United States Virgin Islands Explained

Conventional Long Name:United States Virgin Islands
Common Name:United States Virgin Islands
National Motto:"United in Pride and Hope"
National Anthem:Virgin Islands March
Official Languages:English
Capital:Charlotte Amalie
Latd:18
Latm:21
Latns:N
Longd:64
Longm:56
Longew:W
Largest City:Charlotte Amalie
Leader Title1:Head of State
Leader Name1:Barack Obama (D)
Leader Title2:Governor
Leader Name2:John de Jongh (D)
Leader Title3:Lieutenant Governor
Leader Name3:Gregory R. Francis (D)
Area Rank:202nd
Area Magnitude:1 E8
Area Km2:346.36
Area Sq Mi:133.73
Percent Water:1.0
Population Estimate:108,448
Population Estimate Rank:191st
Population Estimate Year:July 2007
Population Census:108,612
Population Census Year:2000
Population Density Km2:354
Population Density Sq Mi:916.9
Population Density Rank:34th
Sovereignty Type:Organized, unincorporated territory
Established Event1:Revised Organic Act
Established Date1:22 July 1954
Currency:U.S. dollar
Currency Code:USD
Time Zone:Q
Utc Offset:-4
Time Zone Dst:not observed
Drives On:left[1]
Cctld:.vi
Calling Code:1 340

This article is about the Territory of the United States Virgin Islands. For the British Overseas Territory of the Virgin Islands, see British Virgin Islands. For the archipelago of the Virgin Islands, see Virgin Islands.

The United States Virgin Islands is a group of islands in the Caribbean that are an insular area of the United States. The islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.

The U.S. Virgin Islands consist of the main islands of Saint Croix, Saint John and Saint Thomas, along with the much smaller but historically distinct Water Island, and many other surrounding minor islands. The total land area of the territory is . As of the 2000 census the population was 108,612.[2]

The main islands have nicknames often used by locals: "Twin City" (St. Croix), "Rock City" (St. Thomas), "Love City" (St. John), and "Small City" (Water Island).[3]

History

See main article: History of the United States Virgin Islands.

The Virgin Islands were originally settled by the Ciboney, Carib, and Arawaks. The islands were named by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1493 for Saint Ursula and her virgin followers. Over the next three hundred years, the islands were held by many European powers, including Spain, Britain, the Netherlands, France, and Denmark-Norway.

The Danish West India Company settled on Saint Thomas in 1672, on Saint John in 1694, and purchased Saint Croix from France in 1733. The islands became royal Danish colonies in 1754, named the Danish-Westindian islands - De dansk-vestindiske øer in Danish. Sugarcane, produced by slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries, until the abolition of slavery by Governor Peter von Scholten on July 3 1848.

For the remainder of the period of Danish rule, the islands were not economically viable and significant transfers were made from the Danish state budgets to the authorities in the islands. In 1867 a treaty to sell Saint Thomas and Saint John to the United States was agreed, but the sale was never effected.[4] A number of reforms aimed at reviving the islands' economy were attempted, but none had great success. A second draft treaty to sell the islands to the United States was negotiated in 1902 but was narrowly defeated in the Danish parliament.[4]

The onset of World War I brought the reforms to a close and again left the islands isolated and exposed. During the submarine warfare phases of the First World War, the United States, fearing that the islands might be seized by Germany as a submarine base, again approached Denmark with a view to buying them. After a few months of negotiations, a selling price of $25 million was agreed. The Danish Crown may have felt some pressure to accept the sale, thinking that the United States would seize the islands if Denmark was invaded by Germany. At the same time the economics of continued possession weighed heavily on the minds of Danish decision makers, and a bipartisan consensus in favor of selling emerged in the Danish parliament. A subsequent referendum held in late 1916 confirmed the decision to sell by a wide margin. The deal was thus finalized on January 17 1917, when the United States and Denmark exchanged their respective treaty ratifications. The U.S. took possession of the islands on March 31 1917 and the territory was renamed the Virgin Islands of the United States.

U.S. citizenship was granted to the inhabitants of the islands in 1927.

