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The Grenadines Will Always Be Grenadian! (Because of Their Name)

The southern Caribbean and northern South America, with Grenada and the Grenadines, 1760

The Grenadines, from Bequia to Carriacou, were once entirely owned and administered by Grenada, hence their original name Granada y Granadillos (<AmSp Granada + illos: “little Grenadas”). A few of the approximately 125 small islands, islets, and rocks were first settled by the French in the mid-1700s, the last islands to be colonized by Europeans, most likely due to their small size, arid landscape, and the absence of yearlong streams. Today, Carriacou, Petite Martinique, Ronde, and some 30 small islets are dependencies of Grenada. The rest are now part of St. Vincent.

Map of the southern Caribbean by Johannes van Keulen, 1684, showing the Grenadines’ early association with Grenada  (note, the top is facing west; Grenada is colored red). 

In 1784, the Grenadines were officially partitioned on the recommendation of Lieutenant Governor Valentine Morris of St. Vincent who believed that the islands, especially those closer to his island, would be better served administratively and for security reasons if transferred to St. Vincent. Following the outbreak of the War of American Independence, Governor Morris had become weary that if Grenada was returned to the French while St. Vincent remained British, then the French would be too close at Bequia and thus threaten British St. Vincent. Although Grenada remained a British possession (barring a brief French takeover from 1779-1783), a buffer was created where all islands south and inclusive of Carriacou remained with Grenada, while Union Island and all islands north of Carriacou transferred to St Vincent.

In 1784, Edward Matthew was appointed as “Governor-in-Chief in and over our Island of Grenada, and the Islands commonly called the Grenadines to the southward of the Island of Carriacou, and including that Island and lying between the same, and the said Island of Grenada.” It is interesting to note that, because of the size of Carriacou, the total area given to both countries was almost the same. The local story that the line separating Carriacou from St. Vincent goes through Gun Point, Carriacou (meaning it is technically owned by St. Vincent) is not supported by the available evidence. However, there might be something else to that tale that has since been lost.

Grenada and the Grenadines by JN Bellin, 1765

St. Vincent subsequently included the Grenadines in its official name, “St. Vincent and the Grenadines.” Grenada, though known historically as Grenada and the Grenadines, is officially the state of Grenada. A similar name change to incorporate the two other members of the tri-island state was rejected in a national referendum in 2016, but hopefully, Grenadas official name will one day include Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Regardless, because of their name, the Grenadines will always be associated with Grenada!

(Adapted from my books Island Caribs and French Settlers in Grenada and A-Z of Grenada Heritage)


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