By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises
Antigua is a mix of all things Caribbean, with a splash of celebrity and a tinge of scandal.
Slavery, sugar, young Lord Nelson, superstars in remote palaces, and an American import who played a version of Bernie Madoff’s game on some very undeserving islanders.
Antigua means old or ancient in Spanish, and that was the name bestowed upon the island by Christopher Columbus in 1493. He had in mind an icon in Seville Cathedral: Santa Maria de la Antigua (Saint Mary the Ancient.)
We will return to Antigua on February 17, and I invite you read that blog for more details.
English Harbor from the viewpoint at Shirley Heights, above. And part of Nelson’s Dockyard.
Antigua is the largest of the Leeward Islands, about 108 square miles or 281 square kilometers, and it has some of the most interesting terrain amongst Caribbean islands: hills and valleys and deep bays.
It is the more substantial of a two-island nation, and Saint Johns is the capital of the nation of Antigua and Barbuda.
The first permanent European settlement was in 1632. The colonists were led by Sir Christopher Codrington, an Englishman from Bristol in South Gloucestershire.
Codrington began development of a major sugar plantation, an operation continued by his son and grandson. The sugar crop was so successful that other planters switched from tobacco to sugar cane.
Growing, harvesting, and processing the cane was very labor intensive. At first, colonists tried to use natives as forced labor. Unfortunately, most succumbed to imported European diseases or malnutrition.
And so began the wholesale importation of African slaves, tens of thousands of them. The Africans had the misfortune of adapting well to the new environment.
By the mid-18th century the island had more than 150 windmills to run the machinery to process the cane. Today almost 100 of the stone towers are still standing, many converted to use as houses, restaurants, and shops.
Their picturesque remains only hint at the sad story of tens of thousands of slaves who once worked the fields and the processing mills.
And sadly, many hundreds or thousands of their descendants were among those who lost much of their life savings in an elaborate financial scheme orchestrated by American Robert Allen Stanford, who was arrested in 2009 and is currently a guest of the U.S. federal government at a resort in Florida from which he is unable to check out.
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