There are lots of islands found in the Caribbean, and one of them is Barbados — a small island country that has become a prime tourist destination because of its white beaches and rum. Barbados has a population of about 280,000 and is surrounded by the North Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
The island of Barbados was once filled with trees and wild pigs before it transformed into a tourist destination visited by many celebrities. Nowadays, Barbados welcomes about a million tourists every year, and they come to enjoy the different festivals and local dishes.
However, not many people know about the rich history of Barbados. Let’s discover the journey of Barbados towards becoming the tourist destination it is today.
1. The name “Barbados” came from bearded fig trees.
Bearded fig trees are plenty in Barbados, and it is even found in the country’s Coat of Arms alongside their national flower. The person responsible for the name “Barbados” was Pedro Campos, a Portuguese explorer. He named the island “Los Barbados” because the large fig trees found throughout the island looked like they had long beards, an interesting Barbados fact.
2. The first inhabitants were the Amerindians.
Before the Portuguese and British came, the first inhabitants of Barbados were the Amerindians. After hundreds of years, the Amerindians left Barbados and then eventually returned as a tribe called Arawaks. However, the Arawaks lost their territory due to the Caribs — a visiting tribe that was stronger and more vicious. Eventually, the Spanish came to Barbados and eliminated the Caribs, but they also left the island in their quest to find larger territories to claim.
3. It was once a British colony.
The country of Barbados was under the rule of Britain for more than 300 years. Their independence from Britain was granted on the 30th of November 1966. However, the ties between Britain and Barbados did not disappear even after the declaration of independence. The British Monarchy, through Queen Elizabeth II, still has influence over Barbados during the selection of the governor-general and representation of the country as head of state. Barbados also uses British English as their official language instead of Bajan.
4. Most of the laws for slavery were patterned after the Barbados slave code.
Slavery used to be legal because of a “slave code” passed by Britain in 1661. People were treated as slaves to work in sugar plantations and were even sold or traded to other people. The slaves attempted a revolution because of poor treatment, which was called the Bussa Rebellion, but they failed. The practice of slavery ended in 1834 because of the “Abolition of Slavery Act” that made slavery in British colonies an illegal act, an interesting fact about Barbados.
5. Africans were forced to work in sugar plantations.
Sugar became a profitable export for Britain because of its worldwide demand in the 1600’s and 1700’s. Barbados profited from this demand because it has rich soil that allowed sugar canes to grow. Several sugar plantations established in Barbados to meet the demand, but the problem was they weren’t enough people to do jobs. As a result, Africans were shipped from their homeland and were forced to farm the sugar plantations in Barbados. There were so many Africans shipped from British colonies that they outnumbered the residents and British landowners. When slavery was disallowed, most of the former African slaves settled in Barbados and formed the majority of the total population.
6. The third oldest parliament in the Commonwealth is in Barbados.
Barbados has been following a parliament style of government since the 26th of June 1639. The Parliament of England was used as a basis for their government and was introduced by Governor Henry Hawley. Since their form of government has not been changed for so long, Barbados has become the third oldest parliament among the former British territories.
7. This country is considered as one of the richest countries in the Caribbean region.
Even with only 431 square kilometers of land, Barbados is among the richest countries in the Caribbean. Barbados had a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 4.797 billion US Dollars in 2017, and it continues to grow because of increasing tourism and export of agricultural products, a fun Barbados fact.
8. Some of the oldest rum can be found in Barbados.
The oldest rum known to be produced from Barbados is named Mount Gay Rum and its distillery has been producing this rum since 1703. However, there are records showing that Barbados had invented the rum as early as 1650’s and it was then called “rumbullion”, a fun fact about Barbados. The name shortened into “rum” in the 1700’s.
9. It is home to the flying fish.
There is plenty of flying fish found in Barbados that it was eventually called as the “land of the flying fish”. These fishes used to live near the corals found in Barbados, but pollution brought by visiting ships has caused the flying fish to move to other places. Nevertheless, Barbados still considers the “cou cou served with flying fish” to be their national delicacy and they still serve flying fish to tourists.
10. There is a yearly festival celebrating the coming of the British to Barbados.
Barbados celebrates the week-long “Holetown festival” to commemorate the first British landing in the town of Holetown. They also commemorate the first English settlement through the Holetown Monument. Aside from music and street parades, the residents also reenact the first British landing as part of the festival’s tradition.
11. Famous celebrities came from this country.
Barbados is the homeland of some famous celebrities before they migrated to the United States. Among these celebrities, Rihanna and Grandmaster Flash are well-known to have grown in Barbados before becoming famous musical performers.
Barbados is a small island country that has a rich history because of 300 years of British colonization. The culture, political structure, and language of the country remain to be influenced by Britain even after the declaration of independence. Yet, Barbados has embraced these British-like characteristics together with their natural resources to build a whole new experience for their tourists to explore.
I hope that this article on Barbados facts was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!