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Bajans just love their beach culture

BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
Staff reporter
hendrickss@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 03, 2019

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — The love of rum, day-time karaoke, and a chain of popular fast food restaurants called Chefette's are some the cultural impressions that will stay with anyone who visits the island of Barbados.

But there is nothing that the population of roughly 300,000 cherish more than public access to all of the beaches on the island.

Covering an area of about 166 square miles, Barbados sits just outside the eastern belt islands making up the Lesser Antilles, its south-eastern borders caressed by the aquamarine waters of the Atlantic Ocean. And with the Caribbean sea skirting the western shores of the island, Barbados enjoys the best of both worlds.

With the farthest point being just a 30-minute drive from the coast, going to the beach for Barbadians is like the national past time, as one local told the Jamaica Observer.

“All of us as Barbadians grew up on the beach. This was the place to be when there was nothing else to do inland. We head to the beach. It is like a past time,” said Marlon Brathwaite, a local physical trainer.

Another local told the Sunday Observer that attempts over the years by investors to privatise the beach have been vehemently resisted by both the Government and citizenry.

“All of us as Barbadians who were born here, the beach belongs to us, so there can be no privatisation of the beaches at all,” said Douglas Crawig. “Some people try to get to make the beach private but that can't work here. The public would be out for murder,” he emphasised.

This is further reflected in perhaps the most famous song on the island, by Anthony “Mighty Gabby” Carter, a legendary Bajan calypsonian and cultural ambassador whose 1983 hit Jack, criticised the then local tourist industry for giving preferential treatment to foreign visitors.

This sanctity of public access to all beaches, about 55 of them, is further enshrined in law. Their National Conservation Commission Act makes it so that all beaches, as well as public parks and gardens, are managed by the Government. Those, however, who wish to operate a business on the beach are required to obtain a licence.

Privately owned properties which front onto a beach may own the land to the high-water mark only. Such private owners are mandated to provide access points which allow for pedestrian and/or vehicular traffic.

With a notable retiree population, it is common to see elderly folk taking an early morning dip, jogging, or taking yoga classes on the beach. The popular Miami Beach near Oistins, a renowned fishing town on the south coast, is often teeming with returning nationals.

“Old people don't have anything else to do but come to the beach. We either to go the beach or go and drink rum,” one elderly man who stopped after taking his morning dip, explained.

Another local described going to the beach as “a social event in Barbados”.

“Many returning nationals come here to exercise or just to go into the water. They have done that steadily for years — every morning, at all times of the year,” he said.

Also known as Miami Beach, this pristine, 250-yard-long strip of white sand invites many locals, especially at the weekends, and any day in the early morning and before sunset, for a stroll.

Unlike Jamaica, the beaches in Barbados are kept in immaculate condition. And separate from the Government employing persons to clean the beach, community members also take pride in keeping the beach free of garbage.

“Barbadians have a really strong connection with the beach. We connect with it and we try our best to take care of it as much as possible,” Brathwaite said.


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