The New York Times, April 16, 1859, p.9:|
THE BRITISH WEST INDIES.The Windward Islands—Barbadoes—
Appearance of the Island—The Principal City—
Beauty and High Cultivation of the Soil—General Habits of the People.
From Our Special Correspondent.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbadoes, Thursday, Feb. 10, 1859.
I do not propose to enter into a historical, a geographical or descriptive account of this island, except in so far as they will tend to elucidate my subject—the Results of Emancipation. Elaborate and minute particulars of Barbadoes and her beauties may be found in the works of SCHOMBERG, EDWARDS, or MARTIN.
I cannot, however, consistently, pass by Bridgetown, or fail to notice its peculiarities. A stranger, and most especially an American, upon first landing, would hasten to proclaim it an exhausted city; once, possibly, the centre of a flourishing business, and the emporium of great wealth, but now almost abandoned to ruin and decay. This impression would be formed from various reasons, and from none more than the contrast which the capital of Barbadoes presents to what we should call a rising place.
To illustrate this assertion, I might say that I was first struck with the narrow streets and the ruined appearance of the houses. It seemed as though no attempt had been made to repair their dilapidated condition within half a century. The paint was worn away from roof and wood-work, and the mortar which had fallen from the walls had never been replaced, except in very few cases. Around each dwelling of more than ordinary Barbadian pretensions there was generally an unfinished looking wall, with broken pieces of glass bottles on the top to protect the property from the trespass of the wicked.
In going to my lodging-house, a quarter of a mile distant from the wharf, I was obliged to traverse several acres of vacant lots, which were overgrown with wild cactuses and studded with moss covered ruins. They lay in the very heart of the city—the "burnt district," as it is called, of twenty years standing. Picturesque it was, but it gave very little indication of industry or enterprise.
I passed up Broad-street, a combination of Wall-street and Broadway, but though it was the busiest time of day, I saw few signs of the enormous trade that this Island carries on, and nothing to remind me of an American city with a population, as Bridgetown has, equal to that of New-Haven.
I was struck with the European aspect of the place, and was startled every now and then as I came across a banana, a cocoa, or a cabbage-palm tree. Their tropical look seemed out of place, and, for a moment, I wondered how they existed there. Altogether the town is such a strange mixture that I despair of presenting its picture to your readers.
The market-place—about an acre of ground inclosed with a neat row of butcher's stalls—reminds one of New-Orleans. There the clatter of tongues, extolling the virtue of divers fruits and vegetables offered for sale, is perhaps the closest illustration of Sambo that Bridgetown can produce. The centre of the market inclosure is filled with splendid evergreens, and beneath their shade several scores of negro women, with pairs of scales and piles of yams, sugar-cane, sweet potatoes, oranges, grape-fruit, mangroves, &c., before them, earn their daily bread.
The fish-market—a solitary shed erected on the beach—is in full blast about nightfall, after the fishermen have returned well laden with flying-fish; and at the confused noise in this focus of business even a London Billingsgate would be compelled to hide its diminished head. It is characteristic of Sambo throughout; his untiring tongue never stops for a moment to take rest.
A cab-stand presents another vivid picture of Sambo as he is. In the midst of Trafalgar-square—about as large as the triangle opposite the TIMES office—near the statue of NELSON and beneath a gigantic evergreen, the cabmen find it convenient and profitable to assemble. Woe unto the stranger whom they espy and who may be in search of a one-horse shay; and when he has selected his vehicle, and has made his escape from the crowd, it is amusing to hear the successful driver denounce the "imperlite b'havor of dem niggers," and deplore the city as the "awfulest he never see'd."
So much, as an illustration of the African aspect of Bridgetown, of which, considering the colored population is nearly ten blacks to one white, you are unceasingly reminded.
A traveler from the North must remember what he is in danger of forgetting, that in Bridgetown he is far down in the Tropics, within seven hundred miles of the Equator. The climate is not tropical; it is to be imagined and felt, for it cannot be described. Select the most perfect day that September ever presented to New-York, and I should do injustice to a Barbadian sun and Barbadian breezes if I compared Barbadian weather to yours. The sun necessarily gives out a great heat, but it is always tempered by incessent winds and by daily showers which never last above a minute. Night or day, in Winter or in Summer, the temperature knows no change. In a word, the inconveniences of heat are never felt; the penalties of cold are never known. There are no thunderstorms like those which desolate more elevated regions within the torrid zones; no poisonous reptiles of any kind; no annoying insects like those which in Summer months will make known their presence even in the latitude of New-York.
The appearance of the houses, which are of one story and built solidly of stone, may perhaps remind you that you are in a country where the severities of Winter are not even imagined, and, after you have entered them, you may no longer fancy yourself in a European or North American dwelling. The spacious rooms, with polished cedar floors, the contrivances to make everything about you feel cool—the high pitchers of ice-water on the side-boards and the luxurious cane chairs—are luxuries here which one might look for as necessities in other tropical countries.
