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 Soufrière is still an active volcano .
The territory was disputed between France and the United Kingdom in the 18th century, before being ceded to the British in 1783. It gained independence on October 27, 1979. Approximately 120,000 people live on the island. Kingstown is the chief town. The rest of the population resides in the other five main towns of Layou, Barrouallie, Chateaubelair, Georgetown, and Calliaqua.
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 and 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 in 2008 was 118,000 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 in 2004 was at 88.1%. Infant mortality in 2006 was 17 per 1,000 live births, and life expectancy for men stood at 69 years, with 74 years for women. The active workforce in 2006 was 57,695, and unemployment in 2004 was at 12%.
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" , April 13, 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.
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. The black sand, which was formed by the action of the volcano, is said to be able to provide one of the minerals that is needed by the human body. The majority of the beaches on the mainland have black sand (more than 95%), while all of the beaches in 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. This sand is still used in the construction of pitched roads, as it blends in nicely with the colour of the asphalt used for road construction.
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 (1763), restored to French rule in 1779 and regained by the British under the Treaty of Versailles (1783). 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 Roatán, an island off the coast of Honduras.
Slavery was abolished in 1834; the resulting labour shortages on the plantations attracted Portuguese immigrants in the 1840s and east Indians in the 1860s. 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 October 27, 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. It celebrates independence on 27 October 1979.
Natural disasters have plagued the country throughout the 20th century. In 1902, Soufrière 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.