Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis

A Capital at the Caribbean Sea Level


The Cruise Square
Rastafarian friends
Keeping an Eye on the Bank
The Berkeley Memorial
Claxton's Arcade
Student
Independence… Since 1983
Independence Square
The National Museum of Basseterre
A Matter of Style
Authority of Laughter
The Polo Company
cruises x 2
A Mobile Ice Cream Parlor
Bamboo pillow
Reggae mobile home
Passage through the Prison
Anglican Cathedral of St. George
Crossing Sun & Shadow
to Fort Street
Nestled between the foot of Olivees Mountain and the ocean, tiny Basseterre is the largest city in Saint Kitts and Nevis. With French colonial origins, long Anglophone, it remains picturesque. It is only distorted by the gigantic cruises that flood it with hit-and-run visitors.

There are less than fifteen thousand inhabitants of Basseterre.

On days considered normal, the city's routine flows smoothly and, with no outsiders disembarked and strapped in, as genuine as possible.

Some traffic flows around the Berkeley Memorial roundabout and the green-gold clock tower and fountain that makes it its centre.

Indifferent to the pressure imposed by the cars, a few citizens sit in the shade that the tower holds them in, reinforced by two palm trees with crowns deformed by successive storms and gales, but in keeping with the monument.

The roundabout is bordered by a uniformed historic house made of two-story buildings. The ground floor is composed of a harmonious pattern of basaltic blocks in different shades of brown.

Above this, another, made of wood, usually painted white, opens onto long balconies or a series of painted windows.

The roofs are also covered by large sheets that have replaced the secular tiles.

The “competing” Historical Nuclei of Basseterre

Basseterre was outlined on a geometrized grid, today, with two main centers.

The Circus, the area arranged around the Berkeley Memorial and Independence Square, the other historic core, of superior grandeur.

Especially if we take into account that it includes the cathedral – the typical Anglican church of Saint George, the city court and a good part of its older buildings.

One of the three streets that meet at the Berkeley Roundabout is Fort Road.

Through it, we move away from the Caribbean Sea to a higher plane of the capital.

Towards the airport runway which, to the north, separates it from the island's lush volcanic mountain range and limits the expansion of the city.

Similar to what happened in any capital, even in these tiny Lesser Antilles, the old center The Circus became its commercial center.

Basseterre, St. Kitts: By Fort Rd. above and below

The Fort Rd. hosts a series of small businesses, boutiques, cafes, cell phone and electronics stores, with the exception of a multinational pizzeria and, of course, a couple of Chinese restaurants, including the “My Way“, filled with “Oriental Delicacies”.

Even as tidy and well-situated as we found them, these establishments have extensions to street stalls.

One of them is full of sneakers from famous brands, coveted by the local youth and kept at the height by two saleswomen seated at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Another, adapted to a mere square table, tries to impose exposed and combed hair on Caucasian mannequin heads.

Positioned just to the side, a young city official seems to be examining them. Agent 967 of the nation's police force grants our special request. She reveals to us that her name is Oksana Doyling.

Seduced by an unexpected piece of conversation and fun, we assure you that, after months of traveling through Antilles, that, in that uniform, with that pistol, radio and little book of fines, she had, by far, the most incredible elegance and police look that we had ever seen.

The mini-agent tries hard, but fails to contain an uncontrolled laugh.

“Oh! Stop that and the photos too, otherwise I'll be fine with you!”, she begs us, almost crying with laughter, already regretting the permission she had granted us and embarrassed by the jokes dedicated to her by well-disposed passers-by. .

A Style Concerned Capital

We passed by kids dressed in British-inspired school uniforms, unhurried teenagers showing off their dreadlocks and other Rastafarian looks.

In spaces, also one or another employee of an institution or department that the office had forced to change the t-shirt and flip-flops for more oppressive attire.

At some point we realized that clothing, hair, and style in general were the predominant type of business in Basseterre.

A store recalled, in a wrinkled poster, its preponderance.

In it, a black woman, as gleaming as the big high-heeled shoe she leaned against, illustrated a daring cliché: “Style… never let me down!! My Store…never let my style down!!"

Lined up on the other side of the street, waiting for a traffic light to open, against the facades of one Claxton's Arcade, each individual made his style shine, more or less carefully, but always cheerful and colorful.

The Calm and Picturesque City that Successive Cruises Shake

With the cruises that ply the Caribbean Sea still offshore, this was how Basseterre herself showed herself.

As soon as the gigantic ships docked in its deep-water port, sometimes in pairs, the city was invaded by foreigners eager to buy, but fearful.

