St. Lucia

views updated May 17 2018



CAPITAL: Castries

FLAG: On a blue background is a yellow triangle surmounted by a black arrowhead whose outer edges are bordered in white.

ANTHEM: Sons and Daughters of St. Lucia.

MONETARY UNIT: The East Caribbean dollar (ec$) of 100 cents is the national currency. There are coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 25 cents and 1 dollar, and notes of 5, 10, 20, and 100 East Caribbean dollars. ec$1 = us$0.37037 (or us$1 = ec$2.7) as of 2004.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system has been introduced, but imperial measures are still commonly employed.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Carnival, 89 February; Independence Day, 22 February; Labor Day, 1 May; Queen's Official Birthday, 5 June; Bank Holiday, 1st Monday in August; Thanksgiving Day, 1st Monday in October; St. Lucia Day, 13 December; Christmas Day, 25 December; Boxing Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whitin monday, and Corpus Christi.

TIME: 8 am = noon GMT.


The Caribbean island of St. Lucia, part of the Windward Islands group of the Lesser Antilles, is 43 km (27 mi) ns by 23 km (14 mi) ew and has a total area of 616 sq km (238 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by St. Lucia is slightly less than 3.5 times the size of Washington, DC. Situated between Martinique to then and St. Vincent to the sw, St. Lucia has a total coastline of 158 km (98 mi). The Maria islands, located of the southeast coast of the main island, are kept as a natural reserve. The capital city, Castries, is located on St. Lucia's northwest coast.


St. Lucia is a volcanic island, the younger part of which is the mountainous southern half, and the older the hilly but more nearly level northern half. The highest mountain, Mt. Gimie, rises 950 m (3,117 ft) above sea level. Better known are the two peaks on the southern coast, Gros Piton (798 m/2,619 ft) and Petit Piton (750 m/2,461 ft), which together form one of the scenic highlights of the West Indies. The lowlands and valleys of the island have fertile soil and are irrigated by many streams. The island has beautiful beaches, some with black volcanic sand. The two major ports are located at Castries, in the northwest, and Vieux Fort, by Cape Moule à Chique at the southern tip of the island. Cap Point marks the northern tip of St. Lucia.

St. Lucia lies along the Caribbean Tectonic Plate, a location of moderate seismic activity. Volcanic activity is evident through the bubbling mud and gasses emitted from sulfur springs near the crater of Soufrière.


The average yearly temperature on St. Lucia is 27°c (80°f); the warmest month is usually September, and the coolest January. The average rainfall at sea level is 231 cm (91 in) a year; on the mountain peaks, more than 380 cm (150 in). Like the rest of the West Indies, St. Lucia is vulnerable to hurricanes, which hit the Caribbean in the late summer months.


Tropical sunlight, heavy rainfall, and fertile soil combine to produce an abundance of tropical flora, including hibiscus, poinciana, frangipani, orchids, jasmine, and bougainvillea. The higher mountain slopes support a dense rain forest. Common tree species include palm, bamboo, breadfruit, mangoes, coconut, and paw-paw. There are no large mammals on St. Lucia. Bats are common and there are several species of small snakes. The central high-lands provide nesting places for many birds, including flycatchers, hummingbirds, pigeons, and about a hundred other species. The surrounding sea contains extensive coral reefs supporting lobster, turtle, and conch, as well as an abundance of fish.


Densely populated, St. Lucia has been shorn of much of its protective woodland by agricultural and commercial interests, except for limited areas in the south-central rain forest. The loss of forest cover contributes to the erosion of the soil, particularly in the drier, northern part of the island. The nation does not have the financial resources to develop an adequate water purification system and the population is at risk from contamination of the water supply by agricultural chemicals and sewage.

The Mankoté Mangrove and Savannes Bay have been designated as Ramsar wetland sites and the Pitons Management Area was designated as a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site (2004). Population pressure prevents the government from expanding the area of protected lands. Principal responsibility for the environment is vested in the Ministry of Agriculture's Lands, Fisheries, and Cooperatives Forestry Division and the National Trust Fund. Excessive use of herbicides and pesticides threaten the wildlife population in St. Lucia and the eastern Caribbean states in general.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 2 types of mammals, 5 species of birds, 6 types of reptiles, 10 species of fish, and 6 species of plants. Threatened species include the red cedar, American mahogany, the St. Lucia parrot, the great white shark, the St. Lucia racer, and St. Lucia white-breasted thrasher. The St. Lucia giant rice rat has become extinct.


The population of St. Lucia in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 163,000, which placed it at number 174 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 7% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 30% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 96 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 1.0%; the government viewed the fertility rate, at 2.8 births per woman, as too high. The projected population for the year 2025 was 209,000. The population density was 263 per sq km (681 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 30% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 2.23%. The capital city, Castries, had a population of 14,000 in that year.


Emigration has provided an escape valve for population pressure. Neighbors such as Trinidad, Guyana, and the French Caribbean islands have received the bulk of emigrants from St. Lucia, with lesser numbers going to the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States. The number of migrants in 2000 was 8,000. In 2005, the net migration rate was -2.19 migrants per 1,000 population. The government views the migration levels as satisfactory.


It is estimated that 90% of the population are of African descent, being descendants of slaves brought into the country in the 17th and 18th centuries. About 6% are of a mixed origin and 3% are East Indian. Approximately 1% of the population is of European descent.


English is the official language of St. Lucia. However, only about 80% of the population speak it. Language outreach programs are seeking to integrate these people into the mainstream of society. Almost all the islanders also speak a French patois based on a mixture of African and French grammar and a vocabulary of mostly French with some English and Spanish words.


The vast majority of the population is Christian. About 67% of the residents are Roman Catholic, though only about 40% of all Catholics are active members. There is a substantial Protestant community comprised of Anglicans, Pentecostals, Seventh-Day Adventists, Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Methodists. There are small communities of Hindus, and Muslims, as well as small groups of Rastafarians and Baha'is. The constitution guarantees freedom of religion. The St. Lucia Christian Council, an interfaith group of Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants, has a close relationship with the government. Certain Christian holidays are recognized as national holidays.


St. Lucia, as of 2004, had two airports. Direct flights to New York, Miami, Toronto, London, and Frankfurt operate out of Hewanorra International Airport, on the southern tip of the island at VieuxFort. The smaller Vigie Airport, located near Castries, is used for flights to and from neighboring Caribbean islands. St. Lucia has two important ports: Castries, in the north, with a cargo-handling capacity of 365,000 tons per year; and Vieux Fort, at the southern tip of the island, from which ferries link St. Lucia with St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

All of the island's towns, villages, and main residential areas were linked by 1,210 km (752 mi) of all-purpose roads in 2002, of which 63 km (39 mi) were paved. Motor vehicles numbered 12,157 in 1995, including 11,399 passenger cars and 758 commercial vehicles.


Arawak and Carib Amerindians were the earliest known inhabitants of what is now St. Lucia. There is no hard evidence for the folklore that Columbus sighted St. Lucia on St. Lucy's Day in 1498, but in keeping with the tradition, 13 December is still celebrated as the date of the island's discovery.

The islands were not settled until the mid-17th century because the Caribs defended the islands successfully for years. The French settled the islands, but the natural harbor at Castries brought English interest. The island changed hands between the British and the French no fewer than 14 times, until in 1814, the British took permanent possession. In 1838, St. Lucia came under the administration of the Windward Islands government set up by Great Britain.

Unlike other islands in the area, sugar did not monopolize commerce on St. Lucia. Instead, it was one product among many others including tobacco, ginger, and cotton. Small farms rather than large plantations continued to dominate agricultural production into the 20th century. A total of 10,328 slaves were freed when slavery was abolished in 1834. To replace the slave labor, East Indian indentured workers were brought to the island during the late 1800s.

St. Lucia has a democratic tradition which began in 1924 when a few elected positions were added to the appointed legislative council. St. Lucia became an associated state with full internal self-government in 1967 and on 22 February 1979 became an independent member of the Commonwealth.

The first three years of independence were marked by political turmoil and civil strife, as leaders of rival political parties fought bitterly. In 1982, the conservative United Workers' Party (UWP) won 14 of 17 seats in the House of Assembly. Party leader and Prime Minister John Compton, who had been premier of the island since 1964, became prime minister at independence.

The UWP dominance was eroded in 1987, when the party won only nine seats. Prime Minister Compton called for new elections almost immediately, but received the same result. In 1992, the UWP increased its majority to 11 seats, as the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) won 6 seats. The SLP, which had been out of office for 15 years, won the April 1997 elections in a landslide, and its leader, Kenny Anthony, replaced Compton as prime minister.

St. Lucia suffered back-to-back tropical storms in 1994 and 1995 that caused losses of about 65% and 20% of each of those years' banana crops, respectively. In the late 1990s, the country's heavy reliance on bananas posed an additional economic threat as the United States challenged the preferential treatment accorded by several European nations to their former colonies in the Caribbean. In February 1999, a ruling by the World Trade Organization allowed the United States to impose trade penalties on Europe in response to these banana import policies. St. Lucia joined with its Caribbean neighbors in lobbying against the ruling.

In the December 2001 election, Anthony's SLP won with 54% of the vote, securing 14 of the 17 seats in the Assembly. The opposition UWP obtained 36.6% of the vote, but only captured three seats.

In 2002, Tropical Storm Lili destroyed about half of the banana crop; entire plantations were destroyed in some areas. St. Lucia is promoting the growth of mangos and avocados to lessen dependence upon the banana industry, but bananas still make up about one-third of export earnings.

In July 2003, parliament amended the constitution to replace the oath of allegiance to the British monarch with a pledge of loyalty to St. Lucians.


St. Lucia became independent in 1979. Under its constitution, the British monarch continues to be the titular head of government, appointing, upon recommendation of the local leaders, a governor-general to represent the crown. Executive power is effectively exercised by the prime minister and cabinet. There is a bicameral parliament consisting of a Senate with 11 members and a House of Assembly with 17 representatives. The House of Assembly has the important legislative functions. The Senate is an appointed body with little political power. Six of the members of the Senate are appointed on the advice of the prime minister, three are appointed on the advice of the opposition leader, and two are appointed after consultation with religious, economic, and social groups.

Members of the lower house are elected for a maximum period of five years. Suffrage on St. Lucia has been universal for those 18 and older since 1951, before St. Lucia achieved independence.

Under the constitution, the government could call for elections at any time. Under the current schedule, elections are held by secret ballot and at least every five years.


After sweeping the 1997 parliamentary elections by gaining 16 out of 17 seats, the left-of-center St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP), led by Kenny Anthony, became the majority party, ending 15 years of dominance by the United Workers' Party (UWP). The SLP regained control of the Assembly in the 2001 election, with more than 54% of the vote. Following the UWP's electoral defeat in 1997, its leader, Vaughan Lewis, resigned, and former leader and Prime Minister John Compton, resumed leadership of the party in its new role of opposition party. As of 2005, the leader of the UWP was Dr. Morella Joseph. The UWP was the party in power at the time of independence, lost power in 1979, and regained it in 1982. It is by reputation the more conservative party. The next elections were scheduled for December 2006.

The National Alliance (NA), under the leadership of Jon Odlum, has no representation. It is an offshoot of the SLP. The St. Lucia Freedom Party (SFP) is led by Martinus François. Sou Tout Apwe Fete Fini (STAFF) is led by Christopher Hunte.


St. Lucia is divided into 11 administrative regions. Local governments are elected by popular vote.


The legal system is based on English common law and "Code Napoleon." The highest judicial body was the Privy Council of the United Kingdom. Both common law and statute law govern St. Lucia. The lowest court is the district or magistrate's court, above which is the Court of Summary Jurisdiction. Seated in Castries, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (known as the West Indies Associated States Supreme Court upon its founding in 1967, and as the Supreme Court of Grenada and the West Indies Associated States from 1974 until 1979) has jurisdiction in St. Lucia, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It consists of the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Prior to 2003, in exceptional cases, appeals were carried to the UK Privy Council. On 9 June 2003, Caribbean leaders met in Kingston, Jamaica, to ratify a treaty to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). Eight nationsBarbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobagoofficially approved the CCJ, although 14 nations were planning to use the court for appeals. Haiti had agreed to use the CCJ for resolution of trade disputes. The court was officially inaugurated in April 2005. As of 2005, however, the court's jurisdiction was limited to the CARICOM states of Barbados and Guyana. The CCJ heard its first case in August 2005.

The constitution guarantees a public trial before an independent and impartial court. Legal counsel is afforded to indigent defendants in cases involving capital punishment.


As of 2000 there were no armed forces other than those of the police force and coast guard. The Eastern Caribbean Regional Security System, formed in 1985, includes Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as St. Lucia, and provides for joint coast-guard operations, military exercises, and disaster contingency plans.


St. Lucia became a member of the United Nations on 12 September 1979; it is a member of ECLAC and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, the World Bank, ILO, IFC, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNCTAD, and the WHO. St. Lucia is a member of the WTO, the ACP Group, the Commonwealth of Nations, CARICOM, the Caribbean Development Bank, G-77, the OAS, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and OECS. St. Lucia is a member of the Nonaligned Movement, the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL), and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In environmental cooperation, the country is part of the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Whaling, CITES, the London Convention, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification.


As did many Caribbean producers, St. Lucia's agricultural products benefited from preferred access to European markets; the country was the leading producer of bananas in the Windward Islands group. The industry is now in a terminal decline, due to competition from lower-cost Latin American banana producers and reduced European Union trade preferences. The country is encouraging farmers to plant crops such as cocoa, mangos, and avocados to diversify its agricultural production and to provide jobs for displaced banana workers. Tourism, with direct flights from Europe and North America, has recently become an important economic activity. St. Lucia's manufacturing sector has grown steadily, with the construction of many light manufacturing and assembly plants that produce for local or export markets.

Though foreign investment in manufacturing and information processing in recent years has increased St. Lucia's industrial base, the economy remains vulnerable due to its heavy dependence on banana production, which is subject to periodic droughts and tropical storms. Indeed, the destructive effect of Tropical Storm Iris in mid-1995 caused the loss of 20% of the year's banana crop, and the agriculture sector recorded its sixth year of decline in 1998. In 2001, GDP growth at current prices was 2%, but in 2002 contracted 4% due to a combination of adverse factors: the global economic slowdown, declining export demand, and a sharp fall-off of tourism after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Inflation remained subdued at 2.3% for both years.

Tourism was booming in 2004, showing a solid recovery from recession that followed the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The latest estimates from the World Bank show that the annual growth rate recorded in 2004 was 3.6%, with agriculture accounting for 4.5% of GDP, manufacturing 5.4% of GDP, and tourism 48% of GDP (direct and indirect impact).

However, it is estimated that up to 40% of the banana crop was destroyed when Hurricane Ivan made its way through the Eastern Caribbean in September 2004. The economy is highly susceptible to external macroeconomic shocks, magnified by an undiversified production and export base and exacerbated by natural disasters that have a serious economic impact on banana and cocoa crops.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 St. Lucia's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $866.0 million. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $5,400. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 3.3%. The average inflation rate in 2001 was 3%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 7% of GDP, industry 20%, and services 73%.

Approximately 40% of household consumption was spent on food, 11% on fuel, 4% on health care, and 17% on education.


In 2001 (the latest year for which data was available), the labor force was estimated at 43,800. In 2002 (the latest year for which data was available), an estimated 21.7% of the workforce was engaged in agriculture, with 53.6% in services, and the remaining 24.7% in commerce, manufacturing and industry. Unemployment in 2003 was estimated at 20%.

