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The first residents of the present United States Virgin Islands (USVI) were the Ciboney, Caribs, and Arawaks. In 1493, Christopher Columbus visited these islands. He had been searching for a route to India and consequently he called the people he encountered Indians. Columbus named the beautiful islands 'The Virgins' in reference to the legendary beauty of St. Ursula and her 11,000 virgins.
The period after Columbus' visit was quiet as far as exploration and colonization is concerned. Explorers as late as 1587 reported evidence of Indian habitation however settlers by 1625 reported not finding Indians. It is believed that Spanish settlers on nearby Puerto Rico raided the islands on a regular basis. Some Indians were forced to work while others fled. Indian groups lived throughout the Caribbean, however European exploration and colonization brought demise to the indigenous groups. They had no immunity to European diseases and were not prepared to deal with the harsh labor they were forced into. Within several decades following colonization of the Caribbean, Indian populations had plummeted. Today they are found on reserved lands on only a few islands. They no longer exist in what is today the USVI.
St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John
In the early 1600s many countries took interest in the Caribbean and in "the Virgins"; Holland, France, England, Spain, Denmark and the Knights of Malta all sought colonies. England and Holland colonized and jointly inhabited St. Croix in the 1620s. The neighboring Spanish on Puerto Rico invaded the small colony; the French then quickly moved in, removing the Spanish and taking over themselves. St. Croix remained a French colony until 1733.
The Danish West India Company first attempted to settle St. Thomas in 1665. They successfully established a settlement on St. Thomas in 1672 consisting of 113 inhabitants. They expanded and settled on St. John in 1694. The Danish had claimed St. John as early as the 1680's, however hostility from the neighboring British on Tortola prevented the Danes from establishing a settlement. The British, in order to maintain hospitable relations with Denmark, eventually ceased their opposition. After the Danes settled St. John plantation agriculture developed rapidly.
The Danish West Indian Company purchased St. Croix from the French in 1733 bringing St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John together as the Danish West Indies.
Slave Trade and Piracy
In 1685, the Danish government signed a treaty with the Dutch of Brandenburg. This treaty allowed the Brandenburg American Company to establish a slave-trading post on St. Thomas. Early governors also approved of St. Thomas becoming a pirates' safe haven. The governors realized an influx of pirates would benefit local merchants. While piracy ceased to be a factor in the island's economy in the early 1800s, the slave trade continued.
In the Danish West Indies slaves labored mainly on sugar plantations. Cotton, indigo and other crops were also grown. Sugar mills and plantations dotted the islands hilly landscapes. Each islands economy prospered through sugar plantations and slave trading. While St. John and St. Croix maintained a plantation economy, St. Thomas developed into a prosperous center of trade. Slave rebellion on St. John and St. Croix are well documented. Legitimate trade and business on St. Thomas influenced a different society where many more slaves were given freedom and an opportunity outside of plantation life.
A July 2, 1848 rebellion on St. Croix, where some 5,000 blacks were free while another 17,000 remained enslaved, prompted liberal governor Peter von Scholten to declare what he had long pressed for, that all unfree in the Danish West Indies were from that day free. While his proclamation was in direct contradiction of the King's orders and while plantation owners refused to accept the proclamation, slavery was abolished on July 3rd, 1848.
Strict labor laws were implemented several times after emancipation and the populous reacted in tense labor riots. Planters began to abandon their estates and the population and economy in the islands declined. The islands and its residents fell on rough times in the late 1800s due to the poor economy and numerous natural disasters.
The islands remained under Danish rule until 1917, when the United States purchased them for $25 million in gold in an effort to improve military positioning during critical times of World War I. St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John became the US Virgin Islands.
While conditions improved, change came slowly and frustrations brewed. Residents felt deceived when they were not granted American citizenship immediately following the transfer and disappointment also existed in that the islands were run by Naval administrators and appointed officials.
The Military and the Interior Departments managed the territory until the passage of the Organic Act in 1936. Today the USVI is a U.S. territory, run by an elected governor. The territory is under the jurisdiction of the president of the United States of America and residents are American citizens.
In 1956 Laurance Rockefeller gave the National Park Service a generous gift of 5,000 acres of land on St. John. This gift along with subsequent additions have increased the holdings. Today almost two thirds of St. John's beautiful forest, shorelines and underwater lands are protected by the Park. Historical and marine treasures on St. Croix including Buck Island are also protected by the Park Service, as are portions of Hassell Island.
Water Island: The 4th Virgin Island
In 1996 Water Island, located in St. Thomas' Charlotte Amalie harbor, was officially returned to the USVI from the Department of the Interior. Today Water Island is the fourth United States Virgin Island.
In the mid 1900s the Virgin Islands saw the dawn of new times, more prosperous times. Tourist seeking the the warmth, beauty and relaxation the USVI offers, vacationed in the islands. Hotels, restaurants and shops began popping up on beachfront properties and in main towns. With the rise in business and economy came a rise in the population as immigrants from neighboring islands flocked to the USVI to work. Today the population of the USVI is made up of people from all over the Caribbean. The islands entered the new millennium as one of the premiere destinations for tourist visiting the Caribbean.
