Since I’m running behind again and since so many other blog posts are reminding me of home, I’m going to catch up with a post about where I grew up. It conveniently includes all the letters I’m behind on –T, U, and V.
St. Thomas is the second largest and most populated of the four islands that make up the US Virgin Islands. Although I was not born there, my family moved there when I was seven so I consider it home. I was actually born on another Caribbean island, Antigua. Since most were formed from volcanic eruptions, the Caribbean islands typically have hilly topography and St. Thomas is no exception. Lush green mountains and the crystal clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea can be seen from every direction. St. Thomas and other Caribbean islands were originally inhabited by three native Indian tribes, the Ciboneys, Arawaks, and Caribs.
|Picture source: Freebase|
Columbus and his crew descended on the Caribbean island chains in 1493. The islands are now known by the English version of the Spanish names he gave them –San Tomas, Santa Cruz, and San Juan. Other European expeditions eventually descended on the island chains as well. This resulted in most of the Indian population being enslaved, exposed to deadly foreign diseases, and eventually killed. Thus, it’s not surprising that most of the islands' current inhabitants are not direct descendants of these original Indian tribes but are instead, descendants of African slaves.
After the Danish gained control of the island in 1666, they established major industries around distilling rum and growing sugar cane. Africans were captured and taken to the islands to support the bustling economy. The Caribbean slave trade eventually became the largest in the world. Several slave uprisings soon brought an end to slavery in the Caribbean. In 1917, the Danish reluctantly sold St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John to the United States for $25 million in gold.
The islands are now considered an unincorporated territory of the United States. Although the residents of the US Virgin Islands are US citizens, they do not have the right to vote in US elections. They vote for candidates for the US presidency in primaries through a certain number of delegate votes. The islands do have representation in Congress but they are called “delegates to Congress” and are not full voting members of US government.
Interesting US Virgin Islands Trivia
- Drivers still drive on the left side of the road.
- The official flower is the yellow trumpetbush.
- With the exception of a few private schools, all school age children are required to wear uniforms to school.
- Although English is the official languages, natives typically speak in an English Creole dialect. It may sound weird but if you listen closely, it's essentially a form of broken English.
- The Virgin Islands has the world’s highest marriage rate. (This surprised even me!)