As of 2001, unions in St. Lucia represented about 20% of the workforce. The largest trade union grouping, the Industrial Solidarity Pact, includes the National Workers' Union, the St. Lucia Civil Service Association, the Prison Officers' Association, and the St. Lucia Teachers' Union. The law protects the right to unionize, strike, and bargain collectively.

The law provides for a minimum working age of 14. Occupational safety and health regulations are regularly enforced. There is no national legislated workweek, although the common practice is to work 40 hours a week spread over five days. Special legislation covers hours which shop assistants, agricultural workers, domestics, and young industrial employees work. There is a minimum wage for office clerks only, which was us$300 per month in 2001.


Agriculture accounts for about 8% of GDP. The production of bananas, St. Lucia's most important crop, fluctuates as a result of climatic conditions and plant disease; it has gone from a low of 32,000 tons in 1975 to 160,000 tons in 1990 (48% of the Windward Islands' banana production that year) to 120,000 tons in 2004. Almost the entire production is exported. The second most important crop is coconuts, exported as oil and copra; about 14,000 tons of coconuts were produced in 2004. The production of vegetables and fruits for local consumption increased steadily since 1979, as the government sought to achieve self-sufficiency in tomatoes, onions, carrots, cabbages, and breadfruit. In 2004, the value of exported agricultural products amounted to us$34.6 million, down from us$85.7 million in 1990.


Production in almost every category of animal husbandry is insufficient to satisfy local demand. There are only 12,400 head of cattle on the island, mostly grazing in the middle altitudes of the central mountain region; milk production covers only about 25% of local demand. There were also an estimated 12,500 sheep, 10,000 pigs, and 9,800 goats on the island in 2005. St. Lucia has attained self-sufficiency in pork and egg production. Egg production was about 482 tons in 2005.


The establishment of the St. Lucia Fish Market Corp. in 1985, with a us$2.5-million grant from Canada, provided local fishermen with processing, storage, and marketing facilities, enabling St. Lucia to become self-sufficient in fresh fish production. In 2003, the total catch was 1,466 tons. Dolphinfish, wahoo, and blackfin tuna accounted for 286, 169, and 169 tons, respectively, in 2003.


A small timber industry processes mahogany, pine, and blue mahoe; expansion of cultivation is planned at the rate of 40 hectares (100 acres) annually. About 15% of total available land consists of forest and woodlands. Legislation is in force to protect against deforestation; during 19902000 deforestation continued at an annual average of 4.9%. Imports of forest products amounted to us$11.7 million in 2004.


Mining played a minor role in St. Lucia's economy. Gravel and sand pits and pumice quarries supplied the island's construction sector.


St. Lucia Electricity Services is responsible for the generation and supply of electricity throughout the island. In 2002, total capacity was 66,000 kW. Electrical production in 2002 was 269 million kWh, produced entirely from conventional thermal sources. Consumption of electricity in 2002 was 250 million kWh. St. Lucia's requirements are met through an island-wide grid serviced by two main diesel generation centers, which utilize oil imported from Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago. The Sulfur Springs in Soufrière on the west coast have been confirmed as a source of geothermal energy, with a potential generating capacity of 10 MW.

With no reserves of oil, natural gas, or coal, nor any refining capacity, St. Lucia must import all the petroleum products it consumes. In 2002, imports and consumption of refined oil products each averaged 2,500 barrels per day; of that amount, distillates and gasoline accounted for the bulk of the imports at 1,270 barrels per day and 1,050 barrels per day, respectively.


St. Lucia's manufacturing sector is the largest and most diversified in the Windward Islands, with many light manufacturing or assembly plants producing apparel, electronic components, plastic products, and paper and cardboard boxes. Agricultural manufacturing includes lime and coconut processing.

Recently, the government has devoted its efforts to the improvement of economic activity as well as development of the major export markets. With the formation of the Eastern Caribbean Stated Export Development Agency (ECSEDA) in 1990, the performance of local manufacturers was expected to be significantly enhanced in the future. Several industrial estates and free trade zones were established during the 1990s, including a free zone for goods distribution that opened in 2000. The site included 11 factory-style warehouses and one administration center. Many large-scale industrial projects were funded by foreign investors in 2000, including port reconstruction, housing construction, a national stadium, banana trade subsidies, and a fisheries industry upgrade. In addition to private investors, the government has focused on capital projects that have increased growth in the construction sector.

St. Lucia's tourism industry has grown steadily in the last 20 years and has increasing appeal as an eco-destination due to delightfully unspoiled natural resources, which bode well for the future. Several investors have planned new tourism projects for the island, including a large hotel and resort in the southern part of the island.


The government of St. Lucia has established a Science and Technology Division within the government's Central Planning Unit (CPU). As of 1987, three scientists were employed with the CPU. The Windward Islands Banana Growers' Association (WINBAN) maintains a research laboratory in St. Lucia serving the needs of banana growers in the region. The St. Lucia National Trust, headquartered in Castries, is responsible for the wildlife, seabirds, rare plants, and geology on Pigeon, Fregate, and Maria islands. In 1984, total expenditures on research and development amounted to us$12 million. As of 1999 (the latest year for which data is available) there were 237 technicians and 74 scientists and engineers engaged in research and development.


Castries is the economic center of the island. Local produce markets, selling domestically produced goods, are found in all the small villages and towns. They are usually most active in the early morning hours to avoid the midday heat and the afternoon tropical showers. As of 2002, about 73% of the GDP was attributed to service industries.

The Caribbean Development Bank Poverty Assessment Report mentions that 30% of the labor force participants from the poorest strata of St. Lucia were engaged in informal sector activity, mostly due to the high unemployment rate.


The economy of St. Lucia is highly dependent on foreign trade. Agriculture is the major export earner. Duty exemption and tax credits are implemented for trade inducements, nevertheless, some traders complain of the country's protectionist attitude towards selected goods.

St. Lucia benefits from duty free access for manufactured goods to the EU market and preferential arrangements for bananas. The

United Kingdom18.831.6-12.8
United States12.2182.0-169.8
Trinidad and Tobago10.151.4-41.3
St. Vincent and the Grenadines2.94.2-1.3
St. Kitts and Nevis0.80.8
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account-103.9
   Balance on goods-207.0
   Balance on services133.6
   Balance on income-43.5
   Current transfers13.0
Capital Account21.4
Financial Account68.4
   Direct investment abroad
   Direct investment in Saint Lucia48.1
   Portfolio investment assets-16.5
   Portfolio investment liabilities35.2
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets-16.4
   Other investment liabilities18.1
Net Errors and Omissions19.2
Reserves and Related Items-5.2
() data not available or not significant.

European Union (EU) accounts for approximately 50% of exports and 17% of imports. In 2003, St. Lucia's imports from the EU amounted to 44 million, while exports from St. Lucia to the EU Member States reached 24 million.

In 2004 St. Lucia exported $81 million in bananas, cocoa, vegetables, fruits, other agricultural products, oils and fats, and manufactured goods. Major export markets were the United Kingdom (27%), United States (13%), Trinidad and Tobago (12%), and Barbados (8%), while imports rose to $383 million for food, fuel, manufactured goods, machinery, and transport equipment; major suppliers are the United States (40%), Trinidad and Tobago (16%), the United Kingdom (9%), and Japan (4%).


St. Lucia has had a negative balance of trade every year since independence; this annual deficit has been counterbalanced in part by inflows from tourism and direct investment. However, the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States negatively impacted St. Lucia's tourism industry.

The external current account deficit, which had declined in 2001 to 5.75% of GDP as imports fell sharply, is estimated to have increased to 8.5% in 2002 mainly due to a decline in proceeds from services. These deficits have been more than covered by capital inflows including public sector borrowing and private capital. Reflecting the government borrowing, public and publicly guaranteed external debt rose rapidly in recent years (from an average of 23.5% of GDP in 199899 to about 31% at the end of 2001), and is estimated to have increased to 38.5% of GDP at the end of 2002. It is not surprising then that World Bank estimates for 2004 report that St. Lucia's trade deficit is more than $300 million.


In early 1981, the government-owned St. Lucia National Bank and the St. Lucia Development Bank were opened. There were eight commercial banks as of 2000, including the St. Lucia Cooperative Bank, the Bank of Nova Scotia, Barclays, CIBC Caribbean, Caribbean Banking Corporation, the Republic Bank, and the Royal Bank of Canada. St. Lucia is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, which is responsible for the administration of the country's monetary policies, the regulation of exchange control, and supervision of commercial banks and other financial institutions for the islands belonging to the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. The Central Bank has special arrangements for discounting loans made by commercial banks to productive sectors, such as tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing. The interest rates are normally below the commercial banks' lending rates. In 1999, the St. Lucia National Commercial Bank offered public shares for the first time, receiving investment of over us$11 million. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $115.4 million. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $502.9 million.


As of 1997, there were at least 18 companies registered to transact insurance business in St. Lucia.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2000 St. Lucia's central government took in revenues of approximately $141.2 million and had expenditures of $146.7 million. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$5.5 million. Total external debt was $214 million.


Individual income tax rates in St. Lucia range from 1030%. There are no local taxes on income. Resident corporations and branches of foreign companies are taxed at the same flat rate of 33.33%. There are no other corporate taxes. Hotel companies and other industries receive a tax holiday of up to 15 years in St. Lucia.


Duties on imported goods such as alcoholic beverages, motor vehicles, cigarettes, and gasoline and oil continue to be major sources of government income. Most imports except those from CARICOM nations are subject to import duties, which consist of a customs duty, a consumption tax, and a service charge. The CARICOM common external tariff ranges up to a maximum of 20%. To facilitate industrial development, the government has in specific cases negotiated the complete elimination of both import and export duties. In 2000, the government implemented a consumption tax retooling that involved a rebate of 20% for electronics producers, 40% for most other small manufactures, and 60% on the production of food and beverages.


Firms based in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and other EC members, Venezuela, Hong Kong, and the Republic of Korea are the principal investors in St. Lucia. Two free-trade zones operate on the island, and a free zone for goods distribution was opened in 2000.

The government, through the St. Lucia National Development Corporation, set up five industrial zones in order to attract foreign investment in manufacturing and assembly operations. A Data Entry Park was built to attract information processing operations. Development incentives are available in the form of tax concessions of up to 15 years in industries prescribed as beneficial to St. Lucia, namely in the manufacturing and tourism industries.

In 1996, St. Lucia was granted a us$955 thousand loan from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). The money was used to partly finance a project to help poor households in rural districts diversify agricultural production in order to decrease dependence on the banana industry. The banana industry was highly subsidized during 1999 and 2000 by the EU through the Banana Industry Trust Company, despite the need for diversification. Other investment in 2000 came from the Japanese government to encourage growth of the fishing industry, and from the Chinese government in construction and manufacturing.

In 1990 FDI was 5.85% of GDP, rose to 8.04% in 2000, but slowed in 2003 to 4.63% of GDP. Annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow was approximately $50 million in 1997, but rose to an average of about $83 million in 1998 and 1999. In 2000 and 2001, average annual FDI inflow was about $50 million. All sectors of the economy have benefited from infrastructure improvements in roads, communications, water supply, sewerage, and port facilities. These improvements, combined with a stable political environment and educated work force, have attracted foreign investors in several different sectors. Although St. Lucia enjoys a steady flow of investment in tourism, the single most significant foreign investment is Hess Oil's large petroleum storage and transshipment terminal. In addition, the Caribbean Development Bank funded an extensive airport expansion project.


Historically, the major thrust of foreign affairs for St. Lucia has been economic development. Since the establishment the National Development Corp. in 1971, St. Lucia has succeeded in diversifying its economy. St. Lucia has the most highly developed infrastructure of all the Windward Islands, with an international airport, a highway system that connects the important coastal and agricultural areas with the political and commercial centers, and a fully automated telephone system with direct dialing to most parts of the world.

At the end of 1996, the Lewis government unveiled a job-creating budget aimed at boosting his party's flagging fortunes. A us$242 million package devoted us$136 million to current expenditure and us$104 million to capital items. With the unemployment rate standing at 25%, the prime minister pledged to create 10,000 jobs by the end of the 199798 fiscal year. The 2.9% gross domestic product growth of 1998 was a marked improvement from previous years, which averaged below 2%. Unemployment was down to about 15% in 1999, and the government had plans to spend half of its budget on capital projects to foster the growing economy.

In view of the European Union's announced phase-out of preferred access to its markets of Windward Island bananas by 2006, an attempt is being made to diversify production by encouraging the establishment of tree crops such as mangos and avocados. With the banana production's considerable fall in recent years, tourism now sustains the economySt. Lucia is the number one tourist destination among Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) members. The government in 2003 was focusing public investment on projects aimed at growth led by the private sector and at reducing poverty. Furthermore, recently St. Lucia added small computer-driven information technology and financial services as development objectives.

The government is seeking balanced international relations with emphasis on mutual economic cooperation and trade and investment. It seeks to conduct its foreign policy chiefly through its membership in the OECS. For example, St. Lucia participated, along with 14 other Caribbean nations, in a summit with President Clinton in Bridgetown, Barbados in May 1997. The summit, which was the first-ever meeting in the region between US and Caribbean heads of government, strengthened the basis for regional cooperation. US assistance is primarily channeled through multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and the USAID satellite office in Bridgetown, Barbados.


The National Insurance program provides all workers from age 16 to 60 with old age, disability, survivor, sickness, and maternity coverage, as well as workers' compensation. The program is financed by 5% contributions from employers and employees, with the government financing the program for civil servants. Retirement pensions begin at age 60, provided that 10 years of contributions have been made. Maternity benefits are 65% of average salary for the preceding seven months, plus a cash grant.

There are no legal restrictions on the rights of women, but social discrimination is not uncommon. The Minister for Women's Affairs promotes and protects the rights of women, and addresses employment discrimination complaints. Violence against women remains a serious problem but is addressed by the government with programs and training. The St. Lucia Crisis Center in Castries and a second facility in Vieux Fort monitor abuse and act as advisors and advocates for women on a number of issues.

Human rights are generally well respected in St. Lucia, although there were reports of mistreatment of prisoners and generally poor prison conditions.


There were two general hospitals, one psychiatric hospital, and two district hospitals on St. Lucia. The main hospital, with over 200 beds, is located in Castries. In addition, there are 34 health centers scattered throughout the island. In 2004, there were an estimated 518 doctors and 229 nurses per 100,000 people. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 4.3% of GDP.

Malnutrition and intestinal difficulties are the main health problems. Tuberculosis, once widespread, has been brought under control. The total fertility rate was 3.1 children born to a woman during her childbearing years. The average life expectancy was 73.61 years in 2005. That year the infant mortality rate was 13.53 per 1,000 live births.


According to the 2001 census, there were 52,664 dwelling units nationwide. About 80% of these were private, single-family detached homes. About 41% of all dwellings were built of concrete block; 39% were built of wood. That year, 47.2% of all households were linked to a septic system; 35.3% still made use of pit latrines. About 86% had access to electricity for lighting and 58.4% were linked to a public water system. Nearly 75% of all dwellings were owner occupied. about 34% of the housing stock was built in the period 198095; about 14.8% was built before 1970. The average household had 3.3 members.


Elementary schooling lasts for seven years, followed by three years of lower secondary education and another two years of upper secondary education. About 65% of children between the ages of three and four attend some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 99% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 76% of age-eligible students; 68% for boys and 85% for girls. It is estimated that nearly all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 22:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 16:1.

An education complex in Castries maintains a teacher-training center, a technical school, a secretarial training center, and a branch of the University of the West Indies. The Sir Arthur Lewis Community College is to be upgraded into a full-fledged campus of the University of the West Indies. In 1996, institutions of higher learning had 157 teaching staff and 2,760 students. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 90%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 7.7% of GDP, or 21.3% of total government expenditures.


