Antigua's economy is reliant upon tourism, and it promotes the island as a luxury Caribbean escape. Many hotels and resorts are located around the coastline. The island's single airport is served by several major airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Caribbean Airlines, Air Canada, WestJet, LIAT,and JetBlue.
The only regular service to Barbuda flies from VC Bird Airport. Until July 7, 2015, the United States Air Force maintained a small base near the airport, designated Detachment 1, 45th Operations Group, 45th Space Wing (known as Antigua Air Station). The mission provided high rate telemetry data for the Eastern Range and its space launches. The unit was inactivated due to US government budget cuts.
The growing medical school and its students also add much to the economy. The University of Health Sciences Antigua (UHSA) and the American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine teach aspiring doctors.
The country's official currency is the East Caribbean dollar. Given the dominance of tourism, many prices in tourist-oriented businesses are shown in US dollars. The EC dollar is pegged to the US dollar at a varied rate and averages about $1 US = $2.7169 EC.
Prior to European colonialism, the first residents were the Guanahatabey people. Eventually, the Arawak migrated from the mainland, followed by the Carib. Christopher Columbus was the first European to visit Antigua, in 1493.
The Arawak were the first well-documented group of indigenous people to settle Antigua. They paddled to the island by canoe (piragua) from present-day Venezuela, pushed out by the Carib, another indigenous people. The Arawak introduced agriculture to Antigua and Barbuda. Among other crops, they cultivated the now noted Antiguan "Black" pineapple. They also cultivated:Corn
Sweet potatoes (white with firmer flesh than the bright orange "sweet potato" used in the United States.)
Some of the vegetables listed, such as corn and sweet potatoes, still are staples of Antiguan cuisine. Colonists took them to Europe, and from there, they spread around the world. For example, a popular Antiguan dish, dukuna (/ˈduːkuːnɑː/), is a sweet, steamed dumpling made from grated sweet potatoes, flour and spices. Another staple, fungi (/ˈfuːndʒi/), is a cooked paste made of cornmeal and water.
Most of the Arawak left Antigua about A.D. 1100. Those who remained were raided by the Carib coming from Venezuela. According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, the Caribs' superior weapons and seafaring prowess allowed them to defeat most Arawak nations in the West Indies. They enslaved some and cannibalised others. The Catholic Encyclopedia does note that the European invaders had difficulty identifying and differentiating between the various native peoples they encountered. As a result, the number and types of ethnic/tribal/national groups at the time were likely more varied and numerous than the two mentioned in this article.
The indigenous people of the West Indies made excellent sea vessels, which they used to sail the Atlantic and Caribbean. As a result, the Arawak and Carib populated much of the South American and the Caribbean islands. Their descendants live throughout South America, particularly Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia. The native-identified populations in the West Indies maintain a pride in their heritage.
Christopher Columbus named the island "Antigua" in 1493 in honour of the "Virgin of the Old Cathedral" (Spanish: La Virgen de la Antigua) found in Seville Cathedral in southern Spain. On his 1493 voyage, honouring a vow, he named many islands after different aspects of St. Mary, including Montserrat and Guadaloupe.
In 1632, a group of English colonists left St. Kitts to settle on Antigua. Sir Christopher Codrington, an Englishman, established the first permanent European settlement. From that point on, Antigua history took a dramatic turn. Codrington guided development on the island as a profitable sugar colony. For a large portion of Antigua history, the island was considered Britain's "Gateway to the Caribbean". It was located on the major sailing routes among the region's resource-rich colonies. Lord Horatio Nelson, a major figure in Antigua history, arrived in the late 18th century to preserve the island's commercial shipping prowess.
According to A Brief History of the Caribbean, European 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 sealife.
Sugar became Antigua's main crop in about 1674, when Christopher Codrington (c 1640-1698) settled at Betty's Hope plantation. He came from Barbados, bringing the latest sugar technology with him. Betty's Hope, Antigua's first full-scale sugar plantation, was so successful that other planters turned from tobacco to sugar. This resulted in their importing slaves to work the sugar cane crops.
