Saint Vincent and Grenadines
|THE SAINT VINCENT AND GRANDINES COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines within the Geographic Region of Central America and the Caribbean
Map of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Flag Description of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: a yellow three-masted sailing ship facing the hoist side rides on a blue background with scattered, white, wavy lines under the ship; a continuous black-over-white wavy line divides the ship from the white wavy lines; on the hoist side, a vertical band is divided into three parts: the top part (called ikkurina) is red with a green diagonal cross extending to the corners overlaid by a white cross dividing the rectangle into four sections; the middle part has a white background with an ermine pattern; the third part has a red background with two stylized yellow lions outlined in black, one above the other; these three heraldic arms represent settlement by colonists from the Basque Country (top), Brittany, and Normandy; the blue on the main portion of the flag symbolizes the Atlantic Ocean and the stylized ship represents the Grande Hermine in which Jacques Cartier "discovered" the islands in 1536.
note: the flag of France used for official occasions.
Official name Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Form of government constitutional monarchy with one legislative house (House of Assembly )
Head of state British Monarch: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General: Sir Frederick Ballantyne
Head of government Prime Minister: Ralph Gonsalves
Official language English
Official religion none
Monetary unit Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$)
Population (2013 est.) 104,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 150.3
Total area (sq km) 389.3
- Urban: (2009) 49.7%
- Rural: (2009) 50.3%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2012) 72.5 years
- Female: (2012) 76.4 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: not available
- Female: not available
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 6,580
1Includes 8 nonelective seats (including 1 seat for the attorney-general and 1 seat for the speaker serving ex officio).
- 1 Background of Saint Vincent and Grenadines
- 2 Geography of Saint Vincent and Grenadines
- 3 Demography of Saint Vincent and Grenadines
- 4 Economy of Saint Vincent and Grenadines
- 5 Government and Society of Saint Vincent and Grenadines
- 6 Culture Life of Saint Vincent and Grenadines
- 7 History of Saint Vincent and Grenadines
- 8 Disclaimer
Background of Saint Vincent and Grenadines
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, island country lying within the Lesser Antilles, in the eastern Caribbean Sea. It consists of the island of Saint Vincent and the northern Grenadine Islands, which stretch southward toward Grenada. The island of Saint Vincent lies about 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Saint Lucia and 100 miles (160 km) west of Barbados. It is 18 miles long (30 km) and has a maximum width of 11 miles (18 km). The larger islands of the Grenadines associated with Saint Vincent are Bequia, Canouan, Mayreau, Mustique, Prune (Palm) Island, Petit Saint Vincent Island, and Union Island. The Tobago Cays, just to the east of Mayreau, have been designated a wildlife reserve. The name Saint Vincent originally applied to the mainland and the group of smaller islands associated with it. After the attainment of independence in 1979 the multi-island state was renamed Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The capital and major port is Kingstown, on Saint Vincent. The country is a member of the Commonwealth.
Geography of Saint Vincent and Grenadines
Relief, soils, and drainage
The island of Saint Vincent has thickly wooded volcanic mountains running north-south and many short swift streams. Though numerous, the streams are small except after heavy rains. There are no navigable rivers. The island’s two highest peaks are both on the volcano Soufrière (4,048 feet [1,234 metres] and 3,864 feet [1,178 metres]), in the north, which erupted disastrously in 1812 and 1902, seriously affecting the country’s agriculture and temporarily displacing residents of communities around the foothills of the volcano. The 1902 eruption coincided with that of Mount Pelée on Martinique. Soufrière became active again in 1979, repeating the cycle of agricultural damage and massive evacuation. The volcanic ash, which spread as far as Barbados, is said to have enhanced the fertility of the soil. Other noteworthy peaks on the island include Grand Bonhomme and Mount St. Andrew.
The soil of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is very fertile and permits the easy cultivation of a variety of vegetables and fruits as well as arrowroot, which is no longer a major crop but is still grown in the northeastern part of the main island. Vegetation is varied, and there are a number of plants of striking brilliance, including hibiscus and poinsettia. Cultivated land spreads out below the forest zone, and in some areas terraces protect against erosion. Birdlife on the island is especially rich.
