‘Embracing new opportunities’ is the theme chosen for this year’s Independence Day in Dominica. The country is marking 42 years since it gained independence from the United Kingdom.
The first European contact with this Caribbean island took place on 3 November 1493 when Christopher Columbus sailed past during his second voyage to the New World. As it was a Sunday, he named the island Dominica, from the Latin for ‘day of the Lord’, dies Dominica.
In the early 18th century the island became a French colony, but under the Treaty of Paris, 1763 – an agreement that ended the Seven Years War ‑ it was ceded to Britain. Over the next four decades control of Dominica changed a couple more times, and it wasn’t until 1805 that the French gave up their attempts to recapture the island.
Due to the high number of Africans on the island, Dominica became the first and only British colony in the Caribbean to have a Black-controlled legislature, in 1838. Under pressure from the White planters, however, the number of elected representatives was reduced and in 1871 Dominica became part of the British Leeward Islands group, effectively ending local democratic government. In 1896, it became a crown colony with all political rights for the Black population extinguished. Transfer to the British Windward Islands followed in 1940. Along with most of the Caribbean territories administered by Britain, Dominica joined the West Indies Federation in 1958, but the project for a united English-speaking Caribbean federation collapsed in 1962.
On 3 November 1978 ‑ exactly 485 years after receiving its name from Columbus ‑ the Commonwealth of Dominica started out on its new path as an independent republic within the Commonwealth, with Patrick John becoming its prime Minister.
Independence Day is an opportunity to celebrate the unique heritage and Creole culture of Dominica. This year’s activities will culminate with Jounen Koudmen, or National Day of Community Service, on 4 November. It’s a day when all Dominicans can come together to clean up and beautify their communities.