Antigua is an island in the West Indies, in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean region, the main island of the country of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua means "ancient" in Spanish and was named by Christopher Columbus after an icon in Seville Cathedral, Santa Maria de la Antigua—St. Mary the Ancient. It is also known as Wadadli, from the original Amerindian inhabitants, and means approximately "our own". The island's circumference is roughly 87 km (54 mi) and its area 281 km2 (108 sq mi). Its population was estimated at 86,754 (July 2010). The economy is mainly reliant on tourism, with the agricultural sector serving the domestic market.
Over 31,000 people live in the capital city, St. John's, at 17°6'N 61°45'W. The capital is situated in the north-west and has a deep harbour which is able to accommodate large cruise ships. Other leading population settlements are All Saints (3,412) and Liberta (2,239), according to the 2001 census.
English Harbour on the south-eastern coast is famed for its protected shelter during violent storms. It is the site of a restored British colonial naval station called "Nelson's Dockyard" after Captain Horatio Nelson. Today English Harbour and the neighbouring village of Falmouth are internationally famous as a yachting and sailing destination and provisioning centre. During Antigua Sailing Week, at the end of April and beginning of May, the annual world-class regatta brings many sailing vessels and sailors to the island to play sports.
Antigua's economy is reliant upon tourism, and it markets itself as a luxury Caribbean escape. Antigua is also supported by the growing medical school and its students. Many hotels and resorts are located around the coastline, and the island's single airport is serviced by several major airlines including Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, US Airways, American Airlines, Continental, Delta Air Lines, Caribbean Airlines and Air Canada.
The only regular service to Barbuda flies from VC Bird Airport. The United States Air Force maintains a small base near the airport as part of its Eastern Range, used for space missions and communications.
The University of Health Sciences Antigua (UHSA) and the American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine teach aspiring doctors.
The country's official currency is the East Caribbean dollar. However, many prices in tourist-oriented businesses are shown in US dollars. The EC dollar is pegged to the US dollar at a fixed rate of $1 US = $2.7169 EC.
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Antigua's history, rich in intrigue, is well-known among maritime buffs and English scholars. Prior to European colonialism, however, the first residents were the Ciboney Indians, who inhabited the island for several thousand years before mysteriously departing. Pastoral Arawak Indians settled here before being replaced by the Caribs, the last group to inhabit the island before it was taken over by Europeans. That occurred in 1493, when Christopher Columbus spotted Antigua on his second voyage. Life did not change dramatically for nearly 150 years after, though, as the Caribs resisted any European efforts to colonise.
The Arawaks were the first well-documented group of Antiguans. This group paddled to the island by canoe (piragua) from Venezuela, ejected by the Caribs—another people indigenous to the area. Arawaks introduced agriculture to Antigua and Barbuda, raising, among other crops, the famous Antiguan "Black" pineapple. They also cultivated various other foods including:
Some of the vegetables listed, such as corn and sweet potatoes, still play an important role in Antiguan cuisine. For example, a popular Antiguan dish, dukuna (/'du?ku?n??/), is a sweet, steamed dumpling made from grated sweet potatoes, flour and spices. One of the Antiguan staple foods, fungi (/'fu?nd?i/), is a cooked paste made of cornmeal and water.
The bulk of the Arawaks left Antigua about A.D. 1100. Those who remained were subsequently raided by the Caribs. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, the Caribs' superior weapons and seafaring prowess allowed them to defeat most Arawak nations in the West Indies. They enslaved some and cannibalised others. The Catholic Encyclopedia does note that the European invaders had difficulty identifying and differentiating between the various native peoples they encountered. As a result, the number and types of ethnic/tribal/national groups at the time may have been more varied and numerous than the two mentioned in this article.
The indigenous West Indians made excellent sea vessels which they used to sail the Atlantic and Caribbean. As a result, Caribs and Arawaks populated much of South American and the Caribbean Islands. Relatives of the Antiguan Arawaks and Caribs still live in various countries in South America, notably Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia. The smaller remaining native populations in the West Indies maintain a pride in their heritage.
Christopher Columbus named the island "Antigua" in 1493 in honour of the Virgin of La Antigua, found in the Seville Cathedral in southern Spain. A common practice for Spanish explorers was to name newly discovered areas after Catholic saints. San Juan in Puerto Rico, Santiago in Hispaniola, as well as Santa Barbara, San Diego, and San Francisco in the United States are examples of this custom.