The government provides free library service. The Central Library of St. Lucia with 106,000 volumes is located in Castries; at least 17 smaller public libraries are located in villages throughout the island. St. Lucia has a historical and natural history museum on Pigeon Island, founded in 1994. Le Pavillon Royal Museum in Castries contains artifacts and displays on the history of the government.


The telephone system is fully automatic. In 2002, there were 51,100 mainline phones and 14,300 mobile phones in use nationwide. In 2004, there were three radio stations and three television stations; one of each were owned by the government. In 1997 there were 668 radios and 167 TV sets in use per 1,000 population. Television programs consist of some local programming, videotapes, and live broadcasts originating in Barbados; television transmissions from Martinique are also received.

In 2005, there were six main newspapers in the country. The Voice of St. Lucia and the St. Lucia Star (10,000 circulation in 2002) appear three times a week. The Crusader (2002 circulation, 4,000) is published on Saturday. The Mirror, The Vanguard, and One Caribbean are also published once a week.

The government is said to generally respect constitutionally provided free speech and free press, though occasionally it has shown open hostility toward both the print media and radio. Newspapers, radio, and television carry a wide spectrum of opinion, including that which is directly critical of the government.


The St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture meets in Castries. Other business organizations include the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association, the Saint Lucia Industrial and Small Business Association, and the St. Lucia Manufacturing Association. Professional associations, such as the St. Lucia Teachers Union, are also active.

The St. Lucia Historical Society and the Folk Research Center promote the study and development of national culture. National youth organizations include the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of St. Lucia, Caribbean Youth Conference, Progressive Labor Party Youth, and United Workers Party Youth. Sports associations promote amateur competition for athletes of all ages. Volunteer service organizations, such as the Lions Clubs and Kiwanis International, are also present. There are also national chapters of the Red Cross and Planned Parenthood.


Dramatic tropical scenery, beautiful beaches, and excellent water-sports facilities are St. Lucia's principal tourist attractions. Of special interest are the Piton Mountains and the Sulphur Springs (the world's only drive-in volcano). Popular sports include football (soccer), volleyball, tennis, and cricket. All foreign nationals must carry a passport. Visas are required for all but visitors from the United States, Commonwealth countries, or where there is an agreement between St. Lucia and the home country. Tourists come by air directly from Europe, Canada, and the United States, and on cruise ships sailing through the West Indies out of North American and European ports.

There were 276,948 tourist arrivals in St. Lucia in 2003. In that year there were 3,749 rooms available and 6,748 beds. The hotel occupancy rate was 62%. The average length of stay was 10 days.


John G. M. Compton (b.1926), trained as a barrister and one of the founders of the United Workers' Party, was prime minister from 198296. Dr. Kenny Davis Anthony, (b.1951) became prime minister in 1997. The writer Derek Walcott (b.1930) is best known for his epic autobiographical poem Another Life.


St. Lucia has no territories or colonies.


Adventure Guide to Dominica and St Lucia. Edison, N.J.: Hunter, 2004.

Calvert, Peter. A Political and Economic Dictionary of Latin America. Philadelphia: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2004.

Eggleston, Hazel. St. Lucia Diary. Greenwich, Conn.: DevinAdair, 1977.

Health in the Americas, 2002 edition. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization, Pan American Sanitary Bureau, Regional Office of the World Health Organization, 2002.

Momsen, Janet Henshall. St. Lucia. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio, 1996.

St. Lucia

views updated May 21 2018




The island of St. Lucia is situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, north of Trinidad and Tobago. Part of the Windward Island chain, it lies between the French overseas departments of Martinique and St. Vincent. Its total area is 620 square kilometers (239 square miles), approximately 3.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. Its coastline measures 158 kilometers (98 miles), and its capital and main town, Castries, lies in a sheltered bay on the island's northwest coast.


St. Lucia's population was estimated at 156,260 in mid-2000, an increase of 1.21 percent on the previous year. The island's population grew at an average annual rate of 1.5 percent between 1995 and 1998, and if current growth rates are sustained, its population will stand at approximately 180,000 in 2010. St. Lucia's population has grown steadily during the 1990s despite a high level of emigration (people moving away from the country), estimated at 4.67 per 1,000 people. This, however, is a lower rate of emigration than that experienced by the neighboring islands of Dominica and St. Vincent.

Approximately half of the population lives in or near the capital, Castries (57,401 in 1996), according to the Saint Lucia Statistics Department. The other important centers of population are Vieux Fort in the south (14,512 people) and Soufriére on the southwest coast (8,478 people). Otherwise, the population is scattered in small towns and villages, mostly near the flatter coastal regions. More than 90 percent of the population is of African descent, a legacy of the island's past as a plantation economy. African slaves were brought to St. Lucia by Europeans (mostly the French) to work on the plantations. English is the official language, but there are strong French influences because the island was colonized by France for much of the 17th and 18th centuries. Many St. Lucians speak a French Creole. Catholicism is the main religion.


St. Lucia has traditionally had an agricultural economy, one geared towards exporting tropical commodities and importing manufactured goods. Sugar was the main crop from the 17th century until the 1920s. The end of slavery in 1838 allowed those who had worked on the large plantations to start their own, privately-owned farms producing fruits and vegetables. Bananas were introduced in the 1950s and rapidly became the island's main export, benefiting from preferential access to the British market and, after independence from Britain in 1979, to the entire European market. The heyday of the banana industry was during the 1980s, when exports were consistently above 100,000 tons annually, representing as much as 70 percent of export income.

St. Lucia's banana industry was troubled by uncertainty and crisis during the 1990s. The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in 1995 that the European Union (EU) went against free trade legislation by giving preference to Caribbean banana exports. This caused concern that the St. Lucian banana industry had lost its most profitable fruit market. As a result, many farmers abandoned banana cultivation and planted other crops. Making matters worse for the banana industry, the government-supported St. Lucia Banana Growers' Association (SLBGA) was bankrupted in 1994 under rumors of corruption. The SLBGA helped banana growers, but the organization was also illegally used by the government to control the island's money supply. Attempts to reform the SLBGA and restructure the banana industry met with only partial success after the scandal was revealed.

St. Lucia has quite a large manufacturing sector, mainly geared towards supplying the U.S. market with clothes and sporting goods, and there is a factory that produces cardboard packaging for bananas and other agricultural crops. Several plants closed and many jobs were lost in 1996 due to the difficult economic situation. The new administration attempted to impose taxes on foreign operations in St. Lucia, and failed. These manufacturing operations quickly closed and left the island, rather than pay corporate taxes.

The main areas of growth have been related to the tourism industry, in services and construction. On average, over 250,000 tourists visited the island each year during the 1990s. Government-sponsored infrastructure projects such as construction of new roads, ports, and several hotels have contributed to the economy's growth since the late 1990s. St. Lucia is also trying to establish itself as a center for offshore banking , where foreign investors and companies can avoid paying taxes in their own countries, and where the tax rates are comparatively low.


St. Lucia is a multi-party parliamentary democracy, based on the British model of government. As part of the British Commonwealth, St. Lucia has the British queen serve as chief of state and is represented by a governor general. A prime minister and deputy prime minister lead the government. There is a bicameral parliament. The East Caribbean Supreme Court has jurisdiction over St. Lucia as well as several other Caribbean islands.

From 1964 until 1996 the island's politics were dominated by the United Workers' Party (UWP) led by John Compton. He held power during that entire period with the exception of 1979-82, when the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) was in office. Compton retired in 1996 under allegations of corruption, and in 1997 the SLP, headed by Kenny Anthony, won an overwhelming election victory. The SLP is generally considered to be more left-wing and sympathetic to the trade unions than the UWP, while the UWP was supported during the 1980s and early 1990s by a more prosperous sector of banana growers. Little separates the 2 parties in policy now that the banana industry has collapsed. Both are keen to diversify St. Lucia's economy away from dependence on bananas and both welcome foreign investments in all areas of the economy. The SLP government has particularly tried to promote the island as a reputable center for international finance, but as yet it has not attracted a large number of foreign financial ventures.

Until the reform of the SLBGA and the ousting of the UWP in 1996, the banana industry was primarily owned and operated by the government. The minority UWP continues to provide advice and support though the ministry of agriculture and other state bodies, but the SLP has majority power in St. Lucia's formal economic policies. The Kenny Anthony government is more active in promoting the country's industrial and financial development than in saving the banana industry. The National Development Corporation (NDC) offers incentives to potential foreign investors. Roads, ports, and industrial complexes have all been built by the government in order to attract foreign investment in manufacturing and services.

Tax concessions are offered to foreign investors and there are plans to open a free zone at Vieux Fort, where foreign businesses would be able to import and export goods without paying duties . The government raises revenue from foreign companies after a tax holiday has expired, but many foreign companies leave just before the tax holiday has ended. Other principal sources of government revenue are sales and property taxes as well as the various taxes charged to tourists, including hotel room taxes and airport departure taxes. In a 1999 report on the St. Lucian economy, the World Bank suggested that the government's concessions to foreign businesses were too generous and that the economy would benefit from the introduction of a uniform value-added tax .


St. Lucia is a small island with a relatively under-developed infrastructure, although the government has invested in modernizing road and port facilities since the mid-1990s. There are 1,210 kilometers (752 miles) of roads, but only about a half of these are paved. Many rural roads, particularly in the interior, are unpaved and vulnerable to landslides and storm damage. In 2000 the government began a large-scale project to resurface and upgrade 116 kilometers (72 miles) of primary and secondary roads. There are 2 airports, of which Hewanorra, in the south near Vieux Fort, is the main international airport, while George F.L. Charles airport, near Castries, receives mostly inter-island flights. The main commercial port is at Vieux Fort, where modernized deep-water container facilities were opened in 1993. In addition to commercial ships, cruise ships call at Castries, where there is a specially constructed duty-free shopping complex at Pointe Seraphine.

St. Lucia imports oil from Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela to meet its energy needs, and there is a large oil transshipment terminal south of Castries, used for re-exporting oil to other islands. In 1998 electricity production was estimated at 110 million kilowatts and consumption at 102 million kilowatts. Communications are generally good, but in early 2001 the island's dominant service provider, Cable and Wireless, was preparing to close after the government decided to end its monopoly . According to the World Bank, there were 268 mainline telephones per 1,000 people in 1998 and 136 personal computers per 1,000 people.


The contribution made by agriculture to gross domestic product fell steadily throughout the 1990s, from 14.5 percent in 1990 to 8.1 percent in 1998. This fall reflected the crisis in the banana industry and the resulting decrease in agricultural production and exports. Attempts to diversify agricultural products (plant new kinds of crops) did not improve the agricultural sector as a whole. Despite the decline in output, agriculture was St. Lucia's second largest source of employment, providing jobs for 13,150 people in 1999 or approximately 20 percent of the workforce.

Industry's contribution to gross domestic product remained constant throughout the 1990s, rising only slightly from 18.1 percent in 1990 to 18.9 percent in 1998. The main sector of industry was manufacturing, which provided 5,160 jobs in 1999, or 8 percent of total employment. Most manufacturing work was done for the U.S. market, although there were also some industrial plants producing goods such as processed foods and beverages for the local market. Export-oriented

CountryTelephones aTelephones, Mobile/Cellular aRadio Stations bRadios aTV Stations aTelevisions aInternet Service Providers cInternet Users c
St. Lucia37,0001,600AM 2; FM 7; shortwave 0111,000332,000155,000
United States194 M69.209 M (1998)AM 4,762; FM 5,542; shortwave 18575 M1,500219 M7,800148 M
Jamaica353,000 (1996)54,640 (1996)AM 10; FM 13; shortwave 01.215 M7460,0002160,000
Bahamas96,0006,152AM 3; FM 4; shortwave 0215,000167,0001915,000
aData is for 1997 unless otherwise noted.
bData is for 1998 unless otherwise noted.
cData is for 2000 unless otherwise noted.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [Online].

manufacturing declined during the 1990s, but was balanced out by a boom in construction activity.

Services grew as a percentage of gross domestic product through the 1990s, from 67.3 percent in 1990 to 72.9 percent in 1998. Tourism was the main factor in this growth, and the industry was responsible for 5,390 jobs in hotels and restaurants in 1998 (8 percent of employment). An additional 11,300 people, or 17 percent of the workforce, were employed in the retail sector, which had strong links with tourism. The fastest-growing economic force in St. Lucia during the 1990s was tourism, affecting not only the services and retail sectors, but the construction sector as well, accounting for at least 25 percent of workforce employment.


Since the heyday of the late 1980s, banana production in St. Lucia has faced a number of challenges and crises. The growers' association, the SLBGA, was plagued by inefficiency and corruption. After extensive reorganization, the newly elected SLP government paid off the SLBGA's debts and turned it into a private company, owned and managed by farmers. The new company, the St. Lucia Banana Corporation, was launched in 1998, but has been unable to reverse the decline within the industry. The biggest problem has been the loss of preferential access to the European market following the 1995 WTO ruling. The EU donated US$7.7 million in 1999 to support the reorganization and diversification of the agricultural industry.

Even so, bananas occupy a vital place within the island's economy, not merely in terms of employment but also as an earner of foreign exchange. During the 1980s and 1990s, St. Lucia could have been called a banana republic. In 2000, according to the Windward Islands Banana Development and Exporting Company (WIBDECO), St. Lucia exported 70,281 tons of bananas to Europe, earning slightly over US$30 million in export income. Bananas represented approximately 60 percent of the island's export income, but only a minimal amount of foreign exchange was gained when compared to the success of the tourism industry. Other agriculture in St. Lucia included dairy farming, flowers, and fisheries, but export income from these crops were still small.


Since the 1990s the government in St. Lucia has tried to build up a manufacturing sector as an alternative to the reliance on bananas and tourism. The island's population is too small to support the manufacture of goods for domestic consumption (St. Lucia's citizens cannot afford to buy expensive manufactured items), so the emphasis has been on export-oriented products such as garments, sporting goods, toys, and diving equipment. Most of the larger factories are situated in an industrial park near the container port at Vieux Fort, for the easy transportation of goods off the island. In 1996 the manufacturing sector was badly hit when 3 foreign companies closed because they were nearing the end of their 10-year tax holiday. Since then, more plants have closed and manufacturing as a whole has stagnated.

The majority of manufacturing plants in St. Lucia are owned and operated by foreign companies. They open plants on the island to take advantage of the cheap labor, low tax rates, and easy access to the U.S. market. However, because the government of St. Lucia gives tax incentives to these companies, the island community does not receive many benefits from the arrangement apart from employment gains.

In employment terms, however, manufacturing is still much less important than agriculture and tourism, and 1999 export figures show that all manufacturing, including beverages and tobacco, earned only US$21 million. Construction, on the other hand, has grown sharply since the mid-1990s with a mixture of public-sector investment, such as roads, and private-sector hotel projects. Construction of a new large Hyatt hotel in the north of the island created many jobs and gave a boost to local builders and suppliers.


Services account for almost three-quarters of St. Lucia's gross domestic product, supported by tourism. There were 688,460 visitors to the island in 1999, according to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), with 259,371 of these staying on the island and 423,114 visiting briefly aboard cruise ships. In 1998 St. Lucia earned US$291.3 million from tourism, almost 10 times the value of banana exports. Unlike other Caribbean destinations, St. Lucia has enjoyed steady growth in its tourism industry since the 1990s, with an encouraging year-on-year increase in the number of visitors who spend a week or more on the island. Much of the tourism sector, however, is concentrated in the all-inclusive category, where vacationers prepay their accommodation, food, and leisure activities in a single package. This means that small, independent hotels and restaurants receive fewer customers, and tourists are deterred from spending money outside the hotel perimeter. Some smaller businesses have reported a 75 percent drop in earnings since the construction of the 8 main all-inclusive hotels.

