St Kitts, our home away from home
Country above self is the motto of the twin-island federation of St Kitts & Nevis. A motto that is, evidently, not just words, but a daily way of life.
This ancestral Caribbean homeland of an extremely large proportion of Bermudians was the first stop of those wretched vessels laden with human cargo from the west coast of Africa.
From the docks, our ancestors were marched to the auction blocks, which is ironically now called Independence Square.
Toiling day and night for centuries, the British literally worked our ancestors to death in sugar cane fields all around these two islands to enrich European slave owners.
So much so that St Kitts was given the nickname of “Sugar City”.
Families were separated and sold off to plantations around St Kitts and neighbouring islands such as Anguilla, Montserrat, Nevis, Saba, St Eustatius and Sint Maarten. So do not let the surnames or differing dialects fool you, as the reality is that many, if not most of us, from St Kitts & Nevis and surrounding islands are, in fact, biologically related.
Over the past 20 years, St Kitts & Nevis, with a landmass of 104 square miles, has transformed its economy away from sugar cane production and now proudly boast year-over-year tourist arrivals.
Thus far for 2019, they are boasting a staggering 15.3 per cent rise in stayover tourists over the same period in 2018. Their total number of air visitors in 2018 reached 153,000. Many tourists stay at the Marriott, Park Hyatt Resorts or Four Seasons Resorts.
Kittitians and Nevisians themselves have now become very active in the Airbnb and vacation rental markets, with rooms starting at $100 per night.
On the cruise ship side, they have reached the coveted Marquee status with more than one million visitors annually. In fact, they have now commenced the construction of a second cruise ship pier at Port Zante to accommodate four ships per day.
Clearly, the country of 56,000 persons takes tourism seriously in one form or another via taxis, car rentals or vendors selling natural juices or island delicacies.
They have also become home to thousands of overseas students who attend Ross University's schools of nursing and veterinary sciences. Additionally, there is Windsor University school of Medicine, which is a full medical school.
If one is interested in researching their heritage and opportunities, here are some suggestions.
For those of us with Kittitian or Nevisian roots, there is plenty of opportunity to purchase land at comparatively reasonable prices. For example, a piece of prime real estate is in the range of $10 to $15 per square foot. That would equate to a quarter-acre of land with breathtaking views costing in the region of $110,000.
A growing number of Bermudians have taken advantage of these opportunities and now call St Kitts & Nevis their home away from home. As Bermudians do best, they often have get-togethers at each other's homes or local restaurants.
Speaking of food, with an abundance of local produce, the natural food choices such as bananas, papaya, coconut and carrots are plentiful. The national dish is saltfish — what we call codfish — seasoned breadfruit and coconut dumplings.
On an historic tip, that the vast majority of Bermudians, of all shades, can trace their not-so-distant heritage to these islands is cause enough for persons to seek to visit at least once in their life. If for no other reason than to connect with the land of our ancestors; it will be a journey of a lifetime.
As one walks around those islands, they will see many faces that could easily be mistaken for anyone in Bermuda. Almost every Kittitian or Nevisian that I met spoke of having relatives in Bermuda that they know about but had yet to meet.
To reach St Kitts, one can fly from LF Wade International Airport via American Airlines to Miami and then transfer to another direct flight the same day to Robert L Bradshaw International Airport.
In upcoming months, we will be having radio conversations with officials and different persons from St Kitts, all in an effort that they can better inform Bermudians of their ability to trace their family lines, gain citizenship and purchase land.
As the saying goes, “There is no place like home”.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at email@example.com