The usual activities can be found in USVI.
St. Thomas combines the natural beauty of the islands with a cosmopolitan atmosphere. Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands, is one of the most
beautiful harbors in the world and the most visited port in the Caribbean.
Elegant dining, exciting nightlife, and world-class duty-free shopping are
abundant in Charlotte Amalie. The city's reputation as the shopping
mecca of the Caribbean draws visitors from all over the region and around
A mountainous island, St. Thomas offers stunning vistas in almost every
direction. While Charlotte Amalie is full of energy, St. Thomas also
provides natural wonders such as the indescribably beautiful Magens Bay and stunning views of the Caribbean from 1,500 feet above sea level. Drake's Seat is particularly famous for its vistas.
Sports and activities are abundant on St. Thomas. Golf enthusiasts will enjoy the George and Tom Fazio-designed Mahogany Run course. St. Thomas is also well known for its world-class yachting and sportfishing.
Just a twenty-minute ferry ride from St. Thomas, St. John offers visitors a different world. St. John's most famous attraction, the Virgin Islands National Park, comprises about 9,500 acres of rolling green hills and an underwater reserve. Laurance Rockefeller's vision for the island more than 40 years ago has shaped the tranquil, easygoing, and environmental consciousness the island is know for today.
Since more than one-third of the national parkland is underwater, snorkeling, scuba diving, and sailing are popular activities on St. John. An underwater trail at Trunk Bay provides some of the best snorkeling in the Caribbean. The Reef Bay Trail in the national park offers hiking past natural beauty, plantation ruins, and well-preserved petroglyphs. For those less inclined to walk, tours by bus or by car are readily available. If you're just looking for peace and quiet, you'll find it on beaches including Hawksnest Bay, Trunk Bay, and Cinnamon Bay. Back in Cruz Bay, you can enjoy colorful shopping, excellent restaurants, and lively nightlife.
Visitors interested in the history of the island should visit the Elaine lone Sprauve Library and Museum, the Ivan Jadan Museum, or the Annaberg Sugar Plantation, a Danish sugar estate built in the early 1700s.
Much of St. Croix is as unspoiled as the day Christopher Columbus landed here more than 500 years ago. Gentle hills, turquoise waters, and quaint old towns await you upon your arrival. The main towns of Christiansted and Frederiksted boast numerous historic buildings, colorful shops, and fine restaurants along their wide streets. Historic churches still remain from the days when the towns were prosperous commercial ports.
Buck Island Underwater National Park is one of St. Croix's most popular attractions, boasting 704 acres of clear water and healthy coral reefs. Estate Whim Plantation, the Cruzan Rum Factory, and casinos are the other popular attractions on the island. Visitors to St. Croix should also take advantage of the Heritage Trail tour, in which you'll visit important landmarks in the island's rich history. Golfers will enjoy the Carambola Golf Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, the Buccaneer Resort's Bob Joyce-designed par-70 course, and the nine-hole Reef Golf Course on Teaque Bay.
Other activities and attractions for visitors include the Divi Carina Bay Casino, the St. Croix Aquarium, St. George Village Botanical Gardens, scuba diving, horseback riding, biking, and duty-free shopping.
One of the first questions poised by many who consider relocating to the islands is the possibility of landing a job in the US Virgin islands. This question takes many different forms because there are those who only wish a very unskilled type job to finance a temporary stay in the islands. Then there are those who wish to make the move for the adventure of residing in what is perceived as a magical location and the quality of Caribbean job they might obtain is completely secondary to just being able to emerge in the islands climate and beauty and culture to facilitate a personal life-style. Many families think of making the move as a life experience for them and their children and in this case the quality of Caribbean job is a little more important than the more casual approach of a new graduate or a single person trying a new life-style. Usually professional level caribbean job seekers are more discriminating in job objectives and therefore one might think the USVI job market would be more difficult.
In truth, there are usually USVI jobs of all types available in the USVI but it can be said in general that the pay scales will be below what you will expect on the mainland. It is also true that getting a job in the Virgin Islands is a completely different task than using the approach one would use on the mainland. There are certain professions, such as teachers and nursing that is just continually in demand in the islands but there are challenges in these fields that need to be carefully studied. Other professions are available but it is most often difficult getting a line on these USVI jobs unless you have the appropriate approach. In seeking any of these USVI jobs one must be prepared for the cultural differences you will encounter.
With your Island News subscriber kit you will be furnished a data sheet on the art of getting a job in the U.S. Virgin Islands, plus we keep our readers briefed on changes in the economy of the islands on an ongoing basis. Many times our subscribers are lead to work opportunities just through the information that comes as part of each issue of the publication. As a subscriber to Island News you are plugged into this type of information that is simply not available through any other source.
While the USVI job market in the islands in 2003 is no panacea, there are still possibilites so long as one is willing to downscale pay levels.