Tourists come for the island's natural beauty, and St. Lucia hosts special events such as the annual jazz festival and the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. This latter event alone earns the island US$2 million annually in tourism spending. But as tourism increases, there are concerns about its impact on the island's ecosystem as well as on its social structures. Reports of crimes committed against tourists are now commonplace, and there are anxieties about the long-term future of such natural splendors as coral reefs and the world-famous Pitons, the forest-clad mountains that rise steeply out of the sea.

The government has also declared its intention to turn St. Lucia into a center for international financial services, such as banking and insurance. Like other Caribbean countries, the island hoped to attract foreign investors, both corporate and individual, who wished to avoid paying taxes in their own countries. In early 2001, however, only 1 full bank had been registered in comparison to 117 International Business Companies, companies set up mainly to provide a system for foreign tax evasion. Unfortunately, the launching of the financial services sector coincided with a crackdown on illegal tax havens by the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF), supported by Europe and North America, aimed at stopping money laundering . In 1999 only 990 St. Lucians were employed in the financial sector.


St. Lucia's trade deficit , US$215 million in 1998, was balanced out by the island's income from tourism. In terms of exports, the main buyer was the United Kingdom, which paid St. Lucia US$33.2 million for goods in 1998 (mostly bananas). The second biggest buyer of St. Lucian goods was the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), at US$10.5 million. As for the island's imports, the biggest provider was the United States, which sold US$120.7 million of goods to St. Lucia in 1998, while CARICOM countries provided US$70.5 million of imports.


After steady growth in the 1980s and early 1990s, St. Lucia's economy slowed, partly due to the banana crisis and hurricane damage, and partly to a decline in manufacturing output. Gross domestic product growth from 1996 averaged 1.5 percent annually, the lowest rate in the Eastern Caribbean apart from volcano-devastated Montserrat. In 1998 and 1999 gross domestic product growth increased to 2.9 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively, largely because of increased tourism and associated construction. Inflation has been low since the early 1990s, but prices rose by 3.5 percent in 1999, due in part to higher oil prices and increases in light and fuel bills.

St. Lucia's currency, the Eastern Caribbean dollar, is shared with the 7 other members of the Eastern Caribbean

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): St. Lucia
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.
Exchange rates: St. Lucia
East Caribbean dollars (EC$) per US$1
Note: The rate for St. Lucia has been fixed since 1976.
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

Central Bank (ECCB): Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and The Grenadines. It is stable and has been fixed at a rate of EC$2.70=US$1.00. This means that St. Lucia is less vulnerable to the fluctuating exchange rates of other countries, although transactions with Europe are affected by the value of the euro. When the euro is worth less than the dollar, Europe is able to buy fewer bananas from St. Lucia than the United States. There are plans for ECCB member countries to participate in a regional stock exchange, further integrating the economies of the small islands.


There is little drastic poverty in St. Lucia, but there are clear differences between a wealthy minority, a comfortable middle class, and a poor lower class. With per capita income estimated at approximately US$4,000 in 1998, the island is one of the more prosperous in the Eastern Caribbean. This is largely due to the success of the banana industry during the 1980s and the early 1990s, and continues because of the tourism industry. Many rural villages in banana-growing areas have solid housing and expensive imported vehicles, signs of the banana industry's economic impact. But there are also many smaller farmers, some with as little as an acre or two, who have not shared in the benefits of the banana boom.

GDP per Capita (US$)
St. LuciaN/A2,0762,1503,5423,907
United States19,36421,52923,20025,36329,683
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.
Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage
Share: St. Lucia
Lowest 10%2.0
Lowest 20%5.2
Second 20%9.9
Third 20%14.8
Fourth 20%21.8
Highest 20%48.3
Highest 10%32.5
Survey year: 1995
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

In contrast, the wealthy minority in St. Lucia are situated in the plush residential developments to the north of Castries, around which many tourist resorts are to be found. Here, shopping malls, golf courses, and marinas testify to a luxurious lifestyle. Those who are richest in St. Lucia are white collar professionals such as lawyers and doctors, local managers of foreign companies, and people connected with successful tourism ventures and private sector construction. Included in this employment sector is a large number of European and American expatriates (citizens who moved from their native country to live in St. Lucia). The island's middle class is composed of urban professionals and those involved in traditional retail, while in the countryside there are many owners of large farms who have made enough money to consider themselves middle class.

Primary education is free and compulsory, but poor families often find it hard to afford uniforms and school books for their children. Medical care is available throughout the island, but doctors charge for visits and prescriptions are expensive. Housing conditions vary enormously, from the luxury villas of the island's northern tip to the ramshackle villages of the eastern coast.


The banana industry has depended on small family farms for over 150 years. Rural labor is different from many banana-producing countries in that there are few large plantations. The vast sugar plantations operating during colonial times have disappeared, replaced by small banana farms. As a result, rural working relationships tend to be based on the family or the community. Wages are generally US$5-10 per day. Manufacturing and the tourism sector offer better wages and conditions to St. Lucians, but pay is still approximately one-third of what would be paid for similar work in the United States.

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
CountryAll foodClothing and footwearFuel and power aHealth care bEducation bTransport & CommunicationsOther
St. Lucia405114171111
United States139946851
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
a Excludes energy used for transport.
b Includes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

The St. Lucia government estimated that the total labor force was about 73,000 in 1999, and that the unemployed comprised about 15 percent of the workforce. There is no unemployment relief in St. Lucia and those without work quickly face extreme hardship.

Most workers, especially in the larger factories, are entitled to join trade unions and enjoy certain guaranteed rights such as sick pay. There is a national insurance scheme, which provides basic benefits for industrial injury, maternity leave for mothers, and pensions for the elderly. In most cases, however, payments are barely adequate to cover the essentials. Trade unions are influential in St. Lucia, especially those representing public sector employees. They are less active in the tourism industry, where employment is usually casual and part-time in nature. There is little overt child labor in St. Lucia, and women are well represented in all areas of work, especially in business and education.


1502. Alleged sighting and naming of island by Columbus on his fourth expedition.

1638. First English settlement on island lasts only 3 years before attack by Carib Indians.

1642. France claims possession of St. Lucia.

1814. St. Lucia finally becomes British Crown Colony after changing hands 14 times.

1838. Island included in colonial Windward Islands federation.

1950s. Beginning of banana industry.

1964. United Workers' Party starts 33 years of almost unbroken rule.

1967. Advent of full internal self-government.

1979. St. Lucia becomes independent from United Kingdom, but remains a member of the British Commonwealth.

1997. Sweeping election victory for St. Lucia Labour Party.


St. Lucia's economic future depends to a large extent on the fate of its banana industry. If, as the pessimists fear, the EU is forced to abandon its preferential market arrangement, St. Lucia and the other Caribbean producers will be unable to compete with large-scale plantation economies in Latin America. This will spell the end of an export-oriented banana industry and may create severe hardship and increased unemployment in the countryside. It is possible that the banana industry will survive, but even so, the need for agricultural diversification remains acute. Some hope may lie in organic and fair-trade initiatives, especially in Europe, where growing numbers of consumers are prepared to pay higher prices for goods deemed to be environmentally and ethically produced.

Manufacturing does not seem to provide a working alternative to the banana industry as of yet. The greatest potential lies in continuing the growth of tourism and sustaining a program of construction works. St. Lucia's ambition to become a financial center may be realized, but that route is not without its own consequences. The construction of a financial industry on St. Lucia would leave the island open to illegal money laundering operations. The island's success story as a tourist destination offers the greatest grounds for optimism. The problem remains of how to link the tourism sector to the rest of the economy so that the benefits may be felt through all social classes on the island: farmers, tour guides, and bankers alike.


St. Lucia has no territories or colonies.


Caribbean Development Bank. Annual Report 1999. Barbados, 2000.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: OECS. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2000.

International Monetary Fund. <>. Accessed March 2001.

St. Lucia Central Statistics Office. <>. Accessed April 2001.

St. Lucia Government Information Service. <>. Accessed March 2001.

St. Lucia. South America, Central America and the Caribbean 2001. London: Europa Publications, 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed April 2001.

James Ferguson




Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$). There are coins of 10, 20, and 50 cents. One EC dollar equals 100 cents. The currency is fixed to the U.S. dollar at a rate of EC$2.70 to US$1.00.


Bananas, clothing, cocoa, vegetables, fruit, coconut oil.


Food, manufactured goods, machinery and transportation equipment, chemicals, fuel.


US$656 million (purchasing power parity, 1998 est.).


Exports: US$75 million (1998). Imports: US$290 million (1998).

Saint Lucia

views updated Jun 11 2018

Saint Lucia

Culture Name

Saint Lucian

Alternative Names

Hewanorra, Iounaloa (Island Carib)


Identification. The origins of the name Saint Lucia are lost in history. The commonly held notion that Columbus sighted the island on Saint Lucy's Day, 13 December 1498, is dubious, for there is no good evidence of his "discovery." A more plausible explanation attributes the naming to one of various French visitors during the sixteenth century. It appears that the original designation was "Sainte Alousie," the name used in Father DuTetre's 1664 volume on the Antilles.

Saint Lucians identify by this name, distinguishing themselves from residents and nationals of neighboring islands. Although many thousands have emigrated to various parts of the Americas and Europe, especially during the twentieth century, this identification remains strong, even among those born in the diaspora. The question of a shared culture is contentious, for Saint Lucians are divided along many lines, yet there is a sense of belonging to a place, a locality, of which they have a sense of possession. One compelling item of common culture might be Kwéyo`l or Patwa, the French-derived creole language spoken by most Saint Lucians. However, many born and raised abroad do not speak the language, and Saint Lucians also recognize that their Kwéyo`l is virtually identical to that spoken on Dominica and the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Location and Geography. Saint Lucia has an area of 238 square miles (616 square kilometers). It is 27 miles (43 kilometer) long on its north-south axis and 14 miles (22 kilometer) at its widest east-west dimension. Saint Lucia lies between Saint Vincent to the south and Martinique to the north. It is a mountainous island born of ancient volcanic activity, some of which remains in the form of a sulphur springs area near the southwest coastal town of Soufriere. Rainfall is plentiful but variable, with heaviest precipitation in the mountainous interior and drier regions at the north and south extremities. There is also an annual wet-dry cycle, but it is not pronounced.

The island is ringed by a number of settlements, many of which had their origins as fishing villages and residential areas associated with plantations. The capital, Castries, is in the northwest. Castries is situated on a natural harbor that accounts for its preeminence from earliest colonial times. In recent decades there has been a substantial growth of some interior settlements associated with banana cultivation.

Demography. The 1991 census puts Saint Lucia's population at 133,308; the 1995 population estimate was 145,213. This represents a 17.5 percent increase since 1980, and a 33.6 percent increase since 1970. Population growth is slowed only by a substantial outward migration. Nearly 40 percent of the population lives in the greater Castries area, a percentage that did not change much in the 20 years between 1970 and 1991. However, the Castries population has shifted from the central city and its densely populated residential areas to more dispersed suburban neighborhoods as new housing has been built. The area of most rapid growth is the Gros-Islet region in the north of the island, the center of tourism development and upper middle-class and expatriate housing construction.

Most of the population, approximately 90 percent, is of African or African-mixed descent, reflecting Saint Lucia's history of slavery. A small minority, less than 10 percent, has East Indian ancestrydescendants of indentured workers brought to the island after 1858. This minority has dispersed in the last forty years, but is still concentrated in a few rural villages. There remain a few old families of European origin, but there are no settlements of poor whites like those found in some neighboring islands. A more recently arrived Middle-Eastern population is mostly settled in the city.

Linguistic Affiliation. Most Saint Lucians are functionally bilingual, especially those under 40 years of age. The language most commonly spoken in village and rural areas is Kwéyo`l, a creole language that is a mixture of French and African languages. English is the language of instruction in the schools and the language used in business, governmental institutions, and most formal settings. Some older Saint Lucians, especially in rural areas, have only rudimentary skills in English.

The use of the two languages represents socioeconomic differences. Kwéyo`l, although spoken by nearly all Saint Lucians, was denigrated and its monolingual speakers disadvantaged until the emergence of a recent cultural movement which has sought to celebrate and restore dignity to Kwéyo`l. English remains the language of official Saint Lucia, but there is a concerted effort to establish Kwéyo`l as a second national language.

Symbolism. The language issue reflects the cultural struggle of a mini-state, only recently emerging from its colonial past, to define and identify itself. Until the 1970s most of what passed for national symbols in Saint Lucia were of European derivation. The large square in central Castries was named Columbus Square, and the cricket ground, Victoria Park. An annual event was held on Morne Fortune above Castries to recognize the recapture of the island from the French by English forces in 1796 (and incidentally, the reimposition of slavery).

With the establishment of constitutional independence in 1979, a movement to give recognition to local figures and cultural expression, and to redefine Saint Lucian identity, took on great significance. When the island attained internal self-government in 1967, some symbols of national status appeareda flag, an anthem, and a crest. The central square has been renamed Derek Walcott Square for Saint Lucia's Nobel Laureate in literature, and the park is now called Mindoo Phillip Park after a legendary Saint Lucian cricketer. But the task of creation or recreation of national symbols and national identity is still in process, and is frequently controversial.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Saint Lucia had a long colonial history under both French and British rule. During a turbulent period of the eighteenth century, the island changed hands fourteen times and was finally ceded to the British in 1814. British colonialism came to an end in 1979 after a succession of constitutional changes involving increasing degrees of self-rule and autonomy, especially after 1951. The African population was brought to the island as slaves, mostly during the last half of the 1700s. Saint Lucia's formal institutions are evidence of the European colonial heritage, but the vital folk culture is a product of the African population.

National Identity. The search for a national identity is ongoing. Independence for Saint Lucia, as for most of her neighbors only recently emerged from a profoundly colonial experience, has involved an examination of cultural traditions that were suppressed in the past. Because culture is conflated with class and color, this is sometimes a difficult exercise.

Ethnic Relations. Ethnic relations in Saint Lucia are a product of the economic history of the island. The virtual demise of the Amerindian population and the establishment of an export-driven plantation economy dependent on African slave labor determined the fundamental social formation. Colonial domination by a European minority over an enslaved African majority established the social dynamic. The basic black-white opposition is complicated by the addition of other populations: East Indians from the sub-continent arrived in the 1850s as indentured labor for the plantations, and more recently a small number of "Syrians," mostly Christian Lebanese, have settled in urban areas as merchants. Unlike some larger Caribbean societies where there have been serious political divisions along ethnic lines, Saint Lucian race relations mostly reflect a continuing black-white tension.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

In recent times urban-rural divisions have been reduced. The island is small enough that, with improvements in roads and the proliferation of motor vehicles, especially public transport mini-buses, the capital Castries and the southern urban center of Vieux-Fort are within easy reach from nearly all localities. The consequence is that many now live outside these centers but commute daily to jobs. The days of rural isolation have ended.

Architecture reflects changes in materials and styles over time. The graceful tropical house styles characteristically made of wood, with steep-pitched roofs with dormers, jalousied windows, and filigreed trim, typical of upper-class dwellings four decades ago, are now things of the past. Cinder block construction has become ubiquitous, resulting in houses that are heavy in appearance, hot in the tropical climate, and occasionally given to collapse in a hurricane. Some public buildings are in the old colonial style, resembling British municipal construction throughout the Empire, but a disastrous fire in Castries in 1947 reduced three-fourths of the town to rubble and most new construction was box-like and utilitarian. Newer public construction has followed the same pattern.

