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Barbados says goodbye to the Queen during a ceremony with Prince Charles, Rihanna

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – Barbados stopped pledging allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II on Tuesday as it shed another vestige of its colonial past and became a republic for the first time in history. .

A number of leaders, dignitaries and artists, including Prince Charles and Rihanna, attended the ceremony that began late Monday in a popular square where a statue of a famous warlord is located. Britain was dismantled last year amid a worldwide push to remove symbols of oppression.

Fireworks shot across the sky at midnight as Barbados officially became a republic, with screens installed across the island so people could watch the orchestral event with more than 100 pan-players. steel and many singers, poets and dancers. It was also streamed online, sparking a flurry of excited messages from Bajans living in the US, Canada and beyond.

One viewer wrote: “Happy Independence Day and freedom to all”.

The drive to become a republic began more than two decades ago and culminated with the island’s Parliament electing its first president last month with a two-thirds majority. Barbados Governor Sandra Mason was sworn in before dawn on Tuesday as the island marked the 55th anniversary of its independence from Britain.

“As warned by our first prime minister … we will no longer be found loitering in colonial facilities,” she said. “We must find a way to redefine our definition of ourselves, the state and the Barbados brand, in a more complex, fractured and chaotic world. … The country and its people. We have to dream big dreams and fight to make them happen.”

Mason, 72, is a lawyer and judge who has also served as ambassador to Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and Brazil. She will help Prime Minister Mia Mottley lead the wealthy Caribbean island of more than 300,000 people dependent on tourism, manufacturing and finance.

Barbados does not need the UK’s permission to become a republic, although the island will remain a member of the Commonwealth. It’s an event the Caribbean hasn’t experienced since the 1970s, when Guyana, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago became republics.

Barbados became independent from Great Britain in November 1966, more than three centuries after British settlers arrived and turned the island into a wealthy colony based on the work of hundreds of thousands of African slaves.

In recent decades, the island has begun to separate from its colonial past. In 2005, Barbados dropped the London-based Privy Council and chose the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice as the court of final appeal. Then, in 2008, it proposed a referendum on becoming a republic, but it was pushed back indefinitely. Last year, Barbados announced plans to end its constitutional monarchy and remove a statue of British Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson from National Heroes Square, the site of an event commemorating its becoming a country. Republic.

“From the darkest days of our past and the terrible brutality of slavery, which forever reddens our history, the people of this island have forged their way with extraordinary resilience,” said Prince Charles, who thanked the Barbadian officials for inviting him and said that he greatly admired what they had achieved. “Freedom, justice and self-determination are your guides.”

During the ceremony, the prime minister presented pop star Rihanna with the title of National Hero of Barbados, telling her: “May you continue to shine like a diamond,” and they both laughed.

Barbados’ flag, coat of arms and anthem will remain the same, but certain references will change, according to Suleiman Bulbulia, a columnist for Barbados Today. He wrote that the terms “royal” and “crown” would no longer be used, so the Royal Barbados Police Force would become the Barbados Police Department and the “crown land” would become ” state lands”.

It was the beginning of a new era, he wrote. “Any Barbadian can aspire to be our Head of State right now.”

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