Some of you may have heard about the recent arrest (and release) of rapper 50 Cent right after his performance at the St. Kitts Musical Festival for saying motherf**ker while singing P.I.M.P. (a song that uses the word 11 times). Those on social media and on outlets reporting the news were shocked that anyone could still be arrested for such a thing in 2016, but did you know that it's also illegal to curse in Australia, Canada, Dubai (UAE), Russia, and a few other countries if they deem the intent blasphemous or threatening? If you live in North Carolina, watch your mouth around dead people. Whether police enforce such laws ever or consistently is up for debate, but just know that if you've got a potty mouth in these places, you just may and up cuffed and a little poorer.
Even if you have the mouth of an angel, don't open it while wearing any type of camouflage-patterned clothing during your St. Kitts & Nevis visit. The idea is that you should not be impersonating military personnel, and they're so serious about this that the law applies to kids too. If you're cruising the Caribbean, just leave your camos at home because wearing them is illegal on many islands (Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Lucia, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Vincent, Dominican Republic). You'll get in trouble in some other countries like Zimbabwe and Nigeria too. So if you can't be a fashionista without your military-wear, check wherever you're visiting first to be sure your oh-so-stylish camo tank top won't land you in jail where you'll be dressed in unflattering stripes instead.
Don't be tempted to parade around nude on St. Kitts to avoid the camouflage ban because public nudity is also illegal. There isn't a male on the island that will report you if you lie topless on the beach, but just know that you could find yourself wearing cuffs in a way you never intended if you're caught by the wrong person while au naturel. Similarly, take note that while many tourists do this, particularly those off cruise ships, it's frowned upon for you to walk around public places and various businesses in skimpy clothing (like bathing suit tops and short shorts, or bare chested if you're a guy). If you have to go to immigration for any reason, they actually won't talk to you if your shoulders are showing or if you are wearing flip flops, or anything excessively short or too revealing. Cover up if you're not on a beach or in beach bar; you don't want to get a sunburn anyway.
Homosexuality is also against the law in St. Kitts & Nevis (for men and not women) although it's never been officially applied, St. Kitts is certainly not alone in this as there are 72 other countries that have such a ban on their books. In my experience (and I'm not gay - not that there's anything wrong with that), gay people are welcomed as openly as anyone else here, but overt public displays of affection are not encouraged. Any person of any sexual persuasion behaving in a public place in "an indecent manner" faces the remote possibility of arrest. If you're feeling amorous - get a room.
Of course, indecent language, indecent clothing, and indecent "manner" are all relative. All three are a bit more lax during Carnival, for example.
Now let's look at some fun facts about St. Kitts.
There are deer here! While you try to convince yourself that you're seeing a goat or sheep, it's quite possible that you are staring at a white-tailed deer. There are different stories about how they got here and when, but one source states that the deer originated in Florida and were introduced to the Lodge Estate as pets in the 19th century. The small herd was released to the Frigate Bay area, and their population stayed small due to indiscriminate hunting by people and wild dogs. No one knows how many there are now, but the majority of recent sightings have been on the Southeast Peninsula. You just might run into one in the quiet, early-morning hours. Just try not to do that with your car.
Of course, I have to mention the monkeys. Both St. Kitts & Nevis have thousands of vervet monkeys (aka green monkeys), initially brought over from Africa by the French back in the early 1600s as pets (at the same time they were bringing humans over as slaves). It's believed that the critters got loose or were released after one particularly intense battle between the English & French (around 1666). The French lost the battle and were eventually evicted from the island, while the monkeys took quite well to their newly found freedom and home. Vervet monkeys get about 2-feet tall, weigh up to 17 pounds, and live about 24 years. Barbados is the only other island in the Eastern Caribbean to have these monkeys, and as far back as 1682, settlers there were complaining about the "vermin" and offering bounties for each monkey killed. They are cute to tourists but a pest to farmers and many homeowners, an experiment to researchers, and food for those who consider them "bush meat." They're also moneymakers for locals who take pictures of tourists with cute baby monkeys, but you might first consider how they obtained those babies and what happens when they're not so little and cute anymore before participating in those selfies. Like most animal vs human disputes, there are no easy solutions.
We've got the British to thank for the Indian mongoose, which were brought over in the 1880s to deal with rats and snakes in the sugar cane.
Moving on from too many to too few... There are only 7 recognized species of sea turtles in the world and 6 of them inhabit Caribbean waters. Of those, 4 visit St. Kitts: green, hawksbill, leatherback, and the very rare loggerhead. The St. Kitts Turtle Monitoring Network has been trying to save all of these threatened or endangered species since 2003. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on this organization and the great work they do.
