Barbados history destined to remain unknown without real action

Building tourism upon the dark history of slavery… slavery that inspired rebellion and a soaring quest for freedoms and rights.

by Passin Thru

For the last few days the local Bajan news media has been full of stories about the Oistins Charter. Our illustrious government says the country will be establishing itself as a heritage travel destination and our Prime Minister (what’s ‘is name again?) emerged from the martini lunches at the Hilton to do some photo ops. (See Barbados Today here and here)

Heritage tourism is a good idea – maybe a great idea – as studies show that tourists need more than sun, sand, sex and rum to get excited about a destination. But while some of us move to recreate and enhance our Bajan brand with history and heritage travel, others were busy destroying the architecture of one of our oldest structures.

According to Karl Watson on his Facebook page, the oldest existing building in Bridgetown was built around 1650 – and last week the new owners decided to “renovate” it by filling in some of the roofline with concrete. This happened at the same time that the government was saying wonderful things about heritage tourism.

Herein is the lesson about “saying” and “doing”: wonderful pronouncements from our Prime Minister and other elected representatives are not reality.

Words are not laws or enforced standards. Words are not deeds. Saying words, however inspired, is not taking action. Promising to do this or protect that does not make it so.

That is the problem with Barbados and that is the problem with the wider Caribbean: we citizens are told what the government plans or says it plans, but we never follow up to see what the government really does or accomplishes. In the old days we accepted the falsehoods in exchange for tinned beef, biscuits and a smash of rum or whisky. Now we trade our acceptance of obvious falsehoods for what?

What do we gain by nodding and repeating in a zombie-like fashion “Oh Yes! We will be a heritage travel destination!”

Who can hold the government accountable or judge performance when the most basic of financial expenditures remain secret because our politicians deliberately failed to pass a Freedom of Information law?

The Oistins Charter is the latest government fashion!

The Charter of Barbados was signed at the Mermaid Tavern, Oistins, on 11th January 1652 and ratified by the Assembly on 17th January 1652. It predates the US Declaration of Independence but contains an Article much treasured in the US…

As entered in the Charter of Barbados:-

3. That no taxes, customs, imports, loans or excise shall be laid, nor levy made on any the inhabitants of this island, without their consent in a General Assembly.

In the US Declaration of Independence this clause reads:-

There shall be no taxation without representation.

Barbados can be a world-class heritage tourism destination: but only if we stop destroying the physical evidence of our history. Perhaps fifty years ago Bajans – black, whitish and in between – made a decision to let the physical reminders of slavery rot and vanish. Walls, plantation houses, public buildings and books were offered as sacrifices to the concept that if we destroyed the relics we could forget or change history.

What a travesty! How wrong we were… and here we are today being force to “recreate” buildings and places like the Mermaid Tavern where the Charter of Barbados was signed.

Bajans must watch our representatives carefully to see that they really mean what they say. We should not accept any excuses. The truth is: I don’t believe Prime Minister Stuart. I don’t believe he and his government mean what he said, nor that the government will do what he said he would.

And that is probably the saddest thing of all.


Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, History, Slavery

11 responses to “Barbados history destined to remain unknown without real action

  1. Angela Ifill

    A promise is a comfort to a fool.What are you a fool?

  2. Jrjrjrjr

    I wonder how many tourists will come solely for the history . Probably very few. They do actually come for the sun ,sand and relaxation

  3. Sunshine Sunny Shine

    Just because it says the heritage tourism is successful in other destinations does not necessarily it would in ours. Tourist come for the sand, sea, sun, sex and nonw the savoury taste of sword fish and snapper at the Oistins Baygarden Friday Fish Fest. What they should do is spend some money developing the Baygarden, the fish market and buy the surrounding lands and properties in that area for major expansion and redevelopment.

  4. Sunshine Sunny Shine

    oops should ….Just because it says that heritage….other correction….does not necessarily means it….

  5. The deciding factor

    Sun, Sea, Sand and Rum are obvious reasons for tourists choosing Hawaii, Mexico, The Caribbean and other similar tourist destinations during the winter.

