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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac: Crop Over Festival

Air Date: Week of

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This week, we have facts about the Crop Over Festival that celebrates the end of the sugar harvest in Barbados.


CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.


CURWOOD: Life in the land of sugar cane isn't always sweet. But after four months of grueling harvest, sugar cane workers in Barbados are ready to party. The Annual Crop Over Festival gets underway this week.

Now, in days gone by, festivities were scattered all over the island at various sugar-producing mills. Brightly decorated carts carried the last loads of sugar canes back from the fields. And laborers would celebrate at a big party hosted by the plantation owner.

Barbados was once the world's sugar cane capital, producing nearly 200 tons of the sweet stuff every year. Over time, the industry declined. And, as cane cutting jobs disappeared, the Crop Over Festival nearly faded away. But, in 1974, the tradition was revived. And today, celebrants whoop it up to toast not only the harvest, but also the culture and history of Barbados.

The first settlers of this eastern-most Caribbean island came from Venezuela in dug out canoes. Then the British came and brought slaves from West Africa to work in the sugar plantations. These diverse ethnic groups fused to form the unique Bajan culture.

The Crop Over Festival kicks off with the crowning of the King of the Cane Cutters and the Queen of the Cane Bundlers. But, the lifeblood of the party, man, is Calypso music, known for its infectious rhythms and incisive lyrics. And, for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.




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