The Spanish sailors who first sighted the Grenadines in the late 15th century called them "Los Pajoros" - The Birds, because from the horizon they looked like tiny birds in flight.
The less fanciful pirates, who in the 16th and 17th centuries hid their ships from enemies in the sheltered bays of these islands, called them The Grenadines. The English adopted the name when they invaded and took control during the reign of Charles I.
Geophysically, the Grenadines resulted from a volcanic eruption of Grenada. Politically, the northern Islands, which include Mustique, are part of St.Vincent and The Grenadines.
The Islands were inhabited by the Arawaks, and later by the Caribs whose simple tools can still be found. They were ousted by European planters in the 1740's who found they could grow sugar there in abundance. Because Europe's only sources of sugar at that time were limited quantities from the Canaries and Cyprus, the West Indies became economically significant.
During the 18th century, Mustique, like other British territories, was heavily defended against the French. Three forts were built at strategic points: Liverpool, Percival, and Shandy. Their remains, including several cannon, can still be seen. Nelson's long blockade of Europe and final Caribbean victory over French Admiral Villeneuve in 1804, cut the French off from their supply of West Indian sugar. Soon after, farmers discovered that sugar beets could be grown in Europe. This led to a rapid decay of life in The Grenadines, and eventually, abandonment. On Mustique, the jungle grew over the seven sugar plantations: Endeavour, Rutland, Old Plantation, East Lot, Adelphi, Campbell Valley, and Aberdeen. Only the sugar mill at Endeavour and its "Cotton House" remain.
In 1835, Mustique was regranted by the Crown as two plantations as it had potential for survival. Although united in 1865 into one estate by the Hazell family of St.Vincent, Mustique existed in a sort of limbo. In 1958, it was purchased by the Honourable Colin Tennant.
No jetty existed when Colin Tennant purchased Mustique. Hers of wild cattle and sheep roamed the Island. About 100 people lived in the dilapidated village of Cheltenham near the Cotton House. They worked a few fields of cotton, peas, and corn in a sharing arrangement with the Hazell family.
During the next few years, life improved on Tennant's private estate. In 1964, a new village called Lovell was created. By 1968, it supported a plantation of 250 acres of sea island cotton. New groves of coconut palms had been cultivated and limes, oranges, grapefruit, tangerines and vegetables were being exported. The wild livestock was brought under control and a fishing industry prospered, largely worked by men from nearby Bequia. Mustique was nearly self-supporting.
Other than yachts, like the Royal Britannia, taking advantage of ideal sailing conditions, there were few visitors to Mustique, though word spread about its beauty. Princess Margaret accepted Colin Tenant's 10-acre plot of Mustique land as a wedding present in 1960.
In 1968, a change of policy opened Mustique to outsiders who were willing to preserve the Island's original character. An economic development agreement was entered into between the government of St.Vincent and The Mustique Company. The agreement covered a broad spectrum of innovative fiscal and social plans including strategies to encourage tourism and the building of private homes, but numbering no more than 140. The plan, which was renewed in amended form in 1989, transformed Mustique Island from a family estate into a community of people dedicated to maintaining and enhancing their shares of the land for generations to come.
In 1969, the airport was opened, the first new villas were built, and the Cotton House opened as an inn. The first villas and the Cotton House were designed by the British theatrical designer, Oliver Messel. Other improvements followed: a comprehensive road network, reliable electricity and communications, fresh water from a desalination plant, a well-equipped medical clinic, and convenient air transport services. Mustique has a clearly defined and well-maintained commercial area with shops, a beach bar and restaurant. Children attend an excellent school supported by an educational trust, and all islanders have medical insurance provided by a medical trust. Since 1968, more than $100 million has been invested in Mustique.
Mustique's progress has had a favourable effect on St.Vincent. After the St.Vincent government, Mustique is the largest employer of St.Vincent residents, and as such, contributes significantly to the gross national product. Many new homes on St.Vincent were built with money earned on Mustique.
In spite of all the development, Mustique ahs retained its privacy and tranquility. Protecting the environment and the peaceful way of life is of paramount importance to all who live and vacation here. It is one of the cleanest and most secure places in the world.
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