According to A Brief History of the Caribbean, many West Indian colonists initially tried to use locals as slaves. These groups succumbed easily to disease and/or malnutrition, and died by the thousands. The African slaves adapted better to the new environment and thus became the number one choice of unpaid labour. In fact, the African slaves thrived physically and also provided medical services and skilled labour, including carpentry, for their masters.
Today, collectors prize the uniquely designed "colonial" furniture built by West Indian slaves. Many of these works feature what are now considered "traditional" motifs, such as pineapples, fish and stylized serpents. The
According to A History of Antigua by Brian Dyde, by the mid-1770s the number of slaves had increased to 37,500, up from 12,500 in 1713, whereas the white population had fallen from 5,000 to below 3,000. The slaves lived in wretched and overcrowded conditions and could be mistreated or even killed by their owners with impunity. The Slave Act of 1723 made arbitrary murder of slaves a crime, but did not do much to ease their lives.
Unrest among the slaves became increasingly common. In 1729, a slave named Hercules was hanged, drawn and quartered, and three others burnt alive, for conspiring to kill the slave owner Crump and his family. In 1736, a slave called "Prince Klaas" (whose real name was Court) planned an uprising in which whites would be massacred. Court was crowned "King of the Coromantees" in a pasture outside the capital of St. John's. The coronation appeared to be just a colourful spectacle but was, for the slaves, a ritual declaration of war on the whites. Due to information obtained from other slaves, colonists discovered the plot and suppressed it. Prince Klaas and four accomplices were caught and executed by the breaking wheel. Six slaves were hanged in chains and starved to death, and another 58 were burned at the stake. The site of these executions is now the Antiguan Recreation Ground.
The American War of Independence in the late 18th century disrupted the Caribbean sugar trade. At the same time, public opinion in Great Britain gradually turned against slavery. "Traveling ... at slavery's end, [Joseph] Sturge and [Thomas] Harvey (1838 ...) found few married slaves residing together or even on the same estate. Slaveholders often counted as 'married' only those slaves with mates on the estate." Great Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807, and all existing slaves were emancipated in 1834.
Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson (who was created Viscount Nelson 1801) was Senior Naval Officer of the Leeward Islands from 1784 to 1787 on H.M.S. Boreas. During his tenure, he tried to enforce the Navigation Acts. These acts prohibited trade with the newly formed United States of America. Most of the merchants in Antigua depended upon American trade, so many of them despised Captain Nelson. As a result, he was unable to get a promotion for some time after his stint on the island.
Unlike the Antiguan merchants, Nelson had a positive view of the Navigation Acts. The following quote from The Life of Horatio Lord Nelson by Robert Southey sums up his views about the controversial Navigation Acts:
The Americans were at this time trading with our islands, taking advantage of the register of their ships, which had been issued while they were British subjects. Nelson knew that, by the Navigation Act, no foreigners, directly or indirectly, are permitted to carry on any trade with these possessions. He knew, also, that the Americans had made themselves foreigners with regard to England; they had disregarded the ties of blood and language when they acquired the independence which they had been led on to claim, unhappily for themselves, before they were fit for it; and he was resolved that they should derive no profit from those ties now. Foreigners they had made themselves, and as foreigners they were to be treated.
Southey then quotes Nelson as saying that "The Antiguan Colonists are as great rebels as ever were in America, had they the power to show it."
A dockyard started in 1725, to provide a base for a squadron of British ships whose main function was to patrol the West Indies and thus maintain Britain's sea power, was later named "Nelson's Dockyard" in his honour.
While Nelson was stationed on Antigua, he frequently visited the nearby island of Nevis, where he met and married a young widow, Fanny Nisbet, who had previously married the son of a plantation family on Nevis.
Following the foundation of the Ulotrichian Universal Union, a friendly society which acted as a trade union (which were banned), the sugar cane workers were ready to confront the plantation owners when they slashed their wages. The cane workers went on strike and rioted when their leaders were arrested.
