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By Teresa Saunderseducation journalist and children’s writer

The geographical aloofness of Barbados has given the island a unique identity and bestowed on it all of the characteristics necessary to confirm its claim as the genuine paradise island

In 1536, Portuguese explorers discovered a tiny pear-shaped island lying alone in the Atlantic Ocean. They called it los barbudos or ‘the bearded one’ after the giant bearded banyan trees that they saw. Today the island is known as Barbados. The Portuguese did not settle and the island remained uninhabited until 1627, when the British arrived. The first British settlers attempted to grow tobacco and cotton. However, they were unsuccessful and they decided to grow sugar cane instead. The switch to sugar is one of the most important event in the history of Barbados. Huge plantations were set up and black slaves were brought over from Africa to provide the labour. Today, descendants of those slaves make up around 80 per cent of the population of Barbados. After the abolition of slavery, sugar continued to dominate the island’s economy but after recent problems on the world sugar market, farmers have had to find other crops such as vegetables and exotic fruits.

Bajan life today

As with small islands the world over, Barbados imports many products. It is impossible for such a small place to produce everything it needs. Many goods arrive by sea from the USA, Canada or Europe – and as a result, Bridgetown’s vast deep-water harbour is the island’s main link with the outside world. Other products are delivered by air. An international airport was opened in 1979, although this caters mainly for tourism – the island’s latest industry. Tourism has overtaken sugar as Barbados’ primary money-earner and jets land there regularly, carrying holidaymakers in search of sun. The harbour also provides berthing for huge cruise ships that tour the Caribbean, stopping off at each island.

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  1. C. Williams
    on 29 July 2011

    You are missing something

    The writer omitted to mention the many British people who were 'sentenced to Barbados' for a variety of crimes and also had their freedom taken away even though it was for a specified time and not for life. These indentured servants' descendants still live on the island.