Barbados Independence Day

Barbados - Scott #1183 (2011)
Barbados – Scott #1183 (2011)

On November 30, 1966, after years of peaceful and democratic progress, Barbados finally became an independent state. Errol Barrow was its first Prime Minister, although Queen Elizabeth II remained the monarch. Upon independence, Barbados maintained historical linkages with Britain by becoming a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. A year later, Barbados’ international linkages were expanded by obtaining membership of both the United Nations and the Organization of American States.

Parliament that granted independence is called the Barbados Independence Act 1966 (c. 37), in effect from November 30, 1966. The Act also provided for the granting of a new constitution to take effect upon independence, which was done by the Barbados Independence Order 1966.

As a result of the Act, Barbados became the fourth English-speaking country in the West Indies to achieve full independence from the United Kingdom behind Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, and British Guiana. At the time of independence, Barbados also became a member of the voluntary grouping known as the British Commonwealth of Nations as a Commonwealth realm.

Barbados is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, east of the other West Indies Islands. It is the easternmost island in the Lesser Antilles. The island is 21 miles (34 kilometers) in length and up to 14 miles (23 km) in width, covering an area of 167 square miles (432 km²). It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 62 miles (100 km) east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about 104 miles (168 km) east of the islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and 250 miles (400 km) north-east of Trinidad and Tobago. Barbados is outside the principal Atlantic hurricane belt. Its capital and largest city is Bridgetown.

Barbados is flat in comparison to its island neighbors to the west, the Windward Islands. The island rises gently to the central highland region, with the high point of the nation being Mount Hillaby in the geological Scotland District 1,120 feet (340 meters) above sea level. In the parish of Saint Michael lies Bridgetown. Other major towns scattered across the island include Holetown, in the parish of Saint James; Oistins, in the parish of Christ Church; and Speightstown, in the parish of Saint Peter.

Inhabited by Kalinago people since the 1th century, and prior to that by other Amerindians, Barbados was visited by Spanish navigators in the late 15th century and claimed for the Spanish Crown. It first appeared in a Spanish map in 1511. The Portuguese visited the island in 1536, but they left it unclaimed, with their only remnants being an introduction of wild hogs for a good supply of meat whenever the island was visited.

An English ship, the Olive Blossom, arrived in Barbados in 1625; its men took possession of it in the name of King James I. In 1627, the first permanent settlers arrived from England, and it became an English and later British colony. As a wealthy sugar colony, it became an English center of the African slave trade until that trade was outlawed in 1807, with final emancipation of slaves in Barbados occurring over a period of years from 1833.

It was not until the 1930s that the descendants of emancipated slaves began a movement for political rights. One of the leaders of this, Sir Grantley Adams, founded the Barbados Progressive League in 1938, which later became known as the Barbados Labour Party.

Adams and his party demanded more rights for the poor and for the people, and staunchly supported the monarchy. Progress toward a more democratic government in Barbados was made in 1942, when the exclusive income qualification was lowered and women were given the right to vote. By 1949, governmental control was wrested from the planters.

In 1952, the Barbados Advocate newspaper polled several prominent Barbadian politicians, lawyers, and businessmen, finding them to be in favor of immediate federation of Barbados along with the rest of the British Caribbean with complete Dominion Status within five years from the date of inauguration of the West Indies Federation with Canada.

However, plantation owners and merchants of British descent still dominated local politics, owing to the high income qualification required for voting. More than 70 percent of the population, many of them disenfranchised women, were excluded from the democratic process.

in 1958, Sir Grantley Adams became Premier of Barbados. From 1958 to 1962, Barbados was one of the ten members of the West Indies Federation, a federalist organization doomed by nationalist attitudes and the fact that its members, as British colonies, held limited legislative power.Adams served as its first and only “Premier”, but his leadership failed in attempts to form similar unions, and his continued defence of the monarchy was used by his opponents as evidence that he was no longer in touch with the needs of his country.

Errol Walton Barrow, a fervent reformer, became the people’s new advocate. Barrow had left the BLP and formed the Democratic Labour Party as a liberal alternative to Adams’ conservative government. Barrow instituted many progressive social programs, such as free education for all Barbadians and a school meals system. By 1961, Barrow had replaced Adams as Premier and the DLP controlled the government.

With the Federation dissolved, Barbados reverted to its former status, that of a self-governing colony. The island negotiated its own independence at a constitutional conference with Britain in June 1966 and was granted independent status on November 30 of that year.

