The History of Balenbouche Estate begins with the first indigenous Inhabitants, the Amerindians, who came from Central America. From the late 1700’s to the early 1900’s, Balenbouche was a sugar plantation. Since 1964, the st lucia plantation has been owned and managed by the Lawaetz family, who gradually converted the property into an Eco-friendly Guesthouse, Organic farm and Retreat center.
Many Caribbean Plantations have a pre-colonial history which is often forgotten. Long before Africans and Europeans, indigenous people settled at Balenbouche.
Almost 2000 years ago the Igneri (commonly known as Arawak) came to St Lucia in large dug out conaoes. They were followed by the more nomadic and war-faring Kalinago (Carib) Indians around 1000 AD. When the Europeans arrived, Amerindians suffered a typical fate. In the 1660’s, the remaining native inhabitants on St Lucia surrendered to the French, leaving behind only traces of their presence, such as beautiful pottery, stone tools, carved rock basins and petroglyphs along the Balenbouche river. Some Amerindian traditions, such as cassava making and boat building, have left a mark on St. Lucian culture.
Africans and Europeans
Balenbouche was first established as a sugar and rum producing caribbean plantation in the 1740’s. African slaves were brought to work the plantations. The French and British fought over the island for many years, resulting in the colony changing hands 7 times.
Balenbouche also changed owners numerous times through wars, natural disasters, financial troubles, and personal tragedies. The earliest known family name associated with Balenbouche is “Martin” in 1770. Between 1840 and 1860, the Estate was owned by the Gaillard de Laubenque family. When emancipation was finally enacted in 1834, 166 slaves worked on the plantation, which was then 587 acres, largely sugar cane fields. The community of Piaye to the East of Balenbouche was founded by freed slaves and retains a strong African identity.
In the late 1800’s, indentured laborers from East India began working on many Caribbean plantations, typically for 5-10 years. In return they received a small wage, housing, clothing, food and medical care. Eventually, some were able to choose between owning ten acres of land or ten pounds sterling. Others, after a further five to ten years of ‘industrial residence’, could get a free passage back to India. About half of all indentured laborers went back to India. Dozens, perhaps hundreds more would have liked to, but were unable to after the Immigration Fund ran dry.
By the turn of the century, St Lucia had a free East Indian population of 2,560 persons in a total population of 42,220. Many of the East Indians who previously worked on the Balenbouche plantation settled in the community of Balca to the North of the Estate.
“Balenbouche is indeed a world within itself exuding a tranquil presence of warmth, hospitality and harmony.”
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