St. Vincent

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, island nation of the West Indies, in the Windward Islands. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines lies south of Saint Lucia and north of Grenada. The largest of the Grenadines islands are Bequia, Canouan, Mustique, Mayreau, and Union. The Grenadines is made up of 32 islands and cays stretching over 35 miles from St. Vincent in the north to Grenada in the south.

The Spanish sailors who first sighted the Grenadines in the late 15th century called them "Los Pajoros" - The Birds, because from the horizon they looked like tiny birds in flight.

The less fanciful pirates, who in the 16th and 17th centuries hid their ships from enemies in the sheltered bays of these islands, called them The Grenadines. The English adopted the name when they invaded and took control during the reign of Charles I.

The island now was contested by the French and English, but the Caribs succeeded, for the time being, in preventing any white settlement. In 1673 a ship carrying African slaves shipwrecked off St. Vincent; many Africans made it ashore. They were enslaved by the Red Caribs and assimilated into their culture; later they rebelled against their masters, killing most of them; the former slaves now formed the Black Caribs, the majority population (the surviving Red Caribs held only on to a remote part of the island).

In 1719 a French expedition was sent against the Black Caribs, who resisted in guerilla warfare; the French commander Paulian was killed in action. A British expedition under Captain Braithwaite in 1723 returned without success. The island population at that time was estimated at 2,000 Black Caribs and 100 families of Red Caribs.

The Treaty of Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) 1748 declared St. Vincent, Dominica, St. Lucia and Tobago as neutral; previous proprieties remained unmolested; in effect the Carib ownership of St. Vincent was recognized.

The Treaty of Paris 1763 partitioned the neutral islands; St. Lucia was allocated to France, Dominica, St. Vincent and Tobago to Britain. In consequence, the English finally succeeded in settling the island in 1763. A treaty in 1773 granted the Caribs the right to live in the island's north. The island was taken by the French in 1779. The Black Caribs sided with the French. The island was returned to Britain in 1783. There were 61 sugar estates, 500 acres planted with coffee, 200 acres planted with cocoa, 50 with indigo, 500 with tobacco. The capital was Kingston.

In 1795/96 there was a Carib rebellion, aided by the French from Martinique. The rebellion was crushed, the remaining Carib population was deported to Roatan island (off British Honduras).

A volcano eruption in 1812 did much damage. As St. Vincent was settled relatively late, it was not given an assembly but ruled by a governor dispatched from England.

In the 19th century, the island economy saw a decline of the plantation economy, mainly due to declining sugar prices and British anti-slavery legislation; slavery was abolished in 1833. As the ex- slaves soon left the plantations, a replacement workforce was brought in from East India.

St. Vincent now having lost much of it's economic attractivity, in 1880, were joined with Dominica, Grenada and St. Lucia to form the BRITISH WINDWARD ISLANDS (until 1958). Castries on St. Lucia became the seat of administration. From 1958 to 1962, St. Vincent was member of the FEDERATION OF THE WEST INDIES.

Universal adult suffrage had been introduced in 1951. Self-government was granted in 1969, full independence in 1979.

In addition to the Commonwealth of Nations, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a member of the Organization of American States (OAS), the United Nations (UN), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). It has economic ties with other Caribbean countries through membership in the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom).


Information provided courtesy of: Caribbean Association Midwest America