People, History, and Culture of Barbados
Several mysteries concern the ancient
history of Barbados. It is thought that Arawak Indians lived on the islands
for centuries before the arrival of European explorers. When the Portuguese
arrived at Barbados in 1536 they reported no inhabitants lived on the
island. It is thought that the Arawaks had moved off the island or been
decimated by the more powerful Carib Indians. Though the Portuguese did
not stay and establish any settlements on the island they did give the
island its modern name- Los Barbados- named after a shaggy FIG tree that
can still be found on the island- meaning the "Bearded Ones".
The island again sat in relative isolation until the arrival of the first
British settlers in 1625. This group of settlers claimed the island
for England and set about the cultivation of fields.
time would pass the island grew prosperous as a major sugar cane producing
business. So valuable was the island that 26 forts guarded its 21miles
of coastline and English-style parliamentary buildings, churches and
homes soon rose up in Bridgetown. In 1639 Parliament was established
on the island. Britain ruled the island for the next 300 years.
The island also served as a military staging area to
help in the colonization or protection of other British colonies in the
Caribbean. Its mild climate was also thought to contribute to better
health and visitors flocked to the island in the 1700's to improve their
health. One of the most famous visitors at that time was George Washington
who caught smallpox on his trip in 1751!
Today, the people of Barbados are often called by their nickname- Bajuns. The
island has a literacy rate of 98%. They are proud of their ties to
England and enjoy cricket and afternoon tea. People still wear light
jackets for dinner, observe manners and speak with more of a British
accent than a pure "West-Indies" accent found on other Caribbean
Islands. But while they respect their ties to England and observe many
English customs, they are equally (if not more) proud of who they are
and what Barbados has made of itself. For the most part the people
are outgoing, friendly and very patient with visitors. In fact, one
of the reasons so many people enjoy going to Barbados is the friendly
people and the feeling that the resort or hotel they are staying in
is part of the "neighborhood"
rather than just staying in a resort “compound”