Private homes with sufficient space used to have a sitting room, used only on rare occasions. Family heirlooms such as china and tapestries were kept in sideboards there, to be displayed on special occasions. Many of these spaces have been given over to the television set in the last two decades, as Saint Lucians have moved leisure time indoors from the stoop and veranda where neighborhood gatherings once took place after dark. New private homes incorporate kitchens with electric appliances and full bathrooms, replacing backyard cook sheds and outdoor latrines. It should be noted that many Saint Lucians still live in quarters much sparer than these, an indication of a continuing serious housing problem; in 1991 the modal dwelling size was two rooms.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Food habits reflect the plantation past: the typical diet contains a lot of starches, animal protein content that varies by location, and until recently, little in the way of green vegetables. Starches include various kinds of yams, dasheen, eddos, bananas and plantains, sweet potatoes, and breadfruit. Most of these are boiled, served with some kind of stewed fish or meat, and accompanied by a sauce. Pepper (capsicum ) sauce is always present at the table, as most dishes are not prepared spicy hot. Animal protein sources reflect the historical scarcity of this element: pork hocks, pig tail, chicken back, and saltfish (cod) have been staples. Imported processed foods have been available for decades, but more recently account for larger parts of many meals.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Ceremonial observances are occasions for celebration and lavish food and drink consumption. Celebrations usually mark rites of passage in the lives of Saint Lucianschristenings, first communions, confirmations, weddings, and funeralswhile calendrical events are not especially marked. A first communion celebration, for example, usually includes a significant outlay in food and drink for guests, who come from around the island. Hosts try to serve prestigious drinkswhiskey, brandy, gin, rumand a sumptuous meal centered on meatchicken for the poorest and as much as a side of beef for the more affluent. Everyone in attendance must leave satisfied, and one never can be sure how many might stop in.

Basic Economy. Throughout Saint Lucia's colonial and post-colonial history, agricultural production has been export-oriented. More than some of its neighbors, Saint Lucia has undergone a series of booms and busts. Agricultural production under colonial rule focused on sugar cane, only giving way to bananas as a principal cash crop in the 1950s. Cane was grown under a number of systemsplantation, sharecropping (metayage ), and smallholderreflecting changing market conditions and capital investment over time. The shift to bananas opened up the market for large numbers of rural small producers, and ushered in an era of prosperity that lasted from 1960 to the early 1990s.

The focus on commercial export-driven production has meant that agriculture for local consumption has suffered. Research and development of locally consumed foodstuffs has received scant attention, credit facilities for food production have been non-existent, and storage and preservation of local foods has never been on the agenda of economic planners. One recent consequence of this bias has been that imported foods, mass-produced in countries like the United States, have often been cheaper for consumers than locally-produced alternatives.

Land Tenure and Property. Saint Lucia still supports the institution known as "family land" (té fami ). This is a tenure and transfer practice that exists outside the legal system, although it is partially supported by the old French legal system (the Napoleonic Code) which is still extant. Briefly, the principles of the system are these: land is held not individually, but communally by family members; transfer, when one dies intestate, is in undivided parcel to all descendants; sale is proscribed, that is, land is retained by the family; rights in land are inherited without legal division. Family land exists alongside individual tenure and land transfers are often accomplished through wills.

Commercial Activities. Much commercial activity is concerned with importing goods from industrial economies. Trading in locally produced goods is largely in foodstuffs. The Castries marketplace is a daily market established and regulated by government where vegetables, fruits, meat and fish are sold. The market also has an area where locally produced crafts and utility items are sold to tourists and local customers.

Major Industries. Industrial growth during the last thirty years has been largely in the area of export processing plants producing garments, electronics assembly, paper products, and leather goods. These employ local labor but are often foreign-owned. Local industries are small-scale and involve food processing and craft production.

In recent years the growth of tourism, mostly associated with the development of facilities in the Castries-Gros-Islet corridor, has overtaken banana production as the most important earner of foreign exchange. Employment generation attributed to tourism has been significant, with more than twelve thousand full-time jobs in the industry. The Saint Lucia Tourist Board has promoted tourist-oriented events, including a jazz festival featuring international and local talent.

Trade. Trade, which in colonial times was dominated by exchange with Great Britain, has shifted to the United States, from which a variety of finished goods are imported, and Japan, which supplies motor vehicles and electronics. By far the most important export is bananas, an economic mainstay for the past forty years. The market for Saint Lucian bananas is in the European Union, primarily Great Britain, and depends on preferential treatment. This trade is currently threatened by regulations imposed by the World Trade Organization.

Division of Labor. The division of labor is very much like that of any modernizing economy, with workers hired based on skills and education.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Although in recent years a middle class has developed, the disparities between rich and poor are extreme. Rural prosperity based on banana cultivation is now seriously threatened. The growth of suburban areas around Castries is indicative of the economic primacy of the capital; village areas continue to be marked by poverty and substandard living conditions.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Race remains an important social marker, but it is probably of less consequence than in former times. Likewise, language (English vs. Kwéyo`l ), while still significant, is less important, particularly with the increase in spoken English and decreasing numbers of monolingual Kwéyo`l speakers.

Political Life

Government. Saint Lucia has a parliamentary system, constructed on a British model. Universal adult suffrage has been in place since 1951, and by 2000, the island had conducted thirteen elections under this system. The House of Assembly has seventeen elected members, with the majority party forming the government. The term of office is usually five years, but elections are occasionally called before this term elapses. A ministerial system is in place whereby a professional civil service is answerable to a Minister of Government, usually an elected member of the House.

Leadership and Political Officials. Control of the government has shifted between two parties during the last half of the twentieth century. The Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), formed out of the trade union movement in 1947, controlled the first elected government after 1951. The United Workers Party (UWP) succeeded them in 1964 after its inauguration earlier that year. In the intervening years the UWP has led the government for all but seven years. In 2000, an SLP government was in place.

Social Problems and Control. The legal system is mostly founded on British common law, with some continuing Napoleanic Code influence from the earlier French period. A professionally trained police force serves the island. Criminal activity has been on the rise in recent years; the presence of guns in the hands of a criminal element is increasingly troubling, and violent crimes that are gun- and drug-associated have multiplied. Saint Lucia, like many of its neighbors, has become a locale for drug transshipment, leading to the rise in crime.

Military Activity. The island currently has no standing army, but a unit of the Police Force is assigned to the Regional Security System Unit.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

At the national level, social welfare is divided between two government ministries: Health; and Education, Human Resource Development, Youth and Sports. In the latter, the Department of Human Resource Development carries out skills and training programs, often in conjunction with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The Ministry of Health is more concerned with the care and welfare of the sick and the elderly, particularly the indigent population. A number of church-affiliated and private organizations also address social welfare concerns.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Numerous civic organizations like Rotary and Lions clubs are present, along with many church-affiliated organizations. Older organizations like friendly societies, once found in all communities, have become less important in recent times. Development activities and training in this sphere are overseen by the National Research and Development Foundation, an NGO that receives government support and operates training programs for entrepreneurship. Another important NGO is the Folk Research Centre (FRC), which is involved in social and cultural research, programming, and education.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Although there is a patriarchal bias in the society, occupational differentiation has declined in recent times. Both men and women perform most agricultural labor, and the professional ranks are open to both. Some traditional occupations continue to be gender specificfishing is a male activity, paid domestic labor is done by women. Assembly factories hire a mostly female workforce. The significantly greater success by girls than boys in school may affect gender parity in positions that demand education and training.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Much has been made of the so-called "matrifocal" character of West Indian domestic life. This is reflected in Saint Lucia, where men are frequently not dominant figures in households, or are absent. As more women are gainfully employed outside the home, and with the relative success of female schoolchildren, traditional male dominance in the society may be severely challenged.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriage takes place between consenting adults, but is frequently not entered into until middle age. Other living or domestic arrangements often precede a legal marriage, especially within the lower class. These may include "friending," a visiting relationship that often results in childbirth and which may involve the performance of domestic services by the woman in return for a measure of financial contribution on the part of the man. Another arrangement is a cohabitational relationship without benefit of legal marriage. This may be an enduring union eventually given the legal legitimacy of marriage; expectations of the partners and the enactment of the relationship parallel those of a legal union. The cohabitational union is usually not an option for the middle class, for whom the respectability conferred by a legal union is an important consideration.

Relationships outside of marriage are commonplace for men, who may have "friending" alliances despite being in a cohabitational union. When children are born of such unions, the man is expected to financially contribute to the care of the child, but among the poor these contributions are likely to be meager. The opportunity for women to engage in similar activity outside a cohabitational union is limited.

Domestic Unit. Household composition evidences considerable variation. Although domestic units include everything from nuclear family groupings to three-generational households with no resident males, there are a large number of female-headed domestic units. The incidence of these is often class-determined, much more commonplace among poor women than in the middle class. Males resident in such units may be transient.

Kin Groups. The most important kin grouping is the family, which is defined both matrilineally and patrilineally. Family and residential groups often include extended family and others included though non-formal mechanisms. Other extensions include godparenthood, especially for the Roman Catholic majority.


Child Rearing and Education. Children are often fostered in the homes of relatives, especially grandparents. In part this is a function of the mobility of Saint Lucians, who have long migrated to work opportunities leaving dependent children behind. From an early age village and rural children have considerable freedom to explore their environment without much adult supervision. With young girls this freedom is curtailed as they approach puberty, in the effort to avoid early pregnancies. Childless women are considered unfortunate, but they often acquire maternal status through customary fosterage or adoption.

Children enter infant school at age five. At about eight years old, they move on to primary school. These two institutions are found in most communities and most are coeducational. For the majority of Saint Lucian children, formal schooling ends when they reach the age of fifteen. Although the opportunities for secondary schooling have expanded greatly during the past forty years, there are not enough places for all who desire admittance and entrance exams determine who will continue.

Higher Education. There are no universities in Saint Lucia, but students can prepare for admittance to the University of the West Indies, which has three campuses, by attending classes at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College.


Religious Beliefs. Reflecting early French colonial control, the majority of Saint Lucians are Roman Catholics, although in recent years Protestant sects have converted many. Every village and many rural settlements have Catholic churches. Much of the clergy is now Saint Lucian, a change from colonial times when nearly all churches had French priests. All the Catholic holidays and sacraments are celebrated.

Death and the Afterlife. Along with conventional religious funeral and burial practices, Saint Lucians stage and participate in wakes, the most important of which occurs in the evening of the death. A wake is presumably attended by at least one representative from each household in the village. Preparations include laying out the deceased in their best clothing inside the house for viewing by guests. Attendees are served white rum and strong coffee at intervals throughout the event, which may continue well into the night. Inside the house a group of singers renders hymns by Ira Davis Sankey, the late-nineteenth-century American gospel singer and hymn composer; and the atmosphere is solemn. Outside, the tone is festive and boisterous. Games are played, jokes are told, and vignettes, sometimes of a ribald nature, are performed. The wake, in somewhat subdued terms, may be repeated a week after the death, and a Mass is often said for the deceased on the occasion of the first anniversary of the death.

Medicine and Health Care

Saint Lucia has a primary health care system that includes health centers throughout the island, each with a resident nurse and visited weekly by a doctor. Hospitals are situated at Vieux-Fort and Castries, with a smaller unit in Dennery. Private medical practitioners are mostly located in Castries, and those who can afford it seek them out. Apart from biomedical facilities and personnel, there are many who practice traditional alternative therapies. These range from the use of locally grown plants and herbs, combined in a variety of tinctures, poultices, and remedies, to practitioners of Obeah, locally known as tchenbwa or zeb. These practitioners treat not only medical ailments but also spells, mental afflictions, and troubles of a supernatural origin. Saint Lucians are eclectic in their choice of treatment for various maladies, a phenomenon that reflects their creolized heritage.

Secular Celebrations

Two significant secular events draw many participants. The first of these is Carnival, traditionally a pre-Lenten festival, similar to those found elsewhere in the Caribbean, Brazil, and Louisiana. Although it had some religious overtones, Carnival has become a purely secular event. Recently the Saint Lucian Carnival has been shifted to July, possibly to attract tourists and to avoid the congestion of many events occurring in the spring. Carnival includes costuming, parades, Calypso contests, queen contests, and general celebratory behavior. A second event, of more recent vintage, is Jounen Kwéyo`l (Creole Day), a week-long festival celebrating traditional music, dance, storytelling, costuming, crafts, and Kwéyo`l language. Another pair of celebrations are the flower festivals, La Rose and La Marguerite, observed annually by local societies in many villages on the feast days of the patron saints, Saint Rose de Lima (30 August) and Saint Marguerite D'youville (17 October).

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Governmental interest in the arts has grown since independence, and the state sometimes collaborates with an NGO, the Folk Research Centre. Sponsorship of the arts by local business has also grown, reflecting a concern for local enterprise beyond its economic utility.

Literature. Saint Lucia boasts a Nobel prize-winning poet and playwright, Derek Walcott. The island has also produced a number of other writers of somewhat less renown. Interest in literature and its production continues to be significant.

Graphic Arts. Graphic arts have received less attention than literature or performance, but the Saint Omer family, under the guidance of its artistic patriarch, Dunstan, has produced remarkable art in the form of public murals, some found in the churches of the island. Another artist of international reputation is Joseph Eudovic, a wood sculptor who maintains a studio and shop near Castries.

Performance Arts. Performance art receives much attention and participation in Saint Lucia. Perhaps the early work of Derek Walcott and his brother, Roddy, also a playwright, set the stage for an interest in drama. It has continued, also inspired by the creolization movement, and a number of performances are staged throughout the year in different venues.

Production of popular music has also flourished during the last thirty to forty years of the twentieth century. Many Saint Lucian groups have participated in the explosion of popular forms that came from the Lesser Antilles beginning about 1970. Recordings of local groups are found in record stores and can be heard on local radio stations. The growth of the creolization movement has given new vitality to traditional musical and performance forms, culminating in the annual celebration of Jounen Kwéyo`l. These forms, often denigrated in the past, are now seen as components of a national cultural expression, to be nurtured and respected.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

Social science research has been carried out for many years in Saint Lucia, mostly by foreign researchers but sometimes with local counterparts. In the 1970s the Folk Research Centre was founded to monitor this research, and to recover research that was locally unavailable. Currently the FRC engages in programming and oversight, and works with visiting scholars. Physical research has been mostly of a biomedical nature or dealing with agriculture. The most significant research has been the Rockefeller-financed bilharzia (schistosomiasis) study, which operated during the 1960s and 1970s, and the work of the WINBAN (Windward Island Banana Association) laboratory on banana propagation.


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Douglas Midgett

St. Lucia

views updated May 11 2018


Saint Lucia

Major City:


The second largest of the four Wind-ward Islands, the Arawaks migrated to ST. LUCIA from South America during AD 200-400. The Caribs gradually replaced the Arawaks during AD 800-1000. Tradition has it that Columbus sighted the island on St. Lucy's Day (December 13) in 1498. The Dutch, English, and French all tried to establish trading posts on St. Lucia during the 17th century but the Caribs successfully defended their island for many years. Possession of the island changed between the British and French several times until 1814, when Britain took permanent possession. Unlike other islands in the area, sugarcane monoculture did not dominate the island's economy. Sugar was grown, along with tobacco, ginger, and cotton. Bananas became the main cash crop in the 20th century. Slavery was abolished in 1834 and indentured East Indian workers were brought to the island during the late 1800s. St. Lucia became an associated state with full internal self-government in 1967 and on February 22, 1979 it became an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations.



