United States Virgin Islands


United States Virgin Islands

Organized unincorporated U.S. island territory, West Indies. Part of the Virgin Islands chain, it consists of the islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas and about 50 small islets. Area: 136 sq mi (353 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 115,000. Capital: Charlotte Amalie. The great majority of the population is of African descent; most of the remainder are Hispanic (mainly Puerto Rican) or recent immigrants from the U.S. The people are U.S. citizens and elect a nonvoting representative to the U.S. House of Representatives, but they do not vote in U.S. national elections. Languages: English (official), French, Spanish. Religion: Christianity (mainly Protestant; also Roman Catholic, other Christians). The islands are hilly and surrounded by coral reefs. Tourism dominates the economy. The islands probably were originally settled by Arawak Indians but were inhabited by the Carib by the time Christopher Columbus landed on St. Croix in 1493. St. Croix was occupied by the Dutch, English, French, and Spanish and at one time was owned by the Knights of Malta. Denmark occupied St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix and established them as a Danish colony in 1754. The U.S. purchased the Danish West Indies in 1917 for $25 million and changed the name to the Virgin Islands. They were administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior from 1931. In 1954 the Organic Act of the Virgin Islands created the current governmental structure, and in 1970 the first popularly elected governor took office. The area suffered extensive damage by a major hurricane in 1995.

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