SAINT LUCIA celebrated 40 years of independence in February – and the celebrations are set to continue throughout 2019.
It was February 22, 1979 when they relieved themselves from British rule.
Those on the island, or those that plan to visit this year, will be treated to a host of events and activities to thrill and excite. Among the highlights are the Miss Saint Lucia pageant, the world-famous Jazz & Arts Festival, the ultimate jump up which is carnival and the Caribbean Awards of Sports Icons (CASI).
Next month the jazz festival kicks things off. During the festival visitors can enjoy diverse jazz concerts, various art shows, street parties and many more surprises. Performances take place during the day and at night, at sweeping venues and intimate spots, all around the island. Some shows are indoors, but most happen outdoors to take advantage of the sublime scenery.
In 2011 this popular festival celebrated its 20th anniversary, which was a rare achievement as several other festivals in the region had failed to establish themselves in the same way.
Among the acts that year were American musician John Legend. If you thought you had time to recover from the jazz extravaganza, you’d be wrong, because over the course of June/July is the party hard carnival.
J’ouvert is the street party that kicks off the annual carnival celebrations in Saint Lucia’s capital city, Castries.
The name is taken from the French patois for ‘day opening’, with celebrations starting well before the sun has risen and continuing into the afternoon – when the main carnival parades take over.
Pumping rhythms, sexy costumes and the people dancing under the warm Caribbean sun; welcome to Saint Lucia Carnival!
Almost on the heels of the annual Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival, Saint Lucia’s cultural landscape morphs into a flurry of chrome plated steel drums, feathers, and beads. No matter who you are, Saint Lucia Carnival is something to behold. But it wouldn’t be Carnival without the ‘wining’ and jumping and non-stop partying.
The tradition began in the eastern Caribbean around the time that slavery was abolished in the 1830s – although the concept of carnival had existed there for about 50 years before, with Trinidadian slaves who were banned from attending their French masters’ masquerade balls choosing to organise their own entertainment in their backyards.
As the year ends, CASI will take centre of attention as the islands’ sports stars come under the spotlight.
The nation has a proud sporting heritage.
Among those with Saint Lucian blood in their veins are Rio and Les Ferdinand, whose football careers have seen them become English Premier League legends.
To date Colin McMillan is the island’s only boxing world champion, having landed the WBC featherweight title in 1992.
Away from revelry, the island can boast of two Nobel Prizes in the shape of Derek Walcott (literature) and W Arthur Lewis (economics). These two awards see Saint Lucia lead the table of Nobel Laureates per head of population. Who would have thought that small jewel of an island – just 27 miles long and 14 miles wide – could pack such a global punch?
It’s picturesque, too. It is covered by lush green jungle and sits like an emerald in a turquoise sea.
Lovely palm fringed black volcanic and white-sugar beaches border its coast with the tropical rainforest as a backdrop rolling down to the sea.
The coast is marked with fishing villages and coral reefs. A World Heritage site, the iconic Piton Mountains lie to the south of the island near Soufrière and Choiseul.
The range is dominated by two peaks, the Gros Piton and the Petit Piton.
The mountains, covered in dense jungle, can be hiked by anyone of average ability with the aid of a guide.
If you are attempting to source some of the island’s history, Pigeon Island National Landmark is heralded as one of the most important monuments of Saint Lucia’s history.
It is a vivid representation of the cultural and historical monuments of international, civil, military and marine cross currents, characteristic of West Indian historical change.
A living museum within a natural setting, Pigeon Island is being nurtured through careful protection and intelligent development to serve the intellectual, cultural and recreational needs of all who visit this historic site.
It is said when comparing Saint Lucia to other Caribbean Islands that “only one island has it all” – and it’s easy to see why.