While I have about 60 stamps from the colonial period of Barbados, dating from 1896 to 1951, I only have one post-independence stamp, released in 2011. It is quite a special stamp, having arrived on a postcard sent by my sister while she was on a Caribbean cruise just over one year ago. During that cruise, she sent me a postcard from each port-of-call along with a photograph of the post office or mailbox where she mailed them. It made for a very nice collection and I’ve previously written about this card on my postcard blog. I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time, but the stamp is perfect for her as my sister loves avocados, particularly when made into guacemole.

Scott #1183 was one of 16 stamps released on February 7, 2011, under the subject of “Barbados Local Fruits” (Scott #1171-1186). These were all printed by Cartor Security Printing using lithography in sheets of 50 on unwatermarked paper, perforated 13.

The list of fruit on this set positively makes my mouth water: golden apples, coconuts, cashews, mammy apples (looks to be similar to an apricot), Barbados cherries, sugar apples, sea grapes (a kind of a seaweed which I’ve tried here in Thailand and didn’t care for), tamarinds, carambolas (we call them star fruit in Thailand), mangos, bananas, guavas, avocados, gooseberries, soursops (a complete unknown to me – the fruit of the evergreen tree), and pomegranates. I may have to start a new topical collection!

The avocado (Persea americana is a tree long thought to have originated in South Central Mexico. It is classified as a member of the flowering plant family Lauraceae. Recent archaeological research has produced evidence that the avocado was present in Peru as long as 8,000 to 15,000 years ago. Also called “alligator pear”, avocado refers to the tree’s fruit which is botanically a large berry containing a single large seed.

Avocados are commercially valuable and are cultivated in tropical climates throughout the world. They have a green-skinned, fleshy body that may be pear-shaped, egg-shaped, or spherical. Commercially, they ripen after harvesting. Avocado trees are partially self-pollinating and are often propagated through grafting to maintain a predictable quality and quantity of the fruit.

The word “avocado” comes from the Spanish aguacate, which in turn comes from the Nahuatl word āhuacatl, which goes back to the proto-Aztecan *pa:wa which also meant “avocado”. Sometimes the Nahuatl word was used with the meaning “testicle”, probably because of the likeness between the fruit and the body part.

The modern English name comes through an English rendering of the Spanish aguacate as avogato. The earliest known written use in English is attested from 1697 as “avogato pear”, a term which was later corrupted as “alligator pear”. Because the word avogato sounded like “advocate”, several languages reinterpreted it to have that meaning. French uses avocat, which also means lawyer, and “advocate” forms of the word appear in several Germanic languages, such as the German Advogato-Birne, the old Danish advokat-paere and the Dutch advocaatpeer.

In other Central American and Caribbean Spanish-speaking countries, it is known by the Mexican name, while South American Spanish-speaking countries use a Quechua-derived word, palta. In Portuguese, it is abacate. The fruit is sometimes called an avocado pear or alligator pear due to its shape and the rough green skin of some cultivars. The Nahuatl āhuacatl can be compounded with other words, as in ahuacamolli, meaning avocado soup or sauce, from which the Spanish word guacamole derives.

In the United Kingdom, the term “avocado pear” is still sometimes misused as applied when avocados first became commonly available in the 1960s. It is known as “butter fruit” in parts of India and goes by the name of bo in Vietnamese, which is the same word used for butter. In eastern China, it is known as è lí  (“alligator pear”) or huángyóu guǒ (“butter fruit”). In Taiwan, it is known as luò lí or “cheese pear”.

Persea americana was long thought to have originated in the Tehuacan Valley in the state of Puebla, Mexico. Fossil evidence suggests similar species were much more widespread millions of years ago. However, there is evidence for three possible separate domestications of the avocado, resulting in the currently recognized Mexican (aoacatl), Guatemalan (quilaoacatl) and West Indian (tiacacolaocatl) landraces. A landrace is a domesticated, locally adapted, traditional variety of species of animal or plant that has developed over time through adaptation to its natural environment and due to isolation from other populations of the species.

The Mexican and Guatemalan landraces originated in the highlands of Mexico and Guatemala, respectively, while the West Indian landrace is a lowland variety that ranges from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador to Peru, achieving a wide range through human agency before the arrival of the Europeans. The three separate landraces were most likely to have already intermingled in pre-Columbian America and were described in the Florentine Codex.