In 1632, a group of English colonists left St. Kitts to settle in Antigua. Sir Christopher Codrington, an Englishman, established the first permanent European settlement. From that point on, Antigua history took a dramatic turn. Codrington guided development on the island as a profitable sugar colony. For a large portion of Antigua history, the island was considered Britain's "Gateway to the Caribbean". It was located on the major sailing routes among the region's resource-rich colonies. Lord Horatio Nelson, a major figure in Antigua history, arrived in the late 18th century to preserve the island's commercial shipping prowess.
According to A Brief History of the Caribbean, European and African diseases, malnutrition and slavery eventually destroyed the vast majority of the Caribbean's native population. No researcher has conclusively proven any of these causes as the real reason for the destruction of West Indian natives. In fact, some historians believe that the psychological stress of slavery may also have played a part in the massive number of native deaths while in servitude. Others believe that the reportedly abundant, but starchy, low-protein diet may have contributed to severe malnutrition of the "Indians" who were used to a diet fortified with protein from sea-life.
Sugar became Antigua's main crop in about 1674, when Christopher Codrington settled at Betty's Hope Estate. He came from Barbados, bringing the latest sugar technology with him. Betty's Hope, Antigua's first full-scale sugar plantation, was so successful that other planters turned from tobacco to sugar. This resulted in their importing tens of thousands of slaves, as sugar cultivation and processing was labour intensive.
According to A Brief History of the Caribbean, many West Indian colonists initially tried to use Indians and whites as slaves. Unfortunately, these groups succumbed easily to disease and/or malnutrition, and died by the thousands. The African slaves had the misfortune of adapting well to the new environment; and thus became the number one choice of "unpaid labour." In fact, the slaves thrived physically and also provided medical services, and skilled labour, such as carpentry for their slave masters.
Today, collectors prize the uniquely designed "colonial" furniture created by West Indian slaves. Many of these works feature what are now considered "traditional" motifs, such as pineapples, fish and stylised serpents.
According to "A history of Antigua" by Bran Dyde, by the mid 1770s, the number of slaves had increased to 37,500 from 12,500 in 1713, whereas the white population had fallen from 5000 to below 3000. The slaves lived in wretched and overcrowded conditions, and could be mistreated or even killed by their owners with impunity. The Slave Act of 1723 made arbitrary murder of slaves illegal, but did not do much to ease their lives.
Unrest among the slaves became increasingly common. In 1729, a slave named Hercules was hanged, drawn and quartered, and three others burnt alive, for conspiring to kill the slave owner Crump and his family. In 1736, a slave called "Prince Klaas" (whose real name was Court) planned an uprising in which whites would be massacred. Court was crowned "King of the Coromantees" in a pasture outside the capital of St. John's, in what white observers thought was a colourful spectacle, but was for the slaves a ritual declaration of war on the whites. Due to information obtained from other slaves, colonists discovered the plot and suppressed it. Prince Klaas and four accomplices were caught and executed by the breaking wheel. Six slaves were hanged in chains and starved to death, and another fifty-eight were burned at the stake. The site of these executions is now the Antiguan Recreation Ground.
The American War of Independence in the late eighteenth century disrupted the Caribbean sugar trade. At the same time public opinion in Britain gradually turned against slavery. Great Britain abolished the slave trade in 1808, and all existing slaves were emancipated in 1834.
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson (who was not created Viscount Nelson until 1801) was Senior Naval Officer of the Leeward Islands from 1784 to 1787 on H.M.S. Boreas. During his tenure, he tried to enforce the Navigation Acts. These acts prohibited trade with the newly formed United States of America. Most of the merchants in Antigua depended upon American trade, so many of them despised Captain Nelson. As a result, he was unable to get a promotion for some time after his stint on the island.
Unlike the Antiguan merchants, Nelson had a positive view of the Navigation Acts. The following quote from The Life of Horatio Lord Nelson by Robert Southey sums up his views about the controversial Navigation Acts:
The Americans were at this time trading with our islands, taking advantage of the register of their ships, which had been issued while they were British subjects. Nelson knew that, by the Navigation Act, no foreigners, directly or indirectly, are permitted to carry on any trade with these possessions. He knew, also, that the Americans had made themselves foreigners with regard to England; they had disregarded the ties of blood and language when they acquired the independence which they had been led on to claim, unhappily for themselves before they were fit for it; and he was resolved that they should derive no profit from those ties now. Foreigners they had made themselves, and as foreigners they were to be treated.
Southey then quotes Nelson as saying that "The Antiguan Colonists are as great rebels as ever were in America, had they the power to show it."
A dockyard started in 1725, to provide a base for a squadron of British ships whose main function was to patrol the West Indies and thus maintain Britain's sea power, was later named "Nelson's Dockyard" in his honour.
