Antigua and Barbuda is not only heavenly beaches, blue and coral waters, tropical climate. The identity of the island and its inhabitants bears the profound signs of a colonial past and African traditions blended with the English one, in a unique and characteristic mixture that is worth exploring.
Antigua and Barbuda is an independent state which is still young (it is 38 years old, to be precise).
The task of Dario Item, state ambassador for Spain, Monaco and Liechtenstein, is to highlight even the lesser-known aspects of Antigua and Barbuda, in an attempt to provide a complete and colorful image of this wonderful Caribbean state.
Therefore, here are some facts and curiosities about Antigua and Barbuda that perhaps you did not know.
Facts and curiosities about Antigua and Barbuda
The motto of Antigua and Barbuda
The motto of the state of Antigua and Barbuda is Each endeavoring, all achieving.
Independence Day is celebrated on the first of November of each year. The celebrations last about a week and include parades, festivals, competitions, exhibitions and food fairs. Two weeks before Independence Day, businesses, schools, government and private buildings are decorated with yellow and red decorations that recall the colors of the traditional dress of Antigua and Barbuda, designed in 1992 by the Antiguan artist Heather Doram.
Antigua and Barbuda has designated four people as “national heroes”. The first is Sir Vere Cornwall Bird, Prime Minister of the independent Antigua and Barbuda.
The second is King Court, a slave who, in 1736, led a revolt trying to establish an independent nation led by Africans.
The third hero is a woman, Nellie Robinson, teacher and pioneer of the islands’ education system.
The fourth national hero is Vivian Richards, a cricket player among the greatest, captain of the West Indies team from 1985 to 1991 and entered the Cricket Hall of Fame in 2009. The day of the national heroes is December 9.
Cricket is the national sport of Antigua and Barbuda. Other popular sports are, of course, sailing and fishing. Football, windsurfing and kitesurfing are also very popular.
The Antigua Sailing Week is an important sporting event held every year near Nelson’s Dockyard, the naval port dedicated to the admiral who lived and worked there, which is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A particularly heartfelt feast is the National Carnival. The Antigua Carnival is held between the end of July and the beginning of August. The most important day is called Juvé, when brass bands perform in the streets.
In Barbuda the carnival is celebrated in June (it is called Caribana). The National Carnival lasts about ten days during which shows, beauty contests and music contests (the “Claypso Monarch” for example) and concerts are organized.
- The highest point of the island of Antigua is the “Boogie Peak“. The name comes from “boogie-man”: in the past, slave traders used to tell prisoners that a boogie-man able to steal people’s souls lived on the mountain. They told this with the intent of scaring them and making them desist from any attempt to escape on the mountain. In 2009 the mountain was renamed “Mount Obama”, in honor of the then President of the United States as a symbol of emancipation of black people. In 2016 the government re-established the name “Boggy Peak”.
- In September 2017, the island of Barbuda was severely hit by Hurricane Irma, which caused considerable damage (almost 95% of the infrastructure was destroyed) and forced a large part of the population to evacuate to Antigua. Even today, the island is sparsely populated.
- Antigua is home to the Crossroads Centre at Antigua, the drug rehabilitation centre opened by Eric Clapton.
Wildlife and flora of Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is certainly a paradise for humans, but it is also a paradise for many animals who find here an ideal environment in which to settle and prosper – it is not superfluous to stress the importance of preserving this place in every possible way, starting from the smallest act.
Antigua and Barbuda has a national bird. It is the frigate, whose male specimens have a bright red chest, an elastic bag that they swell like a balloon, during the breeding season, to attract the females.
Another typical animal of the state, which can be found only and exclusively on the island of Antigua and Barbuda, is a snake: the antiguan racer. It is grey, with a shade of brown, and harmless. Until recently, it was found only on the Great Bird Island (a small island off the east coast of Antigua where a large number of birds nest). Now it is also widespread in the larger islands. Today it remains one of the rarest snakes in the world.
The Great Bird Island is home to another local and endangered animal, Griswold’s ameiva: a lizard.
The island is also home to brown pelicans, Western Indian whistling ducks and red-billed tropical birds.
Food of Antigua and Barbuda
The national dish of Antigua and Barbuda is the “Fungee and Pepperpot“, a one course meal that consists of corn served with okras, very common and cheap vegetables.
The dish has African origins: it was the most consumed dish by African slaves who were brought to the island. It is no coincidence that this dish is also very popular in Ghana, for example.
Another typical dish of the archipelago is the “Ducana“, dumplings made of sweet potatoes, grated coconut, sugar, flour, coconut milk, grapes, ginger, nutmeg, salt and vanilla. All ingredients are mixed and small doses of dough are then enclosed in wrappers (they can be banana leaves) and then boiled for at least 25 minutes.
Ducana is often served with cod and chopped vegetables including spinach, eggplant and ochre.
In the archipelago is very common jark, a spice from Jamaica used on grilled meats.
Of course, fish is also a strong dish. Grilled or stewed, almost always accompanied by rice, vegetables or roasted corn. Another dish not to be missed is definitely the lobster.
Pineapple can be said to be the official fruit. The black pineapple of Antigua is considered among the sweetest ever.
A drink, if not typical, very common in Antigua (as in other areas of the Caribbean) is Mauby, a sparkling soft drink made from tree bark.