Estimates of the original Amerindian inhabitants of the West Indies vary between 200,000 and several million. Prominent among these native peoples were the Arawak (Taino) and the Ciboney on the northern larger islands of the greater Antilles, the Bahamas, and the Leeward Islands. In the Windward Chain were the Caribs, who demonstrated strong resistance until the 18th century but nevertheless failed to prevent European penetration and their own annihilation. A legacy of Carib ferocity and treatment of Arawak captives is the term cannibal, which is derived from these people's Spanish name, Caribal.
The Arawak Indians were well established in Saint Lucia before the Europeans ever set foot on the island.
In the Antilles, they settled in villages and cultivated cassava and maize; frequently attacked by the Caribs,
many were later killed by the Spanish. In South America, they lived in isolated small settlements in tropical Amazonian forests,
and practised hunting, fishing, and farming. The warrior Caribs who overcame the peace-loving Arawaks followed them and by around 800AD, Carib settlements dominate on the island.
American Indian groups of the Lesser Antilles and neighbouring South America (the Guianas and Venezuela); also the name of the largest family of South American Indian languages.
Essentially a maritime people, Island Carib were excellent navigators. They crossed much of the Caribbean in huge canoes, fitted with woven cloth sails, that held as many as 50 people.
With the arrival of European colonizers in the 17th century, the Island Carib were all but eradicated. Most of those who remained on the islands were absorbed into the Creole population, although there are still small Island Carib populations on the islands of Trinidad, Dominica, and Saint Vincent.
They generally live in small agricultural communities of several matrilineal kin groups and supplement their diet by fishing.
It was once believed that Christopher Columbus, on his fourth voyage to the West Indies in 1502, was the first European to set foot on Saint Lucia. But historians are now almost certain that he never landed on the island. One theory suggests that Juan de la Cosa, a little-known explorer, who traveled with Columbus on his first and second voyages, named the island. One of his maps shows a small island named El Falcon near where Saint Lucia is located.
The first European to settle was Francois Le Clerc, known as Jambe de Bois or Wooden Leg. He was a pirate who set himself up on Pigeon Island. From there he attacked passing Spanish ships. The Dutch established a base at Vieux-Fort around 1600.
The English first landed in 1605, having been blown off course on their way to Guyana aboard their vessel, the Olive Branch. Sixty-seven settlers landed and purchased huts from the Caribs. One month later only 19 were left and these were forced to flee from the Caribs in a canoe. A second futile attempt at colonization by the British was by Sir Thomas Warner in 1639.
The French arrived in 1651, when two representatives of the French West India Company bought the island. Eight years later, ownership disputes between the French and English ignited hostilities that would endure for 150 years. During this time, the island changed hands fourteen times; seven times British and seven times French. Saint Lucia was finally ceded to the British in 1814.
In 1746, the first town was established: Soufriére, a French settlement. By 1780, twelve French towns had been founded and the French built the first sugar estates. Within 15 years, 50 more estates were in operation. In 1780, a hurricane destroyed many plantations but with slave labour, the French quickly repaired the damage.
Wars between the English and French prevented the growth of large plantations and the sugar industry suffered heavily with the abolition of slavery in 1838. The industry finally died in the 1960’s.
The English first attacked Saint Lucia in 1778 after declaring war on France for aiding the Americans in the War of Independence. During this skirmish, known as the Battle of Cul de Sac, the English captured the island. They established a naval base at Gros Islet and fortified Pigeon Island.
The most memorable Anglo-French conflict was in 1780 when Admiral George Rodney sailed the English Navy out of Gros Islet Bay and attacked and descimated the pride of the French fleet under the command of Admiral Comte de Grasse. In 1796, after Castries was razed by fire, General Moore attacked the French on Morne Fortune overlooking the city. After two days of fighting, the 27th Inniskilling Regiment forced the French to surrender.
In 1838, Saint Lucia joined the Windward Islands with its seat of government in Barbados. In 1842, English became the island’s official language.