    Sometimes it’s the little things such as, fish market, heritage tourism, Jazz festival, Tennis exhibitions, eco-tourism etc that tilt a tourist towards Barbados.

    If Barbados wants to expand its tourist brand it has to do all the above well and with a smile!

    There are no shortcuts.

    Another promise from invisible and unaccountable politicians is just one more fart in the wind.

  6. john slapp

    I have visited Barbados many times over the past years and each visit is preceded by excitement at the prospect of reacquainting myself with friends made in previous years and the beauty of the island.
    This excitement is, however, tempered by the knowledge that Barbados has denied and neglected its history, both architectural and human, in favour of the “Luxury Dollar”.
    Walking around Bridgetown one is struck by the number of neglected historical buildings left to rot and decay. Just one example of many is the Eye Hospital. There are many more. They are treated no better than the eyesores of empty hotels along the Boardwalk.
    The Garrison area is one shining light, however Needhams Point, with its guns rusting in the sea, is now a part of the Hilton, for goodness sake! An example of the Dollar being more important than Heritage. It also seems that the Gun Collection in St Ann’s Fort is a national secret if direction signs are anything to go by.
    Driving around the island one comes across many old sugar mills and boiling houses. Maybe I am at fault but I have yet to see one restored to give visitors an idea of what they were like.A few days of cane crushing at Morgan Lewis is commendable but hardly inspiring.
    I could go on and on, but I think that you get the point.
    Barbados has a history. Much as we all wish it had been otherwise the fact remains that slavery, both white and black, is a major part of this history.
    I may have missed it and if I did then many others have also,but is there anywhere on the island where the horrors of slavery are exhibited? I have some understanding that one would like to forget these times and would not wish to glamourize them in any way, but to forget and put the past behind us is to dishonour the men, women and children who were its victims.
    If you need an example of how to handle and deal with a dark past you only have to look at Germany. It would have been easy to demolish the concentration camps but they are maintained as a symbol and a warning. Barbados could do something similar with one, just one, restored plantation house and surrounding buildings. Show children and visitors what their ancestors went through to enable them to live in the paradise that is Barbados: where and how they lived, how they were treated.
    A statue on a roundabout and renaming Trafalgar Square do nothing to bring home the horrors.
    I am aware that any action will cost money. It seems, however, that money can be found to attract “celebrities” and to make their lives easy. These celebs are, however, fleeting, here today and gone tomorrow. History is permanent and will always be with us, it is worth investing in as it has shaped all of us.
    Yours etc John Slapp
    47 Firs Avenue
    Rutland, GB

  7. John

    The four part video is worth watching.

    Another way in which we can have “tourists” visit is via the internet.

    Make documents in the Archives available on line and charge to access/download them.

    I can purchase a will online from the PRO (Public Records Office) in the UK for six pounds. The purchase and delivry all occurs via computer.

    Make such a service available and let the descendants of Barbadians who left these shores long ago do genealogical research online.

    Our Tourist arrivals do not have to be through the airport and seaport exclusively.

    We can get far more visitors interested in their history if we have their history available on the internet.

  8. NYC/BGI

    Stop the BS!. BGI once touted that it was little England.when there was a effective push for tourist. Remember when the Merrymen toured wit ht e BTA. Tourism was flushing and profitable,. When did the historical factor come into play?? BGI is a Sun fin destination such as another tourism destination, Look at SJU who spent thousands on a cultural program and otu of every 1000 tourist 5 gained the information and they spent many dollars on print programs as well. What make you think that the average tourist cares about the Oistins Charter, and ask the Bajans living outside if BGI they will not know about it to any degree.. The Global economy has effected tourism everywhere and BGI is no different than the other
    Sun and Fun destinations, ,

  9. john slapp

    I am baffled. Why is it necessary to link the saving of the Barbadian history and heritage to tourism?

  10. Ivan Taylor

    LOL – This is so funny What a waste of Breath once we got piece of fried fish some good wuck up music and a pair of the latest trainers who needs History – wunna bette check yaself

  11. Thanks for this – we do have a rich history full of interesting variety! enjoyed this show! Education is key to expanding many a mind.