In 1675 a Dutch slave ship was shipwrecked between St Vincent and Bequia. Only the slaves survived. They interbred with the Caribs and multiplied to give rise to "Black Caribs" also known as Garifuna with their own identity and culture.
The Caribs and Garifuna managed to resist white colonisation until the early 1700's when they allowed French settlers to grow tobacco, indigo, cotton and sugar. The British were not far behind and control of the island changed hands several times until it was definitely ceded to them in 1783.
The Black Caribs rebelled and repeatedly tried to oust the British but they were crushed in 1797 and more than 5000 of them were deported to the island of Roatan off Honduras in a repeat performance of the "ethnic cleansing" they carried out on 8000 French settlers in Atlantic Canada in 1755. The Garifuna spread their distinctive culture in Central America as the Cajuns did in Louisiana, both living testimonies of British civilisation in the 18th century.
After the abolition of slavery in 1834 the sugar industry was maintained thanks to foreign laborers but it never thrived because of the planters reluctance to adopt the large scale operations that made Cuba and Saint Domingue more competitive (mills producing more than 2000 tons instead of less than 50 tons a year). Now, agriculture is still the main activity but bananas, arrowroot and coconuts have replaced sugar.
St Vincent is an independent member of the British Commonwealth.
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Bird's eye view of Kingstown from the plane that brought me from St-Lucia.
I took this photo of Villa and Young Island as we were circling to land at the Joshua airport (upper left).
Villa is a fashionable seaside suburb with a dozen small hotels.
Young Island in front of Villa Beach is private property accessible only to guests of the exclusive (and expensive), Young Island Resort.
Looking south. Hotels on the Villa Beach waterfront are also expensive.
Looking north towards Indian Bay. Less expensive hotels and inns can be found around Indian Bay and near the airport.
And here is the daily cruise ship.
The police headquarters occupy one the most handsome old buildings of downtown Kingstown.
Grenville street is one of three important east-west streets of the downtown area. The other two are Lower Bay and Middle streets.
This large elegant building that looks like a major hotel, concert hall, or a museum is only the local market!
Here is a typical average Caribbean home of the last century (20th).
I stayed in the Bella Vista Guest House in the hills above the city centre. It belonged to a prosperous Rastafarian couple, "Nzinga" who managed it during the day and "Bongo" who spent most of his time on their farm.
Bongo was recognised as a priest in the Rastafarian community. He explained to me that there was a wide range of many different kinds of Rastafarians from the believers who accept the dogma of the various Rastafarian sects (Twelve Tribes of Israel, Nyabingi, etc.) to those for whom Rastafarianism is a political statement of resistance to white supremacy, to a minority of others who use dreadlocks and the Rastafarian style as a cover for their antisocial activities.
I took this photo of Layou from the minivan that brought me to Chateaubelair on Petit Bordel Bay, about 25 kms north of Kingstown.
Layou is a small fishing village not yet spoiled by tourism.
The somewhat larger village of Barrouaillie (pronounced Barrelly), further up the west coast is also relatively free of tourists.
Fishing is still the principal economic activity in Barrouaillie.
Here is another view of Barrouaillie's beach with fishing boats and nets.
There are magnificent views all the way up the western coast. Two or three sailboats in this lovely bay just add to the beauty of the scene. Twenty or thirty would destroy it.
Beyond these small islands lie Petit Bordel Bay and Chateaubelair.
Chateaubelair is a large fishing village almost at the end of the road (that stops a few kms further at Richmond Beach). It seems that tourists all swarm south to Villa Beach and Indian Bay for I did not see any up here.
I was enchanted by my trip up here not only by the beauty of this rough coast but more importantly by the absence of souvenir shops, quick food stands, improvised guides and greedy taxi drivers. I felt like a person... not a walking bank.
Back in Kingstown I decided to make a day trip to Bequia to see one of the famous Grenadine islands. I took this small ferry for the short one hour crossing.
There were many sailboats anchored in Admiralty Bay in front of Port Elizabeth.
Some small, some big like this three masted schooner.
Port Elizabeth was no larger than Chateaubelair but it was immediately obvious that the catch here did not consist of fish but of tourists.
Shops lining the street in front of the ferry dock offered everything needed to sail around the Grenadines from groceries to marine equipment.
The south shore of Admiralty Bay is lined with restaurants and bars to provide the sailing crowd a change of fare and entertainment.
Compact, clean, efficient Port Elizabeth has everything, including a fish market.
Bequia even has a boatyard where you can have your boat repaired restored and outfitted for your next vacation cruise.
I certainly would have been enthusiastic about Bequia had I had been sailing around the world but I travel with a backpack so I felt like a misfit...
Back in Kingstown I said adieu to my Rastafarian hosts and flew to Bridgetown, Barbados.