Saint Vincent lies in the path of the northeast trade winds and has a tropical maritime climate. Rainfall and temperature vary with elevation. Average annual rainfall ranges from about 60 inches (1,500 mm) on the coast to 150 inches (3,800 mm) in the central mountains. More-moderate amounts fall on the coastal area, which annually receives about 60 to 80 inches (1,500 to 2,000 mm). Heavier amounts fall on the windward (eastern) side of the island. The temperature at Kingstown averages between the mid-60s and about 90 °F (between about 18 and 32 °C). Tropical cyclones (hurricanes) occasionally pass across or near the island; it suffered notably severe ones in 1780 and 1898, and less-severe but still destructive ones in 1955 and 1980. The dry season on Saint Vincent lasts from January to May; the rains start in June and continue until the end of the year.
Demography of Saint Vincent and Grenadines
Some two-thirds of the inhabitants are descended from Africans who were enslaved and brought to work on the sugar plantations; another one-fourth of the population is of mixed African-European ancestry. There are small minorities of people of South Asian, European, Carib, and mixed African and Carib descent; the latter are known as the Garifuna. English is the official language. An English patois is commonly spoken and referred to in some academic quarters as “nation language” (that is, a postcolonial version of a language that was imposed by colonizers—in this case, English—that incorporates underground language codes from formerly suppressed languages, in this case the African languages of the slaves).
Despite a rapid increase in the number of Pentecostals and declining numbers of Anglicans, Methodists, and Roman Catholics, the latter three are still regarded as the established religions. The Spiritual Baptist, or Shaker (as it was known in Saint Vincent), church, a syncretic Protestant-African faith, was banned from 1912 to the 1960s; in the late 20th century the church began a significant resurgence. There are also branches of North American Evangelical churches, and there are smaller numbers of Hindus and Muslims.
Life expectancy is about 70 years for males and in the mid-70s for females. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines once had one of the highest birth rates in the West Indies. That figure declined drastically in the late 20th century, however, largely as the result of government family-planning efforts, and by the early 21st century it was roughly equivalent to the West Indian average. The rate of natural increase declined likewise over the same period. The country has a high rate of emigration.
Economy of Saint Vincent and Grenadines
- Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries
The economy of Saint Vincent is chiefly agricultural. The country is one of the world’s few producers of arrowroot, despite a major decline in the industry. Saint Vincent was once the greatest exporter of it. Cotton and sugarcane were formerly important to the economy, but, since the second half of the 20th century, bananas have been the leading export, and cotton is no longer grown. Other important crops include sweet potatoes, plantains, yams, coconuts, and dasheens and eddoes (types of taro). Rice and flour are milled from imported white-cargo or rice and wheat. All these agricultural products are used locally and exported to neighbouring Caribbean countries. The interior of the island of Saint Vincent is still forested, though there is significant encroachment on the woodland. There is a growing fishing industry, both offshore and inland, that produces for local consumption as well as for export to other Caribbean islands and to the United States, particularly to locations on the Eastern seaboard, such as Miami and New York City. Lobster, conch, tuna, and swordfish are the main seafoods exported.
Government and Society of Saint Vincent and Grenadines
- Constitutional framework
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary form of government. The British monarch is the head of state and is represented by an appointed governor-general. A prime minister, the leader of the majority party, is the head of government. The unicameral legislature is the House of Assembly. It is composed of 15 members (called representatives) elected to five-year terms by universal adult suffrage, along with six nonelected members (called senators) who are appointed by the governor-general—four on the advice of the prime minister and two on the advice of the leader of the opposition. Two additional seats in the legislature are designated for the attorney general and the speaker. The number of members of the House of Assembly may vary between 21 and 23, depending on whether the attorney general and the speaker are elected from inside or outside the House.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines’ court system consists of a lower and an upper judiciary. The lower courts include magistrates’ and family courts; the High Court and the Court of Appeal form the upper level. Saint Vincent retains its connection with the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. This consists of an appeals court and a high court, while the final court of appeal remains the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.
- Education, health, and welfare
Primary education is free but not compulsory. Most primary schools are administered by the government, and a small number are private. Secondary education begins at age 11. Most secondary schools are government controlled, with a few run by the Catholic and Anglican religious organizations with government assistance. Other educational institutions include technical and vocational schools, a school for children with special needs, and Saint Vincent Community College, which provides nursing and teacher training among other subjects. The University of the West Indies Open Campus has a location in Saint Vincent.
Government health initiatives are directed primarily against chronic diseases, including diabetes and hypertension. For children, the focus of attention is on immunization against diseases such as polio and measles. Combating obesity and asthma in children is increasingly a priority. HIV/AIDS receives great attention from the health authorities, and domestic violence is a growing area of concern. The country has a main public general hospital, several smaller public and private hospitals, and a number of outpatient health centres.
Culture Life of Saint Vincent and Grenadines
History of Saint Vincent and Grenadines
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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