Saint Vincent is a volcanic island in the Caribbean, the largest island of the chain called Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It is located in the Caribbean Sea, between Saint Lucia and Grenada. It is composed of partially submerged volcanic mountains. La Soufriere is still an active volcano.
The territory was disputed between France and the UK in the 18th century, before being ceded to the British in 1783. It gained independence on the 27th of October 1979. Approximately 120,000 people live on the island. Kingstown (population 19,300) is the chief town. The rest of the population resides in the other five main towns of Layou, Barrouallie, Chateaubelair, Georgetown, and Calliaqua.
People: The people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are called Vincentians. Afro-Vincentians are the majority ethnic group (66%) and are the descendants of African slaves brought to work on the plantations. There are also a few white descendants of English & French colonists, as well as a small number of Indo-Vincentians, descendants of indentured workers from India, and there is a sizable minority of mixed race (19%). The population of the island 2005 was 119,100 and the annual growth rate is 0.5%. The main religions are Anglican (47%), Methodist (28%), Roman Catholic (13%), other Protestant denominations, Seventh-day Adventist, and Hindu. Adult literacy was at 88.1% in 2004. Infant mortality is 14 per 1,000 live births. Life expectancy for men stands at 72 years, with 75.8 years for women. The active workforce is 55,531, and unemployment is at 12%.
History: Long before Christopher Columbus spotted this island during his third voyage in 1498, it had been called Hairoun by the Caribs, meaning the Land of the Blessed. Columbus named the island St. Vincent, since it was “discovered” on 22 January, the feast day of the patron saint of Portugal, Vincent of Saragossa.
Geography of the island: Saint Vincent island is 18 miles long and 11 miles wide and is located 100 miles west of Barbados. It is dominated by the 4,048-foot-high, active volcano, called La Soufriere, which erupted violently in 1812 and 1902. The most recent eruption was on "Black Friday" which was actually the Christian 'Good Friday' for that year, on the 13th of April 1979. The island is mountainous and well-forested. Saint Vincent island belongs to the Lesser Antilles chain. Its territory has a total surface of 345 km², and the coasts measure about 84 km. The island is tropical humid, with an average of between 18 and 31 °C depending on the altitude.
The flag of SVG - St Vincent and the Grenadines
Mainland St Vincent is one of the few places on Earth that can boast about having black-sand beaches and white-sand in the same country. There are places where there is just a rock that borders the black-sand beach from the white-sand beach. About 95% of the beaches here are black, while all of the beaches on rest of the Grenadines have white sand.
For many years the black sand was used in the building industry. During recent times, because of the destruction to the coastal areas, the government has restricted the amount of sand that can be removed from the beaches, and the beaches from which sand could be removed.
Government and politics: The capital of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is Kingstown. St. Vincent's government is a parliamentary independent sovereign state within the Commonwealth of Nations. The executive branch of government is divided in: the executive-governor general (representing Queen Elizabeth II, head of state), the prime minister (head of government) and the cabinet. The legislative branch of government is a divided 15-member elected House of Assembly and six-member appointed Senate. The judicial branch of government is divided into district courts, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (High Court and Court of Appeals), with final appeal to the Privy Council in London. The parliamentary term of office is five years, although the prime minister may call elections at any time. The most important political parties are "The New Democratic Party (NDP)", and " The Unity Labour Party (ULP)".
While the English were the first to lay claim to St. Vincent in 1627, the French would be the first European settlers on the island when they established their first colony at Barrouallie on the Leeward side of St. Vincent shortly before 1700.
Carib Indians aggressively prevented European settlement on St. Vincent until the 18th century. African slaves, whether shipwrecked or escaped from St. Lucia or Grenada and seeking refuge in St. Vincent, intermarried with the Caribs and became known as "black Caribs". Commencing in 1719, French settlers cultivated coffee, tobacco, indigo, corn, and sugar on plantations worked by African slaves. St. Vincent was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris, restored to French rule in 1779 and regained by the British under the Treaty of Versailles (1793). Conflict between the British and the black Caribs continued until 1796, when General Abercrombie crushed a revolt fomented by the French radical Victor Hugues. More than 5,000 black Caribs were eventually deported to Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras.
Slavery was abolished in 1834; the resulting labour shortages on the plantations attracted Portuguese immigrants in the 1840's and east Indians in the 1860's. Conditions remained harsh for both former slaves and immigrant agricultural workers, as depressed world sugar prices kept the economy stagnant until the turn of the century.
From 1763 until independence, St. Vincent passed through various stages of colonial status under the British. A representative assembly was authorized in 1776, Crown Colony government installed in 1877, a legislative council created in 1925, and universal adult suffrage granted in 1951.
During this period, the British made several unsuccessful attempts to affiliate St. Vincent with other Windward Islands in order to govern the region through a unified administration. The most notable was the West Indies Federation, which collapsed in 1962. St. Vincent was granted associate statehood status on the 27th of October 1969, giving it complete control over its internal affairs. Following a referendum in 1979, St. Vincent and the Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain independence.
Natural disasters have plagued the country throughout the 20th century. In 1902, Soufriere volcano erupted, killing 2,000 people. Much farmland was damaged, and the economy deteriorated. In April 1979, La Soufriere erupted again. Although no one was killed, thousands had to be evacuated, and there was extensive agricultural damage. In 1980 and 1987, hurricanes devastated banana and coconut plantations; 1998 and 1999 also saw very active Hurricane seasons, with hurricane Lenny in 1999 causing extensive damage to the west coast of the island.
ALL IN ALL AN INDUSTRIOUS PEOPLE - LESS OPENLY FRIENDLY PERHAPS THAN OTHER ISLANDS WE HAVE VISITED.