Saint Lucia (sānt lōō´shə, –sēə), island nation (2005 est. pop. 166,000), 238 sq mi (616 sq km), West Indies, one of the Windward Islands. The capital is Castries. Morne Gimie (3,145 ft/959 m high) and the twin pyramidal cones known as the Pitons are the most imposing landmarks. The country is subject hurricanes; it suffered significant destruction in 1980, 1994, and 2007. The population is largely of African descent and Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion, although there is a large Protestant minority. English is the official language, but Kwéyòl, a French creole, is also widely spoken, and many St. Lucians also speak French or Spanish.
The economy is largely based on agriculture (bananas, cocoa, and other tropical products are exported) and tourism. Saint Lucia has moved to attract foreign investment to its offshore banking industry, and has diversified its industrial base to include light manufacturing, the assembly of electronic components, and oil refining and transshipment. The United States and France are the main trading partners.
The country is a parliamentary democracy governed under the constitution of 1979. There is a bicameral Parliament, with an 11-seat Senate and a 17-seat House of Assembly; the government is headed by the prime minister. The monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, represented by a governor-general, is the head of state. Administratively, the country is divided into 11 districts called quarters.
Columbus may have sighted the island on his 1502 voyage. The British failed in their first attempts at colonization in the early 17th cent. The island was later settled by the French, who signed a treaty with the local Caribs in 1660. Thereafter Saint Lucia was much contested by the two European powers until the British secured it in 1814. It was part of the British Windward Islands colony, and joined the West Indies Federation (1958–62) when the colony was dissolved. In 1967, Saint Lucia became one of the six members of the West Indies Associated States, with internal self-government, and in 1979 it gained full independence under Sir John Compton. Compton, of the conservative United Workers party (UWP), was again prime minister from 1982 to 1996, when he was succeeded by Vaughn Lewis. Kenny Anthony of the Labor party was prime minister from 1997 to 2006, when the UWP, again led by Compton, won control of parliament. In May, 2007, after Compton suffered a series of ministrokes, Finance and External Affairs Minister Stephenson King became acting prime minister and then, after Compton died in Sept., 2007, prime minister. The Nov., 2011, elections brought Anthony and Labor back into office.