In 1968, with Barbuda and the tiny island of Redonda as dependencies, Antigua became an associated state of the Commonwealth, and in 1981 it was disassociated from Britain. The country was then led by what many describe as an elected family dynasty, with Vere C. Bird, the first prime minister, having been succeeded in 1993 by Lester B. Bird, his son, who retained the post until 2004. Since March 2004 to June 12, 2014 Baldwin Spencer led the country. General elections were held and the leader of the opposition Hon. Gaston Browne's Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party won 14 of the 17 parliamentary seats. The Hon. Gaston Browne was sworn in as the fifth Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda by Governor General, Dame Louise Lake-Tack on Friday, 13 June 2014.
The ethnic distribution consist of 91% African, Mulatto and mixed African/Amerindian, 4.4% Other Mixed Race, 1.7% White, 2.9% Other (primarily East Indian and Asian). The majority of the white population is ethnically Irish and British. There are also Christian Levantine Arabs (primarily of Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian descent) and a small population of Asians and Sephardic Jews.
Behind the late 20th century reviving and re-specifying of the place of African-Antiguans and Barbudans in the cultural life of the society, is a history of race/ethnic relations that systematically excluded them. A colonial framework was established by the English soon after their initial settlement of Antigua in 1623.
Mixed-race relationships and later immigration resulted by the late 19th century in the emergence of five distinct and carefully ranked race/ethnic groups. Among themselves, there were divisions between British Antiguans and non-creolised British.
Immediately below the British, were the mulattoes, a mixed-race group resulting from unions between, generally, white European males and enslaved African women, many of which took place in the years before the expansion of enslaved African population. Mulattoes were lighter in shade than the masses of Africans. Some white fathers had their sons educated or trained in crafts. They sometimes benefited them in other ways, which led to the development of a separate class. Mulattoes gradually distinguished themselves from the masses of enslaved Africans. They developed complex ideologies of shade to legitimate their claims to higher status. These ideologies of shade paralleled in many ways British ideologies of white supremacy.
Next in this hierarchy were the Portuguese— 2500 of whom migrated as workers from Madeira between 1847 and 1852 because of a severe famine. Many established small businesses and joined the ranks of what was by then the mulatto middle class. The British never really considered Portuguese as their equals, so they were not allowed into their ranks. Among Portuguese Antiguans and Barbudans, status differences move along a continuum of varying degrees of assimilation into the Anglicised practices of the dominant group.
Below the Portuguese were the Middle Easterners, who began migrating to Antigua and Barbuda around the turn of the 20th century. Starting as itinerant traders, they soon worked their way into the middle strata of the society. Although Middle Easterners came from a variety of areas in the Middle East, as a group they are usually referred to as Syrians.
Fifth and finally were the African-Antiguans and Barbudans who were located at the bottom of this hierarchy. Enslaved and forcefully transported, Africans started arriving in Antigua and Barbuda in large numbers during the 1670s. Very quickly they came to constitute the majority of the population. As they entered this hierarchy, Africans were profoundly racialised. They ceased being Ashantee, Ewe, Yoruba and became Negroes or blacks. In the 20th century, the colonial hierarchy gradually began to come apart as a result of universal education and better economic opportunity. This process gave rise to Africans reaching the highest strata of society and government.
In the last decade, Spanish-speaking immigrants from the Dominican Republic and from other African-Caribbean immigrants from Guyana and Dominica have been added to this ethnic mosaic. As new immigrants often fleeing poverty and political unrest, they have entered at the bottom of the hierarchy.
The Country consists of immigrants from other countries, particularly Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. There is also a significant population of American citizens estimated at 4500 people, one of the largest American citizen populations in the English-speaking Eastern Caribbean. A majority of Antiguans are Christians (74%), with the Anglican Church (about 44%) being the largest denomination. Catholicism is the other significant denomination, with the remainder being other Protestants: including Methodists, Moravians, Pentecostals, Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. Non-Christian religions practiced on the islands include Hinduism, Rastafari, Islam, Judaism, and Baha'i.