Archaeologists recently discovered the remains of the avocado plant in what is now Peru, carbon dated from 8,000 to 15,000 years ago in the Mesolithic period. This evidence was found in an earth mound intended to be a ceremonial structure called Huaca Prieta, 600 kilometers north of Lima, Peru. The earliest residents were living in temporary camps in an ancient wetland eating avocados, chilies, mollusks, sharks, birds, and sea lions.

The oldest discovery of an avocado pit comes from Coxcatlan Cave, dating from around 9,000 to 10,000 years ago. Other caves in the Tehuacan Valley from around the same time period also show early evidence for the presence of avocado. There is evidence for avocado use at Norte Chico civilization sites in Peru by at least 3,200 years ago at at Caballo Muerto in Peru from around 3,800 to 4,500 years ago.

The native, undomesticated variety is known as a criollo, and is small, with dark black skin, and contains a large seed. It probably coevolved with extinct megafauna. The avocado tree also has a long history of cultivation in Central and South America, likely beginning as early as 5,000 BC. A water jar shaped like an avocado, dating to AD 900, was discovered in the pre-Incan city of Chan Chan.

The earliest written record of the avocado in Europe is that of Martín Fernández de Enciso in 1519 in his book, Suma de Geographia que Trata de Todas las Partidas y Provincias del Mundo. The first detailed account that unequivocably describes the avocado was given by Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés in his work Sumario de la natural historia de las Indias in 1526. The first written record in English of the use of the word “avocado” was by Hans Sloane, who coined the term in 1669, in a 1696 index of Jamaican plants.

The plant was introduced to Spain in 1601, Indonesia around 1750, Mauritius in 1780, Brazil in 1809, the United States mainland in 1825, South Africa and Australia in the late 19th century, and Israel in 1908. In the United States, the avocado was introduced in Florida and Hawaii in 1833 and in California in 1856. Before 1915, the avocado was commonly referred to in California as ahuacate and in Florida as “alligator pear”. In 1915, the California Avocado Association introduced the then-innovative term avocado to refer to the plant.

The tree grows to 66 feet (20 meters) with alternately arranged leaves 4.7-9.8 inches (12-25 centimeters) long. The flowers are inconspicuous, greenish-yellow, 0.2-0.4 inches (5-10 millimeters) wide. The pear-shaped fruit is 2.8-7.9 inches (7-20 cm) long, weighs between 3.5 and 35.3 ounces (100 and 1,000 grams) and has a large central seed, 2.0-2.5 inches (5-6.4 cm) long.

Botanically, the avocado fruit is defined as a single-seeded berry, due to the imperceptible endocarp covering the seed, rather than a drupe.

To grow, the avocado needs a climate without frost and with little wind. High winds reduce the humidity, dehydrate the flowers, and affect pollination. The trees also need well-aerated soils, ideally more than 1 meter deep. Yield is reduced when the irrigation water is highly saline. These soil and climate conditions are available in southern and eastern Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Crete, the Levant, South Africa, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, parts of central and northern Chile, Vietnam, Indonesia, parts of southern India, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico, California, Arizona, Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, Hawaii, Ecuador, and Rwanda. Each region has differnt cultivars. Occasionally, attempts are made to grow avocados here in Thailand with little success.

The popular dip made from avocados, guacamole, was first developed by the Aztecs in what is now Mexico. It is traditionally made by mashing ripe avocados and sea salt with a molcajete (mortar and pestle). Some recipes call for tomato, onion, garlic, lemon or lime juice, chili or cayenne pepper, cilantro, or basil, jalapeño, and/or additional seasonings. Ironically, I never really cared much guacamole until I started working for a restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and had to make huge vats of the stuff, sampling for taste as I mixed.

The name “guacamole” comes from an Aztec dialect via Nahuatle ahuacamolli, which literally translates to “avocado sauce”, from āhuacatl (“avocado”) + molli (“sauce”, literally “concoction”). Guacemole has increased avocado sales in the United States, especially on Super Bowl Sunday and Cinco de Mayo. The rising consumption of guacamole has increased due to the U.S. government lifting a ban on avocado imports in the 1900s and the growth of the U.S. Latino population.

The most popular variety of avocado is the Hass avocado named after postal worker Rudolph Hass, who purchased a seedling from a California farmer in 1926 and patented it in 1935.

There is much, much more about the avocado on its Wikipedia page. Finally, please take a look at my previous article about colonial Barbados, featuring one of my favorite stamps.

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