Dominica is not The Dominican Republic. I admit I confused them before our visit. The Commonwealth of Dominica is an island with a population of about 80,000. The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and has about ten million people.
Dominica was the last Caribbean island colonized by Europeans. Perhaps as a result, a few thousand indigenous Kalinago people still live in eight small villages on the east coast. Disease, slavery and genocide wiped out most First Americans on other islands. Simply because they exist, the Kalinago Territory is worth a visit the next time any of us head that direction.
The French settled the island in the 16th Century. The British took control in the late 18th. The English abolished slavery in 1833. A monument to emancipation is near the President’s offices in the capital, Roseau.
The English also started a botanical garden in 1889. The garden was severely damaged by Hurricane David in 1959, and one can still see the remains of a bus crushed by a falling African Baobab tree. Fortunately, no one was in the bus.
Listening to the guide on our more fortunate tour bus, I learned I was mispronouncing the name. It wasn’t “dough MIN ee ka.” She called it “dahm in EÉK uh” with the accent on the third syllable. [The accent in the Dominican Republic is on the second syllable.]
Roseau has 17,000 people. Being part of the British Commonwealth, they drive on the left side [as do the folks on Tortola in last week’s post].
Dominica is an independent republic with a President, Prime Minister and Parliament. Mary Eugenia Charles was prime minister from July 1989 until June 1995, their longest-serving prime minister and the first woman to hold that position in the Caribbean.
Steep hills and mountains rise from the Caribbean shore. The tallest is 4947 feet high. These central mountains catch moisture and are covered in lush rainforest. There are 365 rivers, one for each day of the year.
It was an agricultural country raising sugar, coconuts, breadfruit, bananas, pineapples and citrus. It still raises some of everything except sugar. Falling banana prices, however, have caused them to try to grow tourism.
My tour took me to little Hibiscus Falls and to the gardens. The country has three national parks including one that is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It is still a relatively poor country, but I enjoyed walking the streets of Roseau. It seemed just about every building held a small shop, and vendors had set up tables under umbrellas in front of many. The shops were often little more than shelves along the walls with an odd assortment of whatever they could find to sell. There were also a couple small “supermarkets,” some hotels I would be reluctant to enter and some restaurants. Fort Young, however, has been converted into a very nice looking hotel.
Despite the relative poverty, cars, vans and small buses were everywhere. But Dominica has not caught on to using license plates as a source of revenue or advertising. The plates are just plain black with a few letters and numbers, a rather refeshing change from our home state of Florida and its multiplicity of causes and slogans.
Click on photos to enlarge.
On our next visit, I plan to see the Kalinago Territory.