Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is a tropical island nation located in the Caribbean in the midst of the Lesser Antilles’ Leeward Islands. Antigua and Barbuda covers a total area of about one hundred and seventy square miles, and has a total population of just less than ninety thousand permanent residents. The history of Antigua and Barbuda stretches back more than five thousand years, with recent archeological evidence indicating that human migrants first found their way to the islands in the late fourth century BC. The island nation was inhabited in prehistory by a number of different Indian groups, including the Arawaks, the Caribs, and other pre-Columbian hunter gatherer tribes. After contact with European explorers and settlers, these indigenous populations were severely depleted due to high levels of starvation and exposure to lethal European diseases. Between 1632 and 1981, Antigua and Barbuda was under the direct control of the British Empire, although France did control the archipelago for a brief period towards the beginning of the nation’s history. Antigua and Barbuda is currently a parliamentary democracy, although it continues to be a member of the British Commonwealth, with Governor General Dame Louis Lake-Tack and Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer currently heading the local government.
There are eight major parishes and dependencies in Antigua and Barbuda – Saint Peter, Saint John, Saint Mary, Saint Paul, Saint Peter, and Saint Philip on Antigua, along with Barbuda and Redonda. In addition to these three major inhabited islands, there are a number of smaller islands and islets in the territory. The economy of Antigua and Barbuda depends heavily on the tourist industry, which contributes more than half of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. Although its niche has been somewhat weakened by the global economic downturn, Antigua and Barbuda is perhaps best known for its luxury resorts and high end hotel complexes. There are also a number of smaller industries in Antigua and Barbuda, including finance, investment, agriculture, and manufacturing. The American University of Antigua College of Medicine opened about eight years ago in the territory, and has proven to be an important new component of the area’s economy. Antigua and Barbuda has a rich and diverse ethnic and cultural heritage, showing components of Western African, British, Portuguese, Asian, and even Arabic influences.
Although the population of Antigua and Barbuda is mostly African, Britain’s strong influence over more than three centuries has resulted in the popularity of cricket in the territory. Antigua and Barbuda also shows the influence of American pop culture, and a number of local communities hold annual celebrations such as the national Carnival every August. Antigua and Barbuda have an outstanding educational system from the primary to postgraduate levels. The nation boasts a literacy rate in excess of ninety percent, and is home to the Mount St. John Medical Centre, CCSET International, Island Economy, and the University of Health Sciences Antigua. The territory also boasts some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, which are great destinations for water sports and relaxation. The shoreline of Antigua and Barbuda are home to activities ranging from just sunbathing to fishing and diving.