Sunday, September 23, 2012

My First St. Kitt's Independence

Attending the Independence Day activities here on St. Kitts and Nevis was quite an opportunity. The small federation of two islands, independent for only 29 years, put on quite a show. I didn't go to all of the events, but the ones I did attend were well worth the time and trip. Since I've been in the country for less than a month, the events gave me a great chance to learn about St. Kitts' culture, government, and people. I hope that other expatriates here didn't miss out!

The first event I went to was the Cultural Gala Night, held outside the National Museum on Friday, September 14th.

Even though St. Kitts and Nevis are in the Eastern Time Zone, the sun sets early and by 6:30 p.m. it's completely dark. Since the Cultural Gala took place at 7:30 p.m., I got to see downtown Basseterre in the dark for the first time. Although I went alone to the celebration that night, I felt very safe with the police and security there.

The Kittitian government had blocked off the Bay Road in front of the National Museum earlier in the day, and a stage and stairs were set up right in the middle of the street. When I arrived it was basically standing room only.  I felt like I was the only expat in the audience among a sea of Kittitians and thought it was unfortunate that other expats missed out on the cultural experience that night.

The event began a few minutes late, right on island time, with the announcer introducing a Kittitian child who sang the National Anthem. You can see her in the very short video clip below. Since the theme of this year's celebration was children, almost all of the performers were kids.

There were dancers, musicians, and singers who displayed a large variety of entertainment and gave a glimpse into Kittitian culture. Music and dance plays a large role in everyday life in St. Kitts and Nevis. After an hour of entertainment, I left impressed with the youth's talent and dedication to their hobbies and culture.

                                          A small church choir performing

On Monday, September 17th, St. Kitts and Nevis celebrated National Heroes Day. Though I didn't go to the events, I watched them live on ZIZ Channel 5 television, which broadcasts a lot of local events, some of them live.  One of the events I watched was the laying of a wreath at the statue of Robert Llewllyn Bradshaw, who would become the country's first Premier. Bradshaw fought for independence for years but died before he was able to see St. Kitts and Nevis achieve full independence in 1983. Bradshaw's statue stands in St. Paul's, a small village located at the Northern tip of the Island, in a community park honoring the national hero.
Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas lays a wreath at the feet of Robert L. Bradshaw's statue in St. Paul's (photo courtesy of Vondez Phipps -

On Wednesday morning, the anniversary of St. Kitts' independence, I went to the ceremonial parade at Warner Park Cricket Stadium in northern Basseterre with Julie. As a U.S. Army veteran, I have participated in many parades, and I wanted to see one in St. Kitts style.

The event was well attended, and the cricket stadium is a very nice facility with a lot of seating and most importantly shade. Many different groups lined up in their respective formations on the parade field where they were inspected in preparation for the march.

Inspection of the troops. St. Kitts and Nevis Defense Force is in the foreground.

A small contingent of the British Royal Navy was also present. Their naval ship could be seen in the harbor a few days before the parade.

British Naval Ship in Basseterre Harbor
I found it a bit interesting that St. Kitts had invited the armed forces of the country to which they were once subjugates to their national parade. However, I am American and our Independence from Britain was obtained through war, not peacefully as in St. Kitts and Nevis.

The groups marching included local church groups, youth groups, and the St. Kitts and Nevis Police Force.
St. Kitt's Police Force Color Guard
After the inspection of the groups, the entire parade field marched together in an oval around the field to the beat of the St. Kitts and Nevis Defense Force Band. The marching tempo was foreign to what I was used to, but I was inspired by the sounds of the drums beating and the sight of the groups marching neatly in-step with each other. I'm sure the Kittitians felt the same as I did and left with their national pride enhanced.

Speaking of St. Kitts and Nevis national pride, I want to close this blog with some of the symbols of this nation.

The St. Kitts and Nevis National Flag

Green represents the fertile land and yellow the year-round sunshine. White stars are symbols of the two islands of hope and liberty. Black represents the island's African heritage, and red stands for the struggle from slavery through colonialism to independence.

Prior to the independence of St. Kitts and Nevis, the nation, in addition to Anguilla, had a flag that was adopted in 1967 when the three became an associate state with the United Kingdom. This flag with a triple palm tree no longer exists.

The National Flower is the Poinciana or sometimes called the Flamboyant:

The National Bird is the Brown Pelican:
courtesy of
The entire Independence Celebration was a great experience, and I'm glad I was able to see it first hand. I'm interested in seeing how they celebrate next year as they mark the 30th year of Independence!