Do You Know Your Barbados Cultural History?

Barbados is known to some as “Little England.” But it’s not just Britain that has put a stamp on this lovely Caribbean nation.

The first settlers in Barbados are believed to have come from South America. There’s some suggestion that people came here prior to the birth of Christ, but most science suggests that Arawak Indians from South America started settling this part of the Caribbean around 300 or 350 A.D. Later, Carib Indians arrived from what is now modern-day Venezuela. So, Indigenous peoples are recognized as the first settlers of this bucolic island.

According to most history experts, European emergence in Barbados began with Portuguese sailors who ventured to the island en route to Brazil. A ship captained by navigator Pedro a Campos landed ashore way back in 1536, meaning the country’s 500th anniversary of European discovery is only 17 years away.

Campos called the island “Barbados,” which means “bearded” in Portuguese, apparently because of the “bearded fig trees” he found.

British captain John Powell landed on the island in 1625 and claimed it for England. Two years later his brother, captain Henry Powell, came with a party of 80 settlers and 10 slaves. It’s said that Powell’s group was welcomed by wild hogs that were the descendants of animals the Portuguese left on the island.

Brits have been coming in large numbers ever since. But so have other groups.

Jewish settlers arrived on the island from Brazil, Suriname, England, and Germany in 1628. In fact, Barbados was the first British territory in which Jews obtained full political rights. Today, one of the top sights in Bridgetown is the Nidhe Israel Synagogue, one of the oldest synagogues in the western hemisphere.

Canada has a long history with Barbados. Its financial industry helped to build the island nation’s banking system, which is why visitors will notice several Canadian banks with branches in Barbados.

Barbados also has a cool history with the United States. Of course, many Americans come for the great beaches and vibrant Bajan culture. But what a lot of Americans don’t know is that South Carolina was settled in 1670 by ships of British residents who arrived on boats from Barbados and Bermuda.