The 751 sq. km of land that makes up the total area of Dominica is covered in mountainous terrain. Though the beaches are few the island is laced with flowing rivers and gushing waterfalls; so many in fact that the Dominicans say there is one waterfall for each day of the year. The Lush tropical rainforests cover two-thirds of the island. It is situated between French-controlled Martinique and Guadeloupe in the eastern Caribbean. The capital city, Roseau, is flanked by the Caribbean Sea on the western coast and the North Atlantic Ocean on the eastern coast. Dominica holds the second largest thermally active lake in the world. Its wealth of natural flora and fauna is the reason for it to be known as the ‘The Nature Island of the Caribbean’.
Dominica experiences tropical climate moderated by the northeast trade winds. The island has a frequent downpour of heavy rainfall. The annual rainfall ranges from 50 inches (127 cm) on the coast to 300 inches (762 cm) in the mountains.
The people of Dominica are called Dominicans. And the majority of the population are of African descent, while the remaining are the Carib Amerindians and mixed ethnic groups that together make up the approximate total of 72,169 (Feb. 2015). The population of the Chinese and the Whites is also increasing. The people are warm and friendly. The urban centres in Dominica are the capital of Roseau and the second town of Portsmouth. While the former is the administrative and commercial centre, the latter is more famous for its scenic beauty. The Carib follow a rural lifestyle and uphold the ancestral practises of basket weaving and boat building. The identity of the country and its culture is influenced by French, African, and Carib influences, more than that of the British. The country’s confused past shows in the dialect of the residence and though English is the official language, owing to the British rule, a distinct English-based Creole (native language of a group of speakers with vocabulary enriched by borrowing and creation) called the Cocoy or Kokoy is spoken in some villages. Another French-based creole officially known as Kwéyo`l but also called Patwa arose due to French colonists and enslaved West Africans. It is associated with the lower class peasants while English tends to be associated with the educated upper class.
Dominica’s rich volcanic soil accompanied by abundant rainfall yields a variety of fruits, vegetable and root crops, which are sold by market or street vendors. The locals grow their own farm-fresh supply for personal consumption. Staple foods like flour, sugar, salt, and rice are purchased in town or from village shops. Bananas and plantains are the main ingredients for an array of dishes and are central to the rural diet. Wheat bread has replaced cassava bread and farina, which was once a frequent guest on the table. Land crabs, river crayfish, opossum, agouti and fish are some of the other delicacies available. Livestock are locally raised and include cows, goats and pigs. The national dish is the ‘mountain chicken’ which is actually a type of frog but the most popular dish is the roasted breadfruit with salted codfish, onions, and peppers cooked in oil. For some reason, chicken is imported frozen and so are turkey parts. Tinned milk and sausages, and packaged snacks are increasingly popular. Some people sell homemade sweets, cakes and coconut milk ice pops from home. Lunch is the largest meal of the day.
Bananas are the chief export crop followed by coconuts and citrus products. The major industries are handicrafts, food processing, rum distilling, coconut product manufacturing and paint production. Tourism is developing although lack of an international airport and accommodation are its major hindrances. There have been efforts to promote ecotourism leading to increased day cruise ship visits. Imports are twice as much as exports and include food, manufactured goods, machinery and chemicals. Professional positions that require an educated background are reserved for the individuals that meet the requirement. Villagers from the rural areas are normally farmers and run small businesses. Upper-class Dominicans, Syrian and Lebanese merchants own large businesses.
The Dominican Coat of arms bears an inscription reading ‘Apres Bondie C’est La Ter’ which means ‘after God the Earth’ which venerates the soil in the region and its economy based on agriculture. The design holds a shield divided into four quarters of a cross, which is a reference to the name of the Island as it was discovered on a Sunday. The top-left quarter is adorned with the black volcanic soil of Dominica enriching a coconut tree, the top-right quarter shows the Crapaud ‘mountain chicken’ – the national food, on the bottom-left corner illustrates a canoe under a sail gliding on the Caribbean Sea and the bottom right shows a fully developed banana stem bearing a ripe bunch of fruits. A wreath of silver and blue bears the crest, while the golden lion stands proudly upon a black rocky mount with the Sisserou parrots (Amazona imperialis) flanking the sides.
The national anthem is the ‘Isle of beauty’ a beautiful song venerating the land and encouraging hard work and advocating integrity. The national bird of the country is the Sisserou parrot that also features on the Dominican coat of arms.
The islands national flower is a wild xerophitic plant known botanically as Sabinea carinalis, commonly known as Carib Wood or 'Bwa Kwaib'. When at full bloom the flower is a vivid scarlet and runs along the entire length of the branches. The reason for its selection is that its hardiness and bright scarlet flowers represent the strong rugged and resourceful people who have overcome their obstacles, seemingly insurmountable, endured the test of time and bloomed.
Finally, the symbolism behind the colourful flag is – The central emblem shows the national bird the Sisserou parrot perched on a twig and symbolizes flight toward greater heights and fulfilment of aspiration, highlighting the official Seal of the country. The red centre depicts Dominica’s commitment to social justice. The ten lime green stars encircling the parrot represent the ten parishes of equal status and thus the equality of the nationals. The yellow, black and white stripes form a triple coloured cross representing the trinity of God. The yellow stripes stand for the sunshine of the land and the main agricultural produce i.e. citrus and banana. It is also a representation of the Carib and Arawak people, the first inhabitants of the Island. The white stripe stands for the purity of the rivers and waterfalls and the untainted aspirations of the people. And the black stripe symbolizes the rich black soil of the land as well as the African heritage of the people. The dark green background symbolizes the lush forests and abundant wealth of greenery of the island.