Updated: Nov 9, 2018
Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique, a tri-island state, are beautiful islands nestled northwest of Trinidad and Tobago, northeast of Venezuela and southwest of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It is known as the "Island of Spice" because of it's large production of nutmeg and mace crops. To speak to the scale of Grenada's nutmeg & mace production, it supplies about 20% of the world's population, only second behind Indonesia. There are several smaller islands around Grenada that are shared between them and St. Vincent. Of all the islands in the Grenadines chain, Carriacou (known as "Land of Reefs") is the largest settlement with a population of approximately 8,000. Even though Grenada is still a small island compared to other islands in the Caribbean, it is continually developing and influenced by the Western world. However for Grenadian's, Carriacou & Petite Martinique in a way represents the old Caribbean and a means to relax, as these islands aren't as developed as the mainland and a lot more quiet. While inhabitants of mainland Grenada call themselves Grenadians, inhabitants of Carriacou call themselves Kayaks. Outsiders call people from Petite Martinique Petite Martiniquians, but I am unfamiliar with what they call themselves. As this post is dedicated to Grenada on it's independence day I'd like to give some history into how freedom was won.
THE ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE
Grenada was formed from an underwater volcano, so it has very rich fertile soil. Prior to colonization by a variety of nations, Grenada was inhabited first by the indigenous Arawak and then by Island Caribs. In 1948, Christopher Columbus stumbled upon this ALREADY inhabited island and called it "La Concepcion", in honor of the Virgin Mary. However, it is thought that Grenada got it's name from the Spanish, who named it after Granada in Spain. Even though Grenada's name may have come from the Spanish, there are no records indicating they ever settled or landed there. Between 1649-1763, Grenada was a French colony and became known as "La Grenade", which resulted in many of the indigenous people leaving for neighboring islands or remote and deserted places on the island. In 1762, came the Seven Year's War, which ended French reign in Grenada, after it was ceded to the British in the Treaty of Paris in 1763. The British then changed the island's name simply to Grenada. Interestingly, the British lost control of Grenada after the bloody Battle of Grenada, but it was ceded back to the British in the Treaty of Versailles in 1783. Britain would control Grenada from 1763-1974 and it was during this time, in 1893, that Grenada was introduced to nutmeg, as a merchant had left a small quantity behind on his way to England from the East Indies. This is where Grenada's role as the "Island of Spice" begins.
Grenada's history from 1950-1983 gets really hectic and chaotic, since at this point they had begun to fight for their freedom. In 1950, Eric Gairy formed the Grenada United Labour Party, with the intentions of improving working conditions for workers. This didn't sit well with some, but in 1951, Grenada held it's first general election with Gairy's team winning six of the eight contested seats. On 1967, Grenada was granted full autonomy over it's internal affairs, with independence from the British arriving on February 7th, 1974 with Eric Gairy as the prime minister. Grenada became the first Windward and Leeward Island to become a sovereign state. This victory was, unfortunately, short lived as civil unrest and opposition came from the Marxist New Jewel Movement, established and led by Maurice Bishop. The movement launched a coup and overthrew Gairy, with Bishop declaring himself as prime minister. Bishop was determined to make Grenada a socialist state and popular tourist destination, which is why he began constructing an airstrip in Grenada. However, because of his connections to communist countries, the U.S government, along with some Grenadian officials, wanted him to be removed from power. With the backing of the U.S government, Grenada was invaded on October 25, 1983 in an operation codenamed Operation Urgent Fury, which was condemned by Britain, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada and the United Nations. Maurice Bishop was executed, along with seven other top officials. The airstrip was eventually built and originally named Point Saline International Airport, but was changed to Maurice Bishop International Airport in 2009. Grenada's prime minister now, is Keith Mitchell and Grenada just celebrated it's 44th year of Independence.
The tri-island state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, just celebrated it's Independence Day and for Carriacou, that also means its carnival time with the kickoff of Kayak Mas. Mainland Grenada has a separate carnival in August called Spice Mas, which is more known to foreigners than Kayak Mas. However, carnival as a whole in Grenada, is very much so on the traditional side, compared to Trinidad, Barbados or Jamaica Carnival. These traditions are heavily influenced by African and European descent, given Grenada's history of colonization, but there is certainly an abundance of culture. If you know a Grenadian, than you've probably heard them refer to themselves as Jab-Jab and here's why. " In our Carnival, influenced by African slaves and French colonisers, is the prominent presence of the Jab Molassi. Commonly referred to as ‘Jab-Jab’, revellers covered in oil march through the streets to the rhythm of their own drums, alongside the newer addition of revellers covered in colourful paint. This is a unique aspect of our Carnival and showcases the creativity in our culture", according to Pure Grenada, the official tourist authority of Grenada.
