Facts about the country US Virgin Islands

US Virgin Islands Territory Facts

General Information

  • Population of territory: 101,809 (1990 census) (50,139 on St. Croix, 3,504 on St John and 48,166 on St. Thomas)
  • Official Language: English
  • Currency: U.S. Dollar
  • Approximately 4,600 hotel rooms
  • Largest freeport in the Caribbean with $1,200.00 duty-free allowance

Geography

  • Located in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean (between the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea). For a location map, please see Virgin Islands maps
  • Comprised of approximately 50 islands and cays (pronounced "keys"), the largest of which are St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas
  • St. Croix: 84 square-miles (Point Udall is the easternmost point in the U.S.)
  • St. John: 19 square-miles (two-thirds U.S. National Park)
  • St. Thomas: 32 square-miles (Charlotte Amalie is territory capital)
  • Water Island: The "Fourth Virgin Island," is the newest addition to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Located off picturesque Charlotte Amalie Harbor, this tiny Caribbean jewel is home to a gorgeous white-sand shore called Honeymoon Beach.

Temperature and Time

  • Average temperatures range from 77F in the winter and 82F in the summer
  • Atlantic Standard Time zone, one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time (except during daylight savings time)

Ethnic Background

  • The majority of present-day indigenous people are West Indian of African descent
  • Tiano and Carib Indians inhabited these islands for nearly 3,000 years, but most were killed off during European occupation
  • Today's native populations include people from Europe, North America, India, the Middle East and the Orient
  • Estimated 45% of St. Croix's population is Spanish-speaking

Government

  • American territory governed by U.S. laws
  • Constitution of the Territory: the 1954 Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands, amended in 1968-1972
  • Three branches: executive, legislative and judicial
  • Political parties: Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands, Independent Citizen's Movement, and the Progressive Republican Party of the Virgin Islands
  • Gubernatorial elections are held every four years and general elections held every two years for the 15 seats in the territory's Senate and for the delegate to the U.S. Congress
  • Officials: Governor Roy L. Schneider; Lieutenant Governor Kenneth Mapp; Delegate to U.S. Congress Donna Christian Green

History

  • Christopher Columbus discovered the islands on his second voyage to the New World, landing on St. Croix in 1493. Denmark purchased the islands in 1733, bringing St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas under Danish rule.
  • The U.S. purchased St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas, formerly part of the Danish West Indies in 1917, under the administration of the U.S. Navy, for $25 million in gold. The U.S. Department of the Interior later took over the administration of the islands.
  • Fifty acres of Water Island, located a quarter mile off St. Thomas's Charlotte Amalie harbor, were transferred from the U.S. Department of Interior to the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands in December 1996.

Foods

  • Johnny cake (fried dough)
  • Pates (fried or baked turnover filled with seafood, chicken or beef)
  • Kallaloo (stew of spinach, okra and seafood)
  • Fresh local fish (steamed or fried)
  • Fungi (cornmeal blended with okra similar to polenta)
  • Conch (pronounced "conk," seafood from mussel family made into fritters or steamed)
  • Bush Tea (herbal tea steeped from aromatic leaves of plants indigenous to the Virgin Islands)