Anse la Raye


Anse La Raye has been a fishing village and if you examine its name it is easy to see why. When the early French settlers arrived in Saint Lucia, Anse la Raye was one of the first areas they visited. As they sailed into the bay they may have stopped to admire the beautiful, forest hills behind it. They would have seen the two large rivers that flowed from them down to the sea. Perhaps they looked over the side of the boat and saw the shoals of fish swimming in the clear water. There were many different kinds of fish. Among them were some strange flat fish that flapped around on the sandy bottom. They too were sandy in colour, with strong whip-like tails.

Their two eyes were set close together in the top of their flat heads, in english, they were called 'skates' but to the Frenchmen, they were known as 'raie'. This may be why the place was called Anse La Raie - Bay of Skates. The rivers got their names from the bay. They were called Petit Riviere de Anse La Raie and Grand Riviere de Anse La Raie. The spelling of these names changed depending on who was doing the writing! On the map drawn by Bellin in 1758 the village is called Ance de la Raye. The church records shows there were 107 estates in the Anse la Raye district in 1775. That is more than in any other part of the island. It sounds alot but those days Saint Lucia was divided into only nine districts or quarters. The quarter of Anse la Raye stretched from the Roseau River all the way to Canaries and far back into the rainforest. During the years of the French Revolution, Anse la Raye, like all the other places in Saint Lucia, was given a new name. It was Egalite. In 1795, there were fierce fights between the French and the English for the possession of the island. The slaves had been told they were free. Many refused to go back to the plantations.

They plundered the estates, killed the planters and their families and set fire to the buildings. Like Dennery, Micoud, laborie and Choiseul, Anse la Raye was ransacked and burned. Most of the village records and documents went up in flames. Only the walls of the church were left standing.



The village of Canaries lies halfway down the west coast of Saint Lucia. Behind it, deep ravines and jagged mountain ridges run back to the central rainforest. To the north and south are high headlands that enclose the village, to the west is the Caribbean Sea and if you draw a straight line across the island from Canaries, the line will touch Dennery on the other side. They are both fishing villages, but, unlike Dennery, Canaries depended on the sea for much more than fish. The road from Castries only reached Canaries about thirty years ago. Until then villagers had to travel by canoe to Soufriere or Anse la Raye where they could get transport up to Castries. The Village is not even shown on many old maps of Saint Lucia. Bellin's map 1758, shows a place called 'Les Canaris' on that part of the coast.

On other maps this same place was marked Anse des Canaries, or just Canaries. Many early settlements were given the names of people who were important at the time, like Micoud, Dennery, laborie and Choiseul. Others had names like Vieux Fort, Soufriere and Anse la Raye that described something about the place. No-one knows for sure how canaries got its name. Some people believe it comes from the Amerindian word for the clay cooking pots. Amerindian sites have been discovered all around the coast of Saint Lucia, from Vieux Fort right up to Cap Estate. However, there are no signs to show there was ever an Amerindian settlement at this spot. Amerindians travelled by canoe. They were usually happy to settle anywhere there was a good supply of fresh water.

This part of the coast has plenty of rivers so maybe it was the snakes that kept them away! The sailors who called this place 'Canaris', may have done so for quite another reason. Off the north coast of Africa there is a group of islands called the Canary Island. Many of the ships that came to the Caribbean from Europe would have stopped there. It was the last place they could take on food and water before setting out across the Atlantic Ocean. The Canary Islands are mountainous and volcanic. Perhaps this part of Saint Lucia's coastline reminded the sailors of the places they had left behind - places they might never see again.



Soufriere became a town in 1746, almost a hundred years after the small community was first established. The people were mostly of French or African descent with just a few British. The landowners, trades-people and clerks were white. The domestic servants and the laborers on the estate were black. There were also mulattoes who were a mixture of Europeans and Africans. The Mulattoes were the ones usually chosen to be overseers or to hold other positions of trust and responsibility. For this reason they were despised and disliked by the slaves. It was not until 1838, when emancipation freed them, that the slaves were able to own property and land of their own. Many continued to work on the estates where they had once been slaves. Others, wanting to be properly independent, tried to make it on their own. The Caribbean Sea was full of fish and some of the former slaves became fishermen. Their life was hard, but at least their families had food to eat. When the catch was good they even had fish to sell. Others scratched a living from the land, growing vegetables and raising livestock.

As the town grew there was more need for shops and other services. Some former slaves became merchants. French and Patois were the languages spoken. Even after the island became British, the descendants of the French families continued to speak French. Although English was the official language of the island, the French-based Patois remained the language of the people. Soufriere kept its French character. Some famous Saint Lucians have come from the town of Soufriere. Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie, who would one day become Empress of all France, spent much of her childhood there. Dr Beausoleil, the island's first doctor, was from Soufriere, so were the family of R Belizaire who wrote Saint Lucia's first geography book. Queen Elizabeth II set foot on Saint Lucian soil for the first time in 1966. She landed, not in Castries, but on the jetty at Soufriere. Before Soufriere was supplied with electricity from the power station at Vieux Fort, residents had lights powered by local hydro-electric system. It was operated by the flow of water in Soufriere's River.

Today there is a road running north through Canaries and on to Castries. Before this road was completed a regular boat service left the jetty at Soufriere carrying people and their produce up to the city to do their marketing. Soufriere has several small guest houses and hotels and excellent restaurants. Each year more and more visitors make the trip, by road or sea, to this  very special part of the island.



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