The major Antiguan sport is cricket. Sir Vivian ("Viv") Richards is one of the most famous Antiguans, who played for, and captained, the West Indies team. Richards scored the fastest Test century at the Antigua Recreation Ground, it was also the venue at which Brian Lara twice broke the world record for an individual Test innings (375 in 1993/94, 400 not out in 2003/04). Antigua was the location of a 2007 Cricket World Cup site, on a new Recreation Ground constructed on an old cane field in the north of the island. Both football (soccer) and basketball are becoming popular among the island youth. There are several golf courses in Antigua.
Being surrounded by water, sailing has been one of the most popular sports for years with Antigua Sailing Week and Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta being two of the regions most reputable sailing competitions. Hundreds of yachts from around the world compete around Antigua each year. Sport Fishing is also a very popular sport with several big competitions held yearly. Windsurfing was very popular until kite-surfing came to the island with a big splash. Kitesurfing or kite-boarding is very popular at Jabbawock Beach. Local Antiguan Andre Phillip is one of the most famous kite-surfers in the world and spends much of his time training in Antigua and Barbuda.
Island Academy International, the sole international school in the country, is in Buckleys, Saint John Parish.
The Antiguan racer is among the rarest snakes in the world. The Lesser Antilles are home to four species of racers. All four have undergone severe range reductions; at least two subspecies are extinct and another, A. antiguae, now occupies only 0.1 per cent of its historical range.
Griswold's ameiva (Ameiva griswoldi) is a species of lizard in the genus Ameiva. It is endemic to Antigua and Barbuda. It is found on both islands.
Antigua was one of the very first nations to legalize, license, and regulate online gambling and is a primary location for incorporation of online gambling companies. Some countries, most notably the United States, argue that if a particular gambling transaction is initiated outside the country of Antigua then that transaction is governed by the laws of the country where the transaction was initiated. This argument was brought before World Trade Organization and was deemed incorrect.
In 2006 the United States Congress voted to approve the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which criminalized the operations of offshore gambling operators which take wagers from American-based gamblers. This was a prima facie violation of the GATS treaty obligations enforced by the WTO, resulting in a series of rulings unfavorable to the US.
On 21 December 2007 an Article 22 arbitration panel ruled that the United States' failure to comply with WTO rules would attract a US$21 million sanction.
The WTO ruling was notable in two respects:
First, although technically a victory for Antigua, the $21 million was far less than the US$3.5 billion which had been sought; one of the three arbitrators was sufficiently bothered by the propriety of this that he issued a dissenting opinion.
Second, a rider to the arbitration ruling affirmed the right of Antigua to take retaliatory steps in view of the prior failure of the US to comply with GATS. These included the rare, but not unprecedented, right to disregard intellectual property obligations to the US.
Antigua's obligations to the US in respect of patents, copyright, and trademarks are affected. In particular, Berne Convention copyright is in question, and also material NOT covered by the Berne convention, including TRIPS accord obligations to the US. Antigua may thus disregard the WIPO treaty on intellectual property rights, and therefore the US implementation of that treaty (the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA)—at least up to the limit of compensation.
Since there is no appeal to the WTO from an Arbitration panel of this kind, it represents the last legal word from the WTO on the matter. Antigua is therefore able to recoup some of the claimed loss of trade by hosting (and taxing) companies whose business model depends on immunity from TRIPS provisions.
Software company SlySoft was based in Antigua, allowing it to avoid nations with laws that are tough on anti-circumvention of technological copyright measures, in particular the DMCA in the United States.
Crossroads Centre is a drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation centre located on Antigua, founded by guitarist Eric Clapton and Richard Conte, CEO of The Priory Hospitals Group (London) and Transitional Hospitals Corporation (Nevada). All development of the facility was performed by officers and employees of these two companies. Conte and Clapton served as the Centre's first two board members with Conte being chairman. Transitional put up all working capital during the development phase and the facility was initially owned ⅔ by Transitional and ⅓ by Clapton. Former prime minister Lester Bird of Antigua was integrally involved by Transitional and arranged for the government of Antigua's assistance with roads, utilities and a favourable land purchase price. Conte's wife is credited with naming the facility and his associate Lester Keizer of Transitional was the 'point man' on the project.
