Located in the south-east of the Caribbean Sea, Grenada is a seven-island archipelago that is part of the British Commonwealth. Because of its status as one of the top exporters of spices such as nutmeg, mace, cinnamon and cloves Grenada is also commonly known as the ‘Spice Island’. With the interior of the country made up of heavy rain forest and the beaches lining the shores, Grenada is a picturesque tourist destination; growth in this area is significantly helping to decrease the prevalent poverty of the island.
First colonized by the French and then by the British, Grenada was finally granted independence in 1974 under the first Prime Minister, Sir Eric Matthew Gairy. Post-independence Grenada had a relatively peaceful history until Maurice Bishop seized power from Gairy in a coup in 1979; Bishop was then subsequently overthrown himself in 1983 after a split in his government. This set the scene for an invasion by the United States and the execution of Bishop. The US troops withdrew from Grenada after several months and Nicholas Brathwaite was appointed Prime Minister, establishing democratic principles in Grenada which have largely been upheld ever since. In 2004 Hurricane Ivan struck Grenada, destroying 90% of the islands’ infrastructure and devastating the crops. Now Grenada hosts a fast-growing economy, however poverty still exists in abundance.
Today, the population on the islands reflects the mixing of indigenous Arawak and Carib populations, with indentured workers from India and Africans, as well as French and English colonisers. About a third of the people from Grenada migrate to other countries, mostly in the Caribbean and in the West. English is the official language, but Grenadian Creole (reflecting Indian, African and European heritage) is also frequently used. Culturally, there is a stronger French influence found, especially with food and architecture; however African and Indian elements are also evident. Music is expressed in the styles of soca, calypso, reggae and rap, which are represented each year at the Carnival festivities and the National Dance Festival. Storytelling and folktales also form a fusion between African and French traditions on the islands, with characters such as Anancy (the spider god), La Diablesse (a she-devil) appearing in the common form of Caribbean crick-crack stories.