Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, island nation (2005 est. pop. 118,000), 150 sq mi (388 sq km), West Indies, in the Windward Islands. It comprises the island of Saint Vincent (140 sq mi/363 sq km) and about two thirds of the small Grenadine islands to the south. The capital is Kingstown.

Saint Vincent island is mountainous, rising to 4,048 ft (1,234 m) at Soufrière volcano, which erupted in 1902 and 1979, causing considerable damage to the island. The people are mainly descendants of Africans who were brought as slaves during the colonial period; there are also people of European, Asian Indian, and Carib descent. English is the predominant language, and a French patois is also spoken. The main religions are Anglicanism, Methodism, and Roman Catholicism.

The climate is well-suited to agriculture, which is an important part of Saint Vincent's economy. Bananas, taro, and arrowroot are the chief agricultural exports. There is light industry and offshore banking. Tourism is also economically important. The main trading partners are the United States and France.

The country, a parliamentary democracy, is governed under the constitution of 1979. The unicameral legislature, the House of Assembly, has of 15 elected and 6 appointed members; the members all serve five-year terms. 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 six parishes.

History

Presumably visited by Columbus in 1498, Saint Vincent remained uncolonized by Europeans until a British settlement was made in 1762. The French captured it in 1779 but it was restored to Britain in 1783. Attempts at overwhelming the native Caribs and black Caribs (or Garifuna, persons of mixed Carib and African descent) failed for many years, but the British deported most of them in 1797. Portuguese and Asian Indian laborers were introduced there in the 19th cent. after the emancipation of African slaves. Saint Vincent was part of the British colony of the Windward Islands (1880–1958) and of the West Indies Federation (1958–62). In 1979 it gained full independence. The islands were governed by the centrist New Democratic party under prime ministers James Mitchell and Arnhim Eustace from 1984 to 2001, when the center-left United Labor party (ULP), led by Ralph Gonsalves, won control of parliament in the March elections. Gonsalves and the ULP were returned to office in Dec., 2005, and, by a narrow margin, in Dec., 2010. In Dec., 2009, voters rejected a new constitution that would have made the country a republic. Although the government and opposition agreed St. Vincent should cut its ties with the British monarch, they disagreed strongly over other aspects of the constitution.

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