Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua was first inhabited by the Siboney ("stone people"), whose settlements date at least to 2400 BC. The Arawaks--who originated in Venezuela and gradually migrated up the chain of islands now called the Lesser Antilles--succeeded the Siboney.

The warlike Carib people drove the Arawaks from neighboring islands but apparently did not settle on either Antigua or Barbuda.

Christopher Columbus landed on the islands in 1493, naming the larger one "Santa Maria de la Antigua." The English colonized the islands in 1632. Sir Christopher Codrington established the first large sugar estate in Antigua in 1674, and leased Barbuda to raise provisions for his plantations. Barbuda's only town is named after him. Codrington and others brought slaves from Africa's west coast to work the plantations.

Antiguan slaves were emancipated in 1834 but remained economically dependent on the plantation owners. Economic opportunities for the new freedmen were limited by a lack of surplus farming land, no access to credit, and an economy built on agriculture rather than manufacturing. Poor labor conditions persisted until 1939 when a member of a royal commission urged the formation of a trade union movement.

The Antigua Trades and Labor Union, formed shortly afterward, became the political vehicle for Vere Cornwall Bird, who became the union's president in 1943.

Emancipation improved the island's economy but the sugar industry was beginning to subside, and it was only after the development of tourism in the past few decades that Antigua has had some measure of prosperity. Antigua was granted its full independence status in 1981, along with Barbuda and the tiny island of Redonda as dependencies.

The theme for Antigua & Barbuda's carnival for 2006 is "Keeping the Wadadli Spirit Alive"

Carnival is held in the St. John's, Antigua from July 29 through August 8.


Information provided courtesy of: Caribbean Association Midwest America