Most people don’t realize that there are in fact three islands in the nation of Grenada. My favorite is the island Carriacou (carry-a-cou).
You won’t find cruise ships, big resorts or souvenir shops – this is Caribbean life the way it was 50 years ago: quiet, friendly and relaxed. It was the home of Prime Minister and Mrs. Herbert Blaize when I was posted to Grenada 30+ years ago.
I worked for the White House Office of Private Sector Initiatives in Grenada and was assigned to The Office of the Prime Minister Herbert Blaize and The Minister of Communications Keith Mitchell ( the present and longest serving Prime Minister of Grenada.) I was managing director of Grenada’s first television network which was a gift from the Reagan White House and National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). We were the only official White House project on the islands following the U.S. Intervention.
Not only was Prime Minister Blaize our direct boss… he and Mrs. Blaize (Venitia) were our house mates. We lived with them at the PM’s official residence at Mount Royal in the capital of Saint Georges which was on the grounds of Government House. That was our first home before we moved into the former Cuban Embassy.
Our hosts would often invite us to their home located on the island of Carricou. Our transport to the little island was the Grenada Coast Guard ship M/V Tyrrel Bay .
Carriacou is an island of the Grenadine Islands located in the southeastern Caribbean Sea, northeast of the island of Grenada and the north coast of South America. The name is derived from the Carib language Kayryouacou. Carriacou is home to 8,000 people. The capital city is Hillsborough, the only town or city on the island. The rest of the island settlements are very small villages. There are more than 100 rum shops in Carriacou.
Carriacou was home to Prime Minister Herbert Augustus Blaize, the founder of GNP (Grenada National Party) and the former Chief Minister of Grenada when it was still under British rule. Carriacou is a popular vacation destination for Grenadians.
Noteworthy beaches in Carriacou include Paradise Beach and Anse La Roche. European (English or French) dances, such as the Quadrille, are still popular on the island today. The Big Drum dance is the most popular dance on the island and is performed on a special occasions. Carriacou is reputed to be the friendliest, healthiest and safest island in the Caribbean. Carriacou’s Pierrot, or Shakespeare Mas, is originally from Mt.Royal.
It was a journey that took us back 50 years in time to the Caribbean of a generation ago. Sleepy little streets and brightly painted homes with pristine beaches. Absent were beach vendors and people wanting to braid your hair. The local bar made the best rum punch and offered hair cuts. They even sold rum to go. Mrs. Blaize made incredible meals and homemade bread. The table was often spread with Coo-Coo and Okra, the national dish.
Weekends always flew by. I could easily return to Carricou for the rest of my life. Everytime I visit it is like going home. Carricou is known as the ‘Land of Reefs’, with shallow clear waters: ideal for snorkelling. Occupants of the island are independent and fiercely traditional. On Carriacou the musical customs of their African ancestors can be experienced at the Carriacou Maroon and String Band Music Festival held in the month of April.
The earliest written records dating back to 1656 suggest that Caribs named Carriacou ‘Kayryouacou’, meaning ‘land surrounded by reef’. Archaeological discoveries of pottery tools from approximately 1000 AD reveal that Arawaks and Caribs from South America were the first settlers on the island.
Carriacouians have rich traditions and customs passed through generations influenced by their African and European ancestors. There are so many cultural experiences to take in and capture-worthy celebrations, be it as a witness to a traditional wedding or boat-launching event, watching the Big Drum Nation Dance or Shakespeare Mas, or taking part in All Saint Candle Lighting ‘Pass Play’ and Fishermen Birthday Celebrations
The proud and independent inhabitants of Carriacou are very similar to the warm and welcoming personalities of people in mainland Grenada. The differences can be found in the interesting stories of the people and how their ancestors and families settled in Carriacou, and the cultural traditions they still enjoy today. Carricou should be on every world travelers “bucket list.” You’ll fall in love with paradise and might not come back.