An eastern Caribbean nation with a thriving tourism sector Barbados has developed a reputation for its pristine beaches and luxury hotel complexes. It is relatively prosperous due to this tourism boom, which has provided impetus for a growth in the construction industry. It is also a financial services centre and has reserves of natural gas whilst the sugar industry, which was once the main revenue earner on the island, is still a central plank of the economy. The island was first colonised by the British in 1627, although it was visited by both the Spanish and the Portuguese before then, it was granted independence in 1966 but is still a Commonwealth realm, with the Queen as the head of state.
Barbados was settled by Amerindians from as early as the 4th century and was also inhabited by Arawak and Carib peoples in the years before European colonisation. However the arrival of the Spanish displaced these indigenous communities and there is little trace of pre-European society in the island today, although descendants of the Arawaks still live on the island. During the 17th and 18th centuries the sugar industry on the island underwent rapid growth and slaves from Africa were brought over to Barbados to harvest the sugar cane. The majority of the Bajan population are descended from these slaves and the culture of the Barbados is derived mainly from West African culture although the influence of the British is also evident. English is the official language the Bajan dialect is a distinctive synthesis of the various African, Caribbean and American influences on the island.
The cultural synthesis evident on Barbados is reflected in its music, cuisine, and in the literature of the island. The most prominent writer from Barbados is George Lamming whose novel In the Castle of My Skin is considered a classic of postcolonial literature. It evokes the Barbados of the 1930s and offers insights into the experience of growing up in such a distinctive society. Other prominent writers from Barbados include Kamau Brathwaite, Frank Collymore, Anthony Kellman and Paule Marshall. Barbados also hosts a thriving arts and music scene which is most evident in the various festivals on the island throughout the year.