Aware of this reality, the multinationals that own the vessels and the authorities of St. Kitts had endowed the harbor with a vast commercial plaza.

A modern architectural appendix and completely out of step with the historic Basseterre and in which they sought to keep passengers and their expenses, to the detriment of the royal city, let's call it that.

Needless to say, the demarcation between this pre-assigned subdomain and external initiatives did not always work.

Discussions and Unexpected Macacadas in Porto

One afternoon when we were looking for permission to go up to one of the cruises to photograph Basseterre spread out between the sea and Mount Olivees from its top, we came across a confusion that seemed to get worse.

A group of businessmen of the occasion were streaming out of the dock, each with his green monkey on his shoulder. In the past, they had been used to convincing passengers to pay them to take pictures with the apes. At first they were just a sapiens and a single servant.

As the easy profit got the word out, more of these duos emerged. Competitors, conflicting, harmful to the non-inclusive business flow set up there. A few security guards appeared. Soon, some more. They tried to demobilize the monkeys' owners only with conversation.

When the conversation took too long or stopped working, then it descended into a dreaded end to the monkey business. Beating, screeching apes, on the run and at risk of biting passengers, all in an accelerated manner that ended with the expulsion, likely imprisonment, of the alleged offenders.

That same afternoon, the cruises would set sail.

Basseterre would return to his tranquility. At least, to your latent peace.

Basseterre at Risk: Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Hurricanes. And yet tribulations

Stuffed and surrounded by volcanoes – the highest, at 1156m, Mount Liamuiga – the archipelago of São Cristóvão e Neves is often hit by devastating earthquakes. It is, moreover, a short distance from the Montserrat Island which has the only official capital destroyed by the eruption of a volcano

As if that were not enough, located at the top of the Lesser Antilles insular stepping stone, it is in the midst of the probable route of the hurricanes that, between June and November, wreak a destruction similar to that caused by the duo Irma and Maria (both in 2017) and which we have seen in the northernmost antilles and west.

In the course of its history, when earthquakes and hurricanes did not destroy it, uncontrollable fires devastated it. Or the wars between the two great colonial powers that fought over it.

The Long Colonial Conflict between French and British

As the name suggests, the French founded Basseterre in 1627 as the capital of the Caribbean colony of Saint Cristophe.

Shortly afterwards, they promoted it to the capital of the French West Indies, of which they were still part. Martinique e Guadalupe, both to the south, duo of current French Antilles.

From that same year until 1702, the English forced the French to share the archipelago.

In 1783, finally, after successive and heated battles and in the context of a wider dispute over the territories of the Caribbean, the British took over the newly built Fortress of Brimstone Hill and triumphed over the French definitively.

They maintained possession of São Cristovão e Neves until independence, in 1983.

One hundred and fifty years had passed since the British abolition of slavery.

Most settlers and farmers abandoned St. Kitts and the West Indies.

The absolute predominance of inhabitants descended from slaves brought from Africa to work on sugarcane plantations was consolidated.

Sugar's Multi-Million Dollar But Controversial Heritage

Sugar was, since 1655, the main export of the archipelago, it is said that at the time of the American Revolution, produced in 68 plantations, one for each km2 of St. Kitts.

The archipelago's centuries-old prosperity, based on slavery, is part of the reason it evolved into the financial capital of the Eastern Caribbean, home to the region's Central Bank.

Despite the widespread Afro-Anglicization of the islands, Basseterre has preserved its French baptism.

More than 92% of its inhabitants are of African origin, some 3 to 6% are considered mestizos and the rest, Europeans or Indians.

As we wander along Fort Street, we come across a mixed-race resident who reveals a familiar nickname. We found Winnielle Pereira outside her boutique.

Winnielle and the Pereiras of Saint Kitts and Neves

Enthusiastic, Winnielle informs us that her maternal grandfather was J. Pereira.

Who owned one of the most influential plantations and farms in St Kitts, the Fountain State, situated on a hillside north of Basseterre, Monkey Hill.

Since visiting Charlotte Amalie, capital of the US Virgin Islands, we have been learning about the diaspora of Sephardic Jews, expelled from Brazil by the Portuguese.

And how, several communities had settled on Caribbean islands where families with nicknames like Pereira, Silva and the like multiplied and became influential.

The more we talked with her, the more we became convinced that the centuries-old and intricate history of the Jews and Pereiras in São Cristóvão e Neves and the Caribbean deserved an entire article or even a book.

The article, we keep it in a list of upcoming publications.

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