One of the main reasons I came here was to explore a new culture. Although similar to the UK in some ways, Barbados has a distinct personality that comes out in the land, the people, and many places of interest. Reading about their road to independence felt rather topical in light of the recent EU referendum (NB: goodbye spending money!).
Barbados (from the Spanish los Barbados, ‘the bearded ones’ – allegedly describing the first Caribs) is a fairly small island at just 21 miles long, but has changed hands a lot. Originally it was inhabited by Amerindians from the Americas, then briefly visited by Spanish and Portugese, before finally being claimed in the name of King James I by English sailors of the Olive Blossom. It became independent state of the Commonwealth realm in 1966.
Walking around, you don’t have to look far to see British influence. Cars drive on the left, postboxes bear a royal logo, and there are a lot of places that pay homage such as Queen’s Park, created in honour of Queen Victoria. Originally, the area housed the British military general, back in a time where the island served as a key vantage point for skirmishes with neighbouring French or Spanish-held islands. Now, it’s a beautiful green space with many interesting things to visit, like this supposedly thousand-year-old Boabab tree, the seed of which is thought to have drifted over from Africa:
Another interesting place I came across was the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. This had a great section on natural history, explaining the progression of endemic species (plants and animals that had existed nowhere else in the world than in Barbados) towards a mixed habitat that included several invaders brought aboard ships. Several strange cross-fertilisations are thought to have occurred on the island, and it is unofficially credited with the creation of the grapefruit.
The main focus of their exhibits however were on the people of Barbados. With Britain as a model, the first hospitals, schools and police force were made with more nods to the monarchy. The emancipation of slavery of course makes up a great deal of the island’s history too, and this was sensitively and clearly explained.
In light of the Brexit saga today, what really interests me about seeing all of this is getting a glimpse of how Britain was viewed in the past. It was a huge body with many ‘assets’ to protect in the New World, and it took centuries for places like Barbados to move towards sovereign independence. But this is certainly not the case anymore. What was once a sprawling empire is now a very, very small part of a much bigger world.
I am very allergic to both politics and religion, but I can’t help but dimly remember a story from the drawl that was CoE primary schooling, the ‘Tower of Babel’:
Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.
And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.
And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.
Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city.
Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
To me, whether you’re trying to build a stairway to heaven or just get some cheaper flights to Germany, there is no use at all in pushing the world apart.