Overview of Island
'Dominica lies 1,400 miles south of Miami, at latitude 15° north and longitude 61° west, is approximately 29 miles long and 16 miles at its widest point; (approx. 289.5 sq. miles). Dominica is the dividing point of the Caribbean islands’ Windward Islands to the west and the Leeward islands to the east.
Language: English and Kweyol (mixture of French, English and a syntax borrowed for a variety of West African indigenous languages); also Kokoy which is a distinctive English dialect spoken in the north.
Dominica was the last of the Caribbean islands to be colonized by Europeans due chiefly to the fierce resistance of the native Caribs. The first inhabitants were the Ortoroids who came in from South America around 3100 and lasted until 400BC. The Caribs, who settled here in the 14th century, called the island Waitikubuli, which means ‘Tall is her Body.’ Christopher Columbus on arrival to this land, with captivity on his mind and less poetic flair ignored the Kalinago name and renamed the island after the day of the week on which he spotted it – a Sunday (‘Domenica’ in Italian) – on November 3, 1493. The Kalinago resisted the efforts of the Spanish to control them, but the British and French soon followed and claimed the Island. Because of the diseases brought by the Europeans plus the battles they raged on the Indians, the latter finally lost control and fled back to South America. The names of many villages reflect the mix of the Kalinago, French and English settlers.
Today there are still approximately 2000+ Kalinagos on the Island in northeast Dominca who inhabit the 3,700 acres of land given to them by Hesketh Bell in 1903 the British Administrator at the time. Some aspects of the traditional culture such as canoe building can still be seen.
In 1978 Dominica attained its independence from Britain, followed by economic and political challenges. Banana brought great hope and some prosperity until the UK market removed the preferential access to all of the Caribbean. Today like most of the Caribbean Islands, Dominica relies heavily on tourism to drive economic growth, using its natural eco-system as a focus of development.