Saint Lucia is an island in the Caribbean Sea. It is the second largest of the Windward group.
The vast majority of the inhabitants of the island are black and there is a small minority of people of mixed heritage. The remainder are whites or of East Indian extraction. A French patois is spoken by most of the inhabitants but is being gradually supplanted by English, the official language.
St Lucia’s national dish consists of green bananas and salt fish locally known as green figs and saltfish. This dish has its roots in 19th-century slavery when bananas were plentiful and dried, salted codfish was imported cheaply from Canada to serve as rations for slaves.
Breadfruit and saltfish is also an alternative favourite among the St Lucians. Other speciality dishes include a dish known as bouyon, which is a thick red beans one-pot soup meal made of meat, ground provisions and vegetables. Other popular local dishes include callaloo, Accra, green fig salad, a traditional breakfast spiced hot drink called cocoa tea and bakes which are very similar to Johnny cakes.
Saint Lucia was first known as “Louanalao” by the Arawak Indians in 200 AD, meaning “Island of the Iguanas,” and then “Hewanorra,” in 800 AD when the Carib Indians arrived and assimilated their culture into Saint Lucia.
The Caribs lived on Saint Lucia until the 1600s when settlers attempted to take control of the island to boost European trade.
Road to colonisation
Christopher Columbus, named the island Saint Lucia when he sighted it on St Lucy’s day in 1502. After unsuccessful early attempts by the Spanish to take control, possession of the island was disputed, often bloodily, by the French and British.
Around 1600, the Dutch started the first European camp, at what is now Vieux Fort. The Caribs pushed them out.
In 1605, an English vessel called the Olive Branch was blown off-course on its way to Guyana, and the 67 colonists started a settlement on Saint Lucia. After five weeks, only 19 survived, because of disease and conflict with the Caribs, so they fled the island.
In 1635, the French officially claimed the island but didn’t settle it. Instead, it was the English who attempted the next European settlement in 1639, but the Caribs wiped them out too. In 1643, a French expedition sent out from Martinique by Jacques Dyel du Parquet, the governor of Martinique, established a permanent settlement on the island. He appointed an experienced French officer named De Rousselan as the island’s governor. De Rousselan had married a Carib wife, a fact that du Parquet must have thought would ingratiate him with the Caribs of St. Lucia. De Rousselan remained in post until his death in 1654.
In 1664, Thomas Warner (son of the governor of St Kitts) claimed Saint Lucia for England. He brought 1,000 men to defend it from the French, but after two years, only 89 survived, mostly because of disease. In 1666 the French West India Company resumed control of the island, which in 1674 was made an official French crown colony as a dependency of Martinique.
The British made further attempts to gain control, and the island changed hands again and again and was a focus for Anglo-French hostilities during the Seven Years’ War.
During the war, Britain occupied Saint Lucia in 1762 but gave the island back at the Treaty of Paris on 10 February 1763. Britain occupied the island again in 1778 after the Grand Battle of Cul de Sac during the American Revolutionary War.
The British developed a prosperous plantation economy based on sugar and imported enslaved African’s to do the work. Conditions were harsh, and many African slaves died, requiring continued importation of new captives.
By 1779, the island’s population had increased to 19,230, which included 16,003 slaves working 44 sugar plantations.
The British abolished the African slave trade in 1807. They acquired Saint Lucia permanently in 1814. It was not until 1834 that they abolished the institution of slavery. Even after abolition, all former slaves had to serve a four-year “apprenticeship,” during which they had to work for free for their former masters for at least three-quarters of the workweek. They achieved full freedom in 1838. By that time, people of African ethnicity outnumbered those of ethnic European background. Some people of Carib descent also comprised a minority on the island.
Road to independence
The island was a member of the Windward Islands Federation until 1959. In 1959, Saint Lucia joined the West Indies Federation, under which it was proposed that the British Caribbean countries should proceed to independence as a federation. Disagreements among the larger members led to the dissolution of the federation in 1962, and the larger members proceeded alone to independence.
In the West Indies Act of 1967, Saint Lucia received a new constitution, giving full internal self-government under universal franchise, as one of the states of the Federated States of the Antilles.
On 22 February 1979, Saint Lucia became independent, as a constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth, with John Compton of the United Workers Party as its first Prime Minister, and Sir Allen Montgomery Lewis as its first Governor-General.
The island is one of the more prosperous in the Eastern Caribbean. It has attracted foreign business and investment, especially in its offshore banking and tourism industries. Tourism is Saint Lucia’s primary source of jobs and income. The manufacturing sector is the most diverse in the Eastern Caribbean area. Crops such as bananas, mangos, and avocados continue to be grown for export, but St. Lucia’s once solid banana industry has been devastated by strong competition.
More about Saint Lucia