United States Virgin Islands facts

(Redirected from US Virgin Islands)
Virgin Islands of the United States
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: "United in Pride and Hope"
Anthem: "Virgin Islands March"
Location of  United States Virgin Islands  (circled in red)
Location of  United States Virgin Islands  (circled in red)
Status Unincorporated and organized territory
Capital
and largest city
Charlotte Amalie
Official languages English
Common languages
  • 71.6% English, English creole
  • 17.2% Spanish
  • 8.6% French, French creole
  • 2.5% Other
Ethnic groups
  • 76.0% Black
  • 15.6% White
  • 4.9% Other
  • 2.1% Multiracial
  • 1.4% Asian
Demonym Virgin Islander
Sovereign state  United States
Government Territorial presidential constitutional republic
 -  President Donald Trump (R)
 -  Governor Kenneth Mapp (I)
 -  Lt. Governor Osbert Potter (I)
 -  Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D)
Legislature Legislature of the Virgin Islands
Unincorporated and organized territory of the United States
 -  Treaty of the Danish West Indies March 31, 1917 
 -  Revised Organic Act July 22, 1954 
Area
 -  Total 346.36 km2 (202nd)
133.73 sq mi
 -  Water (%) negligible
Population
 -  2016 estimate 102,951
 -  2010 census 106,405
GDP (PPP) 2007 estimate
 -  Total $4.580 billion (n/a)
 -  Per capita $40,124 (n/a)
HDI (2008) Increase 0.894
very high · 59th
Currency United States dollar (USD)
Time zone AST (UTC−4)
 -  Summer (DST) none (UTC−4)
Date format MM/DD/YYYY
Drives on the left
Calling code +1-340
ISO 3166 code VI
Internet TLD
Website
www.vi.gov or www.gov.vi

The United States Virgin Islands (U.S.V.I.; also called the American Virgin Islands), officially the Virgin Islands of the United States, are a group of islands in the Caribbean that are an insular area of the United States. The islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.

The U.S. Virgin Islands consist of the main islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas, and many other surrounding minor islands. The total land area of the territory is 133.73 square miles (346.36 km2). The territory's capital is Charlotte Amalie on the island of Saint Thomas.

Previously the Danish West Indies of the Kingdom of Denmark–Norway, they were sold to the United States by Denmark in the Treaty of the Danish West Indies of 1916. They are classified by the U.N. as a Non-Self-Governing Territory, and are currently an organized, unincorporated United States territory. The U.S. Virgin Islands are organized under the 1954 Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands and have since held five constitutional conventions. The last and only proposed Constitution, adopted by the Fifth Constitutional Convention of the U.S. Virgin Islands in 2009, was rejected by the U.S. Congress in 2010, which urged the convention to reconvene to address the concerns Congress and the Obama Administration had with the proposed document. The Fifth Constitutional Convention of the U.S. Virgin Islands met in October 2012 to address these concerns, but was not able to produce a revised Constitution before its October 31 deadline.

In 2010 the population was 106,405, and mostly Afro-Caribbean. Tourism and related categories are the primary economic activity, employing a high percentage of the civilian non-farm labor force that totalled 42,752 persons in 2016. (The total non-farm labor force was 48,278 persons.) Private sector jobs made up 71 percent of the total workforce. The average private sector salary was $34,088 and the average public sector salary was $52,572.

In a May 2016 report, some 11,000 people were categorized as being involved in some aspect of agriculture in the first half of 2016 but this category makes up a small part of the total economy. (The islands have a significant rum manufacturing sector.) At that time, there were approximately 607 manufacturing jobs and 1,487 natural resource and construction jobs. The single largest employer was the government. In mid February 2017, the USVI was facing a financial crisis due to a very high debt level of $2 billion and a structural budget deficit of $110 million.

History

The U.S. Virgin Islands were originally inhabited by the Ciboney, Carib, and Arawaks. The islands were named by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1493 for Saint Ursula and her virgin followers. Over the next two hundred years, the islands were held by many European powers, including Spain, Great Britain, the Netherlands, France, and Denmark-Norway.

The Danish West India Company settled on Saint Thomas in 1672, settled on Saint John in 1694, and purchased Saint Croix from France in 1733. The islands became royal Danish colonies in 1754, named the Danish West Indian Islands (Danish: De dansk-vestindiske øer). Sugarcane, produced by slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries, until the abolition of slavery by Governor Peter von Scholten on July 3, 1848.

