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Pink Sand and Frigate Birds


Barbuda is the most beautiful, desolate place. It is also home to one of the largest Frigate Bird colonies in the world. The real Pirates of the Caribbean. The ravages of Hurricane Irma left the island's already basic infrastructure devastated, and the community homeless. The landscape still consists of scattered debris, derelict buildings, containers, tents and the temporary accomodation and storage for various aid agencies. Some Barbudans, including children, have yet to return from their evacuation to Antigua and the population is down to around 1200 people, the majority of whom remain in Codrington trying to rebuild their damaged and levelled houses, schools, churches, shops and businesses.

But this is a stoic community which has shown resiliance to the outside world time and time again. Many Barbudans are descendants of a formerly incarcerated population who suffered injustice from colonial rulers prior to emancipation. The Codrington Family, who leased the island from the British Govenment for the princely sum of One Fat Sheep per year, are still generally seen by Barbudans as the 'best of the bad bunch' amoung the colonial elite.

In fact, George Jeffery, the best known guide on the island, goes as far as comparing John Codrington to Obama in his progressively liberal views for the era. The result of new found freedom was a uniquely egalitarian political system from the outset. A fiercely independent community developed where there is no formal ownership of property. Governance, with a light touch, is provided under the direction of the Barbudan Council which operates from historical records, often sketchy, or even hearsay. Barbudans, irrespective of position or status, can build a home on a patch of ‘common’ land subject to their being no conflict of interest with another Barbudan, as adjudicated by the Council. The strange lovechild of the Greek City State and the philosophical anarachy of Proudhon means that Barbudans are subsisting together in an all but unspoilt paradise of pristine beaches, intact mangroves, a relatively rich marine environment and a refreshing lack of foreign tourism, hotel complexes and development projects. Yes, their local environment has been severely bruised by Irma, but Islanders have seen it all before and have faith in the invisible hand of nature restoring the balance over time, be it a year, a decade or longer. Unsuprisingly the island has attracted the attention of the super wealthy and privileged. A limited amount of 'exclusive' low impact hotels are dotted around the west coast. There is unremitting pressure on the community to allow more inward investment, and therefore foreign exchange, to raise the standard of living of the local population. These establishments were also affected by Irma and this has hit the modest pockets of Barbudans and has increased the leverage of the Antiguan Government on the Council to reform their approach to property distribution. Local people certainly treat Gaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua & Barbuda, with a healthy degree of cynicism about his governments longer term motives, and with suspicision regarding methods of influencing the decisions of the nine Barbuda Council members. However, there is a sense that the community will fight tooth and nail to avoid change and repel the Pirates. A deep rooted desire exists to preserve their history, and a way of life of which they are so proud. There is no question that Barbuda is an island whose beauty is far from skin deep.

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