The small island of Barbados is a fusion of cultures from Caribbean to English to African.
Having only gained their independence from Great Britain on November 30, 1996, the English presence makes up a big part of Barbadian life. The official language is English, cars drive on the left side of the road and cricket is still a very popular sport. But in some villages, broken English or Bajan is spoken, which is a combination of English and some words from West African cultures brought over during the slave trade.
Also brought to Barbados were different religions. It is primarily Anglican because of colonization, but now almost every major religion is represented. Bridgetown even has the Western Hemisphere’s first synagogue. Yet despite different ancestry and religious ideals, there is no major conflict on the island.
One of my guides, Mona, explained that the biggest recent public upset was the implementation of new taxes. Yet people lined up in the street to pay them on time. Another guide in the Animal Flower natural caves commented on the lack of shark attacks by saying, “The people are nice, but the sharks are even nicer!”
With tourism as the islands biggest industry, it pays to be friendly. The land was originally exploited for sugar cane, molasses and rum, but now the island survives on touring the old sugar cane plantations and selling rum cocktails to people on vacation. However, rum is still very important to the locals. There is never a rum shop further than a few storefronts down from any church on the island, as Mona explained it. She even taught me the catchy local tune about a woman leaving a man, but that he still has his rum.
“But I got ma rum, but I got ma rum!"
Rum is made of only two ingredients, which the island produces in the highest quality: molasses and water. Barbados is the only Caribbean island that is a coral island. This means when rainwater seeps through the ground, it is naturally filtered through limestone into natural aquifers. This makes all the tap water some of the best water in the world and cruise ships are known to refill their supply when they port there.
Maybe it’s the pure water giving the local pure hearts. On the last day a man who grew up on the island gave me this advice:
“There are people who are gonna to love you and people who are gonna hate you. What ya gotta do is to love the people that love you, and love the people that hate you.”
Everyone will call you darlin’ or love and if you leave the island without at least one hug and a kiss goodbye, you did it wrong.