Should Barbados look to Germany and the Holocaust camps for guidance?
by 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.
47 Firs Avenue