My favorite of all the Caribbean islands is Dominica. It is wild, forested, and mountainous and hasn’t changed much since Columbus first saw it on November 3, 1493. He named it “Dominica” in honor of “The Lord’s Day.”
The citizenry proudly assert that it is the only island that Columbus would recognize today. Unlike other Caribbean islands the geography hasn’t changed much in over 500 years.
The Honorable Roosevelt B. Douglas, Prime Minister, puts it this way: “From sunrise to sunset, Dominica presents a magnificent palette of color and an endless array of beauty…Mother Nature has blessed our country with remarkable mountain ranges, towering waterfalls, pristine rivers and spectacular attractions. Our country is a land of unique experiences, inspiring scenery and memorable activities-above and below the sea.” I agree with him completely.
One of the many reasons I like Dominica is the position of cruise ships in the main city of Roseau. Ships dock in the very center of town. Very much like Nassau in Bermuda and Juneau and Ketchikan in Alaska.
The entire island is only 29 miles long by 16 miles wide. With a population of 75,000, it lies between Guadeloupe to the north and Martinique to the south.
Most of the inhabitants are descendants from Africa. They engage in farming in a limited way because of the rugged terrain. Tourism and crafts are the main industries.
Directly across the street from the ship’s gangway is the center of town. The double story building is the Tourism Center. The entrance was surrounded by “pushers.” Not drugs but taxi drivers hustling for tourists to visit the countryside. Next to Cartagena, Colombia they are the most aggressive in the Caribbean.
Directly in back of the Center was the local flea market. Every kind of craft imaginable was for sale. It was there that Stella and I met Gweneth Jules Moorehouse. What a dynamic and intelligent woman.
She possesses dual citizenship. A citizen of the U.S. and also of Dominica. She lived in Boston for fifteen years and was a school teacher. She speaks perfect English. After the death of her husband, she raised her children by herself and returned to Dominica. Her booth and supply of artifacts was the best in the market. When asked about why she preferred Dominica she said, “I love the people. They are genuine. And I love the mountains and the countryside.”
A significant part of the panorama of Dominica is the picture of the Caribs, the last indigenous people in the Caribbean. The Caribs were the warlike people that swept over the islands. They came from the Orinoco River Valley in South America.
Today the last of them are settled in eight villages sprawled across 3,782 acres on the east coast of Dominica. Only about 3500 of them remain. Most of them exist by cultivating the land to grow bananas, coconuts and to fish.
They also provide a living by making baskets and carving canoes. Some of their ancient practices are still performed. These are expressed in dances, dress and body designs. While there has been a growing identity with other people, the Caribs are still very much a dynamic, separate civilization from antiquity.
One writer has described the island like this: “Dominica’s rugged, yet peaceful, interior arouses everyone’s sense of adventure. Mountains rise to the clouds. Rich green valleys span as far as the eye can see. Cool clear rivers invite a pair of tired feet. Waterfalls cascade down the Mountain side, making a thunderous sound. Great trees stand straight and tall.”
In addition to all of this is another scene that captures the senses. Dominica has the most vivid and complete rainbows you have ever seen. The colors are clear without diffusion. They speak of promise and reflect the beauty of this unique island. Don’t expect beaches of soft sand. They just aren’t there. But a land as previously described is there for the viewing.
The closest place that I can think of to Dominica is Kwai, Hawaii.
Amen. Selah. So be it.