We’re back to the Eastern Caribbean this week as we explore the ‘Island of Spice’…otherwise known as Grenada!
Want to learn more about Grenada?
- Capital (and Largest City): St. George’s
- Population (2012): 109,590 (185th)
- Total Area: 348.5 km² (203rd)
- Official Language: English
- Currency: East Caribbean dollar ($) (XCD)
History of Grenada
Pre-Columbian and Early History
Prior to European colonization, different indigenous tribes inhabited Grenada. Initially the Arawaks lived here, though they were later driven off by the more aggressive Caribs (similar to other nearby islands). Though Christopher Columbus spotted Grenada on his journey, the Spanish did not settle the island.
Instead, it was the French in the early 17th century who colonized Grenada, subjugating or driving off the local tribes. Naming the colony La Grenade, the French fought against indigenous tribes who remained dominant on other nearby eastern Caribbean islands. The natural harbour of the colony’s capital served the French navy well…however the island was lost to the British in the midst of the Seven Years’ War (1762).
The British and Independence
Grenada officially became a British colony, though the French did retake it for a time during the Revolutionary War. While overseen by the British, Grenada became a key supplier of nutmeg.
Moving forward to the mid 20th century, many in Grenada began to push for independence. What began as a struggle for better working conditions eventually resulted in general elections. In 1967, the island was granted further control of its own domestic policies before it finally became independent in 1974.
Conflict and Invasion
This however, brought in a whole new era of strife. In 1979, elected Prime Minister Eric Gairy was ousted in a Marxist coup led by the New Jewel Movement. The People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) was founded by a Maurice Bishop who took charge of the new communist government, and all other parties were outlawed. Though he worked with Cuba and the USSR in some ways, Bishop sought to remain fairly moderate and non-aligned in the Cold War. This stance resulted in a Grenadian Army coup where Bishop and his wife were imprisoned. Though popular support forced his release, he was later executed after attempting to regain power.
This brought the attention of President Reagan. In October 1983, the US launched Operation Urgent Fury – an invasion of Grenada (with the alleged support of Dominica and elements within Grenada). The action was condemned by other Western governments (including the UK and Canada) as well as the UN. After a couple months, the government was toppled, the original constitution was re-instituted, and the US withdrew in December.
Since the invasion, democratic elections have been held in Grenada once more. There are many injustices and sore wounds left over from the post-independence conflicts, however the island has been able to move past it for the most part. Recently, hurricanes have devastated large part of Grenada – with agriculture and other facets of the economy still recovering. Despite this, the country has rebuilt and hopes to forge a new and peaceful future for itself.
The culture of Grenada comes from a variety of influences, including African, indigenous Caribbean, and Indian. Though the legacy of the French isn’t dominant, names and cuisine demonstrate similarities to the European country. In addition, the years of British colonialism have left a lasting mark on Grenada – in sports and, of course, the language.
Like many other Caribbean islands, music such as soca, calypso, and reggae are popular. The importance of storytelling in Grenada is also highly visible – with folk tales passed down from generation to generation.
Adopted in 1974, the flag of Grenada consists of a red border with six gold stars (representing the different parishes). Inside this, there are two gold and two green triangles while a nutmeg clove (the country’s preeminent crop) and a gold star sits in a red circle in the centre.
Cricket is the most popular sport in Grenada and is one of the key expressions of Grenadian culture. Though small, the country is a contributor to the West Indies team – one of the top international squads in the world.
Geography of Grenada
Grenada consists of the eponymous island as well as six smaller ones, with the main island the largest in the Grenadines. The interior of Grenada is mostly mountainous, while small rivers and waterfalls also dot the landscape. Like most of the Caribbean, it is largely hot and humid during the rainy months while a little cooler during the dry times. St. George’s is the capital and largest city in Grenada, and is well known as a popular destination and for its natural harbour.
Facts about Grenada
- There are three traffic lights on Grenada
- ‘Oildown’ is the national dish. It’s often a mix of meats and produce cooked in coconut milk until the milk is absorbed
- The island is volcanic
- Wearing army camouflage is illegal
- The national bird is the Grenada dove – a critically endangered species
While the Eastern Caribbean is famed for its many intriguing islands, Grenada still manages to separate itself from the pack.
There’s a whole world out there! Explore it with Continental’s Countries. Learn all about Grenada’s currency with our Spotlight on the East Caribbean dollar and explore its best destinations with our Travel Guide.
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