Safety First

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Cholera Epidemic Of The Mid 19th Century And The Mullins Bay Area

You will probably not find this in the tourist literature but did you know that Cobblers Cove Hotel and the Lemington villa are located on or about the site of a graveyard that was used to hurriedly bury some of the dead of the cholera epidemic which swept Barbados in the mid 1850s killing over 20,000 people? Some visitors may know that the St. Peter’s Cemetery is located across the road from these upmarket resorts and that a famous American actress - Claudette Colbert - is buried there but not many know that cemetery extended across the road to the waterfront during the cholera epidemic.

I was recently reminded of this little known fact while contributing to an online discussion involving beach access and reflecting on my memories as a child growing up in the area seeing skulls and bones unearthed after rough seas. The intention was not to scare people away but to engender a fuller sense of respect for the area and let people know that there is also a sacred history - it is not just a playground for the rich. There is a collective unconsciousness among Bajans even today who have heard stories passed down orally through grandparents and great grandparents of this sad chapter in the nation’s history that fashions and shapes our lives and sense of who we are and where we have been.

When visitors are enjoying the Camelot Suite at Cobblers or the view from one of the St. Peter’s Bay Condos (still under construction) they also need to know that barely 20 years after gaining their freedom from slavery thousands of Bajans were cut down by a mysterious illness that was lethal within hours of contracting it and that local people still have a memory of that great lost. They remember when they fight for things like beach access and “windows to the sea.” The reef off Cobbers Cove where visitors now swim with turtles (where my father and grandfather once set their fish pots) is still sometimes referred to as “The Cholery” or “The Cholera” by some locals. Undoubtedly, it is a name that came from the graveyard on the beach; but it was only one of the hastily constructed seaside graveyards that were commissioned to take care of the dead; and indeed, probably the most famous of these on the west coast is the popular Batts Rock Beach next door to the Four Seasons Resort (still under construction).

Consequently, this blogger believes that the beaches of Barbados are not just recreational but more importantly they also constitute sacred space, and as such - also shared space. It is wrong therefore to try to block them off or “hog” them, or even to force people to move off of them with monetary enticements. When visitors have a fuller understanding of our history they will or should more fully respect our sacred spaces and seek to share them rather than try to take them away from us.
Bookmark and Share

1 comment:

  1. Excellent blog on our beaches, I only knew of the graveyards down near the coast on the South Coast where thousands had been buried but I did not even know there was a graveyard up by St. Peter. I shall really have to ask Gran-Gran about that lol.

    I agree, visitors and the rich should not try to hog the beaches and keep them for themselves and block off the locals... our beach are as much a part of our heritage and our past as these hills and fields. hopefully the new Gov't will put a stop to selling off our birthright