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Top 11 Things You May Not Have Known About The Anglo-Caribbean

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Top 11 Things You May Not Have Known About The Anglo-Caribbean is a guest article by Renaldo Weekes. Renaldo  is the holder of a Bachelor or Science in Sociology and Law, who has keen interest in the region he has called home for his entire life. This interest of his spans the geographical, historical, cultural and even political features that set the Caribbean islands apart from other well-known and sometimes similar tropical regions. If you wish get in touch, you can contact him by email at renaldod.weekes@gmail.com.

The Caribbean. For many across the world, the region serves as a paradise filled with beautiful beaches, summer carnivals and pure leisure. However, there is more to these countries than meets the eye. All of them have their own history and peculiarities that go far beyond being classified as a traveller’s paradise.

This article will focus on the Anglo-Caribbean due to the number of islands that comprise this specific grouping in the region. It will also focus on the obscurities that define some of these islands. Some may already have exposure, whilst others may be relatively unknown. Either way, here are 11 miscellaneous tidbits that you may not have known about the Anglo-Caribbean.

The Anglo-Caribbean Was Once Home to a Communist Government

Starting off the list is a history lesson about communism in the Anglo-Caribbean. It’s nothing unheard of, right? After all, Cuba exists and is one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean under communist rule. However, what if someone told you that Cuba wasn’t the only communist island in the region? For a brief moment, there was another communist government in the Caribbean, on the island of Grenada. Grenada, also known as the Island of Spice, is located within the Grenadines island chain in the Eastern Caribbean. Shortly after gaining its independence from the United Kingdom in 1976, the country fell to a communist coup by the New Jewel Movement, a Marxist-Leninist movement.

Since Grenada was still a part of the British Commonwealth and Britain was a part of the anti-communist movement, it was a very awkward set up to say the least. Very much like Cuba today, Grenada was subjected to unfavorable policies by many world powers; especially the United States. Grenada’s only partners were fellow communist states like Cuba and the USSR as it was at the time.

Over time, the Reagan administration feared that the Soviets would use an airport being built in Grenada as an airbase in the event of a war. The US eventually invaded the island nation after it suffered another coup. The Reagan administration cited its concern for its citizens as its main justification for the invasion. Needless to say, communism’s grip on the country is now gone and the island has been peaceful and stable ever since.

The Birthplace of Rum is in the Caribbean

The innovativeness and authenticity of beverages in the Caribbean makes them a worth subject for our next historical fact. This time it’s about a popular alcoholic beverage, you may have heard about. Rum is the drink of choice for many across the world. The global market size of rum for 2021 was USD 15 billion, and the beverage is described as the second preferred spirit of all alcoholic beverages in the world. But where exactly did it all begin?

Well, take a guess (a hint: it’s in the Anglo-Caribbean). If you guessed anything other than Barbados then too bad!

Originally referred to as ‘rumbillion’ or ‘kill-death’, rum was reportedly first mentioned in records originating in Barbados in 1650. In addition, the world’s oldest rum distillery named Mount Gay Distillery is located on the island and is still currently in operation. As Barbadian rum is described as “the rum that invented rum” it is only fitting that has it won numerous awards including “Best in Category” at the International Sugar Cane Spirits Awards. If you are one of several drinkers of rum out there, then it’s worth it to go to Barbados and get your fill in the place where they did it first and did it best. Don’t worry, Mount Gay’s rum only contains 40% alcohol, so go wild.

The Instrument Made From Scrap Metal

All music lovers out there know that music is quite versatile. Once a sound can be made, music can be made. The locals in Trinidad and Tobago understood this and took it upon themselves to create an instrument made from pieces of scrap metal. Called the steelpan, the instrument was created in the 1930s when locals started using pieces of old metal from cars, tins and oil drums etc. to make music. As time went on, the music made from these pieces of metal became more sophisticated as the locals eventually developed an instrument that was tuned to have notes, and thus they were able to play full songs.

Today, the instrument has made its way to several other Caribbean islands and many of them have their own steel orchestras. These are orchestral groups that primarily specialize in playing the steelpan. If some locals can make an internationally recognized instrument out of some old metal laying around, imagine what you can do with the scrap laying around your house!

Music Genres That Aren’t Reggae or Dancehall

Accompanying the invention of the steelpan was the invention of Calypso in the Anglo-Caribbean. In this entry we’re going to talk about one of many Caribbean indigenous music genres, also invented in Trinidad and Tobago. Calypso was created in 19th century and was derived from the West African music called Kaiso that slaves brought with them to the country.

The Calypso sound is defined by a number of instrumental combinations in the form of strings, percussions, wind and other types. Calypso song lyrics are crafty pieces that discuss and analyse social, economic, and political issues that often plague the country at the time and, at times, can even influence local political landscape. Over time many sub genres were spawned from Calypso. These include Soca, Spouge, Mento and Benna. Reggae and its derivative, dancehall, maybe the most widely known music genre from the English Caribbean but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one worth listening to! Give calypso and its derivatives a try, you’re sure to enjoy!

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An Offshoot of Lawn Tennis, called Road Tennis, Originated in the English Caribbean

We’re returning to Barbados for this entry. This time for sports. It may surprise you to know that Barbados was also the birthplace of its own sport. Appropriately named road tennis, which is based on the surface of choice for the game, the game got its start in the 1930s by working class Barbadians who could not afford to play normal lawn tennis. Although it is often referred to “poor man’s tennis”, road tennis is a sophisticated game that requires skill, aptitude and agility.