Saint Lucia moved towards independence in 1951 when suffrage was granted to all citizens over twenty-one. The Windward Islands adopted a new constitution and the seat of government moved to Grenada.
In 1958, Saint Lucia joined the West Indian Federation, which collapsed after only four years. In 1960, the island enacted a new constitution with the appointment of the first Ministers of Government.
This constitution expired in 1967 when England granted the island full self-government. Saint Lucia became completely independent from England on February 22, 1979.
For centuries St.Lucia's economic development was solely based on the harvesting of fruits and vegetables which our good soil, weather and people produced. Being agriculturally based, tree crops such as cocoa, bananas, coconuts and fruits such as mangoes, breadfruit, golden apples et. not only helped the economy but also provided good food for St.Lucia's people.
Although this was good for the St.Lucian economy it was not so good for the plant and wildlife of St.Lucia. Large tracts of land was cleared for cultivation, many trees cut down to produce charcoal to run the estates.
The first major crop to be utilized was the sugar cane. It was first introduced into St.Lucia in 1764 and the first sugar plantation was started near Vieux Fort in 1765. By 1789 there were 43 estates on the island growing sugar cane.
During this period thousands of slaves were brought into St.Lucia from West Africa to work on these plantations. In 1777, the population of St.Lucia was 19,000. Of this, 16,000 were slaves.
Almost all the estates had its own mill. Some operated by cattle, some by wind and some by steam. These mills were used to drive the machinery that crushed the sugar cane to get the juice that made the sugar. By 1843 there were 803 sugar estates in St.Lucia. Remains of these mills can be found all over St.Lucia.
A by-product of the mills was molasses. This is used to make rum, popular then and still more popular today. Although both the sugar and molasses are now imported.
Sugar beet was the start of the demise of the sugar plantations of St.Lucia. By 1896 almost all sugar imported into Europe was made from sugar beet. The arrival of a military base in Vieux fort in 1941 also helped in the demise by attracting many of the labourers that worked on the plantations. In 1957 a general strike was called at the larger estates, causing further downfall.
In 1516, a Spanish priest brought banana suckers to the Caribbean. He had seen
them growing in the Canary Islands off the north-west coast of Africa. He decided to experiment the possibility of the plant growing in another place. Very soon this strange new fruit was growing successfully in the West Indies. In Saint Lucia the main crops were sugar, copra and citrus. But slowly, as the ‘king’ crop – sugar, died out, the banana began pushing its way into the picture. By 1926, exports ahd risen to more than 46, 000 stema. As the crop became ‘king’, a disaster afected the banana plants causing many of them to die and thus the production went down. This disaster was cuased by the Panama disease.
New varieties which were resistant to the disease were introduced but many farmers were fearful that the plants would die. The Cul-de-Sac and Roseau valleys were still producing sugar until up in the late 1950s. Then both estates were bought by Geest, a large fruit exporter. In no time at all both valleys was a vast sea of bananas. Geest offered growers a guaranteed price for their bananas and regular shipment to England. Soon Saint Lucia became the biggest supplier of Bananas in the Winward Islands. Drivers would make eight to ten trips to the city where they would off load their bananas. Farmers from all over the island began to plant bananas on their plantation. For many years after, bananas became the main crop of export for Saint Lucia. And the only dependency to sustain Saint Lucia’s economy. Today, the price of banana has dropped and so has the production. Many factors contribute to the fact that bananas are not being planted as it was 50 years ago. Diseases, irrigation, availability of land, the price at which it is being sold, and the cost of production. These factors have forced farmers to give up while others are still producing bananas for export on a weekly basis.
Unlike sugar, banana production might have gone down but it is still being grown especially in the Roseau valley.
The French creole language of St.Lucia is an indigenous language spoken by the majority of St.Lucians.Developed by enslaved Africans living on the plantations during colonialism,the language is a product of cultural syncretism between African and European language cultures.Its syntax and phonology resembles that of Niger-Congo languages in West Africa.