Castries, located along the harbor of Port Castries on the northwestern coast, is the capital of St. Lucia. Port Castries has been the hub of St. Lucia's economic activity for over a century. During the early 20th century, the port was an important coaling station in the Caribbean for ships crossing the Atlantic to and from South America. The town has a population of approximately 53,000, or about one-third of St. Lucia's population. Vigie Airport on the outskirts of Castries provides service to neighboring Caribbean islands. The port of Castries is a deepwater harbor with six berths and a cargo handling capacity of 365,000 tons per year. The main commodities shipped from the port include bananas, sugarcane, rum, molasses, cocoa, coconuts, limes, and various tropical fruits and vegetables. The Castries Market has operated for over 100 years and features hundreds of vendors selling tropical fruit and vegetables, spices, and local crafts.


A fortress on Mt. Fortune (852 feet) overlooks Castries, and Vigie Beach is nearby. Coral reefs with colorful marine life attract divers. Since the island is volcanic, there are also some spectacular steep drop-off dive sites. The most popular dive sites include Anse Chastanet reef, the Key Hole Pinnacles, Superman's Flight, the Coral Gardens, Fairy Land, and Anse La Raye. There are also two wreck dives to explore. There are dive operators that provide equipment and training. Sulphur Springs in nearby Soufrière is a drive-through volcano and features a 7-acre crater lake and pools of bubbling sulfur-laden steam. The National Forest covers 19,000 acres and is a favorite of birdwatchers and hikers.

The Diamond Botanical Gardens dates back to the 1700s, when France's King Louis XIV wanted a place for his troops to enjoy the natural hot springs. The gardens feature a variety of tropical fruit trees, shrubs, vines, and flowers. Pigeon Island National Park contains the old barracks, magazines, and ramparts of Fort Rodney, which dates from the era when the British and French battled over control of the island. The museum at the fort used to be the British officers' dining area and was restored to show how it looked in 1808.

St. Lucia has several smaller hotels that allow visitors the chance to experience the authentic culture and cuisine of the island.


Jump Up is a weekly street fair and dance held Friday nights in Gros Islet, a small village north of Castries. St. Lucians and tourists alike pack the town's single street to enjoy Caribbean soca and reggae music, food, and drink. The Carnival celebration occurs every February and features a traditional Caribbean parade of colorful costumes and calypso music. The finals of the calypso competition and the naming of the Carnival King and Queen are held over the weekend, followed by a party in the streets that begins at 4:00 AM on Monday morning. The international Atlantic Rally for Cruises is a yacht race held in December that finishes in Rodney Bay. The St. Lucia Jazz Festival occurs in May and includes Caribbean and Cajun music shows, rhythm and blues, and contemporary and traditional jazz.


Geography and Climate

St. Lucia is a part of the Windward Islands group of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean sea. The island's total area is 239 square miles, or 3.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. The island is situated between Martinique to the north and St. Vincent to the southwest. The island is volcanic; the southern part is younger and more mountainous than the hilly and more level northern half. The highest mountain is Mt. Gimie, at 3,145 feet above sea level. Better known are the two peaks on the southern coast, Grand Piton (2,619 feet) and Petit Piton (2,461 feet), which together form one of the scenic highlights of the West Indies. The average yearly temperature is 79°f, with the warmest temperatures in September and the coolest in January. The average annual rainfall along the coast is 91 inches, but more than 150 inches on the mountains.


St. Lucia's first known inhabitants were Arawaks, believed to have come from northern South America 200-400 A.D. Numerous archaeological sites on the island have produced specimens of the Arawaks' well-developed pottery. Caribs gradually replaced Arawaks during the period 800-1000 A.D.

Europeans first landed on the island in either 1492 or 1502 during Spain's early exploration of the Caribbean. The Dutch, English, and French all tried to establish trading outposts on St. Lucia in the 17th century but faced opposition from hostile Caribs.

The English, with their headquarters in Barbados, and the French, centered on Martinique, found St. Lucia attractive after the sugar industry developed in 1765. Britain eventually triumphed, with France permanently ceding St. Lucia in 1815. In 1838, St. Lucia was incorporated into the British windward islands administration, headquartered in Barbados. This lasted until 1885, when the capital was moved to Grenada.

St. Lucia's 20th-century history has been marked by increasing self-government. A 1924 constitution gave the island its first form of representative government, with a minority of elected members in the previously all-nominated legislative council. Universal adult suffrage was introduced in 1951, and elected members became a majority of the council. Ministerial government was introduced in 1956, and in 1958 St. Lucia joined the short-lived West Indies Federation, a semi-autonomous dependency of the United Kingdom. When the federation collapsed in 1962, following Jamaica's withdrawal, a smaller federation was briefly attempted. After the second failure, the United Kingdom and the six windward and leeward islands--Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica, Antigua, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, and St. Lucia--developed a novel form of cooperation called associated statehood.

As an associated state of the United Kingdom from 1967 to 1979, St. Lucia had full responsibility for internal self-government but left its external affairs and defense responsibilities to the United Kingdom. This interim arrangement ended on February 22, 1979, when St. Lucia achieved full independence. St. Lucia continues to recognize Queen Elizabeth II as titular head of state and is an active member of the Commonwealth. The island continues to cooperate with its neighbors through the Caribbean community and common market (CARICOM), the East Caribbean Common Market (ECCM), and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).


St. Lucia has a population of about 156,000, about one-third of which lives in Castries. The population density is about 669 persons per square mile. About 90% of the population consists of descendants of slaves brought from Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries. There are small numbers of mixed race persons, East Indians, and descendants of Europeans. About 80% of the population is Roman Catholic; there are also Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, and Seventh-Day Adventist churches. English is the official language, spoken by 80% of the population. Almost all the islanders speak a French patois based on a mixture of African and French grammar and a vocabulary of mostly French with some English and Spanish words.


In 1814, Britain took permanent possession of St. Lucia, after having changed hands several times between Britain and France. St. Lucia's democratic tradition began in 1924, when a few elected positions were added to the appointed legislative council. St. Lucia became an associated state with full internal self government in 1967 and an independent member of the Commonwealth in 1979.

St. Lucia is a parliamentary democracy modeled on the Westminster system. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a Governor General, appointed by the Queen as her representative. The Governor General exercises basically ceremonial functions, but residual powers, under the constitution, can be used at the governor general's discretion. The actual power in St. Lucia lies with the prime minister and the cabinet, usually representing the majority party in parliament.

The bicameral parliament consists of a 17-member House of Assembly whose members are elected by universal adult suffrage for 5-year terms and an 11-member senate appointed by the governor general. The parliament may be dissolved by the governor general at any point during its 5-year term, either at the request of the prime minister--in order to take the nation into early elections--or at the governor general's own discretion, if the house passes a vote of no confidence in the government.

St. Lucia has an independent judiciary composed of district courts and a high court. Cases may be appealed to the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeals and, ultimately, to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London. The island is divided into 10 administrative divisions, including the capital, Castries. Popularly elected local governments in most towns and villages perform such tasks as regulation of sanitation and markets and maintenance of cemeteries and secondary roads.

St. Lucia has no army but maintains a paramilitary Special Service Unit within its police force and a coast guard.

Politics in St. Lucia has been dominated by the United Workers Party (UWP), which has governed the country for all but 3 years since independence.

The flag has a blue background. In the middle is a yellow triangle surmounted by a black arrowhead whose outer edges are bordered in white.

Arts, Science, Education

Education is compulsory and provided by the government for ten years. An education complex in Castries has a teacher-training center, a technical school, a secretarial school, and a branch of the University of the West Indies. There is a research laboratory on the island serving the needs of banana growers in the region.

Commerce and Industry

St. Lucia's economy depends primarily on revenue from banana production and tourism with some input from smallscale manufacturing. There are numerous small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises. Revenue from agriculture has supported the noticeable socioeconomic changes that have taken place in St. Lucia since the 1960s. Eighty percent of merchandise trade earnings came from banana exports to the United Kingdom in the 1960s.

In view of the European Union's announced phase-out of preferred access to its markets by Windward Island bananas by 2006, agricultural diversification is a priority. An attempt is being made to diversify production by encouraging the establishment of tree crops such as mangos and avocados. A variety of vegetables are produced for local consumption. Recently, St. Lucia added small computer-driven information technology and financial services as development objectives.

St. Lucia's leading revenue producers--agriculture, tourism and small-scale manufacturing--benefited from a focus on infrastructure improvements in roads, communications, water supply, sewerage, and port facilities. Foreign investors also have been attracted by the infrastructure improvements as well as by the educated and skilled work force and relatively stable political conditions. The largest investment is in a petroleum storage and trans-shipment terminal built by Hess Oil. The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) funded and airport expansion project.

The tourism sector has made significant gains, experiencing a boom during the last few years despite some untimely and destructive hurricanes. In 1999, 50% more tourists visited the island than in 1996, including 261,000 stayover tourists and 423,000 cruise-ship visitors. The development of the tourism sector has been helped by the government's commitment to providing a favorable investment environment. Incentives are available for building and upgrading tourism facilities. There has been liberal use of public funds to improve the physical infrastructure of the island, and the government has made efforts to attract cultural and sporting events and develop historical sites.

St. Lucia is a member of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) issues a common currency for all members of the ECCU. The ECCB also manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in its member countries.

St. Lucia is a beneficiary of the U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative and is a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)


The Hewanorra International Airport on the southern tip of the island has direct flights to New York, Toronto, London, and Frankfurt. Ferries from Port Vieux on the southern coast link St. Lucia with St. Vincent and the Grenadines. All of the island's towns and villages are linked by all-purpose roads.

Vehicles travel on the left, traffic approaches from the right. Roads are narrow with steep inclines/declines throughout the island. Road conditions vary from fair to poor with few guard rails in areas that have precipitous drop-offs from the road.


There is a fully automatic telephone system. St. Lucia has 4 AM and an FM radio stations and a television station. Television programs are usually local programming, videotapes, and broadcasts from Barbados and Martinique. The Voice of St. Lucia is published twice a week, while Crusader and Star are weeklies.


St. Lucia has five hospitals with over 500 beds. The Victoria Hospital provides a range of medical treatment, while the Golden Hope Hospital specializes in psychiatric cases. There are also over two dozen health centers scattered throughout the island. Malnutrition and intestinal difficulties are the main health problems.

Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the U.S. In some cases, supplementary medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including medical evacuation, has proved useful. For additional health information, travelers can contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's international travelers hotline at 1888-232-3228, via CDC's toll-free autofax service, 1-888-232-3299, or via the Internet


Jan.1 New Year's Day

Feb Carnival*

Feb. 22 Independence Day

Mar/Apr. Good Friday*

Mar/Apr. Easter*

Mar/Apr. Easter Monday*

May 1 Labor Day

May/June Whit Sunday (Pentecost)*

May/June Whit Monday*

May/June Corpus Christi*

June 8 Queen's Official Birthday

Aug. 2 Emancipation Day

Aug. 30 Feast of St. Rose of Lima (Rose Festival)

Oct. 4 Thanksgiving

Oct. 17 Feast of St. Margaret Alacoque

Nov. 1 All Saints' Day

Nov. 2 All Souls' Day (Fet le Mo)

Nov. 11 Remembrance Day

Nov. 22 Feast of St. Cecilia

Dec. 13 National Discovery Day

Dec. 25 Christmas

Dec. 26 Boxing Day



For stays up to six months, U.S. citizens may enter St. Lucia without a passport, but must carry an original document proving U.S. citizenship (U.S. passport, Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of Citizenship or certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate), photo identification, and a return or onward ticket. For further information concerning entry requirements, travelers can contact the Embassy of St. Lucia, 3216 New Mexico Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20015; telephone (202) 364-6792; or St. Lucia's Permanent Mission to the UN in New York.

The U.S. does not maintain an embassy in St. Lucia. U.S. citizens requiring assistance can contact the U.S. Embassy in Bridgetown, Barbados; telephone 1 (246) 436-4950. The Consular Section of the Embassy is located in the American Life Insurance Company (ALICO) building, Cheapside, Bridgetown; telephone 1 (246) 431-0225. Hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. except local and U.S. holidays. U.S. citizens may register in the Consular Section of the Embassy at Bridgetown and obtain updated information on travel and security in St. Lucia and within the region.

Disaster Preparedness

St. Lucia is a hurricane-prone area. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at

Saint Lucia

views updated May 18 2018

Saint Lucia

ANGLICAN 2 percent
OTHER 9 percent

Country Overview


Saint Lucia is a small, mountainous island of volcanic origin situated between the islands of Martinique and Saint Vincent. The majority of its citizens are black; there are small minority populations of whites and East Indians. Saint Lucia's economy is primarily based on bananas grown for export to Europe. Additional economic activities include cash crop production of coconuts, tourism, subsistence farming, and fishing.

When Europeans first arrived in the region, Saint Lucia was inhabited by Caribs, indigenous migrants from South America who colonized much of the Lesser Antilles. Fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Spanish colonists deliberately overlooked Saint Lucia because of its small size and rugged terrain. The British twice attempted to settle on the island in the early seventeenth century but were thwarted by illness and hostility from the resident Caribs. The French established the first successful European settlement in 1650. The island alternated between French and British control fourteen times before finally becoming British in 1814. In 1979 Saint Lucia became independent and is a parliamentary democracy within the British Commonwealth. Because of slavery, disease introduced by foreigners, and violent encounters with Europeans, only small populations of Caribs survive today on Dominica and Saint Vincent. None remain on Saint Lucia.

Catholicism, introduced by French settlers, is the religion of the majority of Saint Lucians. Though Saint Lucia was last controlled by the British, Anglicans have always constituted a minority population. The introduction of various Protestant sects beginning in the late nineteenth century has led to declining membership in both the Catholic and Anglican Churches. Traditional African beliefs systems were introduced by slaves brought to the island beginning in the seventeenth century and by African immigrants who arrived after emancipation in 1834. Some of these beliefs, possibly combined with those of the original indigenous population, persist today in a fragmented fashion alongside mainstream religions and are often practiced by individuals who categorize themselves as Catholic or Protestant.


Saint Lucia has no official state religion, and the government supports religious freedom. The Saint Lucia Christian Council is part of an ecumenical movement that has periodically worked to foster a spirit of tolerance and cooperation between various churches. Occasional tension arises among members of various religious groups. In 2000 two Rastafarian men attacked Catholic worshipers in the Castries cathedral, setting several on fire (two later died) as well as desecrating the altar. The attackers were sentenced to death by hanging.

Major Religion


DATE OF ORIGIN 1650 c.e.


Seventeenth-century French settlers brought Catholicism to Saint Lucia. Irish and possibly Scottish Catholics fleeing religious persecution in Britain and emigrating from other Caribbean colonies bolstered their numbers. Saint Lucia's first documented Catholic mass was conducted in 1719 by Father Suffret de Villeneuve. Traveling French priests, who ministered to the spiritual needs of Catholic colonists, met with limited success in their attempts to convert Caribs. By the eighteenth century Saint Lucia acquired resident parish priests. The island's Catholicism was never significantly challenged by any Protestant denomination, partly because the French controlled Saint Lucia for the longest uninterrupted period and partly because the French arrived in larger numbers than the British, who wanted the island more for strategic purposes than for settlement.

The Archdiocese of Castries was established on Saint Lucia in 1974. It has associated dioceses on Dominica, Grenada, Carriacou, Petit Martinique, Antigua, Barbuda, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Since the 1960s the Roman Catholic Church has experienced a steady decline in membership, from approximately 92 percent of the total population in 1960 to 79 percent at the 2001 census. The influx of various evangelical Protestant sects beginning in the 1960s has contributed to the decline.


