Caribbean: The Lesser Antilles - Insight Guides (2016)

INTRODUCTION: WELCOME

Stay a while in the sunny Caribbean and you will discover a rainbow of cultures and a rich and exciting history.

The Lesser Antilles comprise some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth. Within this chain of more than 20 major islands and countless uninhabited cays and islets, there is every conceivable shade of blue in the water, every variation of flower, every brightly colored bird. Indeed, it seems as if everything is unimaginably perfect.

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Bathing at Trinity Falls, St Vincent.

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A brightly painted dwelling in Anguilla.

Anguilla Tourist Boad

However, the world tends to forget that the Eastern Caribbean is not one great holiday resort but a collection of small nations and territories struggling to forge economic and political independence, with an astonishingly diverse culture – each island proud of its own. To a greater or lesser degree, the islands have been settled by migrant tribes from South America, 16th-century gold-seeking Spaniards, or their European planter rivals: the French, English, Dutch, Danes, and even the Knights Templar of Malta; add pirates, religious and political refugees, and a huge African slave culture, then add in Indians, Chinese, Syrians, Lebanese, more South Americans… and you have the dizzying concoction that makes up these islands.

The racial mix has produced an astonishing musical and artistic energy, which climaxes in the exuberance of Carnival. Nobel laureates, writers, singers, musicians, artists, cricketers, and Olympic athletes are the success stories and role models of West Indians today. From Rihanna to Viv Richards, Derek Walcott to the Mighty Sparrow, talent is an export with worldwide popularity.

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Cruise passengers disembark.

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Long gone are the days when fortunes were made from plantation agriculture; now the West Indies can barely feed their own, ever-increasing population. With limited economic options, governments now exploit their islands’ beauty and natural resources, encouraging tourism to provide employment. As these hospitable islands have become more accessible, there is a danger that their soul will be submerged in the onslaught of leisure developers. But if you tread carefully you can help preserve the spirit of the Caribbean, and because the people are, in general, so open, you can easily explore all its realms: political, religious and cultural.