Antigua and Barbuda is an island state located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It has 7 small islands and 2 big ones – with the latter comprising of the country’s name. A former British colony, Antigua and Barbuda is one of the members of the 54-state Commonwealth of Nations.
Antigua and Barbuda Facts
1. Antigua and Barbuda got its name from Spanish terms.
Antigua, which in Spanish translates to “ancient,” was given by Christopher Columbus. The moniker draws inspiration from the Santa Maria La Antigua, which can be seen in the Seville Cathedral. The name Barbuda, on the other hand, means “bearded.” Why it was named so remains a mystery, an interesting fact about Antigua and Barbuda. Historians suggest that it may be derived from the male natives in the island, while some believe that the name must have been inspired by the many bearded fig trees that can be seen on Barbuda
2. Christopher Columbus was the first European to spot the island.
In 1493, the explorer Columbus set his sights on the sovereign state – but that’s all he did, an interesting Antigua and Barbuda fact. The Spanish, who are usually on a conquering mood, ignored the islands because of the lack of fresh water. It was not until 1632 when the island of Antigua was finally occupied by the English. The same fate befell Barbuda, which was settled by Christopher Codrington in 1685.
Antigua and Barbuda eventually became part of the Leeward Islands colony, before it was incorporated in the West Indies Federation. The nation remained under British rule until its independence on November 1, 1981.
3. Antigua and Barbuda became a hotbed for slavery.
When the English set foot on the islands, they brought their West African slaves with them to grow their exports of Tobacco and sugar. The slaves, like those from the other parts of the globe, suffered from harsh conditions. The mistreatment led to revolts in 1701, 1729, and 1736. Unfortunately, info regarding the revolt of 1736 was leaked, and this led to the execution of Prince Klaas, the mastermind of the said rebellion.
It was not until less than 100 years later when Klaas’ descendants finally tasted freedom. Slavery was finally abolished in the colony in 1834.
4. The citizens commemorate the country’s emancipation from slavery through the Antigua Carnival.
Whereas most countries memorialize freedom from slavery with somber remembrances, the Antiguans do so with a colorful carnival celebration. Celebrated from the end of July to early August, the Antigua Carnival is a 10-day festivity that features beauty pageants, talent shows, musical events – all done in vivid costumes, of course.
5. English is the country’s official language.
As a colony of Britain for several centuries, it comes as no surprise that the English language has become the country’s official language. It is not that extensively used though, as it is only required to be spoken during class hours in private schools, a fun fact about Antigua and Barbuda.
Residents usually speak Antiguan Creole, but usage usually depends on socio-economic class. The middle and upper-class people opt to speak English in public while the lower class individuals use the Antiguan Creole language almost exclusively.
6. The capital is located in St. John’s, Antigua.
St. John’s has been the administrative center of the country since it was first settled in 1631. Now, the largest Antiguan city is considered as one of the most modern areas in the Lesser Antilles. As the home of more than 22,000 residents, the city is known for its chic shops, big banks, and the Antigua Rum Distillery.
7. Antigua and Barbuda is a hotspot for tourism.
With its beautiful beaches and historic infrastructures, Antigua and Barbuda has become a reprieve for vacationers all around the world. According to the World Tourism Organization, as much as 269 million tourists visited the islands in 2018. Because of the continuous influx of visitors, tourism contributes to more than half of the nation’s gross domestic product.
The country’s top visited places include the Half Moon Bay, Stingray City, Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, Dickenson Bay, and St. John’s, to name a few.
8. The country is home to several offshore medical schools.
This type of institution is defined by the World Bank as “centers made for North American students who wish to practice medicine in the United States and Canada.” The mushrooming of said schools in the Carribean, specifically in Antigua and Barbuda, may be due to the relative ease of starting institutions in the area.
A total of three offshore medical schools operate in the country, a fun Antigua and Barbuda fact. They are the American University of Antigua, the Metropolitan University College of Medicine, and the University of Health Sciences – Antigua School of Medicine.
9. The Bird Family dominated much of the nation’s politics.
When Antigua and Barbuda broke free from British rule, Vere Bird became the nation’s first prime minister in 1981. He held the position until 1994, when he resigned due to health problems, apart from other political issues. That year, he was named a Knight of the Order of the National Hero.
Succeeding him was his son Lester Bryant Bird, a lawyer who reigned as the second prime minister of the country until 2004. While they were accused of cronyism and corruption, the father-and-son tandem did bring about political stability to this country, a fun Antigua and Barbuda fact.
10. As much as 95% of Barbuda was destroyed by Hurricane Irma.
Barbuda was one of the islands that were ravaged by Hurricane Irma last September 2017. It suffered a direct hit – destroying as much as 95% of the island. The economic toll was a whopping $136 million.
As much as 1,800 residents were subsequently transferred to the neighboring island of Antigua. Despite the typhoon’s ferociousness, the preparedness of Barbudans – who mostly took refuge in specialized shelters – resulted in a low death count of 3.
11. Same-sex activities are illegal in Antigua and Barbuda.
The nation is one of the few countries where same-sex acts punishable by as much as 15 years in prison. Such a ruling can be seen in the Sexual Offences Act of 1995. It has several clauses, including LGBT people are not allowed to serve in the military, gay couples are not allowed surrogacy, while lesbian couples are not given access to in-vitro fertilization.
Antigua and Barbuda is a beautiful country with pristine beaches and historic ports. With its mild weather and warm people, it has become one of the best nations to visit in the Caribbean.
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