The Danish West India and Guinea Company are also credited with naming the island St. John (Danish: Sankt Jan). The Danish crown took full control of Saint John in 1754 along with St. Thomas and St. Croix. Sugarcane plantations such as the famous Annaberg Sugar Plantation were established in great numbers on St. John because of the intense heat and fertile terrain that provided ideal growing conditions. The establishment of sugarcane plantations also led to the buying of more slaves from Africa. In 1733 St. John was the site of one of the first significant slave rebellions in the New World when Akwamu slaves from the Gold Coast took over the island for six months.

The Danish were able to defeat the enslaved Africans with help from the French in Martinique. Instead of allowing themselves to be recaptured more than a dozen of the ringleaders shot themselves before the French forces could capture them and call them to account for their activities during the period of rebel control. It is estimated that by 1775, slaves outnumbered the Danish settlers by a ratio of 5:1. The indigenous Caribs and Arawaks were also used as slave labor to the point of the entire native population being absorbed into the larger groups. Slavery was abolished in the Virgin Islands on July 3, 1848.

Although some plantation owners refused to accept the abolition, some 5,000 blacks were freed while another 17,000 remained enslaved. In that era, slaves labored mainly on sugar plantations. Other crops included cotton and indigo. Over the following years, strict labor laws were implemented several times, leading planters to abandon their estates, causing a significant drop in population and the overall economy. In the late 1800s, numerous natural disasters added to worsen the situation. For the remainder of the period of Danish rule the islands were not economically viable and significant transfers were made from the Danish state budgets to the authorities in the islands. In 1867 a treaty to sell Saint Thomas and Saint John to the United States was agreed, but the sale was never effected. A number of reforms aimed at reviving the islands' economy were attempted, but none had great success. A second draft treaty to sell the islands to the United States was negotiated in 1902 but was defeated in the upper house of the Danish parliament in a balanced ballot (because the opposition carried a 97-year-old life member into the chamber).

FEMA - 3094 - Photograph by FEMA News Photo taken on 09-25-1995 in US Virgin Islands
The aftermath of Hurricane Marilyn on the island of St. Thomas, 1995.

The onset of World War I brought the reforms to a close and again left the islands isolated and exposed. During the submarine warfare phases of the First World War, the United States, fearing that the islands might be seized by Germany as a submarine base, again approached Denmark about buying them. After a few months of negotiations, a selling price of $25 million in United States gold coin was agreed (this is equivalent to $487.92 million in 2018 dollars). At the same time the economics of continued possession weighed heavily on the minds of Danish decision makers, and a consensus in favor of selling emerged in the Danish parliament.

The Treaty of the Danish West Indies was signed in August 1916, with a Danish referendum held in December 1916 to confirm the decision. The deal was finalized on January 17, 1917, when the United States and Denmark exchanged their respective treaty ratifications. The United States took possession of the islands on March 31, 1917 and the territory was renamed the Virgin Islands of the United States. Every year Transfer Day is recognized as a holiday, to commemorate the acquisition of the islands by the United States. U.S. citizenship was granted to the inhabitants of the islands in 1927. The U.S. dollar was adopted in the territory in 1934 and from 1935 to 1939 the islands were a part of the United States customs area.

Water Island, a small island to the south of Saint Thomas, was initially administered by the U.S. federal government and did not become a part of the U.S. Virgin Islands territory until 1996, when 50 acres (200,000 m2) of land was transferred to the territorial government. The remaining 200 acres (81 ha) of the island were purchased from the U.S. Department of the Interior in May 2005 for $10, a transaction that marked the official change in jurisdiction.

Hurricane Hugo struck the U.S Virgin Islands in 1989, causing catastrophic physical and economic damage. The territory was again struck by Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, killing eight people and causing more than $2 billion in damage. The islands were again struck by Hurricanes Bertha, Georges, Lenny, and Omar in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2008, respectively, but damage was not as severe in those storms.

Geography

Virgin islands sm02
A map of the United States Virgin Islands.

The U.S. Virgin Islands are in the Atlantic Ocean, about 40 miles (60 km) east of Puerto Rico and immediately west of the British Virgin Islands. They share the Virgin Islands Archipelago with the Puerto Rican Virgin Islands of Vieques and Culebra, (administered by Puerto Rico) and the British Virgin Islands.

The territory consists of three main islands: Saint Thomas, Saint John, and Saint Croix, as well as several dozen smaller islands. The main islands have nicknames often used by locals: "Twin City" (St. Croix), "Rock City" (St. Thomas) and "Love City" (St. John). The combined land area of the islands is roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Virgin Islands are known for their white sand beaches, including Magens Bay and Trunk Bay, and strategic harbors, including Charlotte Amalie and Christiansted. Most of the islands, including Saint Thomas, are volcanic in origin and hilly. The highest point is Crown Mountain, Saint Thomas (1,555 ft or 474 m).