In the seventeenth century religious missionaries and priests traveling with French military units served Saint Lucian Catholics. Some of the better-known Catholic missionaries were Père Jean Baptiste Labat (1663–1738), Père Jean Baptiste du Tertre (1610–87), and Father Breton (1609–79). The priests sought to minister to the spiritual needs of the surviving indigenous people as well as Catholic colonists. Du Tertre, who arrived on Saint Lucia in 1666, learned the Carib language in order to preach to the indigenous population more effectively. Archbishops for the Archdiocese of Castries have included Charles Gachet (1911–84), Patrick Webster (1924–89), and Kelvin Edward Felix (born in 1933).


Although the missionary efforts of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century priests were largely unsuccessful, some of them did produce valuable descriptions of Carib society, including language dictionaries. Father Breton wrote the Dictionnaire caraibe-franÿois (Carib-French Dictionary). In 1956 the Reverend C. Jesse wrote Outlines of Saint Lucia's History; updated editions are published regularly.


The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Castries, built in 1897, has a striking interior, with murals covering the wooden walls. More than twenty parishes have their own Catholic churches.


Like Catholics worldwide, Saint Lucian Catholics consider crosses, altars, churches, and saints sacred.


Easter is the primary holiday for Saint Lucian Catholics. In observation of Lent they limit festive occasions, abstain from particular foods, and attend services more frequently. Holy Week precedes Easter Sunday. On Good Friday Saint Lucian Catholics eat special foods, such as akwa, a fish entrée, and pain d'espices, a small oval cookie made with ginger.

During Corpus Christi in May or June, church members carry platforms holding statues of the Virgin Mary through the streets of towns. In November there are two Catholic holidays of particular importance to St. Lucians: All Souls Day, or Fet Le Mo (Celebrate the Dead), marked by visiting the graves of ancestors, cleaning cemeteries, and burning candles at home; and Saint Cecilia's Day, celebrated with a music festival. On 13 December Catholics honor Saint Lucia (or Saint Lucy), the patron saint of the island, with a procession of lights, traditional music and other cultural activities, and a feast. The midnight mass on Christmas draws the largest attendance of the year. Catholics also observe Whitsuntide (Pentecost) in May or June, as well as the feasts of Saint Rose de Lima (August) and Saint Margaret Alacoque (October), flower festivals that last for several days with masses, street parades, and parties with lavish banquets.


Saint Lucian Catholics, like non-Catholics in the country, dress in Western-style clothing.


During Lent many Saint Lucian Catholics limit or eliminate consumption of alcohol and meat.


Every June in Saint Lucia Catholics bless their fishing boats, which they festively decorate. Also called Fèt Péchè (Fisherman's Feast), the ritual includes a special mass for the fishermen; thanksgivings to the fishermen's patron saints, Peter and Paul; and lavish feasting.


At Saint Lucian christenings an infant is introduced to the church community, blessed by a priest, and given godparents charged with helping to raise him. Groups of children who train for first Communion together often remain lifetime friends. Weddings are celebrated with a church service and Communion. Funerals are community events with a special religious service held in the name of the deceased. Friends often provide gifts of food, candles, and liquor for the reception.


Because of steadily declining membership, Saint Lucia's Catholic Church has attempted to increase community interest. Since the Vatican II reforms in 1965, it has conducted Mass in English, recruited clergy from the local population, and expanded the responsibilities of laypeople.


The Catholic Church on Saint Lucia promotes the well-being of the community at large through the construction and staffing of schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and orphanages. Until the 1960s the church provided most of the primary and the only secondary education on the island, the latter in Castries at Saint Mary's College (for boys, established by Father Louis Tapon in 1890) and Saint Joseph's Convent School (for girls). Saint Jude's Hospital in Vieux Fort, managed by a convent until 2003, is considered one of the best in the country. The Catholic Church oversees the Ozanam shelter for homeless men, a youth group that promotes healthy outdoor activities, the Centre for Adolescent Rehabilitation and Education for disadvantaged youth in Castries, and the Marian Home for the Aged, among other organizations.

In 2003 the Archdiocese of Castries sponsored a conference on strategies to fight the spread of AIDS in the country and region. The conference endorsed a plan used in Uganda that emphasized sexual abstinence and fidelity in marriage.


On Saint Lucia, as elsewhere in the Caribbean, Catholic couples often marry after several years of cohabitation, sometimes after having had several children, because of the expense of a wedding. Unions formalized by a religious marriage ceremony are accorded higher prestige in the church community.


Saint Lucian Catholics have periodically tried to influence government decisions on such issues as education, family planning, and abortion. When the government legalized abortion in 2003, Catholics staged pro-life (antiabortion) rallies and gathered more than 9,000 signatures on a petition criticizing the decision as immoral. The Catholic Church's media outlets on the island, the Catholic Chronicle and the Catholic Television Broadcasting Service, allow the church to publicize its point of view on various topics.


Saint Lucian Catholics see premarital sex, modern methods of birth control, and abortion as immoral. Despite the church's stance, unmarried Catholic couples live and raise families together out of practical necessity, and the island's Planned Parenthood association has disseminated information about family planning since the 1960s.


The Saint Lucian Catholic Church contributes to the arts largely through the influence of its private primary and secondary schools on the island. Two alumni of Saint Mary's College in Castries went on to become Nobel laureates: Sir Arthur Lewis for economics in 1979 and the Honorable Derek Walcott for literature in 1992.

Other Religions

Seventh-day Adventists came to the Caribbean in the late nineteenth century. Their membership on Saint Lucia increased substantially in the 1960s and 1970s, when a number of other North American evangelical Protestant groups, including the Pentecostals, arrived in the region. Both groups have steadily gained in popularity, partly because of their vision of a more egalitarian society and a growing disillusionment with the perceived status quo of the Catholic Church.

The British brought Anglicanism to Saint Lucia during the colonial period. The Holy Trinity Church in Castries and Christchurch in Soufrière serve Anglicans, whose historically small numbers are in decline. The Anglican Church runs an infant school and a few primary schools. Other Protestant groups that operate in Saint Lucia include Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Church of God, and Jehovah's Witnesses. The first Methodist and Presbyterian ministers arrived on Saint Lucia in the 1880s. The Methodists, who are active but have never attained significant membership, also established a few private primary schools.

Rastafarianism, which came from Jamaica to Saint Lucia in the early 1970s, has grown quickly in urban areas, primarily among young black males who view it as a vehicle for protest against the traditional power structure. Rastafarians seek to promote public awareness of and pride in the African heritage of the majority of citizens on Saint Lucia, regardless of religious denomination.

Saint Lucia has a small population of East Indians. Mostly Hindu, they have abandoned many of their traditional cultural practices, including religion.

Informal beliefs in the spirit world, many if not all African-based, coexist with public religious beliefs. People in the northern part of the island perform a ceremony, called the Kélé, to honor and express gratitude to particular deities (Shango, for example). The ritual was apparently brought to Saint Lucia by migrant African laborers in the mid-to late nineteenth century.

Kathryn A. Hudepohl

See Also Vol. 1: Roman Catholicism


Bisnauth, Dale. History of Religions in the Caribbean. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1996.

Brathwaite, Joan, ed. Handbook of Churches in the Caribbean. Barbados: Christian Action for Development in the Caribbean, 1973.

Folk Research Centre (FRC). A Cultural Calendar of Saint Lucia. Saint Lucia: FRC, 1992.

——. Cultural Education Resource Kit: Religion and Spirit Power in Saint Lucia. Saint Lucia: FRC, 1992.

Greenleaf, Floyd. The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Latin America and the Caribbean. 2 vols. Berrien Springs, Mich.: Andrews University Press, 1992.

Harmsen, Jolien. Sugar, Slavery and Settlement: A Social History of Vieux Fort Saint Lucia from the Amerindians to the Present. Saint Lucia: Saint Lucia National Trust, 1999.

Jesse, Reverend C. Outlines of Saint Lucia's History. Saint Lucia: The Saint Lucia Archaeological and Historical Society, 1994.

Kremser, Manfred, and Karl R. Wernhart, eds. Research in Ethnography and Ethnohistory of Saint Lucia. Horn-Wien, Austria: Verlag Ferdinand Berger and Sšhne, 1986.

Saint Lucia

views updated May 14 2018

Saint Lucia

  • Area: 239 sq mi (620 sq km) / World Rank: 183
  • Location: Northern and Western Hemispheres, eastern Caribbean Sea, in the Windward Islands, south of Martinique, bordered by the Saint Lucia Channel, the North Atlantic Ocean, Saint Vincent Passage, and the Caribbean Sea.
  • Coordinates: 13°53′N, 60°68′W
  • Borders: None
  • Coastline: 98 mi (158 km)
  • Territorial Seas: 12 NM
  • Highest Point: Mount Gimie, 3,117 ft (950 m)
  • Lowest Point: Sea level
  • Longest Distances: 27 mi (43 km) N-S; 14 mi (23 km) E-W
  • Longest River: None of significant length
  • Natural Hazards: Hurricanes; seismic activity
  • Population: 158,178 (July 2001 est.) / World Rank: 180
  • Capital City: Castries, northern Saint Lucia
  • Largest City: Castries, population 53,000 (2000 est.)


Saint Lucia, located in the eastern Caribbean Sea between Martinique and Saint Vincent, is the second-largest of the Windward Islands. The interior of the volcanically formed island consists of mountains and hills, and is surrounded by a coastal strip. The cone-like twin peaks of the Gros Piton and Petit Piton are Saint Lucia's outstanding natural feature.

Saint Lucia is situated on the Caribbean Tectonic Plate. Evidence of past volcanic activity can be seen in the bubbling mud and escaping gases of the sulfur springs near the inactive crater at Soufrière.



Mountains occupy much of the interior, spanning the island from north to south. However, the southern half, which is geologically younger, is more mountainous, while the older northern half is hillier.

Although the highest elevation is in the south-central part of the island, where Mt. Gimie reaches a height of 3,117 ft (950 m), the country's best-known peaks are Gros Piton and Petit Piton, pyramids of volcanic rock that rise out of the ocean at Soufrière Bay on the southwest coast at respective elevations of 2,619 ft (798 m) and 2,461 ft (750 m).



A number of small rivers flow outward from the central highlands to the coast. The principal ones are the Cul de Sac, Canelles, Dennery, Fond, Piaye, Doree, Canaries, Roseau, and Marquis.


Oceans and Seas

Saint Lucia is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is separated from Martinique to the north by the Saint Lucia Channel, and from Saint Vincent to the south by the Saint Vincent Passage. Saint Lucia has two major ports: Castries and Vieux Fort. The harbor waters at the port of Castries are 27 ft (8 m) deep, but the underwater geography around the island varies drastically. There are extensive coral reefs, underwater cliffs, walls, and mountains surrounding Saint Lucia.

Major Islands

Other than the main island, Saint Lucia consists of the Maria Islands, located off the southeast coast. They are the site of a nature reserve.

The Coast and Beaches

The eastern coast has many small indentations, while the western coast is mostly smoother, with major indentations at the port of Castries in the northwest and Soufrière Bay in the southwest, where the peaks of Gros Piton and Petit Piton are located. The island has two major capes, Cap Point at the northern tip and Cape Moule à Chique at the southern. Saint Lucia is known for its many scenic beaches, some of which are covered with black volcanic sand.

Quarters – Saint Lucia
NameArea (sq mi)Area (sq km)Capital
Gros Islet39.2101.5Gros Islet
Vieux Fort16.943.8Vieux Fort
* Canaries is a city located within Anse-la-Raye with a special administrative status.
SOURCE: Geo-Data: The World Geographical Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale Research, 1989.



Saint Lucia's tropical climate is moderated by trade winds off the Atlantic. The mean temperature year round is about 80°F (27°C). Hurricanes are a hazard in the late summer months of June, July, and August.


Average annual rainfall ranges from about 50 in (127 cm) in the coastal areas to up to 150 in (381 cm) at higher elevations in the interior. The wet season is from June to September, and the dry season is from February to May.

Forests and Jungles

Dense rain forest is found on the higher mountain slopes. Lower down, the trees have largely been cleared for farming and timber production. Trees include many species of palm, bamboo, and giant ferns, as well as breadfruit, mangoes, coconut, and pawpaw. The forests are also rich in flowering plants, including orchids, anthurium, hibiscus, bird of paradise plants, and African tulip trees.


More than one-third of the population lives in urban areas. The highest population density occurs in the region including Castries, northeast of the Cul de Sac River, where there are 1,619 people per sq mi (625 people per sq km). Other than this area, the northern half is less densely populated than the southern coastal region, where the density is 740 inhabitants per sq mi (286 inhabitants per sq km). The population density of the remainder of the island is 401 people per sq mi (155 people per sq km).


Saint Lucia's sandy beaches, scenic views, and pleasant climate form the basis for a lucrative tourist industry. Other important natural resources are its forests, fertile soil, and geothermal potential from the sulfur springs and dormant volcanic craters. Other than tourism, the economy is based on agriculture: bananas are Saint Lucia's most important crop, followed by cocoa, spices, and coconuts.


Eggleston, George Teeple. Orchids on the Calabash Tree. New York: Putnam, 1962.

Ellis, G. Saint Lucia: Helen of the West Indies. London: Macmillan, 1988.

Interknowledge Corporation. Saint Lucia: Simply Beautiful. (Accessed June 5, 2002).

Kingsolver, Barbara. Homeland and Other Stories. Rockland, Mass.: Wheeler Publishing, 1989.

Nieminen, Raija. Voyage to the Island. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press, 1990.

Philpott, Don. Saint Lucia. Lincolnwood, Ill.: Passport Books, 1996.

Saint Lucia

views updated May 14 2018

Saint Lucia

Type of Government

Saint Lucia is a parliamentary democracy with separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The prime minister is the head of government, while a governor general is the ceremonial head of state. The legislature is bicameral, consisting of the House of Assembly, elected by popular vote, and an appointed Senate. The independent judiciary consists of district and high courts.


Saint Lucia is part of the Lesser Antilles. The island’s early inhabitants were the Arawak people, who arrived from South America around 300 AD. The Arawak tribe was later supplanted by the Carib tribe, which settled the island between 600 and 1000. The Carib called the island “Hewanorra,” or “where the iguana is found,” an appellation that persisted and is now used as the name of the island’s international airport.

Saint Lucia was not visited by Europeans until about 1500, during the Spanish exploration of the region. Legend has it, however, that the French survivors of a shipwreck gave the island its current name when they washed up on its shores on December 13, the feast day of Saint Lucia. Legend or not, December 13 remains the country’s national day. In the seventeenth century, Dutch, French, and English traders attempted to establish outposts on the island but were prevented by hostile attacks by the Carib tribes. In 1651 the French colonized the island from their nearby colony on Martinique, managing to secure treaties with the Carib tribes to prevent attacks. However, the island fell to a British expedition mounted from Saint Kitts in 1664. Initially a thousand men strong, this attempted British settlement had been reduced to fewer than a hundred men in two years due to disease. Thereafter the island changed hands fourteen times, as the British, based in Barbados, and French, based in Martinique, competed for control by both economic and military means. The ascent of the sugar industry in the late eighteenth century made the island economically as well as strategically important. Through the early eighteenth century the majority of Europeans who had actually established residence on the island were French. Even today, almost every inhabitant of the island speaks a French patois. Many of the names of the island’s cities and villages are French. Unlike in most former British colonies, the population is still primarily Roman Catholic.

Following the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the British finally gained lasting control of the Island in 1814. Until the British abolished slavery, in 1834, the island’s economy was based on large-scale importation of slaves from West Africa. Modern-day Saint Lucia is thus inhabited mainly by people of African and mixed African-European descent. For fifty years during the nineteenth century, Saint Lucia was part of Britain’s Windward Islands administration; however, by the twentieth century moves toward self-government had begun. Constitutional revisions in 1924 introduced a self-representation system to the island and further revisions in 1951 introduced a universal suffrage system. From 1967 to 1979 the island became an associated state of the United Kingdom, though external affairs and defense were left under the supervision of Great Britain. This arrangement ended on February 22, 1979, when Saint Lucia was granted independence.

