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Europeans first landed on the island in either 1492 or 1502 during Spain's early exploration of the Caribbean.

The island was first settled by the French, who signed a treaty with the local Caribs in 1660. Like the English and Dutch, the French began to develop the island for the cultivation of sugar cane on extensive plantations. After the seven year war between Great Britain and the France-Spanish coalition was brought to an end by the treaty of Paris (10 February 1763) in which the signatories agreed to an exchange of colonial territories. When the British acquired the island trying to use the Caribs as labourers, they imported enslaved Africans as workers. Many of the Caribs died because of lack of immunity to Eurasian diseases, such as smallpox and measles, and as a result of being overworked and maltreated by the Europeans.

Caribbean conditions were hard, and many slaves died as well. The British continued to import slaves until they abolished the trade due to the slave and Carib revolutionary wars against them. By that time, people of ethnic African and Carib descent greatly outnumbered those of ethnic European background.

Thereafter Saint Lucia was much contested by the two European powers until the British secured it in 1814. It was part of the British Windward Islands colony.

It joined the West Indies Federation (1958–62) when the colony was dissolved. In 1967, Saint Lucia became one of the six members of the West Indies Associated States, with internal self-government. In 1979 it gained full independence under Sir John Compton. Compton, of the conservative United Workers party (UWP), was again prime minister from 1982 to 1996, when he was succeeded by Vaughn Lewis.

Kenny Anthony of the Labour Party was prime minister from 1997 to 2006, when the UWP, again led by Compton, won control of parliament. In May, 2007, after Compton suffered a series of ministrokes, Finance and External Affairs Minister Stephenson King became acting prime minister. He became prime minister after Compton died in September 2007.

For a more indepth look into St. Lucia and the best places to go, eat and stay visit St. Lucia Guide

The Definitive Guide to planning your St. Lucia vacation: Learn traveler's basics, how to get there, how to get around once you're there, where to stay, and what to see and do.

Geography

The volcanic island of Saint Lucia is more mountainous than many other Caribbean islands, with the highest point being Mount Gimie, at 950 metres (3,120 ft) above sea level. Two other mountains, the Pitons, form the island's most famous landmark. They are located between Soufrière and Choiseul on the western side of the island. Saint Lucia is also one of the few islands in the world that boasts a drive-in volcano.

The capital city of Saint Lucia is Castries, where about one third of the population lives. Major towns include Gros Islet, Soufrière and Vieux Fort. The local climate is tropical, moderated by northeast trade winds, with a dry season from December 1 to May 31, and a wet season from June 1 to November 30.

Economy

An educated workforce and improvements in roads, communications, water supply, sewerage, and port facilities have attracted foreign investment in tourism and in petroleum storage and transshipment. However, with the U.S., Canada, and Europe in recession, tourism declined by double digits in early 2009. Because of fluctuations in banana prices and possible World Trade Organization–imposed reductions in European Union trade preferences. The recent change in the European Union import preference regime and the increased competition from Latin American bananas have made economic diversification increasingly important in Saint Lucia. The island nation has been able to attract foreign business and investment, especially in its offshore banking and tourism industries, which is the island's main source of revenue. The manufacturing sector is the most diverse in the Eastern Caribbean area, and the government is trying to revitalize the banana industry. Despite negative growth in 2001, economic fundamentals remain solid, and GDP growth should recover in the future.

Inflation has been relatively low, averaging 5.5 percent between 2006 and 2008. Saint Lucia’s currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$), a regional currency shared among members of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECU). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCL) issues the EC$, manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in member countries. In 2003, the government began a comprehensive restructuring of the economy, including elimination of price controls and privatization of the state banana company.

Demographics

The population of about 170,000 is evenly divided between urban and rural areas, although the capital, Castries, contains more than one-third of the population. Saint Lucia's population is predominantly of African and mixed African-European descent, with a small Indo-Caribbean minority (3%). Members of other or unspecified ethnicity groups, account for about 2% of the population.

The official language is English, however Creole (Kweyol), which is a French-based Creole, is spoken by 95% of the population. Saint Lucian Creole French is used in literature and music, and is gaining official recognition.[6] It evolved from French, African languages, and Carib. Saint Lucia is a member of La Francophonie.

Saint Lucia boasts the highest ratio of Nobel laureates produced with respect to the total population of any country in the world. Two winners have come from St. Lucia: Sir Arthur Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1979, and Derek Walcott received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992. Both were born on the same day in 1915 and 1930, respectively: January 23.

About 70% of the population is Roman Catholic, influenced from the days of French Catholic rule and evangelization. Most of the rest belong to other Christian denominations, including Seventh-day Adventisms (7%), Pentecostalism (6%), Anglicanism (2%), Evangelical Christianity (2%), and the Baptist faith; in addition, about 2% of the population adheres to the Rastafari movement.

Despite a high emigration rate, the population is growing rapidly, about 1.2% per year. Migration from Saint Lucia is primarily to Anglophone countries, with the United Kingdom having almost 10,000 Saint Lucian-born citizens, and over 30,000 of Saint Lucian heritage. The second most popular destination for Saint Lucian expatriates is the United States, where combined (foreign and national born Saint Lucians) almost 14,000 reside. Canada is home to a few thousand Saint Lucians. Most other countries in the world have fewer than 50 citizens of Saint Lucian origin (the exceptions being Spain and France with 124 and 117 Saint Lucian expats respectively).

Culture

The culture of Saint Lucia has been influenced by African, East Indian, French and English heritage. One of the secondary languages is Creole, a form of French patois.

Festivals

Saint Lucian cultural festivals include La Rose and La Marguerite, the first's representing the Rosicrucian order, and the second's representing Freemasonry.[11] This can be seen on a mural painted by Dunstan St. Omer, depicting the holy trinity of Osiris, Horus and Isis. Traditionally in common with other Caribbean countries, Saint Lucia held a carnival before Lent. In 1999, the government moved Carnival to mid-July to avoid competing with the much larger Trinidad and Tobago carnival. It wanted to attract more overseas visitors. In May 2009, St. Lucians commemorated the 150th Anniversary of West Indian Heritage on the island.

Music and Dance

A popular folk dance is the Quadrille. Together with Caribbean music genres such as soca, salsa, zumba and reggae, Saint Lucia has a strong indigenous folk music tradition. Each May since 1991, Saint Lucia has hosted an internationally renowned Jazz Festival.

Education

The Education Act provides for free and compulsory education in Saint Lucia from the ages of 5 to 15.[9][12] Public spending on education was at 5.8 % among the 2002-2005 GDP.[9] Saint Lucia has one university; University of the West Indies Open Campus,[13] and a few medical schools, the oldest of which is Spartan Health Sciences University.