus stations, the East Bus Station near the Botanical Gardens on Independence Ave and another one on Market St. near the Central Market. Several buses are also available on Barbuda.

Tourists are allowed to rent cars, provided they have a valid driver’s license from their home country. They must first purchase a temporary driver’s licence, which can often be arranged through rental agencies.

Ports & Habours

Several ports and harbours provide docking for cruise ships, sailboats, yachts, and other boats. All boats are required to enter in Antigua before continuing to Barbuda, and they must obtain a permit from the Port Authority to do so. Fees apply both for entering and docking in the country. The main port is at St. John’s, receiving cruise ships and the Barbuda Express. The Barbuda Express travels between St. John’s and Barbuda five days a week. Cruise ships also dock at Heritage Quay. English Harbour, the site of Nelson’s Dockyard, began as an important port on Antigua centuries ago. Other ports and harbours include Jolly Harbour, Deepwater Harbour, High Point Crabbs Peninsula, and Codrington (Barbuda).

Airports

The country’s major airport is V. C. Bird International Airport, which serves both international and local carriers. Located near St. John’s on Antigua’s northern coast, all commercial flights to the country first enter at this airport. With its recently built terminal building, constructed in 1981, its facilities are better than many airports in the Caribbean. After arriving at the airport, travellers can take chartered flights or boats to Barbuda or other Caribbean destinations.

Railways

There were formerly around 80 km of narrowgauge railways for sugarcane plantations. These are no longer used.


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