A special Caribbean friendliness
The Caribbean region is overtly blessed with a wide variety of peoples, languages, cultures and islands.
Some small islands such as Saba and Sint Eustatius have populations of less than 2,000 persons, while other big islands such as Jamaica and Puerto Rico have populations exceeding three million.
Caribbean Geography 101
For clarity, the Caribbean has four main subregions: the Lucayan Archipelago, the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles and the Southern Caribbean.
The Lucayan Archipelago consists of the Bahamian Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Greater Antilles consists mainly of the larger islands: Cayman Islands, Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic), Jamaica, Puerto Rico, British Virgin Islands and United States Virgin Islands.
The Lesser Antilles is actually split into another subregion: the Leeward Islands, which consists of Anguilla, Antigua, Barbuda, Montserrat, Nevis, Saba, St Barts, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten/St Martin and St Kitts.
Also the Windward Islands, which consist of Barbados, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Southern Caribbean consists of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Margarita Island, Trinidad and Tobago.
Sa Ka Fête
In late August, I had the opportunity to travel to two of the Windward Islands — Dominica and St Lucia — in order to attend a United Nations meeting.
My first stop would be a direct four-hour flight from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to St Lucia.
Incidentally, St Lucia has two airports — Vieux Fort in the south, which handles international and regional flights, and the George F.L. Charles Airport in the north, which handles regional flights only.
Upon arrival, all visitors must present the following: travel authorisation forms, vaccination cards if immunised, and then fill out a form with general and some health-related questions.
If one is immunised, they are given a white wristband indicating that they can roam freely around the island.
Oddly, there is no requirement for tests upon arrival or during your stay.
Now, a bit about St Lucia itself:
Total size: 238 square miles
Languages spoken: English, Creole, French
Economy: Tourism, agriculture
Gross Domestic Product: 2.5 billion
Currency: Eastern Caribbean dollar (US$1 equals EC$2.68)
Tourism is its leading economy, with more than one million visitors in 2019 — before Covid-19. These visitors helped them to generate nearly $1 billion in foreign income.
Thousands of Lucians are employed in the hospitality industry, ranging from taxi drivers, hotel staff and tour guides to small and large hotel owners.
St Lucia is essentially a very lush, rural country, with pockets of settlements spread around its coastal regions. With agriculture as its traditional economy, one can find all sorts of fresh organic foods selling on the roadsides and in the markets.
Goodies such as bananas, plantain, watermelon, mangoes, coconuts, yam, cassava, carrots, honey, peppers, vanilla and cashews, to name a few, are easy to find and relatively inexpensive to purchase.
All of this fresh food means the cooking is quite simply heavenly.
Without a doubt, their greatest product is their people.
St Lucia is but one of the islands that historically was fought over between the French and the English from the 1600s through the 1800s, when the French ceded the island to the English.
As a result of the French influence, the descendants of the enslaved Africans speak several languages, with a distinct French dialect.
Creole French is the language created by enslaved Africans. They mixed French and African words in order to hide things from the ears of their oppressors. Creole was very commonly spoken up until the 1970s, when many parents chose to teach their children English only.
As of late, many are now teaching their children this language, as well as structured classes in government schools.
Our tour guides, teaching us Creole words, took us around St Lucia to visit historic sites, local beaches, cassava factories, chocolate factories using local cocoa, the sulphur springs where one can take a bath in mineral waters, and the historic capital of Castries.
If one wants to mix with locals, there is the weekly outdoor festival in Gros Islet.
To say that St Lucians are friendly would be an understatement. It is no surprise their tourism product is in such high demand.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org