Animals and Plants
What is growing there?
The bottom of the islands is mostly sandy. Above all, there are low shrubs, palm trees and cacti. In the middle of Antigua the soil is of volcanic origin and therefore more fertile. Forests used to grow here, but the trees were cut down in order to create plantations for sugar cane. In the meantime, acacias, mahogany trees and pencil cedar have been planted again. This is to prevent further drying out of the soil and to keep the water. Because Antigua in particular has problems with the water supply. Mangroves also grow on Barbuda.
Which animals live there?
There are only a few animal species on the islands. Some farm animals were brought here, such as donkeys. They went wild over time. There are also deer and wild boar, lizards and turtles.
The diversity is greatest among birds, after all 150 species have been counted. They also include the frigate birds that breed in the bird sanctuary on Barbuda. What is striking about the males is the red throat pouch that they can inflate.
From sugar to tourism
About 245,000 tourists come to Antigua and Barbuda annually. Today they are the basis of the economy of the two islands. Most visitors come because of the many beautiful beaches – supposedly 365 in number. There are also many sailing yachts moored in the port of Antigua, and cruise ships bring day tourists.
Agriculture, on the other hand, hardly plays a role anymore. Sugar cane used to be grown on large plantations, but that didn’t make any money in the 1970s. Deforestation has also resulted in silting up and water scarcity. Droughts keep coming back. Some sugar cane is still grown, but economically it is insignificant.
Today, tropical fruits such as mangoes, pineapples, papaya and noni are mainly grown, mainly for the islanders’ own needs. Cotton, cucumbers and coconuts are other products. Cattle, sheep, goats and poultry are also kept. Fishing also plays a role.
Nonis are the fruits of the noni tree or noni bush. They are about the size of a hen’s egg. They taste and smell a bit like Gorgonzola cheese…
History and Politics
The indigenous people
First settlers came around 3000 BC. To Antigua and Barbuda. They were hunters and gatherers, but later left the islands again. Around 400 BC Then the saladoids settled here. They came from the Orinoco Delta in what is now Venezuela and gradually conquered the islands to the north.
They were then ousted by the Arawak around 1200 AD. They too came from South America, from where they paddled their canoes to the islands. The Arawak began farming, growing pineapples, corn, and sweet potatoes. But they, too, were displaced again when the Caribs arrived on the islands around 1500. These island caribs are also called Kalinago. In contrast to the Caribs, who still live on the north coast of South America today, the Kalinago spoke an Arawak language.
On his second voyage in 1493, Christopher Columbus sighted Antigua and named the island Santa Maria La Antigua after a patron saint. Antigua means “old” in Spanish. Barbuda is also Spanish and means “bearded”. However, the Spaniards did not colonize the islands, probably because the Caribs resisted.
In 1632 the colonization of Antigua began by the British who came from St. Kitts and Nevis. Both islands were now British colonies. The first settlers from England came in the 1660s and settled on both islands. At first tobacco was grown, and soon also sugar cane. To manage the plantations, slaves were brought to the islands from Africa. One of the settlers who got rich with the cultivation was Christopher Codrington, who soon owned large parts of Barbuda. The main town on the island was named after him. When slavery was abolished in 1834, there was a lack of workers on the plantations. An economic decline began. In 1860 the two islands were united into a colony.
The road to independence
From 1940 efforts began for the independence of the islands from Great Britain. This was largely thanks to Vere Cornwall Bird. He initially campaigned for the workers on the sugar cane plantations, who toiled under miserable conditions. He founded the Labor Party and was elected to the first parliament of Antigua and Barbuda in 1946. From 1958 Antigua and Barbuda belonged to the “West Indian Federation”, but it disintegrated in 1962.
Cornwall Bird became Chief Minister in 1960 and Prime Minister in 1967. His party was almost always the government and prime minister. In 1967 Antigua and Barbuda joined the Group of West Indian Associated States. You were now politically independent.
From independence in 1981 until today
In 1981 Antigua and Barbuda became an independent state. As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the British Queen is still the head of state. It is represented by a governor general.
Vere Cornwall Bird was re-elected Prime Minister in 1981 and remained in office until 1994. That year he handed over the office to his son Lester Bird.
In 2004 Baldwin Spencer took over from the opposition. The UPP party remained in power until 2014, and in 2014 it switched to the Labor Party again. Gaston Browne became the new Prime Minister.
Imagine living in Antigua or Barbuda. How would that be? You would probably live in a wooden house. That would be painted pastel green or yellow, because there are many houses here in such shades. It would be warm all year round. You wouldn’t own winter shoes or thick jackets.
Because the islands were part of Great Britain for a long time, cars drive on the left here. So be careful when crossing the street! By the way, you can also find red telephone boxes here from time to time, as we know them from England. And something else has been adopted by the English: cricket is a national sport here.
Maybe Ducuna would be your favorite dish. These are dumplings made from sweet potato flour. You would surely eat a lot of fish, because it doesn’t cost a lot here: You can fish around the islands. Pineapples and mangoes grow everywhere here too!
Your parents might work in tourism, for example in a hotel or restaurant. Most people work there, although there is a lack of people in agriculture. But in the tourism sector the pay is better, so most of them prefer to work there.
By the way: Antigua is pronounced like “Antiga”, the u is not spoken!
Eating in Antigua and Barbuda
What to eat in Antigua and Barbuda
Fish and seafood are in abundance in Antigua and Barbuda. In addition, of course, the many tropical fruits that thrive here: pineapples, bananas, guavas, mangoes, coconuts… A special kind of pineapple called “black pineapple” was even grown on Antigua. She is small but especially cute. To get more information on Antigua and Barbuda and Central America and Caribbean, check youremailverifier.
Even the natives liked to eat corn and sweet potatoes. Both are still often on the menu on the two islands today. Meat is also eaten, especially chicken, but also pork, lamb and turkey. Side dishes for lunch are often rice or noodles.
Ducana and Fungee
Two dishes are particularly popular here. One is Ducana. It’s a sweet potato dumpling that is cooked wrapped in banana leaves or aluminum foil. Desiccated coconut, sugar, salt and vanilla are other ingredients. You can cook Ducana, have a look at our tip ! There is often fish or chop-up, which is a mixture of spinach, eggplant and okra. You are also happy to eat this for breakfast, just like Fungee!
Fungee is a porridge made from cornmeal. The ingredients are cheap. The dish was once brought to the Caribbean by African slaves. There is often a pepper pot, a stew made from vegetables and meat.
Children and School
School in Antigua and Barbuda
Of course, the children in Antigua and Barbuda also go to school. The school system is based on the British one, because the islands were British for a long time. All children wear a school uniform. The children start school at the age of five. Primary school lasts seven years. School attendance is compulsory up to the age of 16. The secondary school lasts five years, after two more years you can do the Abitur. It’s called CAPE here, which is the abbreviation for Caribbean Advanced Placement Examination.