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[This page has been excerpted from http://en.wikipedia.org. Click here for the full page]

Antigua and Barbuda (Spanish for "Ancient" and "Bearded") is an island nation located on the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. As its name suggests, it consists of two major islands – Antigua (IPA: /ænˈtiːgə/) and Barbuda (/bɑrˈbjuːdə/) – as well as a number of smaller islets. All are close neighbours within the middle of the Leeward Islands and roughly 17 degrees north of the equator.

Antigua has a population of 82,000, comprised chiefly of a mixture of people of West African descent. The islands of Antigua and Barbuda are part of the Lesser Antilles archipelago. To the south of Antigua and Barbuda lie the islands of Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago. Montserrat lies to the southwest; Saint Kitts and Nevis and Saint Eustatius are to the west, and Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin and Anguilla are to the northwest.

History

Antigua was first settled by pre-agricultural Amerindians known as "Archaic People," commonly referred to as Ciboney, which means cave dweller in Arawakan. The earliest settlements on the island date to 2900 BC. They were succeeded by ceramic-using agriculturalist Saladoid people who migrated up the island chain from Venezuela. They were later replaced by Arawakan speakers, and around 1500 by Island Caribs.

The Arawaks were the first well-documented group of Antiguans. The Arawaks called Antigua Wadadli, which means land of oil, perhaps a reference to eucalyptus oil extracted from eucalyptus trees. They paddled to the island by canoe (piragua) from Venezuela, ejected by the Caribs--another people indigenous to the area. Arawaks introduced agriculture to Antigua and Barbuda, raising, among other crops, the famous Antiguan "Black" pineapple. They also cultivated various other foods including: corn sweet potatoes (White with firmer flesh than the bright orange "sweet potato" used in the United States.) chiles guava tobacco cotton Some of the vegetables listed, such as corn and sweet potatoes, still play an important role in Antiguan cuisine.

For example, a popular Antiguan dish, Dukuna (DOO-koo-NAH) is a sweet, steamed dumpling made from grated sweet potatoes, flour and spices. In addition, one of the Antiguan staple foods, fungi (FOON-ji), is a cooked paste made of cornmeal and water.

The bulk of the Arawaks left Antigua about 1100 A.D. Those who remained were subsequently raided by the Caribs. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the Carib's superior weapons and seafaring prowess allowed them to defeat most Arawak nations in the West Indies--enslaving some, and cannibalizing others.

The Catholic Encyclopedia does make it clear that the European invaders had some difficulty identifying and differentiating between the various native peoples they encountered. As a result, the number and types of ethnic/tribal/national groups in existence at the time may be much more varied and numerous than the two mentioned in this Article.

According to A Brief History of the Caribbean (Jan Rogozinski, Penguin Putnam, Inc September 2000 ), European and African diseases, malnutrition and slavery eventually destroyed the vast majority of the Caribbean's native population. No researcher has conclusively proven any of these causes as the real reason for the destruction of West Indian natives. In fact, some historians believe that the psychological stress of slavery may also have played a part in the massive number of native deaths while in servitude. Others believe that the reportedly abundant, but starchy, low-protein diet may have contributed to severe malnutrition of the "Indians" who were used to a diet fortified with protein from sea-life.

The Indigenous West Indians made excellent sea vessels that they used to sail the Atlantic and Caribbean. As a result, Caribs and Arawaks populated much of South American and the Caribbean Islands. Relatives of the Antiguan Arawaks and Caribs still live in various countries in South America, notably Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia. The smaller remaining native populations in the West Indies maintain a pride in their heritage.

The island of Antigua was named Wadadli by these natives and is today called Land of Wadadli by locals. Christopher Columbus landed on his second trip in 1493 and named the island Santa Maria de la Antigua after a church in Seville, Spain. Early settlement by the Spanish was replaced by English rule from 1632 (British rule from 1707 Acts of Union), with a French interlude in 1666. Slavery, established to run the sugar plantations on Antigua, was abolished in 1834.

The islands became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations on November 1, 1981, with Elizabeth II as the first Queen of Antigua and Barbuda and the Right Honourable Vere Cornwall Bird became the first prime minister.

Politics

The politics of Antigua and Barbuda takes place in a framework of a federal parliamentary representative democratic monarchy, whereby the Head of State is the monarch, who appoints the Governor-General as vice-regal representative. In 2007 Louise Lake-Tack became the first female to hold the position of Governor-General in the history of Antigua and Barbuda. A Council of Ministers is appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister, currently Baldwin Spencer. The Prime Minister is the head of the government. Vere Cornwall Bird, Antigua and Barbuda's first Prime Minister, is credited with having brought Antigua and Barbuda and the Caribbean into a new era of independence.

Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the Parliament. The bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (seventeen-member body appointed by the governor general) and the House of Representatives (seventeen seats; members are elected by first past the post to serve five-year terms). The last elections held were on 23 March 2004, while the next are due in 2009. At the last elections, the Antigua Labour Party won four seats, while the United Progressive Party won thirteen.

Since 1949, the party system had been dominated by the personalist Antigua Labour Party. However, the Antigua and Barbuda legislative election, 2004, saw the defeat of the longest-serving elected government in the Caribbean. The Prime Minister, Lester Bryant Bird and deputy Robin Yearwood had been in office since 1994, when he succeeded his father, Vere Bird. The elder Bird had been Prime Minister from independence in 1981 and, before independence, had been Chief Minister of Antigua from 1960, except for the period 1971-76 when the Progressive Labour Movement (PLM) defeated them in those elections.

The Judicial Branch is the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (based in Saint Lucia; one judge of the Supreme Court is a resident of the islands and presides over the Court of Summary Jurisdiction). Antigua is also a member of the Caribbean Court of Justice. The Supreme Court of Appeal was the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council up until 2001, when the nations of the Caribbean Community voted to abolish the right of appeal to the Privy Council in favour of a Caribbean Court of Justice. Some debate between member countries had repeatedly delayed the court's date of inauguration. As of March, 2005, only Barbados was set to replace appeals to the Privy Council with appeals the Caribbean Court of Justice, which then had come into operation.

 

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