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Politics, Culture and Cuisine of the Falkland Islands

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Politics

The Falkland Islands are currently a self-governing Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, where sovereignty is vested in the Queen of England. The Governor exercises power on her behalf, and is also in charge of South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands. The Constitution includes an Executive Council as well as Legislative Council.

Inhabitants of the Falkland Islands were granted full British citizenry in 1983. Residents also have the option to apply for Argentinean citizenry. In fact, on April 2, 2007 (exactly 25 years after the war), Argentina reasserted its claim on the islands and asked the UK to resume negotiations regarding sovereignty. However, since the 1982 conflict, Falklanders want little to do with Argentina.

Culture

Though Falklands' history has included the influences of the French, Spanish, Argentine, and British, it is British culture that prevails in the Islands today. Seventy percent of the ~3,000 inhabitants have British and Scottish roots, though a scattering of Scandinavian names is a legacy of the whalers and sealers who resided in the islands in the 19th century. Most of the rest of the residents are French, Gibraltarian, Portuguese, and Chilean in origin. The currency is the pound, although it is called the Falkland Island pound instead of the British pound, and English is spoken.  Falklanders call themselves "kelpers", derived from the abundance of the marine plant around the islands. 

Stanley is the largest town in the Falklands, where most of the population is concentrated. Stanley has the feel of a small English village mixed with a port town atmosphere. Falklanders call everything outside of the city "the Camp", and this is where travelers will find a South American influence as well. 

Ninety-five percent of the population makes its living through either fishing or sheep farming--there are over 600,000 sheep on the islands, and their meat, hides, and wool make up a significant portion of the Falklands' exported goods. The gaucho (Argentinean cowboy) culture took root here as cattle and sheep ranching practices developed across the islands. Travelers will find Spanish names and terms still in use in the Falkland Islands countryside. Rural life generally involves wool growing, and living in widely dispersed family homes dotting the countryside. Fish and squid make up the remainder of the exports. Since the fishery was built in 1987, fishing license fees provide a large amount of revenue to the Falkland government, making the fishing industry the primary contributor to the local economy. 

Being a territory of the UK, it is not surprising that football (soccer) is popular on the island, as well as rugby. A cruise to the Falklands may result in the opportunity to watch a football game played by the national football team in Stanley.

On a Falklands tour travelers will also have a chance to visit museums, explore the shops, and purchase beautiful locally-made goods. The museums share the cultural and natural history of the Islands, from the Falklands' part in the World Wars to detailed information about local wildlife, and from stories of shipwrecks to an exploration of a restored historic cottage. Falklands visitors will also enjoy perusing the local shops and seeing the unique hand-made goods. Woolen goods include colorful hand-dyed hats, sweaters, and warm ponchos. Leather work, jewelry, and wood crafts (some made from the local diddle-dee bark) are also available to those looking for a special memento of their Falkland Islands vacation.

Cuisine

The food of the Falkland Islands is distinctly British. Visitors will be able to sample a wide variety of locally harvested organic fare--lamb, beef and mutton dishes are served alongside fresh vegetables. No Falklands tour is complete without tasting some of the myriad seafood offerings, whether it be mussels, oysters, scallops, snowcrab, seatrout, Atlantic rock cod, local squid or the Patagonian toothfish. Great cheeses and other dairy products also characterize the diet of the islands.

The British influence on the islands ensures that travelers will be able to enjoy the traditional fish and chips at any number of restaurants in Stanley, although there are fancier dishes available. Stanley has several pubs that provide typical British pub food, and, of course, beer! Travelers will also enjoy local traditions such as "smoko"--delectable home-baked goods served with tea or coffee in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon. 


 

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