St. Vincent + the Grenadines

  • Language: English
  • Currency: Eastern Caribbean dollar
  • Temperature: Average 75-87°F year-round
  • Square Miles: 133 Approx.
  • Population: 109,000

ABOUT. The nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines is comprised of eight inhabited islands and about two dozen other islands and cays. These islands are at the lower end of the Lesser Antilles and the Windward Islands. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines lies to the west of Barbados south of Saint Lucia and north of Grenada in the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, an island arc of the Caribbean Sea. The islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines include the main island of Saint Vincent 344 km2 (133 sq mi) and the northern two-thirds of the Grenadines 45 km2 (17 sq mi), which are a chain of small islands stretching south from Saint Vincent to Grenada. St Vincent, the largest populated island in the group, features a rain forest, cultivated valleys, and an active volcano. Kingstown is the capital city of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Islands include:

  • Young Island
  • Beguia
  • Mustique
  • Canouan
  • Mayreau
  • Tobago Cays
  • Union Island
  • Palm Island
  • Petit St. Vincent

St. Vincent & the Grenadines was originally settled by Amerindian adventurers travelling northwards along the Lesser Antillean island chain from the continent of South America. They named the island ‘Hairoun’, meaning ‘Land of the Blessed’. European colonialists named them Island Caribs, a term shortened to Caribs. The Caribs aggressively prevented European settlement on Saint Vincent until 1719. In 1635, a Dutch ship sank off St. Vincent and its cargo of West African slaves liberated themselves and ran ashore. Together with escaped slaves from nearby islands, they merged with the island’s Amerindian inhabitants and a new ethnic group, known as Black Caribs or Garifuna, was born.

The first Europeans to occupy St. Vincent were the French. Following a series of wars and peace treaties, the islands were eventually ceded to the British. The English were the first to lay claim to St. Vincent in 1627, as the French centered on the island of Martinique. French settlers were the first European settlers on the island when they established their first colony at Barrouallie on the Leeward side of St. Vincent in 1719. The 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 (1763), after which friction between the British and the Caribs led to the First Carib War. The island was restored to French rule in 1779 and regained by the British under the Treaty of Versailles (1783). Like the French before them, the British also used African slaves to work plantations of sugar, coffee, indigo, tobacco, cotton and cocoa until full emancipation in 1838. Between 1795 and 1796, with French support from Martinique, the Black Caribs, led by their chief, Joseph Chatoyer, fought a series of battles against the British. Their uprising was eventually put down, however, resulting in almost 5,000 Black Caribs being exiled to the tiny island of Baliceaux off the coast of Bequia. In March 1797, those who survived the ordeal of exile were forced onto ships that were eventually bound for the island of Roatan off the coast of Honduras.

Two eruptions of the La Soufriere volcano in 1812 and 1902 destroyed much of the island and many people were killed. In 1979 it erupted again but this time with no fatalities. In the same year, St Vincent & The Grenadines gained full independence from Britain though remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Artifacts from Amerindian groups are displayed at the National Trust Museum in the Carnegie Building, Kingstown. The legacies of Amerindian, European, East Indian and West African heritage combine to influence our contemporary culture. This manifests itself in the language, dress, food, music and Vincentians themselves. Carnival (or ‘Vincy Mas’) takes place in June and is a celebration tradition with costume parades, dancing, queen shows and calypso competitions. In addition, National Heroes Day is celebrated as a public holiday on 14th March and Emancipation Day is celebrated as a public holiday on 1st August in celebration of the island’s history and heritage.