The prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, promised shortly after Barack Obama’s victory in the US elections the creation of a national park on its highest point, 1,319-foot (395-meter) Boggy Peak, to be named after the new president. In addition, the mountain would get a new network of hiking trails, a museum, and educational facilities. It has just been announced that the official naming ceremony for the new park will be held on August 4, 2009, President Obama’s 48th birthday. The president is, of course, invited to attend.
Antigua and Barbuda has been the butt of countless jokes for a decision that has been widely interpreted as barefaced attempt to court the US tourist market. “Baldwin also says Obama National Park and Obama Peak will be a ‘beacon of hope for all people.’ I imagine that refers to tourists,” said one gentle critic.
The good-natured criticism notwithstanding, the gesture reminds us of the importance that has been attached throughout the Caribbean to the election of a candidate of African descent as president of the United States. Some have praised the move as calling attention to what the Caribbean has to offer beyond the beach. “Mount Obama isn’t about to supplant Everest as a destination for elite climbers, but for the rest of us, it’s a perfect mid-sized mountain with sweeping views of the ocean that can be tackled in a couple of hours. It’s also a good reminder that while Caribbean islands are most commonly known for their coastal areas, it’s worth the effort to tear yourself away from the beach and check out the interior regions, which often contain rain forests, waterfalls, and under-appreciated mountains like this one. Smart move, Antigua.”