By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
Barbados inaugurated President Sandra Mason on Tuesday to replace Queen Elizabeth in a ceremony attended by Prince Charles, marking a cordial ending of ties to the monarchy.
At the strike of midnight, the new republic was born to the cheers of hundreds of people lining Chamberlain Bridge in the capital, Bridgetown.
A 21-gun salute fired as the national anthem of Barbados was played over a crowded Heroes Square.
Tuesday’s ceremony came centuries after an English ship claimed the tiny Caribbean island for King James I in 1625, opening a route for the profitable but bloodstained slave trade.
The English initially used white British indentured servants to toil on the plantations of tobacco, cotton, indigo, and sugar. But Barbados, in just a few decades, would become England’s first truly profitable slave society.
Barbados received 600,000 enslaved Africans between 1627 and 1833, who were put to work in the sugar plantations, earning fortunes for the English owners.
More than 10 million Africans were shackled into the Atlantic slave trade by European nations between the 15th and 19th centuries. Those who survived the often brutal voyage ended up toiling on plantations.
However, “The creation of this republic offers a new beginning,” said Prince Charles. “From the darkest days of our past and the appalling atrocity of slavery which forever stains our history, people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.”
Sandra Mason said she realized that “We the people must give Republic Barbados its spirit and its substance. We must shape its future. We are each other’s and our nation’s keepers. We, the people, are Barbados.”
Barbados’ declaration of a republic on Tuesday encouraged other Republican initiatives in Commonwealth countries, but removing the queen still faces political hurdles.
In nearby Jamaica, which is among the 15 remaining nations that still recognize Queen Elizabeth as sovereign, polls show that voters would support the declaration of a republic.
On the streets of the capital Kingston, some people said the time was ripe to follow Barbados, Reuters news agency reported. “I think we can start the process,” said Abraham Carter, 53, a musician. “(The monarchy) is not of great benefit to us.”
Jamaica’s two main political parties have for nearly five decades publicly supported the creation of a republic. But they have never proceeded with the required referendum, and there were no signs yet when and if that will happen.