The island of Barbados, meaning "Bearded Ones", is located 250 miles
off the coast of Venezuela. Barbados is the easternmost island of the
West Indies and one of the most densely populated countries of the world. The
land is basically flat, as it is mostly coral rock. The capital city,
Bridgetown, is the largest city and the chief port of the island. The Indians
had built a bridge there; thus, when discovered it was called Indian-Bridge town
then later became known as Bridgetown.
Barbados was first settled by the English in 1627 and remained under British rule until
it gained independence in 1966. The government is actually a constitutional monarchy
with a governor general representing the British Crown as head of state. However,
the prime minister and the Cabinet rule the country. As a result, the island has a
very English-like atmosphere deserving of the nickname "Little England".
The original inhabitants of the island were the Arawak-speaking Indians who were driven
out by the Caribs in the 1500's. Today, the majority of the population is black,
numbering more than three quarters. Approximately fifteen percent are mixed African
and European descent. Europeans, chiefly British, make up about four percent.
The Church of England is the major denomination, although many others including the Roman
Catholic, Methodist, and Moravian can be found there.