Grenada’s Independence – a National Celebration
Grenada celebrated 45 years of Independence, on 7th February, 2019. One of the most important days of the year for Grenadians at home and in the diaspora. On the same date, back in 1974, the Tri-island State was granted its independence from British rule.
Not that the British were the only country which ruled Grenada; it has a checkered history.
Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1498, already inhabited by the Amerindians, the island was re-named Concepcion from Camerhogue. The Spaniards followed, and reminiscent of their own city they named the island, Granada, the French called it La Grenade. Finally, it was named Grenada by the British who gained final control of the island in 1783, under the Treaty of Versailles. A close look at names of villages, towns and parishes, and even some local pronunciation speaks to the visitation and occupation of both the Spanish and French, on the shores of the Spice Isles.
As February approaches each year, the island is awash with national colours. Every available surface seems to be ablaze with the red, yellow and green of Grenada’s national flag; every roundabout, street corner, the main thoroughfares and village shops. The artistry of Grenadians, of all ages, finds a canvas, be it a rock, a sea wall, a designated wooden building – any surface on which to translate their interpretation of the very same colours. Some renditions are inspired by the surrounding natural beauty, others are the fruits of their own imaginations and ‘Independence’ thinking.
This ‘dressing’ of the island continues its decorative patriotic flow onto the human form. From ties to full dress suits and pretty feminine outfits designed completely around the country’s national colours. The more conservative may wear a lapel ribbon, a neck tie or a scarf. But many pride themselves on endless imaginative variations of clothing, all constructed, with marvelous dexterity; utilising each colour, with which every available corner of the island seems to be arrayed.
For the celebrants, everything possible references the roots of the country; from a typical Grenadian breakfast of cocoa tea, saltfish & bakes and tannia log. And naturally, each and every cooks signature take on Grenada’s national dish, Oil Down, to be served later in the day. Oil Down competitions in villages, offices, beaches and between friends, judging the best tasting and presentation, are the norm. You may find yourself the recipient of some of this local fayre, even if you don’t ask for it! Each community is effusive in their wish to share the experience, and commemorate one of the most important days of the year.
Officially, February 7th , and the importance of Grenada’s status as an independent nation, is also noted by important aspects, such as the traditional military parade, cultural dancing, patriotic song renderings and most importantly the Prime Ministers address to the nation. Held at the Kirani James Athletic stadium it is attended by thousands of the population, alongside the Governor General, the ministers and numerous other dignitaries and public servants.
Unofficially, there are those who salute the islands beauty and their freedom to enjoy it, independently, by group hikes to the interior mountain tops such as Mt Qua Qua and Mt. St.
Catherine and Grenada’s pristine waterfalls. Afternoon beach limes are a must and the most popular holiday beach spot is Bathway; found on the islands more rugged northern coast, just a stone throw away from Levera beach and its namesake resort project.
Ultimately, all Grenadians, at home and in the diaspora, know that this is a day to be marked, in whatever way one may see fit, but definitely to be marked! The date of Grenada’s coming of age as an independent nation, responsible for shaping its own destiny.