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St. Vincent & the GrenadinesThe island of St. Vincent was obviously named after St. Vincent, specifically Vincent of Saragossa, the patron saint of Portugal. Christopher Columbus named the island on this third voyage after he supposedly spotted it on the saint's feast day of January 22, although evidence suggests Columbus was not in this area at the time. The Grenadines are the small islands near the large island of Grenada (which is a separate country). Grenada likely obtained its name from Spanish sailors who named the island after the city of Granada, Spain.

Introduction:

The island of St. Vincent is somewhat mountainous, but there are rivers that run down from the mountains and the coastal lands are fairly fertile, providing food for the people. The other islands in St. Vincent & the Grenadines are less livable and today nearly everyone lives on the island of St. Vincent. This geography has influenced the people, culture, and way of life for as long as people have lived on these islands.

The culture of St. Vincent & the Grenadines is rooted in the earliest people on the islands, which begins with the Caribs. These indigenous people fought off European colonization for some time and later welcomed escaping African slaves from neighboring islands, expanding the cultural influences on the islands. The people of African and Carib descent are called Garifuna and they, along with the Caribs, create the base of the culture.

Despite a long period of time remaining somewhat free from foreign rule, the islands eventually fell to the French, who took control over the islands and established organized agricultural development, most noticeably in the sugarcane industry. However the French needed laborers and turned to slaves from Africa for this purpose. Quickly the African population outnumbered that of the Garifuna and French populations and their cultural influences arrived with them. Despite a changing culture in many areas based on French and African roots, for the most part the Carib and Garifuna culture survived in the mountains.

These cultures moved parallel to each other for some time, but this essentially ended with the arrival of the British, who sought more lands and hence destroyed much of the Garifuna people and their culture. After these moves, few Garifuna people survived on the islands, although many moved to other islands or Central America, where they continue their culture today. Sadly, most of this Garifuna culture on the islands of St. Vincent & the Grenadines was lost.

With these many changes, the culture today has many past influences. From French rule, French Patois is widely spoken, but most people in St. Vincent & the Grenadines speak English. The French and British also greatly effected religion as the people practice Catholicism, Anglicanism, or other religions. Of course the greatest influence the French and British had was by bringing in African slaves, whose descendants now dominate the country and culture.

The culture is heavily rooted in these past influences as music, dance, art, and foods from Africa are alive while the islands' past are commonly celebrated at festivals. The people also continue to live off the land as the people in the past have; many people remain in the agricultural industry producing breadfruit, coconuts, or bananas.

On the flag of St. Vincent & the Grenadines, the color blue represents the sky and crystal waters, the yellow symbolizes the golden sands, and the green represents the lush vegetation on the islands. The three "gems" in the middle are symbolic of the islands being called the "Gems of the Antilles" and are arranged in the shape of a "V" for St. Vincent.

Name: St. Vincent & the Grenadines
Independence: October 27, 1979
Capital: Kingstown
Currency: East Caribbean Dollar
Population: 103,220 (2013 estimate)
Ethnicity: African, mixed, Indian, & others
Language: English & French Patois
Religion: Protestant

Information for St. Vincent & the Grenadines was last updated: March, 2014 ● View our: Sources & Special Thanks