While Nelson was stationed on Antigua, he frequently visited the nearby island of Nevis, where he met and married a young widow, Fanny Nisbet, who had previously married the son of a plantation family on Nevis.
In 1967, with Barbuda and the tiny island of Redonda as dependencies, Antigua became an associated state of the Commonwealth, and in 1981 it was disassociated from Britain. The country was then led by what many describe as an elected family dynasty, with Vere C. Bird, the first prime minister, having been succeeded in 1993 by Lester B. Bird, his son, who retained the post until 2004.
The ethnic distribution consist of 91% Black, Mulatto and mixed Black/Amerindian, 4.4% Other Mixed Race, 1.7% White, 2.9% Other (primarily East Indian and Asian). The majority of the white population is ethnically Irish and British, and Portuguese. There are also Christian Levantine Arabs (primarily of Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian descent) and a small population of Asians and Sephardic Jews.
Behind the late twentieth century reviving and re-specifying of the place of African-Antiguans and Barbudans in the cultural life of the society, is a history of race/ethnic relations that systematically excluded them. A colonial framework was established by the English soon after their initial settlement of Antigua in 1623.
Mixed-race relationships and later immigration resulted by the late nineteenth century in the emergence of five distinct and carefully ranked race/ethnic groups. At the top of this hierarchy were the British, who justified their hegemony with arguments of white supremacy and civilizing missions. Among themselves, there were divisions between British Antiguans and non-creolised British, with the latter coming out on top. In short, this was a race/ethnic hierarchy that gave maximum recognition to Anglicised persons and cultural practices.
Immediately below the British, were the mulattoes, a mixed-race group resulting from unions between, generally, white European males and enslaved black African women, many of which took place in the years before the expansion of slave population. Mulattoes were lighter in shade than the masses of black Africans. Some white fathers had their sons educated or trained in crafts. They sometimes benefited them in other ways, which led to the development of a separate class. Mulattoes gradually distinguished themselves from the masses of enslaved black Africans. They developed complex ideologies of shade to legitimate their claims to higher status. These ideologies of shade paralleled in many ways British ideologies of white supremacy.
Next in this hierarchy were the Portuguese— 2500 of whom migrated as workers from Madeira between 1847 and 1852 because of a severe famine. Many established small businesses and joined the ranks of what was by then the mulatto middle class. The British never really considered Portuguese as their equals, so they were not allowed into their ranks. Among Portuguese Antiguans and Barbudans, status differences move along a continuum of varying degrees of assimilation into the Anglicised practices of the dominant group.
Below the Portuguese were the Middle Easterners, who began migrating to Antigua and Barbuda around the turn of the twentieth century. Starting as itinerant traders, they soon worked their way into the middle strata of the society. Although Middle Easterners came from a variety of areas in the Middle East, as a group they are usually referred to as Syrians.
Fifth and finally were the African-Antiguans and Barbudans who were located at the bottom of this hierarchy. Transported as slaves, Africans started arriving in Antigua and Barbuda in large numbers during the 1670s. Very quickly they came to constitute the majority of the population. As they entered this hierarchy, Africans were profoundly racialised. They ceased being Ashantee,Ewe,Yoruba and became Negroes or Blacks other African nationals make up the population of Antigua & Barbuda.
In the 20th century, the colonial hierarchy gradually began to be subversed as a result of universal education and better economic opportunity. This process gave rise to blacks reaching the highest strata of society and government.
In the last decade, Spanish-speaking immigrants from the Dominican Republic and African-Caribbean immigrants from Guyana and Dominica have been added to this ethnic mosaic. As new immigrants often fleeing poverty and political unrest, they have entered at the bottom of the hierarchy. It is still too early to predict what their patterns of assimilation and social mobility will be.
Today, an increasingly large percentage of Antiguans have migrated abroad, most notably to the United Kingdom (Antiguan Britons), United States and Canada. A minority of Antiguan residents are immigrants from other countries, particularly Dominica, Guyana and Jamaica, with an increasing number of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ghana, and Nigeria. There is also a significant population of American citizens estimated at 4500 people, one of the largest American citizen populations in the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean.
Almost all Antiguans are Christians (74%, with the Anglican Church (about 44%) being the largest denomination. Catholicism is the other significant denomination, with the remainder being other Protestants: including Methodists, Moravians, Pentecostals and Seventh-Day Adventists. There are also Jehovah's Witnesses. Non-Christian religions practiced on the islands include Rastafari, Islam, Judaism, and Baha'i.
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