Water Island, a small island to the south of Saint Thomas, was initially administered by the U.S. Federal government and did not become a part of the U.S. Virgin Islands territory until 1996, when 50acres of land was transferred to the territorial government. The remaining 200acres of the island were purchased from the US Department of the Interior in May 2005 for $10, a transaction which marked the official change in jurisdiction.[5]

Geography

See main article: Geography of the United States Virgin Islands. The U.S. Virgin Islands are located in the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, about 90miles east of Puerto Rico and immediately west of the British Virgin Islands. The territory consists of four main islands: Saint Thomas, Saint John, Saint Croix, and Water Island, as well as several dozen smaller islands. The combined land area of the islands is roughly twice the size of Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Virgin Islands are known for their white sand beaches, including Magens Bay and Trunk Bay, and strategic harbors, including Charlotte Amalie and Christiansted. Most of the islands, including Saint Thomas, are volcanic in origin and hilly. The highest point is Crown Mountain, Saint Thomas (1555feet). Saint Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, lies to the south and has a flatter terrain. The National Park Service owns more than half of Saint John, nearly all of Hassel Island, and many acres of coral reef. (See also Virgin Islands National Park, Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Christiansted National Historic Site, and Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve.)

The Virgin Islands lie on the boundary of the North American plate and the Caribbean Plate. Natural hazards include earthquakes, tropical cyclones, and hurricanes.

Climate

The U.S. Virgin Islands enjoy a tropical climate, moderated by trade winds. Temperatures vary little throughout the year. In the capital, Charlotte Amalie, typical daily maximum temperatures are around 91 °F (33 °C) in the summer and 86 °F (30 °C) in the winter. Typical daily minimum temperatures are around 78 °F (26 °C) in the summer and 72 °F (22 °C) in the winter. Rainfall averages about 38 inches (965 mm) per year. Rainfall can be quite variable, but the wettest months on average are September to November and the driest months on average are February and March. Hurricanes occasionally hit the islands, with the hurricane season running from June to November.

Politics

See main article: Politics of the United States Virgin Islands.

The U.S. Virgin Islands are an organized, unincorporated United States territory. Even though they are U.S. citizens, Virgin Islands residents cannot vote in presidential elections. Virgin Islands residents, however, are able to vote in presidential primary elections.

The main political parties in the U.S. Virgin Islands are the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands, the Independent Citizens Movement, and the Republican Party of the Virgin Islands. Additional candidates run as independents.

At the national level, the U.S. Virgin Islands elects a delegate to Congress from its at-large . However, the elected delegate, while able to vote in committee, cannot participate in floor votes. The current House of Representatives delegate is Donna Christensen (D).

At the territorial level, 15 senators - seven from the district of Saint Croix, seven from the district of Saint Thomas and Saint John, and one senator at-large who must be a resident of Saint John - are elected for two-year terms to the unicameral Virgin Islands Legislature.

The U.S. Virgin Islands has elected a territorial governor every four years since 1970. Previous governors were appointed by the President of the United States.

The U.S. Virgin Islands has a District Court, Superior Court and the Supreme Court. The District Court is responsible for federal law, while the Superior Court is responsible for Virgin Islands law at the trial level and the Supreme Court is responsible for appeals from the Superior Court for all appeals filed on or after January 29, 2007. Appeals filed prior to that date are heard by the Appellate Division of the District Court. Appeals from the federal District Court are heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. District Court judges are appointed by the President, while Superior Court and Supreme Court judges are appointed by the Governor.

Self-determination

The United States Congress has never organized local referendums to aid in self-determination. As with Puerto Rico, the residents have been given the choice of independence, status quo, or statehood via local plebiscites not validated or approved by the U.S. Congress. However, these measures have failed to attract sufficient civic interest or voter turn-out to produce even a noteworthy plurality, much less a majority, and thus the islands will retain their current territorial status for the foreseeable future.

The U.S. Virgin Islands are part of the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Economy

See main article: Economy of the United States Virgin Islands. Tourism is the primary economic activity. The islands normally host 2 million visitors a year, many of whom visit on cruise ships.

