Antigua and Barbuda

Monday, June 9, 2008

The people of this Caribbean nation populate two major islands – known today as Antigua and Barbuda – as well as a number of smaller islets.

The first major island was originally settled by peoples from Central or South America. They named the place Yarumaqui, which is believed to be derived from Yaruma, a plant from which canoes and rafts were made and Qui an island. Later it was known as Waladli, which means land of oil. Then, in 1493, the Italian explorer Cristoforo Colombo named the island Santa Maria de la Antigua (Old Saint Mary's) after a church in Seville, Spain. The early Spanish settlement in Antigua was made subject to English rule from 1632, with a French interlude in 1666.

The second island was originally known as Wa'omoni, island of large birds. This island, 48 km due north of Antigua, was leased to British brothers Christopher and John Codrington in 1685. On Barbuda the Codringtons produced food. They also transported slaves as labour for their sugar plantations on Antigua.

As on many other Caribbean islands during the centuries of colonial conquest, sugar cultivation had became the most profitable enterprise in Antigua and Barbuda. By the middle of the 18th century the island was dotted with more than 150 cane-processing windmills--each the focal point of a sizeable plantation. Due to the vast tracts of land needed for large-scale sugar production, rainforests on the islands were decimated.

Yet today, as in Anguilla, tourism accounts directly or indirectly for more than half of GDP and is also the principal earner of foreign exchange in Antigua and Barbuda. Until the development of tourism in the past few decades, Antiguans struggled for prosperity. And long gone are the rainforests, which would have been a drawcard to complement the beaches.

Instead the tourism is complemented by a global trade in guns and ganja, crack and other cocaine, a traffic that has put the island and its neighbours at a vital crossroads between the narcotics producers of South America and the eager consumers of the US and Europe. The drugs seep into the local population, payment in kind for dealers, or simply an impossible lure at prices that are a fraction of the street prices in the developed world, sometimes as low as US$1 for a rock of crack cocaine.

As in Anguilla, the place looks to be on the path to becoming a ganster's paradise. Gun crime and gang violence are on a sharp rise among Antigua's young. The murder rate per head of population in Antigua is more than three times higher than in New York. Nineteen murders were committed last year, three times Antigua's annual rate five years ago.

One of the main reasons for the escalation in violence, according to residents and police sources, is the enforced return of emigrant criminals. A report issued last year by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Latin America and Caribbean region of the World Bank reinforces the claim:

Each year, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada deport thousands of people convicted of various crimes to their countries of citizenship in the Caribbean. There is a widely held belief in the Caribbean that recent crime troubles can be tied directly to the activities of deportees who have learnt criminal behaviour in the developed countries."
The Antiguan Government says almost 300 have been returned to the island in the past 10 years. A few were from Britain, but most came from the United States. There are between 10 and 12 gangs on the island, fashioned after notorious gangs in North America. Antigua is in the midst of a "gang war", with groups of youths making U.S. urban gang names common currency. There's trouble in this paradise, too.

orana gelar

News Archive for Antigua and Barbuda
Wikimedia Atlas of Antigua and Barbuda

Amnesty International: Human Rights in Antigua and Barbuda
HDI: 0.830 (Rank 2008: 59)


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