Saint Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, lies to the south and has a flatter terrain. The National Park Service owns more than half of Saint John, nearly all of Hassel Island, and many acres of coral reef. (See also Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Christiansted National Historic Site, and Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve.)

The U.S. Virgin Islands lie on the boundary of the North American plate and the Caribbean Plate. Natural hazards include earthquakes and hurricanes.

Climate

The United States Virgin Islands enjoy a tropical climate, with little seasonal change throughout the year. Rainfall is concentrated in the high sun period (May thorough October), while in the winter the northeast trade winds prevail. Summer and winter high temperatures differ by 5 °F or less on average.

Climate data for Saint Thomas, Virgin Islands
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 93
(33.9)
93
(33.9)
94
(34.4)
96
(35.6)
97
(36.1)
99
(37.2)
98
(36.7)
99
(37.2)
98
(36.7)
97
(36.1)
95
(35)
92
(33.3)
99
(37.2)
Average high °F (°C) 85
(29.4)
85
(29.4)
86
(30)
87
(30.6)
88
(31.1)
89
(31.7)
90
(32.2)
90
(32.2)
90
(32.2)
89
(31.7)
87
(30.6)
86
(30)
87.7
(30.93)
Average low °F (°C) 72
(22.2)
73
(22.8)
73
(22.8)
74
(23.3)
76
(24.4)
78
(25.6)
78
(25.6)
78
(25.6)
78
(25.6)
77
(25)
75
(23.9)
74
(23.3)
75.5
(24.17)
Record low °F (°C) 63
(17.2)
62
(16.7)
56
(13.3)
62
(16.7)
66
(18.9)
67
(19.4)
57
(13.9)
59
(15)
64
(17.8)
66
(18.9)
52
(11.1)
62
(16.7)
52
(11.1)
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.38
(60.5)
1.48
(37.6)
1.42
(36.1)
2.74
(69.6)
3.06
(77.7)
2.53
(64.3)
2.85
(72.4)
3.74
(95)
5.58
(141.7)
5.42
(137.7)
5.23
(132.8)
2.96
(75.2)
39.39
(1,000.5)
Source: weather.com

Demographics

See also: Demographics of the United States Virgin Islands
StJohnTrunkBay
Trunk Bay, St. John.
Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1970 62,468 —    
1980 96,569 +54.6%
1990 101,809 +5.4%
2000 108,612 +6.7%
2010 106,405 −2.0%
2016 102,951 −3.2%

In 2010 the U.S. Virgin Islands had a population of 106,405. There are 40,648 households, and 26,636 families.

In 2010 there were 40,648 households out of which 34.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.2% were married couples living together, 24.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.5% were non-families. 30.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.34.

In the territory, the population in 2010 was spread out with 31.6% under the age of 18, 8.0% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 24.9% from 45 to 64, and 8.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.4 males. For every 100 females ages 18 and up, there were 87.7 males. The annual population growth is −0.12%.

The median income for a household in the territory was $24,704, and the median income for a family was $28,553 according to the 2010 Census. Males had a median income of $28,309 versus $22,601 for females. The per capita income for the territory was $13,139. About 28.7% of families and 32.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 41.7% of those less than 18 years old and 29.8% of those 65 or more years old. Nearly 70% of adults had at least a high school diploma and 19.2% had a bachelor's degree or higher.

According to a report on the first half of 2016 by the VI Bureau of Economic Research, the unemployment rate was 11.5 percent. There were 37,613 non-agricultural wage and salary jobs; the government employed 10,743 people, making it the single largest employer. The report states that the "leisure and hospitality sector" employed an average of 7,333 people. However, the "retail trade sector", which also serves many tourists, averaged another 5,913 jobs. Other categories which also include some tourism jobs include Arts and Entertainment (792 jobs), Accommodation & Food (6,541 jobs), Accommodation (3755 jobs), Food Services & Drink (2,766 jobs). When those are totaled, it is clear that a large percentage of the 37,613 non-farm workers are employed in dealing with tourists; of course, serving the local population is also part of the role of these sectors.

The literacy rate for the adult population was 94.9% in 2010.

Ethnic groups

The racial makeup of the U.S. Virgin Islands was:

  • Black or Afro-Caribbean: 76.0% (66.1% Non-Hispanic Black)
  • White: 15.6% (13.5% Non-Hispanic Whites)
  • Asian: 1.4%
  • Mixed: 2.1%
  • Other: 4.5%
  • Hispanic or Latino of any race: 17.4% (10.3% Puerto Rican, 5.4% Dominican)

Many residents can trace their ancestry to other Caribbean islands, especially Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles. The territory is largely Afro-Caribbean in origin.

Languages

English is currently the dominant language and Spanish is spoken by about 71% of the population. Other languages are spoken by 11% of the population.

