Several leaders, dignitaries and artists, including Prince Charles and Rihanna, attended the ceremony which began on Monday evening in a popular square where the statue of a famous British lord was removed last year as part of a global campaign to erase symbols of oppression. Fireworks dotted the sky at midnight as Barbados officially became a republic, with screens set up across the island so people could watch the event which featured an orchestra with over 100 steel players pan and many singers, poets and dancers. It also aired online, sparking a flurry of enthusiastic posts from Bajans living in the United States, Canada and beyond.
“Happy Independence Day and everyone’s freedom,” wrote one viewer.
The drive to become a republic began over two decades ago and culminated when the island’s parliament elected its very first president last month by a two-thirds majority. Barbados Governor General Sandra Mason was sworn in before dawn on Tuesday as the island celebrated the 55th anniversary of its independence from Britain.
“Make big dreams”
“As our first prime minister warned us (…) we should no longer be found strolling through colonial premises,” she said. “We must seek to redefine our definition of self, state and Barbados brand, in a more complex, fractured and turbulent world. … Our country and our people must dream big dreams and fight to make them come true. “
Mason, 72, is a lawyer and judge who has also served as ambassador to Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and Brazil. She will help Prime Minister Mia Mottley rule the wealthy Caribbean island of more than 300,000 people that depends on tourism, manufacturing and finance.
Barbados did not need UK permission to become a republic, although the island will remain a member of the Commonwealth. It is an event that the Caribbean has not seen since the 1970s, when Guyana, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago became republics.
Barbados became independent from the United Kingdom in November 1966, more than three centuries after the arrival of English settlers, and transformed the island into a wealthy sugar colony based on the labor of hundreds of thousands of African slaves.
Distancing yourself from your colonial past
In recent decades, the island has started to distance itself from its colonial past. In 2005, Barbados abandoned the London-based Privy Council and chose the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice as the final court of appeal. Then in 2008, he proposed a referendum on the question of becoming a republic, but it was postponed indefinitely.
Last year, Barbados announced its intention to cease being a constitutional monarchy and removed a statue of British Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson from National Heroes Square, the venue for the event to celebrate becoming a republic. .
“From the darkest days of our past and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever sullies our history, the inhabitants of this island have forged their way with extraordinary courage,” said Prince Charles, who thanked the Barbadian authorities for inviting him and said he greatly admired what they had accomplished.
“Freedom, justice and self-determination have been your guides. “
During the ceremony, the Prime Minister awarded pop star Rihanna the honor of national hero of Barbados, saying, “May you continue to shine like a diamond” as they both laughed. .
Barbados’ flag, coat of arms and national anthem will remain the same, but some references will change, according to Suleiman Bulbulia, a columnist for Barbados Today. He wrote that the terms “royal” and “crown” will no longer be used, so the Royal Barbados Police will become the Barbados Police Service and “Crown lands” will become “Crown lands”. ‘State “.
“This is the start of a new era,” he wrote. “Any Barbadian can now aspire to be our Head of State. “