Saint Lucia is a sovereign island nation in the eastern Caribbean Sea, bordering the Atlantic Ocean. It is part of the Lesser Antilles and is located north/northeast of the island of St. Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers an area of 617 sq km (238.23 sq mi) and had a population of 165,595 at the 2010 census. Its capital is Castries.
The French were the first European settlers on the island. They signed a treaty with the Caribbean Indians in 1660. From 1663 to 1667, England took control of the island. In the following years, it was at war with France 14 times, and control of the island changed frequently (seven times it was under French and British control). In 1814, the British finally took control of the island. Because of the frequent changes between British and French control, St Lucia has been nicknamed “Helena of the West Indies”.
Representative government was introduced in 1840 (with universal suffrage from 1953). The island was a member of the West Indies Federation from 1958 to 1962. On 22 February 1979, Saint Lucia became an independent state of the Commonwealth of Nations, associated with the United Kingdom. Saint Lucia is a mixed jurisdiction, which means that its legal system is partly based on English common law and civil law. The Civil Code of Saint Lucia of 1867 is based on the Civil Code of Quebec of 1866, supplemented by English common law legislation. It is also a member of La Francophonie.
Tourism is vital to the economy of Saint Lucia. Its economic importance is expected to increase further as the banana market becomes more competitive. Tourism is most important during the dry season (January to April). St Lucia is popular for its tropical climate and landscape, as well as its many beaches and resorts.
Other tourist attractions include an open-air volcano, Sulphur Springs (in Soufriere), botanical gardens, the majestic twin peaks “The Pitons”, a World Heritage Site, rainforests and Pigeon Island National Park, home to Fort Rodney, a former British military base.
The majority of tourists visit Saint Lucia on a cruise. They spend most of their time in Castries, but Soufriere, Marigot Bay and Gros Islet are also popular destinations.
The volcanic island of St Lucia is more mountainous than most Caribbean islands. The highest point is Mount Gimie, which is 950 metres above sea level. Two other mountains, the Pitons, are the island’s most famous landmarks. They are located between Soufriere and Choiseul on the western side of the island. Saint Lucia is also one of the few islands in the world to have an open-air volcano.
The capital of Saint Lucia is Castries (60,263 inhabitants), where 32.4% of the population live. The main towns are Gros Islet, Soufrière and Vieux Fort.
Saint Lucia had a population of 165,595 in the 2010 census. In 2015, the United Nations Population Division estimated Saint Lucia’s population at 184,999. The country’s population is evenly split between urban and rural areas, with more than a third living in the capital, Castries.
Despite a high rate of emigration, the population is growing rapidly at about 1.2 per cent per year. Emigration from St Lucia is mainly to English-speaking countries, with the United Kingdom receiving almost 10,000 St Lucian-born citizens and over 30,000 people of St Lucian origin. The second most popular destination for Saint Lucian emigrants is the United States, where nearly 14,000 people (both foreign and local) live. A few thousand Saint Lucians live in Canada.
The population of Saint Lucia is predominantly of African and mixed African and European origin, with a small Indian-Caribbean minority (3%). Members of other and unspecified ethnic groups make up about 2% of the population.
About 70 % of the population is Roman Catholic, a legacy of the French colonisation of the island. The remaining 30 % belong to other Christian denominations, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church (7 %), Pentecostals (6 %), Anglicans (2 %) and other Evangelicals (2 %); in addition, about 2 % of the population belong to the Rastafarian movement.
An educated workforce and improved roads, communications, water, sanitation and port facilities have attracted foreign investment in tourism and oil storage and handling. However, with the United States, Canada and Europe in recession, tourism experienced a double-digit decline in early 2009. Recent changes in the European Union’s import preference regime and increasing competition from Latin American bananas have made economic diversification increasingly important in Saint Lucia.
St Lucia has been successful in attracting foreign business and investment, particularly in offshore banking and tourism, which are St Lucia’s main sources of income. The manufacturing sector is the most diversified in the Eastern Caribbean and the government is trying to revive the banana industry. Despite negative growth in 2011, economic fundamentals remain strong and GDP growth is expected to recover in the future.
Inflation has been relatively low, averaging 5.5% between 2006 and 2008. Saint Lucia’s currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$), a regional currency shared by members of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECU). The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCL) issues the EC$, manages monetary policy, and regulates and supervises commercial banking activities in member countries. In 2003, the government began a major restructuring of the economy, including the removal of price controls and the privatisation of the state-owned banana company.