St Lucia is a beautiful Caribbean island nation in the Lesser Antilles named by French colonizers after Lucy of Syracuse. Today the island is a renowned holiday destination with 5 star resorts and luxury property attracting visitors year round, many of which do not stop to take in its rich history.
The island’s first known inhabitants were the Arawak and Carib people for whom the entire Caribbean region was named. St Lucia was the object of European power struggles, a location of the darkest practices of slavery, and the home of brave freedom fighters. Remnants of the area’s rich history are still found in many parts of the economically thriving island today.
St Lucia: Spoil of War
The first permanent European settlers were the French who signed a treaty with the native Caribbeans in 1660. From 1660 until 1814, the island was part of a tug of war for power between the French and British. A visit to Fort Charlotte in Morne Fortune uncovers ruins of 18th century battlements used by the French to defend “their property” against the British. Pigeon Island an islet now belonging to St Lucia was the site of a British installation used to defend “its new territory” from the French Navy stationed in Martinique. The island was even used by the U.S. during World War II, and old bunkers are uniquely preserved at Pigeon Island National Park. Many of the French and British historic military buildings have been restored and repurposed for other functions. The two colonial powers each left remnants of their occupation in St Lucia that are still visible today.
Many of the St Lucians today speak a version of French Creole which is a hybrid of Carib, French, and African languages. Additionally, the governmental structure is patterned after the British government, the last colonial power to govern the island. The St Lucians still consider the British crown as their monarch.
Slavery: Cost of Prosperity
The arrival of the Europeans brought cultivation of the land and economic prosperity. However, the sugar plantations’ profits depended heavily upon agricultural labor. The Carib people who had unwittingly made a treaty with the French were later used as labor by the British on the sugar plantations. Reportedly, the conditions on the sugar plantations were so harsh that the British imported African slaves to work there. Visitors can see relics from this era when they tour former sugar plantations like La Sikwe where the sugar cultivation and production process is demonstrated as part of a popular tour. In addition to the artefacts found in the La Sikwe Plantation museum, visitors can also find documents and photographs of St Lucian culture at the St. Lucia Folk Research Centre.
The island’s mountainous aspects, lush rain forests, and sparkling beaches reflect its diverse topography and attract many visitors yearly. For example, Rodney Bay is often called the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean, and it remains a popular port for luxury yacht cruises. Also, St Lucia’s volcanic features set it apart from nearly all other Caribbean islands. Besides its unparalleled natural beauty, St Lucia is a perfect spot to explore for those interested in different historic periods. Its colorful past includes settlement by native people groups, European colonization, successful slave uprisings, and even pirate attacks on gold-laden galleons.