The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge went on an eight-day tour of the Bahamas, Belize and Jamaica. But the trip didn’t start off on a good foot, as the couple had to cancel their first stop of the tour due to local protests.
Prince William and Kate Middleton were set to visit Atke ‘il Ha, a cacao farm in the foothills of the Maya Mountains. But the people in the village of Indian Creek have been in a dispute with Flora and Fauna International, a charity that William supports as a patron, and a protest was staged against the royal couple’s visit. According to the Daily Mail, the villagers described the visit as a “slap in the face” and “colonialism.”
Fauna and Flora International, FFI, is the world’s oldest conservation organization with a mission to “conserve threatened species and ecosystems worldwide.” According to NationalWorld.com, however, FFI has told locals that the 12,000 acres of land the organization owns is NOT for communal use by the Indian Creek residents and is instead “private property.” The community is opposing the authorities to reclaim this land lost during the colonial era.
One of the main problems villagers had with the tour was the fact that the couple’s helicopter was going to land on their football field without their permission.
Sebastian Shol, chairman of Indian Creek, told the Daily Mail, “We don’t want them to land on our land, that’s the message that we want to send. They could land anywhere but not on our land.”
The way the visit was handled brought up issues of colonialism, Dionisio Shol, a village youth leader also reported.
“For us it really hits right at home because of the treatment. The organizer said we had to let them use the football field and that people were coming to our village and it had to look good…” said Shol.
These are high-profile people, we respect them, but they also have to be giving respect to the community leaders…Giving community leaders commands did not sit well with the community.Dionisio Shol
The villagers further believed Prince William had to own up to his responsibility as patron of FFI.
Protesters held up signs reading “Prince William, as long as you are helping FFI take our lands, you are not welcome” and “Colonial legacy of theft continues with Prince and FFI.”
The controversy didn’t stop there. On the second stop on their tour, the couple visited Jamaica. But just a day before, an open letter signed by 100 Jamaican academics, politicians and cultural figures called for the royal family and British government “to apologize and pay reparations for subjecting the island to colonial rule and slavery.”
The Duke and Duchess visited these countries to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne, and according to a Time article, many believe the trip was meant to persuade the countries to keep Queen Elizabeth as the head of state.
However, just a day before their arrival, the Jamaican government reported that they are starting the process of transitioning to a republic.
The letter described the royal couple as “direct beneficiaries of the wealth accumulated by the royal family…from the trafficking and enslavement of Africans.” The letter also stated, “We see no reason to celebrate 70 years of the ascension of your grandmother to the British throne because her leadership, and that of her predecessors, has perpetuated the greatest human rights tragedy in the history of humankind.”
Britain and Jamaica’s history began in 1655 when the British seized the island. While Jamaicans gained their independence in 1962, they have remained a Commonwealth realm, and a majority of Jamaicans are descendants of slaves who were brought to the country by Europeans.
“I strongly agree with my father, the Prince of Wales, who said in Barbados last year that the appalling atrocity of slavery forever stains our history,” Prince William said in his speech at a dinner party hosted by Jamaica’s Governor-General. “I want to express my profound sorrow. Slavery was abhorrent, and it should never have happened.”
While their time in these countries was mostly positive, and the royal couple’s words and actions were largely well-received, the trip sparked a conversation on colonialism— and how its roots are still visible and alive.