Saint Vincent, one of the Windward Islands in the Lesser Antilles. Kingstown is its major city and capital. The self-governing state of Saint Vincent, with a total area of 150 square miles, comprises the island of Saint Vincent and dozens of the northern Grenadine islands (including Union and Bequia).
In 2005 the population of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines numbered 119,100. About 66 percent of the population is of African descent, 19 percent of mixed origin, 6 percent West Indian, 2 percent Carib Indian, and 7 percent of other or non-specified origin. Although English is the official language, French and a French patois are still spoken. About 47 percent of the population are Anglican, 28 percent are Methodist, 13 percent are Roman Catholics, and 12 percent are of other Protestant denominations, Seventh-Day Adventist, Hindu, and Afro-Caribbean faiths.
The first known inhabitants were Arawak and Carib Amerindians. Although Christopher Columbus reached the island on 22 January 1498, Saint Vincent was not settled by Europeans for another two and a half centuries. Without European interference, the native population prospered. In addition, runaway and shipwrecked African slaves intermarried with the native population, creating a distinct ethnic group known as Black Caribs. Except when France governed the island from 1779–1783, the British occupied Saint Vincent from 1762 until independence on 27 October 1979.
In the twenty-first century the British monarch remains the nominal head of government, represented on the island by a governor general. But executive power is vested in the island's prime minister and cabinet. There is a twenty-one-seat unicameral legislature.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the island's economy, producing bananas, vegetables, coconuts, spices, and sugar. Tourism is another important industry. In 2005 the per capita income on the island was estimated at US$3,600.
Saint Vincent is home to the volcano "La Soufriere" (sulphur outlet), which rises 1,219 meters. It erupted in 1902, killing close to 2,000 people. No people were killed but devastation to agricultural crops, the economic mainstays, occurred when La Soufriere erupted again in 1979. Hurricanes and tropical storms since the 1980s have also levied destruction, wiping out coconut and banana crops. Hurricane Lenny in 1999 inflicted severe damage to the island's western coast.
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Knight, Franklin W. The Caribbean: The Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism, 2d ed. (1990).
Potter, Robert B. St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio Press, 1992.
Richardson, Bonham C. The Caribbean in the Wider World, 1492–1992: A Regional Geography (1992).
Young, Virginia Heyer. Becoming West Indian: Culture, Self, and Nation in St. Vincent. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993.
Stephen E. Hill