Yes, I know. It’s June. I’m just simply going to say that it is NEVER too early to start thinking about celebrating my favorite holiday, Saint Patty’s Day. It’s the perfect excuse to go to somewhere that I haven’t been to in the Caribbean, and Montserrat would be among those islands I have not yet explored.
So, “why Montserrat,” you ask? Well, it just makes sense. It certainly does not suck that it’s located in the Caribbean but, more importantly; it’s the only way I am getting my passport stamped with a shamrock. Why’s that? Well, St. Patrick’s Day is an actual national holiday in Montserrat. Ireland itself is the only other place on the planet where this is true.
A Bit Of A History Lesson On Monserrat & Saint Patty’s Day
In all seriousness, St. Patty’s Day is a big deal in Montserrat. For being a fairly small island it does come with a wealth of history that explains why this is. Having been among the earliest settlers in the 1600s, the Irish have deep roots here. The reader’s digest version is that many Irish were sent by England to as political prisoners and indentured laborers, some who worked alongside the African slaves. Still others came as merchants and plantation owners.
By the mid-1650s around 70% of the white population in Montserrat was of Irish origin. It is from this blend of African, Irish and British, that gave birth to a wonderfully unique Montserratian society where St. Patrick’s is now a whopping 10-day long festival. Having a deeper meaning behind it, the festival also commemorates an unsuccessful slave rebellion that occurred on St. Patrick’s Day in 1768 and it honors the slaves that were killed by hanging.
Hard Times In Monserrat
Sadly, Montserrat has suffered through some very hard times in the last thirty years. It all started with a series of natural catastrophes beginning with a direct hit from Hurricane Hugo in 1989 that destroyed much of the island’s infrastructure and their economy. To make matters worse, while still recovering from Hugo, in 1995 the Soufrière Hills volcano started coming back to life and evacuations began when Chances Peak erupted after having been thought dormant.
The onslaught didn’t stop there. On June 25, 1997, the volcano had a massive eruption that killed 19 people and buried the capital city of Plymouth under a pyroclastic flow of ash and mud. All of this resulted in about 1200 people remaining on the island.
Since them, Monserrat has been slowly gaining some residents back and that’s a wonderful thing. As the Caribbean’s least visited island, Montserrat is also one of world’s least touristy places on the planet with just under 21,000 visitors in 2019. That is all changing though.
Montserrat is the Comback Kid of The Caribbean
Montserrat is increasingly coming onto the radar for people just like myself who are seeking to go to places way off the beaten path in the Caribbean. The sad thing about that is there are too many of us—and that number of 21K visitors, it represent a 14% increase over 2018. The good news is that Montserrat’s government is very aware of their opportunity for sustainable tourism and they are making wise decisions.
Though I had already planned my own trip for 2020, the pandemic did put a
huge damper into my plans and I have still not traveled this year… an utter
tragedy in my mind. As I sit here wondering about travels in 2021—it appears last minute decisions about where to go are going to be my way of life next year. Fingers crossed for another shot this!
Another great reason to go, if not the best reason to go to Montserrat is precisely because of Covid-19. Places like this where the little tourism they do receive, it was likely reduced to hardly anyone for 2019, so they are missing an important economic activity for everyone here. This is a majorset back and we travelers; we are all doing our part in the global recovery by going to those places most affected. Saving the world by just showing up, once country at a time! What could be better than that?
Well, my fingers crossed for another shot at Saint Patty’s Day In Montserrat for 2021 and if that doesn’t work out, nothing, not even Covid will stop me unless of course, Montserrat won’t let me in for the 2021 festivities!