It is Carnival time here on the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Also known as the Emancipation festival, Carnival is the celebration for the freedom of the islands’ African slaves which occurred on 1 August 1834. (To this day it is celebrated by a three day public holiday on the first Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in August ).
This is a two-week affair of music, pageants and general revelry and limn’ in the streets. Businesses shut down and, for those who do want to partake in the festivities, use this time to head off island for Summer holidays.
The British Virgin Islands history is storied and not always the ideal paradise that we think of it as today. In 1803, Writer Howard, an agent selling a distressed cargo of slaves from a shipwreck in Tortola wrote that “Tortola is well nigh the most miserable, worst-inhabited spot in all the British possessions… this unhealthy part of the globe appears overstocked with each description of people except honest ones.” (Wikipedia) The British Virgin Islands have obviously overcome the bleak description to become one of the prosperous islands thanks to the Financial sector and Tourism. The sailing community in the BVI contributes largely to the economy and is diverse with a large fleet of bare-boats here year round and the Winter season seeing many luxury yachts arrive to enjoy the warm temperatures and great sailing.
Many Caribbean nations have their own form of Carnival based on folklore, culture, religion, and tradition so check out your favorite island getaway to see if you can schedule in a little bit of merriment in the sun.
A little known fact: The architect of the US Capitol Building, William Thornton, was born on the island of Jost Van Dyke in 1759 and is known to have been one of the first owners to have freed his slaves well before it became the politically correct thing to do.