Fireworks lit up the sky, crowds cheered and the island nation of Barbados officially became a parliamentary republic at midnight Monday, 55 years after its independence from the United Kingdom.
Dame Sandra Mason was named the first president of the country, which had announced in September 2020 it would step away from colonial ties, remove Queen Elizabeth as head of state and complete the process of transitioning to a republic.
The ceremony was attended by Prince Charles, heir apparent to the British throne. In a speech commemorating the transition, he noted the legacy of slavery inflicted upon the island by the British.
"From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude," Prince Charles said.
"We the people must give Republic Barbados its spirit and its substance," Mason said in her address. "We must shape its future. We are each other's and our nation's keepers. We the people are Barbados."
Barbados will stay part of the Commonwealth, a voluntary association of over 50 countries that retain some ties to Britain. Countries that still call the queen their head of state include Australia, Canada and Jamaica.
NPR's All Things Considered spoke with Mackie Holder, consulate general of Barbados in New York, on whether this may push other countries to make similar moves. Listen here.
"Other Caribbean countries certainly will follow. Whether that will happen in six months, in a year — who knows? But I expect as we go further into the 21st century that we will see some changes and among other countries in the Caribbean as well," Holder said.
This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.
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