Caribbean Roots

Mul­ti­ple hu­man forces have been at play in the Caribbean over the last 7,000 years and dis­cov­er­ing their legacy to­day is one of the great re­wards of trav­el­ling to the re­gion

Your Guide to the Caribbean - - Contents -

Few parts of the world of­fer so many di­verse cul­tures liv­ing side by side amid such gor­geous trop­i­cal scenery. And ev­ery Caribbean coun­try has com­pelling sights where you can con­nect with the past, from mil­i­tary forts and the ru­ins of su­gar mills to na­tional mu­se­ums and mon­u­ments that com­mem­o­rate the strug­gles, achieve­ments and per­son­al­i­ties that have helped shape the Caribbean we see to­day.

In the be­gin­ning

The first in­hab­i­tants of the Caribbean were Amerindi­ans and you can still see re­minders of their pres­ence. In An­guilla, the Foun­tain Cav­ern Na­tional Park has rock art dat­ing from 400 AD that was cre­ated by the Arawaks in what is con­sid­ered the old­est cave used for rit­ual cer­e­monies in the re­gion. In south­ern Guyana, Makatau moun­tain has over 600 of their pet­ro­glyphs, dat­ing from 30005000 BC. The de­scen­dants of the Arawaks’ suc­ces­sors, the Caribs, sur­vive in the Kali­nago Ter­ri­tory on Do­minica, where you can visit a recre­ated tra­di­tional vil­lage, Kali­nago Barana Autê, to learn about their cul­ture. The Caguana Cer­e­mo­nial Ball Courts Site in Puerto Rico dates back to the in­dige­nous Taíno peo­ple in the 13th-15th cen­turies, while The Ba­hamas’ Clifton Her­itage Na­tional Park has a replica hut re­call­ing the days of the is­lands’ first set­tlers, the Lu­cayans.

The jun­gles of Belize con­tain a wealth of Mayan ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites, in­clud­ing Cara­col with its mag­nif­i­cent stepped pyra­mid ris­ing to 140ft (42m).

A new world

The ar­rival of Euro­peans in the late 15th cen­tury, start­ing with the Span­ish and soon fol­lowed by the Bri­tish, French and Dutch, trans­formed the re­gion and has left a trea­sury of his­toric sites to ex­plore.

Cuba’s cap­i­tal, Ha­vana, is richly stocked with Span­ish colo­nial ar­chi­tec­ture, in­clud­ing the mas­sive For­taleza de San Car­los de la Cabaña, which was com­pleted in 1774.

On St. Eus­tatius, Oran­jes­tad is home to the ru­ins of a Dutch Re­formed Church orig­i­nally built in 1755, while Willem­stad in Cu­raçao has ex­am­ples of well-pre­served Dutch build­ings from both the 17th and 18th cen­turies.

The rem­nants of mil­i­tary forts sur­vive on the French is­lands of Mar­tinique and Saint-martin, while Fort Am­s­ter­dam, which dates from 1631, is a re­minder of Dutch rule in St. Maarten.

Links with Bri­tish colo­nial rule live on in Bar­ba­dos at Gar­ri­son Sa­van­nah in Bridgetown, where mil­i­tary build­ings and a horse-rac­ing course from 1845 are still in use to­day.

On Ja­maica, Green­wood Great House is a grand au­then­ti­cally fur­nished plan­ta­tion owner’s res­i­dence, built in the 1800’s. Other na­tions that have left their mark in­clude the Ir­ish in Montser­rat, where St Pa­trick’s Day is an an­nual pub­lic hol­i­day. Never to be for­got­ten, the stain of slav­ery is re­mem­bered in the Pom­pey Mu­seum of Slav­ery and Eman­ci­pa­tion in Nas­sau, in The Ba­hamas, while the Amaz­ing Grace Ex­pe­ri­ence Vis­i­tor Cen­tre on St. Kitts re­veals the is­land’s con­nec­tion to this fa­mous and in­spi­ra­tional hymn.

The colos­sal Ci­tadelle La­fer­rière in Haiti bears phys­i­cal tes­ta­ment to the slave rev­o­lu­tion of 1804 that lead to the for­ma­tion of the world’s first in­de­pen­dent black re­pub­lic.

On the west coast of Trinidad, the In­dian Caribbean Mu­seum doc­u­ments the his­tory of East In­di­ans in the Caribbean, while daily life on a small is­land is poignantly cap­tured in The Her­itage Col­lec­tion Mu­seum in An­guilla. Else­where, many des­ti­na­tions also

have trails and na­tional mu­se­ums that re­veal their com­plex his­tory, such as the Georgetown Her­itage Trail in the cap­i­tal of Guyana and the Na­tional Mu­seum and Art Gallery of Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain with its haul of ar­ti­facts.

He­roes and lead­ers

Many re­mark­able in­di­vid­u­als have left their stamp on the Caribbean – start­ing with the lo­cal cur­rency in your pocket. In Ja­maica, Queen Nanny – leader of the Ma­roon com­mu­nity of run­away slaves – fea­tures on its 500-dol­lar bill, while Ne­vis- na­tive Alexan­der Hamil­ton, who rose to be­come the United States’ first Sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury, is por­trayed on its 10-dol­lar bill.

In Bar­ba­dos, Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton House is named af­ter the first US Pres­i­dent, who stayed here in 1751, while the Bri­tish Naval com­man­der Ho­ra­tio Nel­son is re­mem­bered in Nel­son’s Dock­yard in An­tigua. On St. Eus­tatius, the St Eus­tatius His­tor­i­cal Foun­da­tion Mu­seum oc­cu­pies the re­stored 18th­cen­tury house of Si­mon Don­cker, a wealthy Dutch mer­chant.

More lat­ter-day he­roes (and hero­ines) are cel­e­brated in Ha­vana’s Fidel Cas­tro Mu­seum in Cuba and Kingston’s Bob Mar­ley Mu­seum in Ja­maica, while sports and mu­sic stars are of­ten ac­knowl­edged out on the streets. In Gre­nada, Ki­rani James Boule­vard cel­e­brates the is­land’s Olympic medal­win­ning sprinter while last year, Ri­hanna Drive – a trib­ute to the su­per­star pop singer and proud is­land na­tive – was un­veiled in Bar­ba­dos. •

The ar­rival of Euro­peans in the late 15th cen­tury, start­ing with the Span­ish and soon fol­lowed by the Bri­tish, French and Dutch, trans­formed the re­gion

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