Did you know by the end of the 1930s, about one-quarter of the population of St. Lucia was wage-employed?
The other three-quarters eked out a living from subsistence agriculture, or depended on relatives or friends for their daily bread.
Out of the quarter who was employed about one-quarter earned a living in the sugar industry. Another quarter worked on plantations that produced limes, bananas, coconuts, fruits or vegetables.
Some 10% worked as dress-makers, another 10% as domestic servants, 5% worked on the public roads and was paid by Government and the remaining 25% were cabinet makers, fishermen, carpenters, boatmen, blacksmiths, mechanics, masons, coal carriers, nurses, bakers, butchers, laundresses, charcoal makers, shoemakers, messengers, shop assistants, porters and hucksters.
Unemployment was rife, with labor supply 30 to 40 % higher than demand. Even those who were employed found it almost impossible to make ends meet on the meager wages they received. It was “Hard Times” everywhere.
St. Lucia was not alone in these hard times. The Great Depression had halved export values and caused great poverty and unemployment all over the Caribbean.
Moreover, Cuba and Ste Domingue was closing their doors and sending thousands of migrant sugar workers back home. Like the war veterans before them, returning migrants moved to the capitals in their homelands where they proved to be bitter and militant agitators.
Mounting discontent over prolonged economic depression, frustration with policies designed to keep poor black people at the bottom of the ladder and more generally, a renewed state of despondency affected those who had never left.
Did you know in 1935, 1937 and 1938, strikes, protests and disturbances reverberated around the St. Kitts, British Guiana, Trinidad, St. Vincent, St. Lucia and Jamaica, leaving 46 people killed, 429 injured and thousands more arrested and prosecuted?
Source: A History of St. Lucia by Harmsen, Ellis & Devaux – 2012
This feature runs every Tuesday and Thursday. It is compiled by daughter of the soil Anselma Aimable, a former agricultural officer and former correspondent for Caribbean Net News, who has a deep interest in local culture and history. Send ideas and tips to [email protected]