Barbados becomes the world's newest republic

November 30 has long been marked as Independence Day in Barbados, but the 2021 celebrations will forever have special resonance, as it is the day the Caribbean island nation finally replaced the monarch of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, as its head of state.

At the stroke of midnight, Britain's reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II ceased to be head of state and Dame Sandra Mason, Barbados’ former governor-general, became the country's first president, as the Royal Standard was lowered in Bridgetown's packed National Heroes Square:

In September 2020, Dame Mason had stressed that becoming a republic was a necessary step in Barbados’ journey to self-autonomy:

The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind. Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state. This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving.

Barbados’ former colonial masters appear genuinely happy for the country: the queen sent her congratulations, and Prince Charles, who enjoys a good working relationship with Prime Minister Mia Mottley, was in attendance at the ceremony:

For some, like local columnist Suleiman Bulbulia who wrote this piece for the UK Guardian, the move was a “seminal” one, at last representing the opportunity for the island to cast off the moniker of “Little England.”

For Prime Minister Mottley, though, it was as simple as understanding that “the president of Barbados is now someone that any Barbadian child can aspire to be—and that's so powerful”:

As if in an effort to announce itself to the world and highlight what Barbadians are capable of accomplishing, star power was on full display with the attendance of pop icon Rihanna, who was bestowed with the title of National Hero:

Local social media users were delighted at the country's new status:

Some, however, made the point that it was a natural—and long overdue—progression:

Regional netizens, meanwhile, sent their congratulations, while others hoped their own countries might follow suit:

According to poet Winston Farrell, who read at the ceremony, “Some have grown up stupid under the Union Jack, lost in the castle of their skin.” On November 30, 2021, Barbadians declared themselves free.

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