First Random Impressions of a Caribbean Country: Antigua

Another new country, and region of the world.  This time it is the country of Antigua, in the Caribbean where I am on vacation for 10 days.  Going new places assaults the senses, as you the old categories brought from elsewhere prove inadequate to frame what you hear and see.  That is why it is often interesting and important to write down thoughts when you first arrive, before the comfort of automaticity sits in, and even though, by definition, things are still “impressionistic.”  So here are some notes from the island nation of Antigua, population somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000.  The primary industry is tourism and offshore banking of various sorts.  According to Wikipedia, the island has a respectable gnp/capita of $18,000.  The population is 95% African or “Mixed” race, and 1.7% white.  The whites appear more, though, because of the tourism, which is concentrated around the ports and resorts.

 

Why on the public bus did the driver play the country-western music station?

 

Just outside the airport is the Stanford Bank Complex, owned by a rich Texan.  It was shut down a few years ago when the founder was sent to prison in the US for operating a pyramid scheme, and there was little activity in the complex.

 

There is a Russian-owned mega  yacht in the harbor off our balcony, known as Yacht “A.”  Presumably it has an all female crew of 42.  It cost over $300 million to build, and is registered in Bermuda.

 

Why is chicken produced in Georgia, USA, the national dish, and not seafood?

 

It seems that flights to Antigua are segregated by the time of year.  White northerners (mainly apparently Canadian and British) are on the flights now, which is tourist season, while later in the year, it will be Afro-Caribbeans, many of whom seem to have dual citizenships of various kinds.

 

There is little agriculture on an relatively flat island which has low rainfall, few rivers, but lots of really nice beaches which foreign tourists really like.

 

People smile a lot, and it is really easy to strike up a conversation in a place where the local language is English.  Antiguans speak English well, with a hint of Caribbean lilt.  But there is also a very strong dialect in the background which I cannot eavesdrop on!  The spicing in the food is nicely done, and my favorite is Conch Soup.

 

What are the “salient” social categories?  It seems to be Antiguans, Middle class boat people who skipper their own boats, really rich Yachties who have a hired crew.  Then there are the Cruise Ship folk from the north who come in and out for a day or two.

 

All these white tourists sunburn really easily.

 

Oh, and one final impression.  Humid weather really slows me down.

2 Responses to “First Random Impressions of a Caribbean Country: Antigua”

  1. I was struck by the obsession with classic country/western when I went to do my research in St. Lucia in 2006. After many weeks trying to get to the root of I discovered that in the middle of the 20th century the U.S. had listening stations throughout the Caribbean. They broadcast a classic country music station, which was the only source of radio entertainment in the relatively barren mediascape of the southern Caribbean. To this day Looshans still blare Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard music, as they have less interest in “keeping up” as they do in playing the classics. It was an interesting side project during my primary Master’s research.

  2. Tony says:

    In terms of music, there did seem to be some reggae and steel drums too, but the country and western kept popping up in the oddest places. Also gospel.

Leave a Reply