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Island Guide

GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE

Antigua is located at 17ºN and 61ºW and Barbuda is 25 miles to the north of the mainland. The uninhabited island of Redonda is located west of the mainland. These islands are all situated in the Eastern Caribbean and are about 1200 miles from Miami in the southeast direction.

The island of Antigua is 108 square miles while Barbuda is 62 square miles. The southwest side of the island has volcanic potential and rises up to 1,319 feet. On the other hand, the north and east sides of Antigua are made up of limestone and sandstone. Barbuda is a low-lying island with a peak of approximately 100 feet.

The climate is tropical and mild. Temperatures range from 24ºC (76ºF) to 30ºC (86ºF). August and September tend to be the hottest months while January and February, the coolest months. The average rainfall is about 42 inches per year. Rainfall is heaviest during the summer. The overall pleasant year-round climate is maintained by the cool trade wind breezes and the low humidity.

The capital, St. John’s, is located on the northwest side of Antigua and is also the island’s main seaport.

 

HISTORY

In 1493, Columbus arrived in Antigua and named it Antigua after the Church of Santa Maria de la Antigua in Seville. In 1632, the English arrived from nearby St. Kitts and established a settlement, the first of its kind from Europe. The island remained British ruled until 1967 except for a brief French occupation.

Similar to other Caribbean lands, Antigua was turned into a sugar-producing island. Slaves were imported from African countries until 1838, when slavery was abolished.

The headquarters for the English fleet was located at the Dockyard in English Harbour during the 1700′s and 1800′s when the sugar producing islands were of enormous value to Europe. The senior officer of the Dockyard station from the years of 1784 to 1787 was Lord Nelson.

Consequently today, The Dockyard and English Harbour are known as Nelson’s Dockyard. Prince William Henry, the Duke of Clarence, who later became King William IV, was stationed as a captain under Lord Nelson. His residence, Clarence House, can still be seen today and is one of the many tourist attractions.

The status of Associated Statehood with Britain was first achieved in the Eastern Caribbean islands by Antigua in 1967. It formed a full government while the British was still responsible for defense and some other aspects of external affairs. On November 1, 1981, Antigua and Barbuda was granted full independence.

Antigua is still a part of the Commonwealth of Nations and the 157th member of the United Nations. Other memberships which Antigua is a part include the Organization of American States (OAS), the Caribbean Common Market (Caricom), the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

 

POLITICAL SYSTEM

Antigua’s democratic government is heavily influenced by the English parliamentary system. The Parliament is made up of two houses: the lower house and the upper house. The lower house, also known as the House of Representatives, is made up of 17 members, who are elected by the people. The upper house, also known as the Senate, is made up of nominated people with a majority going to the party of the present government.

Administration of the government is based on the system of Cabinet of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister. Each Minister is required to be a member of one house in the Parliament. Elections are done every five years.

 

LEGAL SYSTEM

Antigua’s legal system is strongly influenced by and based on the British system. Criminal cases are brought to the Assizes and civil cases to the High Court. In both cases, the right of appeal is allowed to the Court of Appeal with a final right of appeal to England’s Privy Council.

 

POPULATION & SOCIETY

Population

Antigua’s population is approximately 78,000 with about 30,000 residing in and around the capital of St. John’s. The population of Barbuda is around 2,000, most of whom reside in Codrington. Most of the pop+ulation is of African descent, although there are many persons from British, American, Portugese, Lebanese, and Syrian origins. Many retired Europeans and North Americans have made Antigua their permanent home. Annual population growth is about 1.3 percent.

Language

The official language of the country is English, although natives speak a local dialect known as Creole.

Religion

The main religion is Christianity, although there is complete freedom of religion. Anglicans make up the major denomination, but Moravians, Methodists, Roman Catholics, Seventh Day Adventist, and Pentescostals are also popular.

Education

A child’s education formally begins at five years old, at which point he or she enters the primary school system, and then progresses to the secondary school system at the age of eleven or twelve if successful in the common entrance examinations.

The state and others provide full five-year secondary education, where the students are generally prepared to take the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) or Cambridge University (England) examinations. These examinations are called Ordinary Level (O’Level) examinations, and are used to prepare the students for college and university level courses. Some students go on to take the Advanced Level (A’Level) examinations offered by Cambridge University in order to gain entrance into the regional University of the West Indies or to foreign universities.

Since 1988, the Antigua State College also offers the First Year university programme through the Univeristy of the West Indies, and successful students then go on to finish up the final two years of study leading to the Bacculaurate (undergraduate) degree.

The Antigua State College also offers technical vocational training in home management, office practice, refrigeration and electronics, agriculture and other areas.

Every level of education in Antigua and Barbuda is supported by the state, available to all without discrimination.

The University of the West Indies has campuses in Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad, with faculties including natural sciences (Mathematics, Biology, Chemisty, Physics), arts and general studies, social sciences, engineering, tropical agriculture, law, medicine and computer science. There is also a University Center located in Antigua, offering courses to qualified persons.

 

Living Standards

The literacy rate in Antigua and Barbuda is one of the highest in the Eastern Caribbean, and so is the standard of living. Most employers pay higher than the minimum wage, and there is therefore a high rate of home and car ownership. The lack of personal income tax has increased the amount of disposable income available to the general public, and unemployment is very low. There is a large percentage of immigrant workers from Guyana, St. Lucia, Dominica and other Caribbean islands.

Cultural & Social Life

There are several societies that promote arts, drama, music, and horticulture. There are many athletics, cricket and soccer (locally called football) clubs. Cricket is the national sports and Antigua has produced several top international cricketers such as Dr. Vivian Richards, Andy Roberts, Richie Richardson, and Curtly Ambrose.

Sailing is a big sports in Antigua, which is a major yachting center that hosts the annual internationally recognized Antigua Sailing Week. Golf and tennis are also important to a select few.

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