The small island of Montserrat is situated near Guadalupe, Antigua, Barbuda, and Dominica in the Caribbean Sea. It is within the grouping of islands called the Lesser Antilles, and more specifically within the grouping called the Leeward Islands. Covering approximately 40 square miles in land area, it is a British Crown colony (see Figure 1.). One of the most interesting aspects of Montserrat is its still-active volcano. [pic]
Figure 1. The island of Montserrat (with volcanic “Exclusion Zone”) (Wikimaps)
Montserrat was “discovered,” and named by, Christopher Columbus during one of his voyages to the Caribbean region. It was on his second voyage to the New World that Columbus noticed the island and its striking resemblance to the land around the Spanish abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrati – hence the name.” The island was originally claimed by Spain, but it changed hands several times before the British laid final claim to it. Montserrat is an island surrounded in mystery. Before Columbus ever set foot in the Caribbean, the islands original inhabitants (who were of Arawak decent) were engaged in conflict with the Caribs in a competition for land and resources. Over time the Arawaks disappeared as the dominant culture and people, and it is speculated that they were killed-off by the Caribs. The Caribs held the island for many years, continuing to take its resources, even as they moved on to other neighboring islands. The Caribs named the island Alliouagana ("Land of the Prickly Bush"), perhaps after the aloe plant.” Several other “owners” are worth mentioning as they contributed to the history, cultural, and economic development of the tiny nation which continues to shape the current economic condition. There was a period in the early to mid-1600’s where an Irish enclave took refuge from religious persecution on the island and called it home. They moved to Montserrat from the nearby island of Nevis where they had originally been slave-labor under British rule. An anti-Catholic movement there forced the Irish to move. This Irish immigration shaped a major portion of the island’s history, and subsequently the island was nicknamed "the Emerald Isle of the West." In 1782, during the American revolutionary period, the French laid claim to the tiny island, but it was given back to the British in the Treaty of Paris at the conclusion of the war. It has remained under British rule/control since.  Today, the island’s population nears 6000 inhabitants. Prior to a major volcanic eruption in 1995, the island had almost 13,000 inhabitants. There are a variety of ethnic and cultural groups which include Black, Dual-heritage or mixed, White and Creole in a mix of British, Irish, African and several other small minority groups. With such a varied history of immigration and changing national control, complications with social and economic progress were inevitable. The number of times the country changed its leadership has caused confusion as to Montserrat’s national “identity” which has carried through to today.
Figure 2. Montserrat’s Flag (Wikipedia)
As if the tiny Montserrat didn’t have enough challenges with its cultural history, the island is one of the few remaining Caribbean islands with an active volcano (see Figure 3.). In fact, the volcanic mountain and dome continue to grow. This fact alone is probably a major reason that the country’s economy continues to falter because it directly – negatively – impacts tourism and new business interest or desire in locating to Montserrat.
With an active volcano governing their daily lives, there have been multiple times throughout its history where the entire population has had to move to the northern part of...