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By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 1, 2003, 21:27
Barbados is an island nation situated on the boundary of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. One of the Lesser Antilles, it lies to the east of the main chain of islands.
Barbados was uninhabited when first settled by the British in 1627, though Amerindian tribes had lived on the island previously. Slaves worked the sugar plantations established on the island until 1834 when slavery was abolished. The economy remained heavily dependent on sugar, rum, and molasses production through most of the 20th century.
The gradual introduction of social and political reforms in the 1940s and 1950s led to complete independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, with the island remaining a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. In the 1990s, tourism and manufacturing surpassed the sugar industry in economic importance.
Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is head of state, and is represented by a Governor General. In Barbados the Queen is styled "By the Grace of God, Queen of Barbados and of Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth." The present government is proposing that Barbados become a republic within the Commonwealth, with a ceremonial president replacing the Queen.
Executive power however is in the hands of the prime minister and his cabinet. The prime minister is usually the leader of the winning party in the elections for the House of Assembly, the lower house of parliament, which has 28 seats. Its members are elected every 5 years. The Senate has 21 members, and its members are appointed by the governor general.
Barbados is divided into parishes. There are eleven of them.
Barbados is a relatively flat island, rising gently to central highland region, the highest point being Mount Hillaby at 336 m. It is located in a slightly eccentric position in the Atlantic Ocean compared to other Caribbean islands. The climate is tropical, with a rainy season from June to October.
Though one might assume the island deals with severe tropical storms and hurricanes during the rainy season it actually does not. The island gets brushed or hit every 3.09 years and the average number of years between direct hurricane hits is once every 26.6 years.
The chief town is Bridgetown, the nation's capital. Other towns include Holetown and Speightstown.
Historically, the Barbadian economy had been dependent on sugarcane cultivation and related activities, but production in recent years has diversified into manufacturing and tourism. Offshore finance and information services are important foreign exchange earners, and there is also a light manufacturing sector. The government continues its efforts to reduce unemployment, encourage direct foreign investment, and privatise remaining state-owned enterprises. The economy contracted in 2001 due to slowdowns in tourism and consumer spending. Growth will remain anemic in 2002 with a recovery likely near the end of the year.
About nine tenths of all Barbadians (also known colloquially as Bajan) are blacks, mostly descendants of the slaves and workers on the sugar plantations. The remainder of the population includes small groups of Europeans and Asians. The official language is English and while most Barbadians are Protestant Christians, chiefly of the Anglican Church, there are other Protestant, Roman Catholic, Hindu and Muslim minorities.
The influence of the English on Barbados is more noticeable than on other islands in the West Indies. A good example of this is the island's national sport: cricket. Barbados has brought forth several great cricket players, including Garfield Sobers and Frank Worrell.
Residents of Barbados colloquially refer to themselves and the products of their country as "Bajan", not "Barbadian".
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