Barbados - History and Heritage

It's believed that the first indigenous population of Barbados consisted of Amerindians who arrived from Venezuela. These were followed by the Arawak Indians who were, in turn, displaced in the 13th century by the Carib Indians. In the 1500s, the Spanish and Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive but they did not stay long. Nor did they have much of a lasting impact on the island, other than to give it its name. Los Barbados means "the bearded ones" in Portuguese—long considered a reference to the indigenous bearded fig trees found here. By the time the first British settled the island in 1627, it was largely uninhabited. The mainly flat land and the favorable climate proved perfect for sugar cane plantations, which thrived on black and Celtic slave labor. Sugar, rum, and molasses became the island's main economy. In 1834, Barbados abolished the slave trade, becoming the first country to do so.

In 1966, Barbados won independence from the United Kingdom and became an independent country. In the 1990s, tourism surpassed sugar as the primary economy. Today, Barbados is a parliamentary democracy with just under 300,000 residents in eleven parishes and one city—the capitol, Bridgetown.

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