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How the Old World’s hegemony shaped Saint Lucia’s Architectural Language. Part 1: Brief Historical Background

How the Old World’s hegemony shaped Saint Lucia’s Architectural Language.
Part 1: Brief Historical Background

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Saint Lucia’s Architectural landscape can be described as a collage of historical events and their respective imprints. Our nation's bondage with the old world, and in turn its hegemony has become the backbone of it’s built environment. This is evident along our streets, as it often guides our architectural styles and shapes our intentions. Should I venture to state, that our thoughts are still not fully our own? Should there be a difference between celebrating one’s history comprehensively or picking out innocent aspects only?

My full thoughts on this area are ambivalent at the moment. I hope to find my own beliefs sooner rather than later. These articles serve as a formal exercise; a service to my curiosity a place for my reflections and subsequent introspections. The objective of this exercise is to link the architectural language of Saint Lucia to the influences of the Old World’s hegemony and provide evidence of how colonisation has influenced/formed Saint Lucia’s Architectural Language.

 

This chapter (Part 1) serves as a brief historical background and for further information on this content, I’ve attached a reference list. I would like to note that the descriptions below are a summary of events and are quite reductive in comparison to a true depiction of the socio-economic and political effects of colonisation. Nor does it begin to explore the albatrosses faced by my people. Colonisation and its impact are always sensitive topics to talk, write and express, but it is something that we should not stray away from despite our shared need to move forward. “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” - Marcus Garvey.

 

Prequel;

The island was first inhabited by the Ciboney people (though there is little evidence to support this theory, it is widely believed) followed by the Arawaks and then later the Caribs. These transitions were accomplished by force; War has always been synonymous with mankind. They used the tools and means at their disposal, often guided by their selfish ambitions. The Caribs were said to be aggressive, more experienced in combat and equipped with war tools. Upon their arrival in 800 AD, they seized control of the Arawak’s society, killing the men and assimilating not only their women but their culture into their own new society. In response to this integration; the island would become to be known as Hewanarau, later Hewanorra. The Caribs would only serve their needs and wants, without respect, tolerance, or empathy. - They are the villains of this prequel. Their dominance came with its own authoritative traits, as always fashioned from tradition with hereditary kings and shamans. History states, that this was accompanied by their military force; war canoes which could hold more than 100 men, and were fast enough to catch a sailing. Their complex and politically advanced society in comparison to the Arawaks, allowed them to fend for themselves. They would be later feared by the invading Europeans for their ferocity in battle.

 

Sequel;

Conflict continued within the hills and valleys of Hewanorra, with the truculent arrival of the Europeans; from the Old World in the 16th century. While Christopher Columbus did not "discover” anything - He did, according to the Old… "ignorant” world (according to their records) - Christopher Columbus may have sighted the island during his fourth voyage in 1502, since he made landfall on the neighbouring island of Martinique, yet there was no official mention of this in his logs. I would like to assume it may have been strategic on his part, best for his career aspirations or perhaps it never occurred. However, Juan de la Cosa noted the island on his map of 1500, referring to it as “El Falcon”. These arrivals began the timeline of events which led to the Old World’s influence on the island. Influences on all facets of life; though we will be exploring primarily the architecture within this series.

The two most prominent forces engaged in battle were Great Britain and France, each accompanied by their similar greed and infatuation with war and power. These two territories fought over the island of Saint Lucia many times. Reference Paragraph 1 provides a quick summary of their notable exchanges. It is important to note that during these turnovers, the architectural intents and language of both states sipped into the island's built environment.

“Some of the major battles and invasions between the British and the French for Saint Lucia include:

1666: The French first established a settlement on the island.

1718: The British attempted to capture Saint Lucia but were unsuccessful.

1746: The British captured Saint Lucia during the War of the Austrian Succession but returned it to the French under the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle.

1778-1783: During the American Revolutionary War, the French captured Saint Lucia from the British, but it was returned to British control in 1783 under the Treaty of Paris.

1794: The French, under Victor Hugues, captured the island again during the French Revolutionary Wars.

1796: The British regained control of Saint Lucia from the French.

1803: The French briefly captured Saint Lucia once more during the Napoleonic Wars.

1803-1814: The British regained control again and held the island until it was formally ceded to Britain in 1814 under the Treaty of Paris, ending the Napoleonic Wars.”

 

Reference Paragraph 1- A history of Saint Lucia (2012) J.HArmsen, G.Ellis, R.Devaux

 

The British and the French fought over the island of Saint Lucia at least fourteen times during the colonial era. Historians believe that the island's strategic location in the Caribbean made it a valuable possession for both powers, leading to numerous conflicts and changes of control over the years. The French would invade Saint Lucia many times during the island’s colonial history. First recorded in 1660, after a small settlement was established. These “sadistic” escapades included the events of 1783  - when the island was returned to British rule under the Treaty of Paris, which also ended the American Revolution. This was short-lived when the French invaded in 1794 during the French Revolutionary Wars, and the French briefly occupied the island, until 1803 when the British regained control of Saint Lucia, this time for the final time. Today the island's head of state is His Majesty King Charles III.

 

These events in my opinion are simply a well-written and directed sequel, to the island's turbulent past. At the core of both scripts are Colonisation. While the summary above is quite brief,  I’ve also attached some bullet points for quick digestion. It was intentional on my part to exclude content on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, This does not ignore its role within the stated sequel, it’s plot point simply does not contribute to my objective at the moment. This was an objective decision as opposed to a personal or biased one. In the next part of this series, I will be moving on to the classifications and time periods of architectural development on the island. And attempting to form a correlation between each of the antagonists’ rein and their native architectural language.

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