The differences between road tennis and lawn tennis are more than simply where they are played. For one, a win in road tennis requires 21 points and games are not separated into sets. Secondly, the “net” is plywood that is not more than 8 inches off the ground. The ball is a “skinned” tennis ball and does not have its usual fur. Also, rackets do not have plastic strings; instead road tennis rackets are smaller and made of solid wood. The road tennis game is definitely faster paced and doesn’t last nearly as long, but yet can serve to provide some serious enjoyment for first time watchers.

President Barrack Obama has a Namesake Mountain in the Caribbean

For the next entry we’re going to focus on geography. Islands in the Anglo-Caribbean are generally flat and have  little mountainous terrain. Antigua and Barbuda, located in the Lesser Antilles, is one such island. However, the dual-island state separates itself by being the only one with a mountain named after a United States President. In 2009, to commemorate the election of Barack Obama, America’s first black President, the Antiguan government changed the name of the highest point in the country from Boggy Peak to Mount Obama.

The mountain itself is a part of an area of hills called the Shekerely Mountains. A popular tourist attraction, it is described as “covered in lush green vegetation which gives the impression of a tropical rain forest.” It “also has many steep-sided valleys which in heavy rain hold fast-flowing streams.” Mount Obama itself is about 400 meters high and its trail is not generally considered difficult to climb. Even if it were, the view from the mountain’s peak serves to be the perfect reward for the effort required.

The Second Largest Hot Spring in the World is Located in Dominica

We’re sticking to geography and this time we’re talking about hot springs. Hot springs are a popular form of relaxation across the world or at least a great sightseeing spot for many. Famous hot springs include Takaragawa Onsen in Japan and Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park.

However, one lesser known but equally as important hot spring is the Boiling Lake in the island of Dominica. Unbeknownst to many, it is the second largest hot spring in the world. Boiling Lake is located in the country’s Morne Trois Pitons National Park and is about 200 feet wide. The lake is described as having “swirling clouds of vapor and resembles a cauldron of furiously bubbling greyish-blue water.” There is no direct road to the hot spring, however,  hike of about 3 hours is required to see this amazing wonder of the Anglo-Caribbean. Though this sounds gruelling, there are many pit stops and sights along the way to serve as a build up to the boiling lake. The lake is not meant for bathing, but it is one of the world’s most magnificent wonders to set your eyes upon.

Second Deepest Blue Hole in the World

Now we move from the second biggest hot spring to the second deepest blue hole. For those who don’t know, a blue hole is essentially a sinkhole or cavern that exists in the ocean. They are popular spots for divers who wish to explore the deeper parts of the sea. Those of you who are divers would be happy to know that the second deepest blue hole in the world is actually in the Anglo-Caribbean.

Located in the Bahamas, Dean’s Blue Hole is 202 metres or 663 feet deep and contains a variety of sea life such as dolphins, sharks, and turtles that are sure to be of interest to sightseers. The blue hole is also the site of the Vertical Blue Free Diving Competition which tests the diving capabilities of those who dare to enter. Being the second deepest blue hole in the world, it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. However, if you think it suits you then head over to the Bahamas and try it out!

St. Lucia’s Drive-In Volcano

St. Lucia is one of the many volcanic islands in the Caribbean, with telltale signs that include stunning black sand beaches. The island has twin volcanic mountains called the Pitons and a volcanic area called the Soufriere Volcano. This volcanic area is home to the highly-favoured and beloved Sulphur Springs. Sulphur Springs is the area of the volcano that is the drive-in attraction and gives the volcano the honour as the world’s only drive-in volcano.

The strategic layout of the area allows visitors to drive right into the crater of the volcano. This is where the springs are located. The namesake Sulphur Springs are popular for wellness and are thought to relieve various bodily ailments. If you want to experience the Sulphur Springs for yourself and see what it’s like to drive into a volcano, then you know where to go!

St. Patrick’s Day is a Holiday in the Caribbean

We’re now on to public holidays and for this tip we’re going to look at St. Patrick’s Day. To most, St. Patrick’s Day is a normal, yearly celebration of Irish culture. It may surprise you to know that St. Patrick’s Day is not a major celebration in the wider Anglo-Caribbean. The day simply comes and goes. Despite this, there’s one island that holds St. Patrick’s so dear that it is a government approved public holiday.

St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday on the island of Montserrat. Montserrat is a British overseas territory with a population of only 5,000. Celebrations are not just relegated to one day; instead it is a 10-day celebration comprising various cultural events that curiously mix Irish culture with African culture. The Irish influence comes from the heavy influx of Irish indentured servants from the United Kingdom. Conversely, the island’s African culture was left over from slavery. The volcanic eruption in 1990 that led to almost half the population fleeing the island did not prevent the island from continuing to celebrate since then. If you wish to see how African and Irish cultures can blend to form St. Patrick celebrations take a trip down to Montserrat and see what’s up!

Christmas Carnival

And last but not least, we have Christmas Carnival. Summer is usual party time for the Caribbean as many carnival events occur during summer months. Crop Over in Barbados, Spice Mas in Grenada, and St. Lucia carnival are just a few examples of this. However, there’s one island that opted to hold their carnival through winter months with the final event culminating on New Year’s Day. That island is St. Kitts and Nevis.

The federated island’s Sugar Mas carnival begins in November and ends in January. The carnival has many events including a pageant and music shows. Many North American and European visitors already travel to the Caribbean to escape their cold climates. However, Sugar Mas is an extra incentive for visitors to come to the region during this time. Lucky travellers to this part of the Anglo-Caribbean will get to participate in Christmas and Caribbean party vibes all in one season. Quite the experience.

Image: Saint Lucia Tourism Authority

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