Every time you see one of those long & lean frigate birds gliding overhead with their 6-foot wingspans, think about this: they can stay aloft for weeks at a time at sea. This comes in pretty handy since they eat fish but can't land on or go below the sea surface. One bird was documented flying for 185 days straight, covering 34,000 miles! That gives new meaning to the joke - I just flew to St. Kitts and boy are my arms tired. If you like birds, you'll be glad to know that 203 different bird species have been recorded on St. Kitts so far.
Moving on from the animals, did you know that the cruising industry started with Italy's Francesco I in 1831? The Titanic, the biggest ship of its time, made its one and only voyage in 1912. St. Kitts will soon be accepting the latest largest cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas. That ship took its maiden voyage in May 2016 and is currently hobnobbing around Europe. Look at the difference between the two ships:
How about another comparison via photos of the Titanic in 1912, an unnamed cruise ship off Basseterre in 1935, and Oasis of the Seas in 2016 (the latest cruise ship to no longer be the largest)? Sheesh.
A few facts for those of you who like dates (don't worry, you won't be tested):
First came the "archaic people" or Ciboney, who had migrated down from Florida.
Then in about 100BC, the Saladoid people migrated up from Venezuela.
700 years later brought the Igneri, or Arawak.
In 1300 the Kalinago, or Caribs, arrived and killed or displaced the more peaceful Arawak.
Christopher Columbus sailed past, under the flag of Spain, without touching ground in 1493.
St. Kitts became the first Caribbean island to be colonized by the Europeans when a short-lived French settlement popped up in Dieppe Bay in 1538. The remains of a French Huguenot building are underneath the Golden Lemon Hotel.
The English took up residence in 1623 in Old Road, which became their capital. The French returned in 1625 and helped the English slaughter 2,000 of the Carib Indians in 1626. The French occupied both ends of the island, using Basseterre as their capital and sandwiching in the English until 1783, when France signed the Treaty of Versailles, giving the island over to the British.
During this occupation, Africans weren't the only unwilling labor force brought to the island. Many Irish indentured servants, and later prisoners of war, were sent to St. Kitts and Nevis, too.
In 1807, the purchasing of enslaved Africans was outlawed in the British Empire by an Act of Parliament.
Slavery itself was abolished by an Act of Parliament on August 1, 1834.
This emancipation was followed by four years of apprenticeship, put in place to protect the plantation owners from losing their labor force.
[Note: Slavery continued for another 31 years in the U.S., only ending in some places on January 1, 1863 after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, and "officially" over on December 6, 1865 with the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.]
The British handed over the reins to the St. Kitts & Nevis people in 1983. Happy Independence Day, SKN!
And a few quickies:
During the last Ice Age, the sea level was 200 feet (61 m) lower and St. Kitts and Nevis were one island along with Statia.
St. Kitts was called Liamuiga (fertile land) by the Caribs, only to have Christopher Columbus rename it after his patron saint. Nevis used to be called Oualie (Land of Beautiful Waters), but Columbus decided the clouds over the peak looked like snow, so named it Nuestra Señora de las Nieves (Our Lady of the Snows).
In 1625, Wingfield became England’s first land grant in the Caribbean when King Charles I bestowed it to a settler named Sam Jefferson II — whose great-great-great-grandson, Thomas Jefferson, would become the third president of the United States. Alexander Hamilton, the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, was born in Nevis around 1755 and was later killed by pistol in a duel with the U.S. Vice President, Aaron Burr, in 1804.
Tobacco and cotton used to be grown here until the 1640s when the U.S. colonies became more competitive. Romney Manor still has some of both crops germinated from the very seeds of their ancestors. Sugar became the main crop until 2005 when, once again, treaties and competition made the 362-year-old industry unsustainable. Tourism is the fastest growing industry on the island.
The well-known song Amazing Grace originated from a a slave ship captain, who eventually turned into an abolitionist who was influenced by an event that occurred on St. Kitts. There's an entire building dedicated to the story that you can visit while on St. Kitts to learn all about it.
There are no traffic lights on St. Kitts (about 18 miles long and 5 miles wide) and buildings are not supposed to be higher than a palm tree (it seems the trees have started growing taller lately).
Mount Liamuiga on St. Kitts is the 14th tallest mountain in the Caribbean at 3,793 feet/1,156 meters. Nevis is 16th at 3,232 feet/985 meters.
The national dish is stewed saltfish served with spicy plantains, coconut dumplings, and seasoned breadfruit.
The National Anthem is:
Anyone else have any tidbits?