– Christopher Columbus
In October 1492, Christopher Columbus made landfall in The Caribbean and what is now the Bahamas.
On his second voyage to the Caribbean in 1493, Columbus sighted and named many of the islands like Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Redonda as well as Antigua as he saw the islands from afar. He named it Santa Maria la Antigua after the sacred icon “Virgin de la Antigua” placed in the cathedral of Seville. He then continued sailing north until he reached Hispaniola, today Cuba.
The Caribs stood strong in defending their island until English settlers arrived to Antigua in 1632. Thomas Warner was appointed as the first governor of the island. Albeit a French raid in 1666 Antigua remained British and become a British colony in 1667.
At first tobacco was grown but the sugar industry on the islands became so profitable that most farmers substituted other crops with sugarcane, making it the islands’ economic backbone. Sir Christopher Codrington established the first major sugar estate in Antigua in 1674 and the Codrington family leased the island of Barbuda a few years later to raise provisions for the plantations. A plan was to use Barbuda as a slave-breeding colony but the idea failed and the slaves who were brought from Africa’s west coast to the island, established their own community. Although slavery was still common on the islands until the emancipation of slaves in 1834. The black color inside the flag of Antigua & Barbuda serve as a reference to the African origins of the population and cultural heritage.
Antigua & Barbuda became the main headquarter in the Caribbean for the British Navy during the eighteenth century. Antigua’s location and the construction of a naval shipyard, Nelson’s Dockyard, gave the navy, a strategic advantage over European rivals during battles over the profitable sugar-producing islands. This historic shipyard became an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2016.
During the years 1958 – 1962 the islands where part of the West Indies Federation whilst in 1967 Antigua & Barbuda obtained a form of self-government while remaining closely linked to the United Kingdom.
The agriculture have evolved during the years to cotton, sugar, meat, cereals, local fruits and vegetables but today tourism and yachting is a leading source of income for the Antiguan economy.
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