Posted in Saint Kitts and Nevis

Marilyn’s Caribbean Cruise 2016: Part 4 – Basseterre, St. Kitts

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The next stop on my sister’s cruise after cruising about 114 kilometers almost due south was the city of Bassetterre, capital of the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis — the smallest sovereign state in the Americas, in both area and population. The country is a Commonwealth realm, with the British monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) as head of state. The Basseterre port is located on the southwestern coast of Saint Kitts Island, and is one of the oldest towns in the Eastern Caribbean. The smaller island of Nevis lies about 2 miles (3 km) southeast of Saint Kitts across a shallow channel called “The Narrows”.

Second stop was St Kitts. But I didn’t get a picture there because the nice man at the shop where I bought it told me he would mail it for me.

The island of St. Kitts is one of the Leeward Islands in the Lesser Antilles, situated about 1,300 miles (2,100 kilometers) southeast of Miami, Florida. The land area of St. Kitts is about 65 square miles (168 square kilometers), being approximately 18 miles (29 kilometers) long and on average about 5 miles (8 kilometers) across. It has a population of around 35,000, the majority of whom are mainly of African descent. The primary language is English, with a literacy rate of approximately 98%. Residents call themselves Kittitians.

The islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis were settled by Native Americans five thousand years prior to European arrival. The last wave of Native American arrivals, the Kalinago people, arrived approximately three centuries before the Europeans. The islands were discovered by the Europeans through a Spanish expedition under Columbus in 1493. A short-lived French Huguenot settlement was established at Dieppe Bay in 1538. The settlement was destroyed by the Spanish soon afterwards and the survivors were deported.

In 1623, an English settlement was established. This was soon followed by French settlements, and the island being divided by an agreement between the colonists. The Spanish were superior to the Kalinagos in means of warfare and the French and English were even more “economically aggressive and militarily determined” than the Spanish.

The French and English, intent on self-enrichment through exploitation of the island’s resources understood from the start that their establishment of settlements in St. Kitts would meet with resistance, and such resistance was waged by the Kalinago throughout the first three years of the settlements’ existence. Throughout the process of establishing settlements on St. Kitts, as elsewhere in the Caribbean, the French and the English, like their predecessors, were intent on enslaving, expelling or exterminating the Kalinagos, since the latter’s retention of land threatened the profitability of the European-controlled plantation economy. To facilitate this objective, an ideological campaign was waged by colonial chroniclers, dating back to the Spanish, as they produced literature which systematically denied Kalinago humanity (a literary tradition carried through the late seventeenth century by such authors as Jean-Baptiste du Tertre and Pere Labat).

In 1626, the Anglo-French settlers joined forces and committed genocide against the Kalinago, allegedly to pre-empt an imminent plan by the Caribs, conniving with the Kalinagos, to expel or kill; or, according to Tertre’s account, just kill the European colonialists who had maintained their presence on the island by force for three years.

Basseterre was founded in 1627 by the French, under Sieur Pierre Belain d’Esnambuc. It served as capital of the French colony of Saint-Christophe, which consisted of the northern and southern extremities of the island of St. Kitts (the center was yielded to Britain). When Phillippe de Longvilliers de Poincy was made the French governor of St. Kitts in 1639, the town turned into a large, successful port, commanding Eastern Caribbean trade and colonization.

De Poincy then quickly made Basseterre capital of the entire French West Indies colony, which included the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, and remained so until his death in 1660. The city was made capital of the entire island of St. Kitts in 1727, following French expulsion from the island and full British control.

The city of Basseterre has one of the most tragic histories of any Caribbean capital, destroyed many times by colonial wars, fire, earthquakes, floods, riots, and hurricanes. Despite all of this, a considerable number of well-restored buildings still exist in downtown Basseterre.

A Spanish expedition sent to enforce Spanish claims destroyed the English and French colonies and deported the settlers back to their respective countries in 1629. As part of the war settlement in 1630, the Spanish permitted the re-establishment of the English and French colonies.

As Spanish power went into decline Saint Kitts became the premier base for English and French expansion into the Caribbean. From St. Kitts the British settled the islands of Antigua, Montserrat, Anguilla and Tortola, and the French settled Martinique, the Guadeloupe archipelago and St. Barts. During the late seventeenth century France and England battled for control over St Kitts. The French ceded the territory to Britain in 1713.

Although small in size and separated by only two miles (3 kilometers) of water, the two islands were viewed and governed as different states until the late nineteenth century when they were forcibly unified along with the island of Anguilla by the British. To this day relations are strained with Nevis accusing Saint Kitts of neglecting its needs.

Saint Kitts and Nevis along with Anguilla, became an associated state with full internal autonomy in 1967. Anguillians rebelled and separated from the others in 1971. St. Kitts and Nevis achieved independence in 1983. It is the newest sovereign state in the Americas. In August 1998, a vote in Nevis on a referendum to separate from St. Kitts fell short of the two-thirds majority needed. In late September 1998, Hurricane Georges caused approximately $458,000,000 in damages and property and limited GDP growth for the year and beyond. Georges was the worst hurricane to hit the region in the century.

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Author:

I'm an American currently living and teaching English in Phuket, Thailand. I like to read, write, take photographs, and collect stamps. You can read about all of these things and more on my three blogs: Asian Meanderings, http://jochim.wordpress.com "Please, Mr. Postman!", https://markspostcards.wordpress.com Philatelic Pursuits, http://philatelicpursuits.wordpress.com . Cheers!

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