Stanford International Bank was formed by Allen Stanford in 1986 in Montserrat where it was called Guardian International Bank. Allen Stanford's move into banking utilized funds he had made in real estate in Houston, Texas, in the early 1980s. There was no direct connection between Stanford's insurance business in Texas and the banking business.
Stanford relocated its operations to Antigua. The bank's portfolio was overseen by an investment committee consisting of Allen Stanford; his father; Laura Pendergest-Holt, Stanford Financial Groups' Chief Investment Officer; James M. Davis (Allen Stanford's college roommate), CFO of Stanford International Bank; and a resident of Mexia, Texas (where Stanford's US interests were based) with cattle ranching and car sales experience.
On 17 February 2009, the SEC charged Allen Stanford, Pendergest-Holt and Davis with fraud in connection with the bank's US$8 billion certificate of deposit (CD) investment scheme that offered "improbable and unsubstantiated high interest rates". This led the federal government to freeze the assets of the bank and other Stanford entities. In addition, the bank placed a 60-day moratorium on early redemptions of its CDs.
On 27 February 2009, Pendergest-Holt was arrested by federal agents in connection with the alleged fraud. On that day the SEC said that Stanford and his accomplices operated a "massive Ponzi scheme", misappropriated billions of investors' money and falsified the Stanford International Bank's records to hide their fraud. "Stanford International Bank's financial statements, including its investment income, are fictional," the SEC said.
Antigua Overseas Bank (AOB) was part of the ABI Financial Group and was a licensed bank in Antigua. On 13 April 2012, AOB was placed into receivership by the government of Antigua.
Swiss American Bank Ltd., later renamed Global Bank of Commerce, Ltd, was formed in April 1983 and became the first International Financial institution governed by the International Business Corporations, Act of 1982 licensed bank in Antigua. The bank was later sued by the United States for failure to release forfeited funds from one of its account holders. Swiss American Bank was founded by Bruce Rappaport.Curtly Ambrose, legendary West-Indian cricketer
Giorgio Armani, Italian fashion designer; owns a home near Galley Bay
Calvin Ayre, billionaire founder of internet gambling company Bodog Entertainment Group
John Barrowman, actor, singer, entertainer
Silvio Berlusconi, former Italian Prime Minister
Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic mogul
Eric Clapton, established an Antiguan drug treatment centre; has a home on the south of the island
Timothy Dalton, actor of James Bond fame
Ken Follett, the author of Eye of the Needle owns a house on Jumby Bay
Marie-Elena John, Antiguan writer and former African Development Foundation specialist. Her debut novel, Unburnable was selected Best Debut of 2006 by Black Issues Book Review
SD Jones, professional wrestler known as "Special Delivery Jones" in the WWE in the 1970s and 1980s
Phil Keoghan, host of The Amazing Race, lived here during part of his childhood
Jamaica Kincaid, novelist famous for her writings about life on Antigua. Her book A Small Place was banned under the Vere Bird administration
Robin Leach of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous fame.
Archibald MacLeish, poet and (U.S.) Librarian of Congress.
Rachel Lambert Mellon, horticulturist and philanthropist, has owned a compound in Antigua's Half Moon Bay since the 1950s.
Fred Olsen (1891–1986), inventor of the ball propellant manufacturing process
Viv Richards, West Indian cricket legend; the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua was named in his honour
Richie Richardson, former West-Indies cricket team captain
Andy Roberts, the first Antiguan to play Test cricket for the West Indies. He was a member of the West Indies teams that won the 1975 and 1979 World Cups.
Andriy Mykolayovych Shevchenko, Former Ukrainian footballer and politician.
Allen Stanford, Texan billionaire and fraudster
Peter Stringfellow, British nightclub owner
DJ York, electronic dance & trance music DJ and producer
Thomas J. Watson Jr., CEO of IBM
Oprah Winfrey, talk-show host