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5 Historical Stories from Grenada

Updated on April 17, 2013

Grenada's Flag

Occupation by the French and British

Grenada has been controlled by both the French and British. And, despite its own internal troubles, Grenada has never taken well to outside interference.

When Christopher Columbus, a European explorer, discovered Grenada in 1498, he did not attempt to occupy it. He gave it the name, 'Concepcion' and it remained uncolonized for another 150 years.

It is suggested that the Spanish, who renamed the island 'Grenada,' were afraid of the Carib Indians who lived in the island.

The British and the French tried to take Grenada in the early 1600's but the Caribs successfully defended their island. In 1650, the French landed and initially made friendly contact. When they tried to extend their influence to the whole island, the Caribs resisted and a number of battles ensued.

Finally, they were overthrown by the French in 1652. Those Caribs who weren't killed in the battle, jumped off the edge of the island to certain death, rather than live under occupation. The spot where they jumped is now known as "Le Morne de Sauteurs," or "Leapers Hill." A museum stands there now and is visited by those who wish to take a historical journey.

The British still had their sights set on Grenada, and it was relinquished to them in 1783, with the Treaty of Versailles. British control was challenged several times, most notably in 1795 by a black planter named Julien Fedon, who wanted to defeat the British in favor of the French. The rebellion failed to achieve its objectives.

Grenada became a Crown Colony in 1877, and an associate state within the British Commonwealth in 1967, finally gaining independence in 1974.

An Island Revolution

The 1950s was a turbulent period in Grenada's history and there were several battles for power. Eric Gairy led one of the many union strikes in 1951. Eric was not popular with everyone, and some saw him as self serving, but he did win the strike with better pay and conditions for agricultural workers.

Gairy formed the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP), which was pro independence. When independence was gained in 1974, leadership continued under Eric Gairy for the next five years.

On March 13th, 1979, a revolution took place in Grenada. Maurice Bishop of the New Jewel Movement (NJM) overthrew the existing government. They established the Peoples Revolutionary Government (PRG) and Bishop became Prime Minister.

Bishop was a communist and set up ties with Cuba and possibly the Soviet Union. Bishop had promised free elections, jobs, public ownership of property, and better living conditions, but his government failed to do much of what it had pledged. The government broke up into factions and a leadership dispute resulted in Bishop's murder, as well as many others in his cabinet. The US felt compelled to intervene.

25th October 1983

The US Invasion of Grenada

The US government under President Ronald Reagan was already concerned about Grenada's links with Cuba and the Marxist government and saw it as a potential military threat to the US. The fear was exacerbated by the construction of military grade airport.

There were also 1000 US medical students studying on the island who would be potentially threatened by the political unrest and the US felt obligated to protect them. The split in Grenada's government and murder of Bishop provided the US with the opportunity take control of Grenada.

On October 25th, 1983, the US invaded Grenada. It took only a few days for US invasion forces to secure the island. Eventually the resisting forces fled to the mountains. By mid December, a pro-American led government was in power and the fighting was over

Hurricane Damage

Hurricanes – Recovering from Hurricane Ivan

The island of Grenada is warm year round, and is divided into seasons mainly characterized by rain and by hurricanes. The dry season is from January to May and the rainy season is from June to December. The hottest months are July and August.

Hurricane season occurs June through November, although serious hurricanes are rare. However, in September 2004, Hurricane Ivan swept through Grenada and caused absolute devastation. The 125 mile per hour winds destroyed or damaged about 90% of the homes.

Many prisoners escaped, including some of those responsible for the government massacre in 1983. Most of the agriculture, including nutmeg trees, were destroyed.

Despite the devastation, the islanders showed their true spirit by rebuilding. Although the global recession has been a setback to Grenada's recovery, life goes on. Homes have been rebuilt or repaired. Many buildings have been reconstructed to withstand any repeat of a hurricane of the magnitude of Ivan.

Many farmers worked hard to replant nutmeg trees and cocoa plants. It takes five years for a nutmeg tree to reach maturity, and they are once again covering the island. (4188221)

Shipwreck

Bianca C

The passenger ship, 'Bianca C,' is a major attraction for divers and is considered one of the best shipwreck sites in the world. Of course, behind every nautical tragedy lies an interesting story.

Bianca C had an eventful history. She was launched in June 1944, and was named 'Marechal Petain.' Her initial success was short-lived as she was sunk in August 1944 by German forces. The hull was raised in 1946 and she was towed back to her original shipyard.

She was refurbished as a luxury cruise liner and renamed 'La Marseillaise.' In 1957, she was sold to the Arosa Line Inc and renamed 'Arosa Sky.' Two years later, the Arosa Line hit financial troubles and she was once again sold and was renamed 'Bianca C.'

The ship's cruise route was from Naples to Venezuela, and one of her stops was Grenada. On January 22nd, 1961, she was moored in Grenada harbor when a fire started in the boiler room that spread throughout the ship with great speed.

Remarkably, 672 of the 673 passengers and crew escaped, although a number of the crew suffered severe burns. There was insufficient fire fighting equipment to bring the fire under control. A nearby British frigate tried to offer help, arriving on October 24th when Bianca C was still burning. They tried to tow her, but found it impossible so they severed the tow line and the Bianca C sunk to the seabed where she is now visited regularly and enjoyed by divers from all over the world. (492353)

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