The manufacturing sector consists of petroleum refining, textiles, electronics, rum distilling, pharmaceuticals, and watch assembly. The agricultural sector is small, with most food being imported. International business and financial services are a small but growing component of the economy. Hovensa, one of the world's largest petroleum refineries, is located on Saint Croix.

The U.S. Virgin Islands are permanently on Atlantic Standard Time and do not participate in daylight saving time. When the U.S. is on Standard Time, the U.S. Virgin Islands are one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time. When the U.S. is on daylight saving time, Eastern Daylight Time is the same as Atlantic Standard Time.

The islands are subject to tropical storms and hurricanes. In recent history, substantial damage was caused by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. The islands were also struck by Hurricane Bertha in 1996, Hurricane Georges in 1998, Hurricane Lenny in 1999, and Hurricane Omar in 2008, but damage was not as severe in those hurricanes.

Demographics

As of the census

Web site: States Census Bureau] American FactFinder]. 2008-01-31. of 2000, there were 108,612 people, 40,648 households, and 26,636 families residing in the territory. The racial makeup of the territory was 76.19% Black or African Descent, 13.09% White, 7.23% from other races, and 3.49% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13.99% of the population.

There were 40,648 households out of which 34.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.2% were married couples living together, 24.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.5% were non-families. 30.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.34.

In the territory the population was spread out with 31.6% under the age of 18, 8.0% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 24.9% from 45 to 64, and 8.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 91.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.7 males. The annual population growth is -0.12%.

The median income for a household in the territory was $24,704, and the median income for a family was $28,553. Males had a median income of $28,309 versus $22,601 for females. The per capita income for the territory was $13,139. About 28.7% of families and 32.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 41.7% of those under age 18 and 29.8% of those age 65 or over.

Culture

See main article: Culture of the Virgin Islands.

See also: Music of the Virgin Islands.

See also: Virgin Islands Creole.

Districts and sub-districts

See main article: Districts and sub-districts of the United States Virgin Islands. The U.S. Virgin Islands are administratively divided into three districts and subdivided into 20 sub-districts.

The districts are:

Sub-districts of Saint Croix:
  1. Anna's Hope Village
  2. Christiansted
  3. East End
  4. Frederiksted
  5. Northcentral
  6. Northwest
  7. Sion Farm
  8. Southcentral
  9. Southwest
Sub-districts of Saint Thomas:
  1. Charlotte Amalie
  2. East End
  3. Northside
  4. Southside
  5. Tutu
  6. Water Island
  7. West End
Sub-districts of Saint John:
  1. Central
  2. Coral Bay
  3. Cruz Bay
  4. East End

Transportation

See main article: Transportation on the United States Virgin Islands.

The Henry E. Rohlsen International Airport serves St. Croix and the Cyril E. King International Airport serves St. Thomas and St. John.The U.S. Virgin Islands are the only area of the United States which drives on the left. This was inherited from what was then-current Danish practice at the time of annexation, to limit losses of livestock. There are problems with this, though, as most cars on the road are left hand drive, and therefore the driver sits to the outside of the road. This is because nearly all automobiles are imported from the mainland United States.

Education

Virgin Islands Department of Education http://www.doe.vi/ serves as the territory's education agency.

Two school districts operate schools: St. Thomas-St. John School District http://www.sttj.k12.vi/ of St. Thomas and St. John and St. Croix School District of St. Croix. http://www.stx.k12.vi/

See also

External links

Government
General information
News media
Other

Notes and References

  1. Only US dependency to drive on the left.
  2. http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/2001/cb01cn172.html 2000 Population Counts for the U.S. Virgin Islands
  3. Web site: CANOE.ca. Slawych. Diane. Love is in the air. 2008-01-25.
  4. http://www.virgin-islands-history.dk/eng/vi_hist.asp A Brief History of the Danish West Indies, 1666-1917
  5. Poinski, Megan. "Water Island appears frozen in time, but big plans run under the surface - V.I. says land acquired from the feds is about to undergo large-scale improvements". The Virgin Islands Daily News, 18 November 2005, online edition. Retrieved 6 September 2007.