In 1635 French settlers tried to get a foothold on the island but they were repulsed by the Caribs. In 1660 the French and the British agreed to leave the island to the Caribs but French settlers established coffee plantations there at the end of the century and France sent a Governor to take possession of the island in 1720.
Then of course, the British attacked and the island changed hands several times until it was finally given to the British by the Treaty of Paris in 1763.
The British established sugar plantations where they could with more or less success because of the mountainous terrain. Neglect and underdevelopment provoked social unrest during most of the 19th century. In 1905 the Caribs were granted a measure of self government within the confines of a 3700 acre reserve on the north east coast.
The island is still one of the poorest of the region. Only one quarter of the land is cultivable the main productions being bananas for export and coconuts for oil and soap. Dominica is still the least tourist infested of the Antilles but that is changing rapidly.
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First, a picture of the unavoidable cruise ship seen from the high speed ferry upon arrival.
Here is a close-up of the Sun Princess, just to be sure that you have seen the size of this monster.
The Administration Building with the Post Office and the British Trade and Commerce Bank face the high speed ferry dock.
Here is a view of the waterfront seen from the cruise ship dock.
A typical Roseau house on Long Lane.
Here is a nice green one on Cork Street.
And one with orange shutters on the corner of King's Lane and Field Lane.
This Cable and Wireless office at the junction of Long Lane, Hanover Street and King George Street offered Internet access but it was very expensive.
A traditional Caribbean "chattel house" still stands on the corner of Old and Great Marlborough Streets next to the Kent Anthony Guest House.
After the abolition of slavery in 1834 the ex-slaves working as farm laborers could own a house located on plantation land provided that it could be dismantled or moved to another location if the laborer quit. They were known as "chattel houses" for they could be moved along with any other chattels.
In Roseau, I stayed in the Bon marché Guest House for 21 $US a night. It had three rooms sharing a kitchen, dining room and the balcony seen here on the central white building.
I always get along well with other travellers in places like this because it's so interesting to exchange anecdotes and tips on backpacking. This time however I was unlucky. A couple, Martin and Ossa, had taken over the place as their own and resented having to share it when I arrived. They were real bastards and made life difficult. I mention this even though I prefer to forget the details just to introduce the realism that backpacking around the world is not always as wonderful as I seem to remember when I get back home.
This young woman in the Roseau market, showing me a piece of the home-made raw chocolate that she was selling, was amused that I had not known what it was.
Below left, mother and daughter selling eggs and on the right, a vegetable merchant.
The town, a few kms north of Roseau, is called "Massacre" in memory of the ruthless massacre of an entire tribe of 80 Carib Indians by British troops in 1674.
The warlike Caribs, migrating into the islands from South America around 1200 AD, eradicated the more civilised, peaceful Arawak tribes who had preceded them more than a thousand years earlier. They resisted the European's arrival and were almost completely eliminated by the Spanish, the French and the British when they could not impose forced labor on them.
St-Joseph, another 5 kms north.
Dominica did not interest the Spanish, who were looking for gold. The French, and later the British, established coffee and sugar plantations on the most fertile slopes, crowding out the Caribs to the north-west coast where 3000 of their descendants still survive.
It's amazing how cruise ship passengers can be manipulated into lining up for banal attractions like a rowboat ride up the Indian River along with ten other boats filled with noisy jabbering tourists just waiting to be rewarded at the other end with a glass of cheap rum punch for having endured the ordeal.
Portsmouth, on sweeping Prince Rupert Bay, is the island's second largest town.
There is not much to see around here except the ruins of Fort Shirley on nearby Cabrits point where a small cruise ship complex has been set up. That explains how a rowboat ride up Indian River can become an attraction.
Most of the north-west is too hilly for sugar cane but the jungle is lush with vegetation.
Coconut and banana plantations replace cane in this part of the island. It is not surprising that bananas grown here on small hilly lots cannot compete with the large flat industrial plantations of Costa Rica and Honduras where labour costs are minimal.
The one flat stretch of land around the Melvile Hall River is taken up by the airport of the same name built here, for a reason that is not obvious, far from Roseau and from Portsmouth.
This house, on the way to the fishing village of Marigot, reflects the lesser economic development of the north-east.
The rugged north-east shore is exposed to Atlantic winds and occasionally ravaged by hurricanes.
Salybia is the main settlement in the 3 700 acre Carib Territory reserve established in 1907.
This roadside modern approximation of the traditional oval "Carbet", collective housing of an extended family group, is periodically visited by cruise ship passenger groups.
After the Carbet visit, tour groups are brought here to shop for souvenirs.
Most of the Caribs on the reserve live in precarious conditions from their handicrafts or by growing bananas and breadfruit.
Some however become relatively prosperous like the family living in this house in Sineku village.
Lewis Dupigny, who brought me back to Roseau from Salybia was a successful Carib with his own minivan and good connections with the tourist agencies.
He was living on the reserve in Bataca village and could still speak the Carib language. He explained however that his tongue was not being taught and would soon disappear for it did not interest today's young Caribs. He was taking it philosophically but It saddened me.
I don't think I'm being overly sentimental to think that the extinction of a culture is like the disappearance of a species. Most people would feel sad if Pandas became extinct, so why not have feeling for the loss of cultural diversity?