Legally the language is not officially recognised in St.Lucia but it represents the heart and soul of the local populace. All St.Lucianshave access to the language although with varying levels of competence. Used in less formal communication, Kweyol is the language of popular expression. The official English language inherited from Europe stands apart from this indigenous French Creole language, known locally as Kweyol or Patwa.
The Month of October is 'Kweyol heritage' month where all things kweyol are celebrated. Part of these celebrations is Jounen Kweyol.
Jounen Kweyol celebrated in different communites where kweyol speaking people congreate to enjoy traditional foods eaten from a calabash, folklore, dance and cultural activities.
Activities includes traditional sawing of wood and the crushing of sugar cane. All kweyol speaking people are expected to use the language and no other on that day. Many people wear traditional clothing and use traditional utensils through-out the festivities.
Folk Research Center
Located off Calvary road with a panoramic view of Castries City and harbour, set on the crest of a hill the Folk Research Centre is a splendid property. Built in the mid 1800s,it is one of the few preserved 19th century structures left on the island. Some of its historic features include red bricks made of stone quarried 400 yards away, and a flight of spiral stairs attached to the northern side of the building, leading to a concrete yard seperating the servants quarters from the main structure.
The property is said to be one of the few Georgian aspects on the island and is a prime example ot the European/Caribbean architecture hybrid. The main building consists of two floors with an attachedpatio and surrounding verandah.
The stately approach to the property provides an instant historic experience as the natural ambience is enhanced by groundssurrounded with grass lawns,flowering plants and majestic trees including the Ficus, white cedar,and a variety of mango and palm.
A Canon found on the grounds indicates its position as a defensive military point, and remains of a windmill identified not far from the site points to the possibility that it was once a plantation house.
The first owner of the house was the son of a sottish immigrant, PJK Ferguson. Mr. Ferguson had the house built on this particular site because he wanted to escape the malaria infested city of Castries. After his death, his first son, Duncan,occupied the house. In his later years, Duncan Ferguson sold his property to ths Hon. George Williams, a member of the legislative Councilin the early 1900's. Who not long afterward sold it toMr Harold Devaux. A few years after his acquisition(1948), Mr Devaux began major renovations, adding a top storey. The great fire interrupted that work in the same year. It was not until1951 that renovations to the building were complted transforming what was an original bungalow into a structure that would later stand out as architecture influenced by Georgian and Victorian times.
On August 8th, 1993, that very same building was officially opened as the permanent home of the Folk Research Centre(FRC). The building is presently used as a resource centre providing research facilitiesand information on the cultural heritage of St.Lucia. Equipped with an audio-visual studio and library, all data collected is documented and preserved. Dissemination and access are facilitated through lecture sessions, multimedia presentations, community and school outreach programmes and permanent exhibitions mounted at the centre. The centre is one of a kind on the island.
St.Lucia Carnival 2016
It is a common assumption that carnival traditions were brought to colonies in the New World by Europeans. It is partly true of course, but the inspiration flowed even stronger from another part of the world. When looking at today’s street carnivals it is quite clear that ancient African traditions have had a very strong influence. The history of the carnival can be viewed from different angles, but one thing is sure: it is a result of a cross-cultural exchange that started centuries ago.
The St.Lucia Carnival is a colourful extravaganza of sight and sound. Steel bands rehearshing, Soca music fills the airwaves and Mas Camps are busy getting organised and designing their costumes.
Carnival event highlights include the Carnival Calypso Competition; crowning of the Carnival King and Queen; the Soca Monarch competition; the Junior Carnival celebration, the Panorama steel band competition; the comedic Ole Mas performances; and nightly traditional J'Ouvert Jam activities.
Jour Ouvert is a wild affair. The city of Castries is transformed into one large street party, where music and dancing are the order of the day.
On the final day all Mas bands parade through the streets of Castries and then on to Mindoo Phillip Park for judging. After which, carnival ends in numerous 'Last Lap' circuits round the city. For more info on St.Lucia Carnival 2016 Click here