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What Should I Know About Saint Vincent and the Grenadines?

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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is an island nation in the Caribbean. It covers 150 square miles (390 sq. km), making it a bit more than twice as large as Washington, DC. The nation is made up of the island of Saint Vincent, and many of the islands in the Grenadine island chain. The remainder of the Grenadines belong to Grenada.

Like many of the Caribbean islands, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines underwent settlement many centuries before the arrival of the Europeans, ultimately winding up with a largely Carib population base. Throughout the 17th century the Caribs of Saint Vincent fought off Europeans who tried to land on their shores, avoiding the immediate fate of the neighboring islands of disease and slavery.

Escaped African slaves from nearby islands made their way to Saint Vincent before European control was established on the island, and intermarried with the local Caribs. By the early 18th century Carib resistance had been beaten down, and the French began to settle the islands, importing new African slaves to work a number of crops. Ownership of the islands bounced back and forth between the French and the British for a few decades, ultimately winding up under British rule in 1783.

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From the first half of the 19th century, with the abolition of slavery, Portuguese and East Indians began moving to the island to work the British plantations, forming sizable populations by the late 19th century. In the early 20th century the British created a legislative council, and in 1951 universal suffrage was declared. The British continued moving Saint Vincent and the Grenadines towards eventual independence, attempting to align the islands with other islands, as with the West Indies Federation. None of these alliances held, however. In 1969 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines were given statehood, making them substantially autonomous. Finally, in 1979, the nation finally gained independence, remaining a Commonwealth Realm with Queen Elizabeth II as Monarch.

Tourism is growing steadily in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the infrastructure is developing rapidly. A number of high-profile, wealthy Americans and Europeans have settled in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and there is definitely a luxury class here, with all the resulting accommodations and support structures. It’s still possible to travel here relatively cheaply, however, with enough small guest houses and hole-in-the-wall eateries to keep a backpacker as financially happy as they’re likely to be in most of the Caribbean.

Beautiful beaches, pristine waters, and steady temperatures year-round make Saint Vincent and the Grenadines an ideal place to just soak up the sun’s rays. The many islands in the Grenadines offer exciting opportunities for beauty as well, with green islands such as Bequia offering a great getaway from the already tranquil Saint Vincent. The Botanical Gardens on Saint Vincent date from 1763, making them the oldest in the region, and feature an astonishing array of local flora.

Saint Vincent can only be reached by air by first flying through a nearby island, usually either Saint Lucia, Grenada, Martinique, Barbados, or Trinidad. Reaching the island by ship is another fun way to arrive, with yachts making port at both Wallilabou Bay and Kingston.

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