The commonwealth of Barbados is now a republic, USA Today reports.
Although Barbados had severed ties with the U.K. and Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state, it will remain a member of the Commonwealth Realm.
The island’s push to become a republic culminated when its Parliament elected its first-ever president last month in a two-thirds majority vote. As the island marked its 55th independence from Great Britain, General Sandra Mason was sworn in on Tuesday before dawn.
On November 30, a grand ceremony was held to mark the celebration of Barbados as a republic. The ceremony was attended by Prince Charles. Rihanna was also declared a "national hero."
"On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we, therefore, present to you the designee for national hero of Barbados, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty,” Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley said to the crowd. "May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation by your works, by your actions, and to do credit wherever you shall go," she added.
In November of 1966, Barbados won its independence from the United Kingdom, 300 years after English settlers arrived and colonized the island into a wealthy sugar colony by enslaving thousands of African slaves.
Recently, the island has attempted to rid itself of its long colonial past. Barbados dropped the London-based Privy Council and chose the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice as its final court of appeal in 2005.
In 2008, the country proposed a referendum on becoming a republic, but it was taken off the table indefinitely. Last year, Barbados announced plans to stop being a constitutional monarchy and removed a statue of British Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson from nation's National Heroes Square.
With a population of about 285,000, Barbados is one of the most prosperous Caribbean islands. Once heavily dependent on sugar exports, its economy is now bolstered by tourism and finance.
Suleiman Bulbulia, a columnist for the Barbados Today newspaper noted that Barbados’ flag, coat of arms, and the national anthem will remain the same, but certain references will change. He wrote that the terms “royal” and “crown” will be done away with, the Royal Barbados Police Force will be known as the Barbados Police Service, and “crown lands” will become “state lands.”
“It is the beginning of a new era,” he said. “Any Barbadian can aspire now to be our Head of State.”