The inside of a house in Bridgetown is very different from what its outside appearance would lead a stranger to infer; and this disregard of outward appearances is only one of a thousand English idiosyncracies to be encountered.
The houses, then, and a few scattered purely tropical trees, are about the only outward indications that Bridgetown possesses of being a tropical city. You may be puzzled every now and then by the sight of a black soldier in Zouave costume, or a black policeman in a London uniform, but they are anomalies. They do not belong to the picture.
Bridgetown, in fact, is European, though somewhat behind the age of European progress. It is, perhaps, necessarily behind the age, owing to its insulated position. Its shops remind you of an inferior English town, and it is only after you have entered them that you discover how well and with what first-rate articles they are supplied.
The streets are macadamized with the native calcareous rock, and are light-colored and perfectly smooth. The white population here have wonderfully preserved their English manners and customs. You find here none of the indolent and luxurious habits of the tropics. Though a vast amount of business is transacted before breakfast, the lazy siesta is not indulged in, but work is steadily performed until four o'clock in the afternoon.
The churches are similar in their architecture to those that may be seen in any English village; the forms and ceremonies of English society are preserved even to the farce of wearing a stove-pipe hat whenever you wish to appear in full dress; in spite of yams and mangroves, the dinner you eat is as nearly English as circumstances will admit; and the bed you lie upon is unmistakably of English make and fashion.
Perhaps the British officers, military and naval, help to keep alive the peculiar customs of the mother land; but it is undoubtedly a fact that the Barbadians take a pride in preserving as close a resemblance to the Old Country as the differences of position will allow, and I am not prepared to say in so doing they act an unwise part.
The few Americans who have emigrated here—though they have brought with them the spirit of American invention and enterprise—have lost their peculiarities, and have succumbed to prevailing customs. But Yankee clocks, Yankee buggies, and that famous Yankee establishment to which all Bridgetown daily resorts—the ice-house—have brought fortunes to their proprietors and delight to the hearts of the Creole population.
Directly you leave the precincts of the capital the European phase of the island vanishes. You may be reminded of the fair scenery of Old England, to which, indeed, these lovely hills and valleys are likened; but you can never for a moment forget that you are looking upon productions which no English soil could bring forth, and which no English sun could ripen. The landscape scenery is necessarily on a small scale, but in variety it is complete, and occasionally it approaches the sublime.
One of the grandest spectacles I ever witnessed was the view from Hackleton's Cliff—a bold bluff at the northern extremity of the island rising 1,000 feet above the level of the sea. Looking East, you see, in the far distance, a range of hills running parallel with the one upon which you are standing, and in the intermediate valley, which gradually slopes towards the sea, the productions of all the Indies are gathered together.
Here and there, upon some projection of coral rock, which the cactuses carefully conceal, a palm-tree towers like a land-mark on the horizon, or a gigantic sentinel upon his post. Cottages are thickly-scattered over the picture; the red wheel of the sugar mill, unchanged for a century, may be seen at every point, and you may strain your eyes in vain to look for a single spot which has not been cultivated even beyond what we should call perfection.
See also: Venezuela News - Martinique News|
Grenada News - Dominica News
All of Barbados
is one time zone at GMT-4,
with no Daylight Savings time.
Barbados is an island in the Caribbean Sea (part of the North Atlantic Ocean), northeast of Venezuela.
The island was uninhabited when first settled by the British in 1627. Slaves worked the sugar plantations established on the island until 1834 when slavery was abolished. The economy remained heavily dependent on sugar, rum, and molasses production through most of the 20th century.
The gradual introduction of social and political reforms in the 1940s and 1950s led to complete independence from the UK in 1966.
In the 1990s, tourism and manufacturing surpassed the sugar industry in economic importance.
...Historically, the Barbadian economy had been dependent on sugarcane cultivation and related activities, but production in recent years has diversified into light industry and tourism.
Offshore finance and information services are important foreign exchange earners. The government continues its efforts to reduce unemployment, to encourage direct foreign investment, and to privatize remaining state-owned enterprises.
The economy contracted in 2002-03 mainly due to a decline in tourism. Growth should be positive in 2004, the precise level largely dependent on economic conditions in the US and Europe.
CIA World Factbook: Barbados
Area of Barbados:
431 sq km
2.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Population of Barbados:
July 2007 estimate
Languages of Barbados:
Barbados Reference Articles and Links
Wikipedia: Barbados - History of Barbados
BBC Country Profile: Barbados
US State Department: Barbados Profile
Barbados Embassy no website
2144 Wyoming Avenue NW
Washington DC 20008
Telephone: (202) 939-9200
US Embassy, Bridgetown, Barbados
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Broad Street News financial
Voice of Barbados 92.9FM
ABYZ: Barbados News Links
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