Government Structure

Under the 1979 constitution, Saint Lucia became an independent member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and the British monarch was the titular head of state, represented locally by a governor general. Though this head of state has a largely ceremonial role, the constitution does allow him or her to dissolve parliament and to appoint senators, with the advice of the leader of the opposition and the prime minister. Real executive power, however, is held by the prime minister and the cabinet, whose members are chosen from the majority party in the House of Assembly. Saint Lucia conducts most of its foreign policy cooperatively with other countries in the region, in particular through participation in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

The bicameral parliament is made up of the House of Assembly, whose seventeen members are chosen through universal suffrage in elections held every five years. The House performs the most important legislative functions—creating laws and regulations and determining the budget. Additionally, there is a Senate, with scant political power, whose eleven members are appointed: six on the advice of the prime minister, three on the advice of the opposition leader, and two after consultation with religious, economic, and social groups. The cabinet and prime minister are determined by the make-up of the House of Assembly.

The legal system is based both on English common law and the French Napoleonic legal code. The constitution guarantees a public trial before an independent and impartial court. In cases involving capital punishment, legal counsel is afforded to defendants who cannot otherwise afford counsel. The lowest court is the district or magistrate’s court, and above that is the Court of Summary Jurisdiction. Saint Lucia is also a member of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (based on Saint Lucia), and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), to which higher appeals are made.

Political Parties and Factions

Saint Lucia is essentially a two-party democracy, with the United Workers Party (UWP) and the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) the primary contestants for political power.

The UWP, the more conservative of the two, has been in power for most of the time since the country was granted internal autonomy in 1967. Led by John Compton (1926–), the UWP maintained power from 1964 to 1979, then from 1982 to 1996, and in 2006 the party was once again returned to power, with Compton returning to the office of prime minister.

The left-of-center social democratic SLP took power following independence and returned to power again in 1997, led by Kenny Anthony (1951–), maintaining majority status until the 2006 elections.

Major Events

The first years of Saint Lucia’s independence were marked by political rancor, because independence had been a contested issue. The SLP was in favor of a referendum before cutting ties with the United Kingdom; it took power from the UWP, under Prime Minister Allan Louisy (1916–), in the hotly contested 1980 elections. The SLP, however, was hurt by internal dissension. Several SLP members, including the former Louisy deputy George Odlum (1934–2003), defected to found a new party, the Progressive Labour Party (PLP). New general elections were called for 1982.

Though Compton and the UWP took power once again after that election, the new PLP showed it was a political force, winning 27 percent of the vote. That was the high point of its power, though, and in subsequent elections, the PLP lost ground and disappeared from the political scene, leaving the SLP and UWP to contest political power in the country. Though his party did not ultimately succeed, Odlum, known for his leftist views, is credited with opening relations between Saint Lucia and China.

Twenty-First Century

Like other Caribbean nations whose economies are based largely on agriculture, Saint Lucia has had difficulty competing in the global economy of the twenty-first century. The banana crop, long the island’s principal export, has been subject to the ravages of weather. In 2002 Tropical Storm Lili, for example, destroyed half the banana crop; in 2004, Hurricane Ivan ruined 35 percent of the banana crop. The European Union’s decision to end its preferential trade agreements for imported bananas from former colonies also dealt the industry a blow in Saint Lucia. The island has turned to tourism in an attempt to make up for lost revenues. Increasingly, Saint Lucia is becoming an eco-tourist destination because of its largely unspoiled natural beauty.

Violent crime is also on the increase on the island, so much so that British police officers were brought in during 2006 to assist local police in training and intelligence gathering. Another challenge to Saint Lucia and many low-lying Caribbean islands is the rising sea levels resulting from global warming, which threaten to flood large parts of the island. A World Bank study was funded in 2006 to investigate possible countermeasures.

Government of Saint Lucia. (accessed on April 27, 2007).

Momsen, Janet Henshall. St. Lucia. Santa Barbara, CA: Clio, 1996.

Philpott, Don. St. Lucia. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1996.

Saint Lucia

views updated Jun 11 2018

Saint Lucia

Official name: Saint Lucia

Area: 620 square kilometers (239 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Gimie (950 meters/3,117 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Western

Time zone: 8 a.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 43 kilometers (27 miles) from north to south; 23 kilometers (14 miles) from east to west

Land boundaries: None

Coastline: 158 kilometers (98 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Saint Lucia, located in the eastern Caribbean Sea between Martinique and Saint Vincent, is the second-largest of the Windward Islands. With an area of 620 square kilometers (239 square miles), Saint Lucia is almost three-anda-half times as large as Washington, D.C.


Saint Lucia has no territories or dependencies.


Saint Lucia's tropical climate is moderated by trade winds off the Atlantic Ocean. The mean temperature year-round is about 27°C (80°F). Hurricanes are a hazard in the late summer months of June, July, and August.

Average annual rainfall ranges from about 127 centimeters (50 inches) in the coastal areas to as much as 381 centimeters (150 inches) at higher elevations in the interior. The wet season lasts from June to September, and the dry season runs from February to May.


The volcanically formed island consists of mountains and hills in the interior, surrounded by a coastal strip.


Saint Lucia is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Seacoast and Undersea Features

The harbor waters at the port of Castries are 8 meters (27 feet) deep, but the underwater geography around the island varies drastically. There are extensive coral reefs, underwater cliffs, walls, and mountains in the waters surrounding Saint Lucia.

Sea Inlets and Straits

Saint Lucia is separated from Martinique to the north by the Saint Lucia Channel, and from Saint Vincent to the south by the Saint Vincent Passage.

Islands and Archipelagos

Other than the main island, Saint Lucia also includes the Maria Islands, located off the southeast coast. The Maria Islands contain a nature reserve.

Coastal Features

Saint Lucia has two major ports: Castries and Vieux Fort. The eastern coast has many small indentations, while the western coast is mostly smoother, with major indentations at the port of Castries in the northwest and Soufrière Bay in the southwest, at which the mountain peaks of Gros Piton and Petit Piton are located. The island has two major capes, Cap Point at its northern tip and Cape Moule à Chique at its southern one. Saint Lucia is known for its many scenic beaches, some of which are covered with black volcanic sand.


Saint Lucia has no sizable lakes.


A number of small rivers flow outward from the central highlands to the coast. The principal ones are the Cul de Sac, Canelles, Dennery, Fond, Piaye, Doree, Canaries, Roseau, and Marquis Rivers.


There are no deserts on Saint Lucia.


A narrow strip of coastal plains fringe the exterior perimeter of Saint Lucia, giving way to foothills further inland. The northern half of the island is hillier, while the southern half is more mountainous.


The cone-like twin summits of Gros Piton and Petit Piton are Saint Lucia's outstanding natural feature. Mountains occupy much of the country's interior, spanning the island from north to south. Although the highest elevation is in the south-central part of the island, where Mt. Gimie reaches a height of 950 meters (3,117 feet), the country's best-known peaks are Gros Piton and Petit Piton. These pyramids of volcanic rock rise out of the ocean at Soufrière Bay on the southwest coast, at elevations of 798 meters (2,619 feet) and 750 meters (2,461 feet), respectively.


There are underwater caves carved out of Saint Lucia's coral reefs, which are a popular site for divers.


Saint Lucia has no plateaus and no significant monoliths.


The 91-meter- (300-foot-) deep Roseau Dam, completed in 1995, has a capacity of more than 2.6 billion liters (700 million gallons) of water. The Castries/Cul de Sac highway tunnel, completed early in 2000 and nicknamed the Millennium Highway, connects the city of Castries with the valley of the Cul de Sac River.



Eggleston, George Teeple. Orchids on the Calabash Tree. New York: Putnam, 1962.

Ellis, G. Saint Lucia: Helen of the West Indies. London: Macmillan, 1988.

Kingsolver, Barbara. Homeland and Other Stories. Rockland, MA: Wheeler Publishing, 1989.

Nieminen, Raija. Voyage to the Island. Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet University Press, 1990.

Philpott, Don. Saint Lucia. Lincolnwood, IL: Passport Books, 1996.

Web Sites

Lonely Planet: Destination St. Lucia. (accessed May 5, 2003).

"Saint Lucia: Simply Beautiful." Interknowledge Corporation. (accessed May 5, 2003).

Saint Lucia

views updated May 18 2018

Saint Lucia

Located in the eastern Caribbean, Saint Lucia has an area of 616 square kilometers (239 square miles) of rugged volcanic territory. Of note is the fact that the tiny nation has produced two Nobel Laureates: Sir Arthur Lewis (in Economics) and Derek Walcott (in Literature). In 2003 Saint Lucia's population was estimated at 162,157 people. Its ethnic breakdown was as follows: 90 percent of predominantly African descent, approximately 6 percent of mixed races, and 3 percent of East Indian or Asian descent. Overwhelmingly, its people are Roman Catholic (90%), with some 3 percent Episcopalian. English is the official language, but the popular dialect is a French-based patois. Literacy is about 70 percent. In the sixteenth century European settlement brought with it rampant disease that largely decimated the Amerindian population of Arawaks and Caribs. Colonization also resulted in the development of plantations, which led to the importation of African slaves and, after the abolition of slavery in 1834, the recruitment of indentured laborers from India and other places. British and French colonization alternated fourteen times before final British rule that lasted for 165 years, from 1814 until 1979, when Saint Lucia became independent.

The economy initially was based on agriculture, at first sugar and, after World War II (post-1945), bananas. The island has shifted toward a service-oriented economy, which in the early twenty-first century accounted for 73 percent of the gross national product (GNP), mainly in the form of tourism. Even though unemployment was about 16 percent in 2000, per capita income was stable at $5,400, as was economic growth at 2 to 3 percent. Long-term British rule resulted in the formation of a constitutional monarchy with a governor-general representing Queen Elizabeth II (b. 1926) and a Westminster -style parliamentary system undergirded by English common law. Saint Lucia shares its Supreme Court with several other islands in the eastern Caribbean and has a final appellate court in the British Privy Council. Political power resides in a bicameral legislature consisting of an elected seventeen-seat House of Assembly and a nominated eleven-seat Senate. Universal adult suffrage was introduced in 1951 and, with it, competitive partisan politics dominated by two main parties that have alternately held power.

The country's two main parties are the Saint Lucia Labor Party (SLP) and United Workers Party (UWP), but both have received minor challenges periodically from smaller parties. In May 1982 the UWP gained power; however, it lost power to the SLP in 1997. SLP leader Ken Anthony was reelected to a second term as prime minister in 2002.

The alternation of power between the SLP and UWP has followed the course of trade union politics, much of it revolving around the banana industry and public service employees. The banana industry had brought prosperity to Saint Lucia because of its access to the European Union (EU) through concessionary prices guaranteed by the Lome Convention. First signed in 1975 and coming to an end in 2000, the Lome Convention was an international aid and trade agreement between a number of African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries and the European Union aimed at helping Third World countries achieve self-sustained development. However, when cheaper bananas from Central America became available to EU member states, this triggered the collapse of the island nation's entire banana industry in the late 1990s. The crisis was offset somewhat by the development of tourism, with Saint Lucia surviving the radical shift in its economy. The nation's two-party system endures, as do freedom of the press and the safeguarding of human rights and civil liberties. Saint Lucia maintains strong links with two key regional bodies: the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM). It has been blighted by share of HIV-AIDS and drug smuggling but generally remains a stable democracy whose citizens enjoy unhampered exercise of their political rights.

See also: Caribbean Region.


Freedom House. "St. Lucia." Freedom in the World 2003: The Annual Survey of Political Rights and Civil Liberties. New York: Freedom House, 2003. <>.

"St. Lucia." New York Times Almanac. New York: Penguin Books, 2003.

"St. Lucia." CIA World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2005. <>.

U.S. Department of State. "St. Lucia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State, 2003. <>.

Ralph R. Premdas

Saint Lucia

views updated May 29 2018

Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia, one of the Windward Islands of the eastern Caribbean archipelago chain stretching from Antigua and Barbuda in the north to Trinidad and Tobago in the south, gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1979, after a long period of interchange between the French and the British empires. Its population was estimated at 166,100 in 2006, with about of third of that number located in the capital city, Castries, and its environs in the northwest of the island.

Saint Lucia's Parliament, based on the British Westminister parliamentary system, consists of a seventeen-seat elected House of Assembly and an eleven-seat nominated Senate. In general elections held in 2006, the United Workers Party (UWP) led by Sir John Compton (a former prime minister) won an 11-6 victory in House of Assembly, defeating the incumbent Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) led by Dr. Kenny Anthony. Sir John died shortly afterward and was succeeded by Stephenson King, formerly chairman of the UWP.

Together with other states in the island chain, Saint Lucia is part of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, whose Eastern Caribbean Central Bank is responsible for a currency union managing the Eastern Caribbean dollar (US$1 = EC$2.7). Saint Lucia is also a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), formed in 1973 as a successor institution to the Caribbean Free Trade Area (CARIFTA).

The modern history of this volcanic island is one of movement from a largely agricultural economy based on sugar grown on large plantations to one dominated after the mid-1950s by the export of bananas through the British company Geest under a British protectionist preference arrangement. This was subsequently transformed, after the United Kingdom's entry into the European Community/Union, into the Lomé/Cotonou Conventions organized between the EC and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries in 1975. Banana exports came to be dominated by small farm producers, marking a transition from estate-based labor to a more independent peasantry.

However, the subordination of the EU-ACP regime to the requirements of the World Trade Organization's (WTO) liberalized trading and production rules at the beginning of the 1990s has led to a relatively rapid decline of the banana production and exports that formerly dominated the economy. These constituted 41 percent of the country's export revenues in 2004 but fell to 21 percent in 2006. Although substantial diplomacy has been devoted to negotiating a system of partial protection acceptable to the WTO, the prospects are for further decline of the industry, now under substantial challenge from U.S.-dominated Latin American exports to the EU. Adverse climatic conditions (hurricanes) during these years have aggravated this situation.

Attempts during the 1970s and 1980s to introduce foreign investment-induced manufactures for export both to the United States and under the protected Caribbean Common Market have also, in some measure, fallen victim to the new global liberalized regime. For while these exports benefited from the establishment by the United States of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) in 1983, the establishment of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 led to a subsequent decline. In this context, and partially anticipating the necessity to extend the bases of the economy, the Saint Lucian government encouraged the growth of tourism and related services based on the global informatics and telecommunications revolution. These areas saw substantial growth in the 1990s, with tourism replacing agricultural exports as the main foreign-exchange earner, and with Saint Lucia dominating the industry in the Windward Islands. Tourism activity is divided between visitors from cruise ships (an estimated 320,000 between January and May 2007, the main tourism season) and hotel visitors (125,998 over the same period).

In the early 2000s the tourism industry has been subject to adverse climatic conditions, increased competition from other destinations, and changing air-transport arrangements. But it has also facilitated an increase in construction activity, thus limiting the decline in unemployment that has been a consequence of the decline of the banana industry.

See alsoCaribbean Sea, Commonwealth States .


Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. Economic and Financial Review 27, no. 2 (2007).

Economist Intelligence Unit Limited. Country Report 2007. London: EIU.

Payne, Anthony, and Paul Sutton. Repositioning the Caribbean within Globalisation. Caribbean Paper No. 1. Waterloo, ON: Centre for International Governance Innovation, 2007. Available from

                                       Vaughan A. Lewis

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Saint Lucia