Sunday, June 8, 2008
Anguilla, today a British overseas territory in the Caribbean, is located in the Caribbean Sea, the northern most island in the Leeward Island chain. It was a paradise, a lush island covered in dense rain forest, and it was first settled by peaceful tribes who slowly island hopped by raft or dugout canoe from the Orinoco region on the South American continent. They called the place Malliouhana, which meant arrow-shape sea serpent and they developed villages, farms and ceremonial sites to their gods.
In time the island was also "discovered" by Europeans. In 1493 the Italian explorer Cristoforo Colombo sailed by, but he never landed on the island. The French first visited it in 1564. According to tradition, Columbo gave the small, narrow island its current name because from a distance it resembled an eel (in Italian, anguilla). It is also possible that French navigator Pierre Laudonnière gave the island its name from the French anguille.
The first English settlers arrived from Saint Kitts - 70 miles to the southeast - in 1650. By this time the original people of the island had vanished, probably wiped out by disease, pirates, and the French. They found that the now uninhabited island's soil was good for growing corn and tobacco, so they established plantations. Thereafter, for the next 150 years or so, Anguilla, like other Caribbean islands, was caught in a power struggle between the English and the French, both nations seeking to gain control of the area and its highly profitable trade routes and cash crops.
The English triumphed in retaining control of the island and Anguilla was administered by Great Britain until the early 19th century, when the island - against the wishes of the inhabitants - was incorporated into a single British dependency, along with Saint Kitts and Nevis.
In 1967, Britain sought to loosen its colonial ties by lumping Anguilla into an alignment with the islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, the nearest British dependencies. The intent was for the three islands to form a new Caribbean nation, the Associated State of St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, with Britain continuing to hold the reins on foreign affairs and defense.
Anguillians wanted no part of the new state, which they viewed as subjugation to St. Kitts, their more powerful neighbour. Union with St. Kitts had done nothing for Anguilla's infrastructure; up to 1967 there were no paved roads, no industries, no electricity, no pipe-borne water, no telephones and no proper port facilities. Fed up with the third-class status that they anticipated in a St. Kitts-led federation, the Anguillians had armed themselves and revolted, forcing St. Kitts police off the island and blocking the runway to prevent a 'reinvasion' by Kittitian forces. This set in motion a complex and sometimes almost farcical chain of events in which Great Britain and St. Kitts never looked good, and which climaxed with a bloodless, unresisted British invasion of Anguilla in March 1969. The event was later dubbed the 'Bay of Piglets'.
The Anguillians made sure that the political and administrative solution adopted had their interests, for once, at heart. It took until 1980 before Anguilla got what it felt it needed: Britain agreed to drop the idea of an Anguillian union with St Kitts and continued British administration of the island under a modified colonial status that granted Anguilla a heightened degree of home rule.
Anguilla's now thin arid soil is largely unsuitable for agriculture, and the island has few land-based natural resources. It's been said that cocaine importation and sale is a major industry in Anguilla, second only to luxury tourism. Apparently, the first thing that up to fifty percent of all tourists do when they finish checking into their luxury accommodation, is to go to the head barman or concierge and enquire where they can get cocaine (which at US$17.50 a gram is as cheap as chips).
Rich Americans and Europeans are buying up land across the island, purchasing entire beachfronts and restricting the property to trespassers. All over the island, real estate prices are soaring as investors offer millions for modest beach houses, which they plan to tear down and rebuild as mansions. Anguillans, mostly the elderly who don’t know the long-range ramifications, are selling off their land at an alarming rate.
The majority of the contemporary Anguillian population of 14,000 are the descendants of slaves transported from Africa. About ten percent of Anguillans live in the capital, The Valley, and the population on average across the island is very young; more than one third are under the age of fifteen. The future of Anguilla lies heavily in the hands of the younger generation, yet gang culture is emerging; drug and gang related crime is on the rise. From being virtually crime free before the turn of the century, Anguilla has become a place with a growing rate of serious and unsolved crimes including murders, rapes, robberies and kidnapping. There's trouble in paradise.
News Archive for Anguilla
Wikimedia Atlas of Anguilla
Amnesty International: Human Rights in Anguilla
HDI: N/A (Rank 2008: N/A)
Corruption-free Anguilla blogspot