Year-round, you will find many tourists on Anguilla enjoying the clear waters, coral reefs, and sandy beaches, in addition to the island’s estimated population of 18,090. Although the general environment is laid back, it was not always easy-going living in this land of beauty.
A Short History
Anguilla was colonized in 1650 by British settlers, overtaking the Indigenous Amerindian population that first settled there. The French took interest in the gorgeous territory and carried out a series of four unsuccessful attacks between 1666 and 1796—all attempts to own the land. Toward the end of the 17th century, there was also a downturn in the economy due to tobacco and cotton crops not producing enough. As a result, sugar became the main crop and transformed the island’s business upward (until the 19th century when it became salt).
Over the 18th and into the 19th century, droughts and the Great Depression pushed many Anguillans to move to surrounding islands for other sources of farming, income, and opportunity. However, the remaining population was steadfast and determined—rejecting the British government and creating their own. After years of government changes and an intervention from British troops, Anguilla formally became part of the United Kingdom in 1980 but runs under internal self-government.
The Summer Festival
Perhaps the most anticipated annual event of the year for Anguillans is its celebration of the anniversary of emancipation. The Summer Festival is a 10-day event filled with food, dancing, music, and the island’s infamous boat races. Boat racing is Anguilla’s national sport due to the history of people sailing to nearby islands for work (or for a time, smuggling alcohol, a then-heavily taxed item in Anguilla!) and racing back home as quickly as possible to meet family or avoid trouble.
No matter what time of year, visitors will find themselves surrounded by goats and chickens which freely roam the island. Goats are a main source of meat, although seafood (like salt cod) also remains a constant staple because of its availability in surrounding waters. Since people of so many different nationalities and backgrounds have come and gone from the island, there is not a specific popular food. Instead, it is based on Caribbean and African traditions with influences of Spanish, French, and English cooking.
There are taxis available for tourists to get around the 16-mile-long island, although there are no real streets or what outsiders may recognize as addresses. Instead, destinations are found via the area of the island, and mail is sent to central locations to be picked up by people living in Anguilla. Visitors will find walk-up food and vendors abound on the numerous beaches and undoubtedly hear live music as they venture throughout the island—maybe even a nod to Bankie Banx, the most famous musician from Anguilla.
One may not hear of Anguilla (or Malliouhana, its original name from the Amerindian settlers) as often as the neighboring islands; however, it is guaranteed to be an experience of a lifetime with a culture of strength and resilience to surround you as you enjoy its vast beauty and the history that made it a top destination in the Caribbean.