If these islands could talk: 4 days at the Anguilla Literary Festival

SLIDESHOW - A writer takes a stroll through the Anguila Literary Festival...

african kings

It starts with your slipping through a patchwork of white clouds and blue sky. Suddenly you’re staring out on a mosaic of varied and vibrant shades of blue sea. Once you’ve deplaned the spell really takes hold. The Island of Anguilla spreads out before you in hushed tones. There is a rural quality that makes you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, where rusted fishing boats and raw, salt-sprayed beach cabins abound. There is a rocky ferry boat ride from St. Martin that – your nervous stomach withstanding – conveys the vast beauty of the surrounding islands and the turbulent sea.

A small low lying British territory – measuring only 39 square miles – you learn quickly that Anguilla is unique relative to much of the Caribbean. Colonized first by the British in the 1650s and then briefly by the French in the 1660s, Anguilla, for starters, does not share the same fraught history with slavery as the majority of the Islands – the imperialists, forced to abandon the slave trade because the island climate and infertile soil would not yield crop. In the shadow of the first Anguilla Literary Festival, the symbolism of an island and a people resistant to domination down to the very soil has a poetic resonance.

After reaching Ultimacy Villa, located on the Northeastern tip of the island and owned – as is nearly 95% of the island – by local black Caribbean proprietors, you are greeted by the stunning vistas of the Caribbean’s sapphire seas that grace postcards and feature in the popular imagination. Winding up the hillside, this place, and so many others built in a similar villa style make up, very nearly, the only developed real-estate dotting the rolling, brush covered landscape.