Friday, August 12, 2016

Rio and Beyond: Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda

Running out of Olympics and still on the B's, thanks to a Paul McCartney concert and a baseball game. We're going to the beach on Thursday, too, so I won't have those days, either. Here are some small Caribbean countries.

Some Americans have actually been here given its proximity to the US. Before the new terrorism paranoia passport laws, you could go to the Bahamas without a passport, I think. Of course, everyone knows about the beaches.

The history of the Bahamas is similar to that of other Caribbean countries, with the Western imperialists coming in, wiping out the native populations, and bringing slaves. 85% of the current population are descendants of slaves. But then there were the pirates. For various reasons, mostly war related, pirates made Nassau their base, including the infamous Blackbeard. At one point there were more pirates than settlers. That's why we see pirates with parrots and rum - they hung out in these tropical islands.

Well, that pissed off the Europeans, especially the English, so they fought back, eventually taking the islands for themselves. Then the Spanish took it. Then the English took it back. Then American loyalists to the British were granted exile there after the Revolutionary War. Hundreds of slaves in Florida escaped to the islands

Capital: Nassau
Major cities: none
Population: 377,000
Athletes in the Olympics: 32
Medals in history: 12 (5 gold, 2 silver, 5 bronze)
Languages spoken: English
Heroes: Sidney Poitier, Lenny Kravitz, Calvin Lockheart (actor), Joseph Spence (musician)
Bad guys: Blackbeard (pirate), Benjamin Hornigold (pirate), Henry Jennings (pirate), Christopher Columbus, slave traders, all the drug traders, most of the British, American confederate soldiers, racists
Persecuted groups: natives were wiped out, blacks continue to face discrimination despite being a large majority of the population
Current conflicts: none
Must read: I am going to recommend a book I want to read, because I have never read any books on the Bahamas: A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates, which your can read here at The Gutenberg Project.


Here's something I did not know: Barbados has the third oldest continuous parliament in the world, established in 1639. I'm not sure how that counts, having been an English colony and gaining its independence, but that's what they claim. Considering the website where I saw that also claims it was the only airport in this hemisphere with Concorde service, ignoring flights to NYC, I think the claim about the parliament is rather dubious. This claims that Barbados has never been invaded by a foreign power, yet the British colonized the island, so that's wrong, too.

A few odd things about Barbados: In November of this year, Barbados will formally remove the Queen of England as their head of state, 50 years after achieving independence from Britain. Steamed Flying Fish combined with Cou-Cou is considered the national dish of Barbados. The first slaves on the island were actually white English people. South Carolina was actually founded by Barbadians of English decent.

The Garrison in Bridgetown is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so I'm going to have to get down there!

Capital: Bridgetown
Major cities: none
Population: 285,000
Athletes in the Olympics: 11
Medals in history: 86 summer (18 gold, 33 silver, 35 bronze), 218 winter (59 gold, 78 silver, 81 bronze)
Languages spoken: English
Heroes: Bussa (led slave revolt), Sir Grantley Herbert Adams (founder of the Labour Party), Errol Walton Barrow (1st premier), Rihanna, LL Cool J, Cuba Gooding Sr., Eric Holder's parents
Bad guys: Stede Bonnet (pirate), Christopher Columbus, all the colonizers, slave traders, and drug dealers, Stacy Dash (actress)
Persecuted groups:
Current conflicts: none
Must read: I have never read any books on Barbados, so I can't recommend any.


Belize is not an island, but it is a small Caribbean country that starts with a B, so I'm including it here. It used to be known as British Honduras 1973, before it gained its independence in 1981. 1981! Why so late? Guatemala refused to recognize Belize because it claimed the land belonged to it, and this, in fact, delayed independence. Britain continued to keep troops in the country to prevent a Guatemalan invasion until 1994, when Guatemala begrudgingly recognized Belize. Guatemala still claims the territory, but fortunately has never acted on it militarily. Really what it boils down to is the conflict between the Spanish and British empires has carried over to the Spanish colonized Guatemala and the British colonized Belize with pirates and Mayans in the middle. Thanks, you guys.

The Mayans first settled here around 1500 BCE until English, Scots, and pirates began attacking them some 3000 years later. The Mayans, by the way, traded slaves to the pirates - who were of British and Scottish descent - even after they stopped getting along with them. So everyone was fighting and trading slaves and no one was enjoying the unending beauty of the Caribbean. Geesh. There's enough ocean for everyone, but people are always trying to take it all for themselves. Greedy bastards.

What all this did, though, is make Belize a very diverse country, including Mayans, Creoles, Garinagu, Mestizos, German-speaking Mennonites...

German-speaking Mennonites?!?

There are also large communities of Indians (from India) and Chinese who came over as indentured servants in the end of the nineteenth century, as well as Arabs from Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. Large numbers of refugees from Central American countries in conflict have also settled in Belize.

What's going on here, Google?

Capital: Belize City
Major cities: none
Population: 332,000
Athletes in the Olympics: 3
Medals in history:0
Languages spoken: English, Spanish, Creole, Mayan and Arawakan languages, German (Plautdietsch or Pennsylvania German, mostly)
Heroes: Philip Stanley Wilberforce Goldson (journalist, politician), George Cadle Price (independence leader), Zee Edgell (writer), Nellie Biles (mom of Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles)
Bad guys: Marion Jones (Olympic cheater), Shyne (rapper)
Persecuted groups: LGBT
Current conflicts: Guatemala border dispute
Must read: I've never read a book about Belize, but I suppose a good place to start would be with the novels of Zee Edgell


Bermuda is not a Caribbean country, but it is an island country and it starts with B, so I'm sticking it here. Actually, it's not a country, it's a territory, but it has a team in the Olympics so I need to mention it and learn something new about it. The closest land to it is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It still belongs to the British. After Brexit, why would they want to stay? Heck, even Scotland and Northern Ireland don't want to stay at this point.

Here's an interesting thing about Bermuda: As the only source of fresh water in Bermuda is rainfall, each household is required by law to collect rainwater piped down from the roof of each house.

Bermudans supported the rebels in the American Civil War. Boo. They had close economic ties with the South. Slavery was big. Colonialism, blah blah blah. There isn't a piece of land sticking out of any ocean the Europeans didn't try to take for themselves.

It is pretty there. They have pink sand beaches. St. George's Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. I have no problem visiting there some day.

Capital: Hamilton
Major cities: none
Population: 65,000
Athletes in the Olympics: 8
Medals in history: 1 bronze
Languages spoken: English
Heroes: Dr. Pauulu Kamarakafego (civil rights leader), Mary Prince (slave, writer)
Bad guys: Banks that hide money for criminals and tax dodgers, Bermuda Triangle
Persecuted groups: none anymore
Current conflicts: none
Must read: The Tempest - Shakespeare set this play in Bermuda though he had never visited himself; The Innocents Abroad - Mark Twain; The Story of Bermuda and Her People - William Zuill (I haven't read this one but it is now on the list.)

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