Monday, September 12, 2011

Return to Wadadli - Betty's Hope

I thought that I would NOT start out talking about Antigua by mentioning its beaches. They are fabulous, but they are one of the main reasons why people go there. I want you all to get a more holistic view of what Antigua is (I've already mentioned this), so I thought I would start out by mentioning one of a handful of its preserved historic landmarks, Betty's Hope.

I often wonder why many people don't get a chance to visit and understand historical sites in the Caribbean. Are the beaches a distraction? :) Maybe people are not interested in hearing about slavery? Have the tourist boards of these countries decided to ignore their own history? I'm not sure, but you have to understand the role of sugar production and the descendants of Africans slaves to understand Caribbean culture at some level.

Betty's Hope is comprised of the remains of portions of a plantation that was built by Sir Christopher Codrington and named after his daughter, Betty. Sir Codrington came to Antigua from Barbados and would later go on to establish Codrington, the main town on Antigua's sister island, Barbuda.

The showpiece of the Betty's Hope national park is the restored sugar mill. At the height of sugar production in Antigua there were over 160 plus sugar mills dotting the island. The remains of 90 of them are a common sight throughout the country.

Once inside the mill, you can see the machinery used to process the sugar cane.

The machinery was used to crush the sugar cane in order to extract as much juice as possible. The juice was then boiled, and eventually parts were fermented and made into rum. This little description has a much better explanation than I could give.

The rest of the Betty's Hope site consists of scant remains of various parts of the plantation. It's not much to see, but it does give you a physical reminder of what used to stand here.

The Great House

Manager's Quarters

There's also a small structure that houses artifacts and an exhibit detailing the sugar making process and Antiguan history.

Tools that the slaves used to plant and harvest the sugar.

A model of what the plantation looked like while it was in use.

A list of the primary group of slaves working on the sugar harvest.

One of the main reasons I wanted to go to Betty's Hope is that I have a family connection to this place...sorta. There is supposed to be a plaque dedicated to my great-grandmother Ellen Green, who was a prominent trade union organizer in Antigua. Even though slaves were emancipated in Antigua on August 1, 1834, their lives and those of their descendants didn't change very much. Many continued to live on the plantations as wage workers with very low salaries and little ability legally or otherwise to address their working conditions. In the 1930's regionally within the Caribbean, there was movement to organize workers to demand better conditions. My great grandmother was one of those persons leading the charge in Antigua.

The problem with my visit to see my great grandmother's public recognition? I couldn't find the plaque!! Plus, there was no one there (I don't know why), so I couldn't even ask a worker where to find it. time I guess.

Anyway, I was glad to finally visit Betty's Hope and learn more about Antiguan history.

If you've been to the Caribbean, have you had a chance to learn about its history during your visit?


Erin said...

Great post! I must admit on my two trips to the Caribbean I stuck to the beaches. But I'm inspired for any future trips. Your post reminds me of another friend and the wonderful book he wrote on the history of rum - "And a Bottle of Rum" by Wayne Curtis. Its the history of rum (and much more) told via 10 cocktails.

Daphne said...

Interesting! I've not been to the Caribbean yet, but I think this is a fabulous way to view the islands. From a marketing perspective, I've never seen any promotion of the historical landmarks of any island - the focus has usually been the beaches, adventure, etc.

I have my suspicions as to why it's not promoted, which you've already touched on. Thanks for sharing!

Hannah {Culture Connoisseur} said...

What an interesting post with a great story about your great-grandma! Rallying the people for change and freedom! Now that's some great history right there...


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