With its distinctive gold, green and red flag, the Spice Island of Grenada will celebrate its 44th year of independence from Britain on Sunday 7 February.
Grenada has come a long way since it emerged from the sea as an underwater volcano about 2 million years ago. The Caribs were in residence when Christopher Columbus spotted the island, which he called Concepción, but a century later it appeared on maps as Grenada or La Grenade. Mossis Godfry and his fellow British settlers were sent packing by the Caribs in 1609, who also harried French colonists half a century later, before their leader, Kairouane, threw himself off a cliff. For several years in the 17th century, Grenada was privately owned, before being sold to France’s King Louis XIV and in 1674 becoming a French colony.
At first, sugar and indigo were the big exports, but from 1714 coffee and cocoa took over; it wasn’t until 1843 that nutmeg – the source of Grenada’s famous ‘Spice Island’ tag – was introduced. A British force captured the island in 1762 and the new rulers quickly found themselves struggling with a series of disasters. An earthquake in 1766 was followed by a slave uprising, two fires that devastated St George and finally an invasion by the French in 1779. The island was restored to Britain by the Treaty of Versailles four years later. However, worse was to come in 1795/96. Inspired by the French Revolution and Haiti, mixed-race plantation owner Julien Fédon led an uprising of 14,000 slaves, which ended in many deaths, including that of the Governor. (For an excellent account of the rebellion, read Herman G Hall’s Belvidere Estate – Fédon’s House, which SN reviewed in July 2017.)
The rebellious fires erupted again in the mid-20th century. A prominent figure in the fight for workers’ rights from the early 50s was Eric Gairy, who on 7 February 1974 became independent Grenada’s first prime minister. Five years later, Gairy and the constitution were overthrown by Maurice Bishop’s Marxist-Leninist New Jewel Movement, which declared Grenada a Communist state. The overthrower was himself unseated (and later executed), by Bernard Coard, but Coard’s time in power lasted only a few days, as the Army seized control on 19 October 1983. A week later, a US-Caribbean force invaded and in December a new prime minister, Nicholas Braithwaite, was installed. It had been as turbulent a time as Fédon’s rebellion nearly two centuries earlier.
Today, a much more peaceful Grenada remains one of the world’s largest exporters of nutmeg and mace and is one of the smallest members of the Commonwealth of Nations, pledging allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II, who remains Head of State to just over 100,000 Grenadians. Constitutional reforms are under way, but Grenadians of all ages will proudly wear the national colours during the annual parade on 7 February.
Soca News wishes all Grenadians a very happy Independence Day and many years of development, peace and prosperity ahead.
You can join fellow Grenadians in celebrating this Saturday 10 Feb, at a Black Tie Gala event being held at The Cavendish Banqueting Suite. More detail can be found here – http://socanews.com/events/44-years-of-grenadas-independence