U.S. Virgin Islands

Geography & Population of U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands is an organized and unincorporated territory of the United States, located 40 miles east of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.  The U.S. Virgin Islands consists of three main islands, Saint Thomas, Saint Croix, and Saint John, but also contains smaller islands in its surroundings.

The total land area of the island is only 133.73 square miles.  The U.S. Virgin Islands has a current total population of 104,909.  The capital and largest city of the U.S.V.I. is Charlotte Amalie, with approximately 20,000 people.

The U.S. Virgin Islands are known for their white sand beaches as well as the acres of coral reefs that surround the islands.  The landscape, much like other islands in the Caribbean, is not only coastal but also mountainous as well.  Due to the location of the island between the Caribbean and North American tectonic plates, as well as the tropical climate, the island is heavily susceptible to hurricanes and earthquakes.

History of U.S. Virgin Islands

Indigenous groups such as the Arawaks, Cariv, and Ciboney first inhabited the U.S. Virgin Islands.  However, the U.S. Virgin Islands got their names from renowned explorer Christopher Columbus in 1493.  For the next two centuries, many European powers would fight over the islands, including those of Great Britain, Spain, France, Norway, the Netherlands, and Denmark.

In the late 17th century, the Danish West India Company settled on Saint Thomas and, half a century later, purchased Saint Croix from France.  Sugarcane plantations brought slaves from Africa in the early 18th century.  Slavery was eventually abolished on the island on July 3rd, 1848.

The U.S. purchased the islands from Denmark during WWI, as it feared Germany would use the islands for submarine warfare.  The acquisition cost 25 million dollars at the time.  On March 31st, 1917, the U.S. officially took possession of the islands and granted U.S. citizenship to the people in 1927.

Facts About U.S. Virgin Islands

The main elements of the U.S. Virgin Island’s economy account for nearly 60% of the country’s GDP.  The sectors include service-oriented industries, tourism, and trade.  An estimated 2.5 million tourists visit the islands every year, with many of them arriving on cruise ships.  The islands are also a popular starting point for yachts.

Although most food is imported to the islands, rum distilling is one sector that is manufactured on the island.

Due to the colonization history of the islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands culture is a unique blend, with influences from West Africa, America, and Europe, especially from the Dutch, French, and Danish.   English is the most common language spoken on the islands, with Spanish following behind at 17%.  Creole, a French-derived dialect, influences the English spoken on the islands.  Although Denmark controlled the islands, very few groups of people spoke Danish, and it is a tiny minority of people who speak it today.  However, it is still common to see the Danish influence in the names of buildings, streets, and people’s names and surnames.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Virgin Islands have been struggling in the past year with a whopping debt of $2 billion.  Also, Hurricane Maria had a significant impact on the islands, causing devastating, widespread damage.