Nobel Laureates, Sugar Cane, And Cruise Ships–The

“St. Lucia is like a pretty girl with only her smiles to live off,” writes Correspondent Paul Lewis, continuing the reports from his early-winter cruise through the Caribbean.

“The island’s main export is Nobel Prize winners–it has had two so far. With a population of only 160,000, this makes it the world champion Nobel Prize-winning country.

“St. Lucia’s first laureate was Sir William Arthur Lewis, who received the Economics award in 1979. He launched the United Nations Development Program and championed the idea that education is more important than money in promoting development.

“St. Lucia’s second win came in 1992, when Derek Alton Walcott carried off the literature prize for his poetry, which mixes English and French in tribute to the island’s complex ancestry–it changed hands six times between Britain and France before Britain finally secured it in 1814. Here’s an example of his verse:

“‘Moi c’est gens St. Lucie. C’est la
Moi sorti, is there that I born.’

“But producing Nobel Laureates doesn’t pay the rent. So, at first, St. Lucia grew sugar and then switched to bananas, which it still produces for British supermarket chains, with each bunch ripening in a blue plastic bag to keep off bugs. But this isn’t enough either, so St. Lucia decided to attract tourists, for which it has developed a wicked talent.

“White cruise ships crowd the anchorages in the tiny capital of Castries, barely six blocks long and four deep but home to a cavernous Catholic Basilica (no less), where a creche shows a black Virgin and Child, as do two stained-glass windows.

“The island is mountainous and densely forested, but the roads are excellent and the villages neat and clean. It has a waterfall in the middle and two striking volcanic mountains on its southern tip, which look like giant upside-down ice cream cones and are called the Pitons.

“The people have charming French names dating from a century ago, like Theopilius Mondésir, Nelson Fevrier, and Myrille St. Phor. The Governor General, who represents Queen Elizabeth II, rejoices in the name Dame Peralette Louisy.

“Everyone speaks English, many speak French, and all communicate in an impenetrable patois of the two mixed up together.”

Kathleen Peddicord

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