While Carnival is an experience you certainly wouldn't want to miss, there are so many beautiful scenic places you can go, if you simply want to explore the islands. I would say two of Grenada's very popular tourist attractions would be Grand Anse Beach, which has been featured on numerous top ten beaches, and the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park, the first underwater sculpture park, with over 65 concrete sculptures, created by Jason deCaires Taylor. The official website for Jason deCaires Taylor's underwater sculptures states "The sculptures were designed to create a diversion from nearby Flamingo Bay, which features a largely pristine reef that has been in steady decline from excessive tourist numbers". Some other popular locations to visit are St. George Carenage, an inner harbor where you can catch a ferry to Carriacou or visit small shops, Fort George, Fort Frederick, Belmont Estate, which host a plantation, a restaurant, cocoa tours, museum, and much more and River Antoine Rum Distillery. For more scenic views, you can visit any of the many waterfalls( Annandale Waterfalls, Concord Waterfalls, Royal Mt. Carmel Waterfalls, Seven Sisters and Victoria Waterfalls) located in Grenada. While visiting mainland Grenada, you can also take a trip to Carriacou and Petite Martinique via a two hour ferry from St. George Carenage or a 15 minute flight in a small plane from Maurice Bishop International Airport.
Carriacou and Petite Martinique are less lively than mainland Grenada, however thats makes them the perfect places for a quiet relaxing vacation. Carriacou and Petite Martinique are each beautiful in their own ways, which is why I love visiting. The locals are all very friendly and whole heartedly traditional in everything they do. To some these communities may seem outdated and lacking, but I think their determination to stay connected to the old ways is what makes them so rich in culture. That is of course not to say, Grenada isn't rich in culture, but the relatively small nature of Carriacou & Petite Martinique's community and isolation makes it easier for them to stay deep rooted in traditions.
You can see these traditions firsthand when visiting Carriacou. As mentioned above, Kayak Mas is currently taking place as I write this. During this time, Carriacou is just as lively as mainland Grenada, with many Grenadians even coming to Carriacou to partake in the festivities. Each year Kayak Mas is growing, with many families returning from abroad, whether it be the U.S, Canada, UK, etc. During jouvert and the road, you can expect to see masqueraders, usually, in very traditional costumes or covered in oil, paint and powder having the time of their lives as they chip down the road. Although, more non -traditional costumes have been making an emergence. Revellers also partake in a traditional mas called ShortKnee, where they dress up in brightly colored clothes and recite Shakespeare. It's inspiration was to mimic the plantation owners, but now it plays a role in Carnival. Carriacou is also home to Big Drum Dance, three drums are played simultaneously and women stand in the middle shaking "Shacs Shacs" and sing along. The Quadrille dance is another popular dance in Carriacou. During August, the Carriacou Regatta takes place, being held around the same time as mainland Grenada's Spice Mas. Because boat building has an important role in Carriacou, Regatta is taken very seriously and almost as festive as carnival time. One very special and very important tradition that Kayaks still partake in is the Maroon & String Band Festival. The whole island gathers for three days to eat traditional food, sing, dance and drum, in a way that allows outsiders to see the deep African traditions that are still alive within this community. Now once you've taken your trip to Carriacou, you can take a quick boat ride over to the beautiful beach on Sandy Island or Petite Martinique, the third island of this tri-island state.
Petite Martinique or PM is a unique little island in that it is almost untouched by tourism and has no customs office. There are a small amount of guesthouses and restaurants, but certainly not much relative to other Caribbean islands. The locals in PM heavily rely on boat building, seafaring and fishing for their daily survival. An interesting thing about PM is that it is considered a safe haven for smuggling activities because of it's easy access, but ironically still manages to be a very safe, open and friendly place. As a result of the boatbuilding, fishing, seafaring and smuggling, PM has one of the highest per-capita incomes of any Caribbean island. Although, Petite Martinique is relatively small, it is definitely worth a trip.
In honor of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique's 44th Independence Day, I thought it would be appropriate to writea blog post on the island I call home. Despite not being born there, there is not one moment where I feel like Grenada isn't home for me. I already know the magic the emanates from Grenada, so I thought I share it with you all.
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY GRENADA, CARRIACOU AND PETITE MARTINIQUE!