Business View Caribbean | Volume 8, Issue 10

11 BUSINESS VIEW CARIBBEAN VOLUME 8, ISSUE 10 by Kirk Elliott T he Pitons of Saint Lucia are one of the most iconic landmarks of the Caribbean. So majestic are they that in 2004 UNESCO inscribed them as a World Heritage Site for their “Outstanding Universal Value.” But the historical appeal of these mountains goes back hundreds, and possibly even thousands of years. The Pitons are officially listed as Petit Piton which rises some 2,438’ above sea level, and Gros Piton at 2,619’. However, locals in the environs will tell you that there is also Piton Mitant, or the Middle Piton which is largely hidden from view. Mountains of the Gods Beyond their visual appeal these mountains have a deeper mystical and spiritual symbolism and it has been postulated that the Kalinago and Taino peoples who once inhabited St. Lucia may have worshipped them as their gods. Gros Piton would have been YOKAHU – their god of volcanic mountains, the sun, fire, thunder and food, with Petit Piton being ATABEYRA– the goddess of fertility, the moon, tides and moving water. VALLEY OF THE FREE - MOUNTAIN OF THE GODS SOUFRIERE, SAINT LUCIA Valley of the FREE People At the base of Gros Piton lies the community of Fond Gens Libre, which translates to Valley of the FREE People. This is a rather fitting name as the community comprises of residents who are reputed to be descendants of the Freedom Fighters who rejected slavery, escaped from the plantations and made this enclave their stronghold. These brave souls never referred to themselves as ex-slaves, but always as FREE People, or “Gens Libre” in our Kwéyòl language – a description the community holds dear to this day. Sharing Saint Lucia’s History, Culture & Cuisine Many of Fond Gens Libre’s residents serve as hiking guides taking visitors up and down Gros Piton. Since 2014 National Geographic Certified Educator and Sustainable Tourism advocate Kirk Elliott has worked with the community to help residents bring their amazing story to the world. With support from the United Nations Global Environment Facility, Small Grants Programme he has helped them develop a community centered excursion that introduces visitors to OPENING L INES