Grenada - Encyclopedia Information
Official name Grenada
Formation 1974 / 1974
Capital St. George’s
Population 108,419 / 828 people per sq mile (319 people per sq km)
Total area 131 sq. miles (340 sq. km)
Languages English*, English Creole
Religions Roman Catholic 68%, Anglican 17%, Other 15%
Ethnic mix Black African 82%, Mulatto (mixed race) 13%, East Indian 3%, Other 2%
Government Parliamentary system
Currency East Caribbean dollar = 100 cents
Literacy rate 96%
Calorie consumption 2320 kilocalories
Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) was the first European to land on the Island of Concepciуn, later known as Grenada, in 1498. The oldest inhabitants of Grenada are the Carib Indians, who successfully resisted early European colonization attempts. Finally an expedition from Martinique (a colony of France) invaded Grenada in 1650–51 and established imperial French rule.
For almost 90 years France managed to keep the British away from the territories of Grenada. Fort George and Fort Frederick, near the St. George’s harbor, date from the period of those battles between the French and the British. In 1783 France entered into the Treaty of Versailles, whereupon the Island of Grenada was legally and permanently acquired by the British. Soon the British set up sugar plantations in the country and started importing slaves to work on the plantations.
In 1795 a black planter named Julian Fedon was inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution to challenge British authority in Grenada. Violent rebellions ensued, with the local Grenadians and the planters working together to shake off the supremacy of the British. Though these rebellions were ultimately unsuccessful, they acted as a springboard for the abolition of slavery, which finally came about in 1834 in Grenada and throughout the British West Indies.
Between 1885 and 1958 Grenada was part of the British Windward Islands. In 1967 it became a self-governing state and in 1974 gained its independence and adopted a modified parliamentary system based on the British model. A governor general was appointed by, and represented, the British monarch (head of state). A prime minister, who is both leader of the majority party and the head of government, is elected. Sir Eric Gairy (1922–97) was Grenada’s first prime minister. While Gairy headed the nation through the latter half of the 1970s, he was opposed by many in Grenada who accused him of being corrupt.
In 1979 Gairy was ousted in a bloodless coup, and the Marxist-Leninist People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) (sometimes called the “New Jewel Movement”) came to power, headed by Prime Minister Maurice Bishop (? 1944–83). Soon thereafter, Grenada aligned itself with Cuba and other Soviet-bloc countries. This situation alarmed the United States as well as many Caribbean nations. In 1983 the PRG split, and the faction opposed to Bishop had him arrested. A showdown ensued in the capital city of St. George’s, and many of Bishop’s supporters were killed. Bishop himself was executed by a firing squad.
U.S. President Reagan dispatched a joint U.S.–Caribbean force to Grenada. They took control of the island, bringing an end to Grenada’s revolutionary government. The incident is known on the island as “the intervention.” After the U.S.
troops withdrew, elections in 1984 installed the first post-revolutionary government. Aid and technical assistance programs sponsored by the United States have strengthened the country’s economy. The country has attempted to increase tourism in recent years, a task made easier by the completion of the international airport in 1984.
The New National Party, headed by Dr. Keith Mitchell (b. 1946) came forward to assume power in 1995 and moved to a better position in the 1999 elections.
GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE
Grenada is a three-island state, made up of Grenada, the largest island, Carriacou, and Petit Martinique.
Grenada is 12 miles wide and 21 miles long and boasts Mt. Saint Catherine, with a height of 2,713 feet. The island of Carriacou is much less mountainous than Grenada and possesses many wonderful sandy beaches. Average temperatures range from 75°F to 86°F, tempered by the steady and cooling trade winds. The lowest temperatures occur between November and February. Because of Grenada’s remarkable topography, the island also experiences climate changes related to altitude. The driest season is between January and May. During the rainy season from June to December, it rarely rains every day, and even when it does, the rains do not last for more than an hour at a time.
Agriculture is the primary driver of Grenada’s economy.
Unfortunately, much of the economy was brought to a near-standstill by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004. Thirty-seven people were killed, and approximately 9,000 people were left homeless.
Ninety percent of the buildings on the island were damaged or destroyed, including some tourist facilities, which are also important sources of foreign exchange. Reconstruction is under way but will require time and substantial resources; the United States has committed itself to ongoing participation in the reconstruction effort.
Grenada is a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). Most goods can be imported into Grenada under open general license. Goods that are produced in the Eastern Caribbean receive additional protection.
CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE
While many countries boast about their “cultural fusion,” Grenada is a living symbol of it. Groups from the West Indies and other Latin and Caribbean countries coexist with British, Creole, and French influences. The African Creole influences are widespread among the Grenadian communities and are especially evident during Carnival, which highlights these diverse dance forms, music, and rituals. Traditional European dances like the quadrille are also performed during festivals and holidays. Carriacou has an especially popular folk festival featuring the African Big Drum Dance.
Some of the great dishes from these islands feature Creole cuisine and seafood. Most Grenadian cuisine is enhanced by the wide variety of spices grown on the island, including nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger. For example, nutmeg, which is the island’s principal spice, is infused into everything from candy to ice cream. Grenada’s more exotic dishes include oildown (the national dish), which is a stew made with salted meat, breadfruit, onion, carrot, celery, dasheen (a root vegetable grown locally), and dumplings, all slowly steamed in coconut milk until the liquid is absorbed. Seafood of all kinds is very popular; Grenadian caviar (roe of white sea urchin), conch, and a fish dish called “stuffed jacks” are among the favorite attractions.
The traditional Grenadian wedding ceremony includes several ceremonies and feasts held throughout the wedding festivities. In order to get married the groom first needs permission from the bride’s family. About two months before the wedding, flags are flown on the rooftops of the homes of both the bride and the groom, announcing the proposed wedding to the entire community.
Friends and close relatives attend the Parents’ Plate, a feast hosted by the two families two or three weeks prior to the wedding. A separate saraca table is set for the ancestors of the families. A variety of foods, cakes, and fruits are laid out and candles are lit in the evening. The next morning the children from the village are invited to eat the food, which is known as “scramble” or “grappay.” Flag dances are performed before the wedding day; the flags are removed the day of the wedding. A procession from the groom’s home leads up to the bride’s with the dancer from the bride’s side accepting the hand of the dancer from the groom’s side.
After the church wedding there is a reception at the bride’s parents’ home, complete with the Big Drum Dance. Two weeks later the families host a thanksgiving celebration, called the “return thanks,” to express gratitude to the guests and to seek their blessings.
A person is buried one day after death. Initially a wooden marker is erected over the grave, usually because of lack of money. The family collects and saves money over the next few years and then erects a marble tombstone. Prayer nights or meetings are held on the third, ninth, and 40th nights after the death in remembrance of the deceased. The tombstone feast is the last of the death rites and is held on the second or third death anniversary.