The quality of life in the twentieth-century Caribbean
It is 1950 in Barbados. Visitors arrive at Sea well Airfield (now being extended by a Colonial Development and Welfare Grant) on the propeller airplanes of British West Indian Airways. Most tourists stay at one of the several hotels south-east of Bridgetown in Hastings, among them the Marine Hotel which is ‘up to date and with more than 120 bedrooms’.1 The accommodations there defy comparison with the abject poverty of most black Barbadians. Their tiny wooden houses in the rural tenantries and urban slums often have dirt floors and thoroughly unsanitary conditions; it is therefore little wonder that the 1946 population census of the British Caribbean has shown Barbados’s infant mortality rate at 176 per 1,000 live births, by far the highest among the British Caribbean colonies. The journey to and from Bridgetown for rural Blacks is still often accomplished on foot or donkey cart but in recent years by motorbus. British planners attribute Barbados’s poverty to its chronic overpopulation (192,800 in the 1946 census) and suggest — as they have for decades — that the ‘surplus’ people might better be sent to British Honduras or British Guiana. Despite the general impoverishment, all Barbadians revel in the results of the recent test cricket match in London where, for the first time on British soil, the West Indies, powered by the fabled Barbadian batsmen Walcott, Weekes and Worrell, have defeated England.2 The few Barbadians who own radio sets have heard the news over Radio Distribution, the island’s sole radio station.
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