Culture in St. Vincent & The Grenadines
Food, festivals & traditions
Much of St. Vincent & The Grenadines' culture, as you might expect, is strongly linked to the sea, and to the boats which brought African slaves, Portuguese labourers, and French and British settlers together with indigenous Caribs to give St. Vincent and the Grenadines its vibrant, multi-ethnic community, that is both proud and unified.
Food and drink in St. Vincent & The Grenadines
Virtually everything you eat in St. Vincent & The Grenadines will have been grown or reared locally. The furthest many ingredients will travel is from a small farm on St. Vincent to a plate at a restaurant on the Grenadine islands. The fish will have been pulled out of the waters surrounding the island by a local fisherman and sold straight to the chef just a couple of hours before it is cooked. Be sure to sample the local dishes jackfish and breadfruit, and wash it all down with a cool Hairoun Beer or a Sunset Rum.
"If you come to St Vincent you will be eating healthy and you will be eating well. You won't be eating no imported food. Locally grown fresh food and fresh caught fish every day."
Ronda Ortel, Chef
Eating good local food is always one of the special pleasures of travel. The volcanic soil of St Vincent is so fertile that almost anything will grow here. There's a saying that even if you plant a stone here something edible will grow from it.
Also, being an island means that it is expensive to import food, so virtually everything you eat will have been grown or reared locally. The furthest many ingredients will travel would be from a small farm on St Vincent to a plate at a restaurant on one of the Grenadine islands.
The fish has often travelled even less food miles, pulled out of the waters surrounding the island by a local fisherman and sold straight to the chef just a couple of hours before it is cooked.
Vincy Mas carnival
Vincy Mas is the Caribbean's hottest summer festival. Taking place at the end of June/beginning of July and spread over twelve days, this is a festival of steel pan, masquerade and calypso, packed with historical meaning and cultural pride. The festival provides fantastic entertainment for all the family with acts and shows such as the King and Queen of the Bands, Junior Carnival, the Miss Carnival Beauty Show, Steel Band and Calypso competitions and all kinds of different street parades. Vincy Mas is the most important annual celebration for St. Vincent & The Grenadines.
Music in St. Vincent & the Grenadines
Music is a big part of Vincentian culture. Every March, locals head to the Emerald Valley Resort on St. Vincent for the Rhythm & Blues Festival, a two-day event of soulful Caribbean tunes. Gospel Fest takes place during the month of April and is a celebration of traditional Caribbean gospel music. Join in the festivities at many locations all over the island of St. Vincent - this is a showcase of the best of the gospel talent in St. Vincent & The Grenadines.
Bequia Regatta - Easter weekend
The Bequia Regatta and the Easterval Regatta (Union Island) take place during Easter weekend every year. The weekend activities include huge boat races, with hundreds of entrants taking part, sports and games, calypso and many other competitions and activities.
The Canouan Regatta, which is a similar event, takes place during the Whitsun Weekend.
Boat building on Bequia
With the decline of the plantations after the abolition of slavery Bequia's main industry came from the sea.
"You were a boat builder or a fisherman. If you had no business building boats you went fishing."
Herbert Ollivierre, Master Shipwright
Maroon festival on Union Island
The Maroon draws from ancient harvest rights brought from West Africa by the salves that were taken to work on the cotton plantations.
The day-long festival takes place on a full moon in May and includes songs, dance moves and drumming rhythms handed from generation to generation.
Model boat builders on Bequia
Every year at the Bequia Easter Regatta local children sail coconut boats in their own version of the main race. Launched from the beach, the first to sail past a marker buoy wins.
It was making these coconut boats, first so he could compete and later for other children, that led to a 40-year career for Lawson Sargeant.
Maritime Museum on Bequia
Although small, the Maritime Museum has some beautiful models of historic boats, old photographs and artefacts.
"It's something the island needed for a long time, to keep the history alive and tell people what the island been doing."
History and culture of Bequia
The history of Bequia is tightly wrapped around the movement of people through the Caribbean.
The sea has dominated the economy and culture of Bequia. Despite cotton and sugar plantations and widespread local agriculture, it is boat building, fishing, whaling and seamanship that defined peoples' lives for generations. They still do today.
Whaling traditions over 200 years old on Bequia
"Growing up as a young boy the whalers were our heroes. They were doing it for the island. It supplied us with food."
The people of Bequia have been recognised as having a legitimate right to hunt under the Aboriginal Subsistence Scheme.
Nine mornings festival
Christmas sees a festival unique to St Vincent and the Grenadines, Nine Mornings. This is when parties, music and celebrations are held each morning between 16th and 25th of December, when the whole community wakes before dawn for festivities that last until people wander off to work. The people of Owia take a communal mineral bath in Owia Salt Pond, other villages stage street musical gigs, dances and festivities.
The origins of the celebration are clouded in mystery, some linking it to Catholic Novena, early morning church services in the run up to Christmas. Others say it is a ritual that has its roots in African culture brought to the islands by slaves.
Whatever its history, Nine Mornings is a wonderful expression of culture and community that is only found on St Vincent and the Grenadines.