People get very confused about the island composition of The Grenadines. These islands comprise an archipelago lying between the islands of Saint Vincent and Grenada, in the Caribbean Sea. They form part of the Lesser Antilles group. The northern islands in the chain are within the country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. This whole region is commonly known as The West Indies.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is generally known as just ¨Saint Vincent.¨ Located in the Windward Islands region, it lies at the southern end of the eastern border of the Caribbean Sea. The islands are not governed by any other country but instead form a sovereign state, in the Lesser Antilles island arc.
The territory consists of the main island of Saint Vincent and the northern islands of the Grenadines. Kingstown is the capital, on the main island. The archipelago stretches south from Saint Vincent Island to the boundary waters Grenada. Surprisingly, Grenada does not feature in the Grenadines group.
Only nine of the islands in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are inhabited. They include Young Island, Bequia, Canouan, Union Island, Mayreau, Petit St Vincent, and Palm Island. The island of Mustique is the most famous because several well-known celebrities holiday there. During the 1970s, Mustique was a hotbed of scandal for HRH Princess Margaret and also the rock group the Rolling Stones.
Saint Vincent used to be inhabited by the Kalina Caribs. The Caribs named the island Youloumain. They succeeded in fighting against European settlement on the island, until 1719. Part of their number were former African slaves, either shipwrecked or escaped from Barbados, who sought refuge on Saint Vincent. Often they intermarried with the Caribs and became known as Black Caribs or Garifuna. This gave Saint Vincent a strong local force who were keen to keep settlers off the island.
The French were the first to try to colonise the region. After a series of wars and treaties, the British eventually won control. The English were the first to claim Saint Vincent in 1627. However, the French would be the first to colonise the island, nearly 100 years later successfully. The settlers cultivated tobacco, coffee, indigo, corn, and sugar, using African slave labour.
Regained by the British
During the Seven Years’ War, the British captured the island from the French. The Treaty of Paris ended the conflict in 1763. British soldiers started to build Fort Charlotte as their first action, knowing that there would be opposition – it took until 1809 to finally complete the build!
Continuous friction between the Caribs and the British led to the First Carib War. The British ceded to the French again, in 1779. France held control for just under four years. The British regained the region once more under the Treaty of Versailles in 1783.
Subsequently, further conflict ensued between the British and the Black Caribs. Even with some support from the French in Martinique, the uprising was quelled. The British deported over 5,000 Black Caribs to Roatán, an island off Honduras.
Abolition of Slavery
Saint Vincent saw the abolition of slavery in 1834, and the plantation owners were without labour. In the late 1840s, Portuguese immigrants arrived from Madeira. Over the next forty years, East Indian labourers also migrated to the islands. Conditions were harsh for both former slaves and immigrants. Sugar prices dropped, and the economy stagnated.
While Great Britain had control of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, they made several unsuccessful attempts to unify with the other Windward Islands. In the 1960s, several islands including Saint Vincent, also attempted to consolidate to gain independence. All efforts failed.
After years of struggle, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines became the last of the Windward Islands to gain independence in 1979.
Volcano and Hurricanes
The volcano La Soufrière erupted for the third time also in 1979, causing extensive damage. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, hurricanes further devasted the islands.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has close ties to the United Kingdom, the US and Canada. The Saint Vincent government requested that European nations pay reparations for offences during the slave trade era, in 2013.
Banana production dominates the region’s economy. The tourist industry is slowly growing, but dependence on a single crop export has been an obstacle to the islands’ development. The “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie series, filmed in the Grenadines, has helped to encourage visitors to these beautiful islands.
Although many Vincentians speak Vincentian Creole, English is the official language. The British legacy also includes a local proficiency at playing Cricket! The West Indies has long been an international champion in this sport.
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