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Caribbean Wallpaper Wednesday: The Yin and Yang of Oistins

Caribbean Wallpaper Wednesday: The Yin and Yang of Oistins
Fishing Boats Off Oistins Barbados by Patrick Bennett
Fishing Boats Off Oistins Barbados by Patrick Bennett

Dark and light. Calm and crazy. Night and day. Oistins is one of those special places in the Caribbean that plays to extremes.

In the past, we’ve touted the mellow pleasures of shopping for fish at Oistins during the day. It’s a calm experience. Fishermen sleep atop makeshift wooden counters. Chickens seek shade in the shadows of beached fishing skiffs. And off in a corner, you’re bound to find some old salty dogs throwing a game of dominos.

On the flip side, we’ve had Jay relate his experience wading into the pulsing heart of the Oistins Friday Night Fish Fry. Musicians pounding out dancehall covers. Enterprising fish fryers and grillers taming their sizzling meats and fishes while simultaneously proclaiming to anyone who’ll listen that their fare is de bes’! Dancing. Lights. Karaoke. Honking cars.

Oistins has always had this dual nature, but what you may not know is why. The answer may lie in Oistins’ namesake.

According to some, the name Oistins comes from the Bajan corruption of “Austin’s.” This guy Austin was a wealthy landowner way back in the day on Barbados with a bit of a reputation. To get an idea of what the father of Oistins was like, here’s a description of him recorded by one of Barbados’ earliest historians, Richard Ligon:

[Austin was] a wild, mad, drunken fellow whose lewd and extravagant carriage made him infamous in the island

A wild, mad, drunken fellow? I feel like I saw a few “Austins” during my last late night at the Fish Fry!

Though Austin’s spirit may be alive and well most nights in Christ Church, when the sun comes up, Oistins inevitably and calmly reverts to its other more placid side… Who knows, maybe this side reflects a more subdued “morning after” Mr. Austin, slowed and serene under the weight of a heavy hangover?

Either way, this week’s Caribbean wallpaper is dedicated to the less infamous (but certainly no less worthy of your time when traveling to Barbados) tranquil side of Oistins. The one where little fishing boats bob on cerulean waters, sleepy fisherman snooze in the shade of sea grape trees, and a cool Caribbean breeze eases fluffy clouds across the horizon.

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