English has been the official language since 1917 when the islands were transferred from Denmark to the United States. Under Danish rule, the official language was Danish, but it was solely the language of administration and spoken by Danes, a tiny minority of the overall population that primarily occupied administrative roles in colonial Danish West Indian society. However, place names and surnames of Denmark-Norway origins still remain among natives.

Although the U.S. Virgin Islands was a Danish possession during most of its colonial history, Danish never was a spoken language among the populace, black or white, as the majority of plantation and slave owners were of Dutch, English, Scottish or Irish descent. Even during Danish ownership, Dutch was more common at least during some of those 245 years, specifically on St. Thomas and St. John. In St. Croix, English was the dominant language. St. Croix was owned by the French until 1733 when the island was sold to the Danish West Indian and Guinea Company. By 1741 there were five times as many English on the island as Danes. English Creole emerged on St. Croix more so than Dutch Creole, which was more popular on St. Thomas and St. John. Other languages spoken in the Danish West Indies included Irish, Scots, Spanish, and French, as well as Virgin Islands Creole English.

Virgin Islands Creole English, an English-based creole locally known as "dialect", is spoken in informal situations. The form of Virgin Islands Creole spoken on St. Croix, known as Crucian, is slightly different from that spoken on St. Thomas and St. John. Because the U.S. Virgin Islands are home to thousands of immigrants from across the Caribbean, Spanish and various French creole languages are also widely spoken.

As of the 2000 census, 25.3% of persons over the age of five speak a language other than English at home. Spanish is spoken by 16.8% of the population and French is spoken by 6.6%.

Religion




Circle frame.svg

Religions: in the United States Virgin Islands (2010)      Protestant (59%)     Roman Catholic (34%)     Other (7%)

Christianity is the dominant religion in the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to Pew Research Center, 94.8% of the population was Christian in 2010. Protestantism is the most widespread of the religious categories, reflecting the territory's Danish and Norwegian colonial heritage and more recently, its being a part of the United States. There is also a strong Roman Catholic presence. Rastafari is also prevalent.

Saint Thomas is home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in the Western Hemisphere as Sephardic Jews began to settle the island in the 18th century as traders and merchants. The St. Thomas Synagogue in Charlotte Amalie is the second oldest synagogue on American soil and oldest in terms of continuous usage.

Health

In 2010, the national average life expectancy was 79.61 years. It was 76.57 years for men and 82.83 for women.

Education

The U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Education serves as the territory's education agency, and has two school districts: St. Thomas-St. John School District and St. Croix School District.

The University of the Virgin Islands provides higher education leading to associate's, bachelor's, and master's degrees, with campuses on St. Thomas and St. Croix.

Culture

The culture of the Virgin Islands reflects the various people that have inhabited the present-day U.S. Virgin Islands and British Virgin Islands, both despite their political separation having kept close cultural ties. The culture derives chiefly from West African, European and American cultures, in addition to the influences from the immigrants from the Arab world, India and other Caribbean islands. The island was also strongly influenced by the Dutch, French and Danish during the periods of control the island were under these powers.

Music

Language

Media

The islands have a number of AM and FM radio stations (mostly on St. Thomas and St. Croix) broadcasting music, religious, and news programming. (See List of radio stations in U.S. Territories.) Full and low-power television stations are split between St. Thomas and St. Croix. (See List of television stations in the U.S. Virgin Islands.) Newspapers include:

  • The Avis, printed daily on St. Croix.
  • The Virgin Islands Daily News, printed daily on St. Thomas.
  • St. John Tradewinds, distributed weekly on St. John.
  • St. Thomas – St. John This Week, online only.
  • St. Thomas Source, online only.
  • St. Croix Source, online only.
  • St. John On Island Times, news and information on St John, USVI.

Public holidays

  • January 1: New Years Day
  • January 6: Three Kings Day
  • January (third Monday): Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • February (third Monday): President's Day
  • March 31: Transfer Day (celebrates the transfer of the islands from Denmark to the U.S.)
  • April: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Monday
  • May: Memorial Day
  • July 3: Emancipation Day
  • July 4: U.S. Independence Day
  • September (first Monday): Labor Day
  • October (second Monday): Virgin Islands Puerto Rico Friendship Day/Columbus Day
  • November 1: D. Hamilton Jackson Day (also known as "Liberty Day", or "Bull and Bread Day")
  • November 11: Veteran's Day
  • November (fourth Thursday): Thanksgiving Day
  • December 25: Christmas
  • December 26: Christmas Second Day (also known as "Boxing Day")

Virgin Islands government employees are also given administrative leave for St. Croix carnival events in January and St. Thomas carnival events in April/May.

Images


United States Virgin Islands Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.