Virgin Islands: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the Virgin Islands, information, history size, location, population, people, culture, and government.

Virgin Islands

American Virgins: Size--133 sq. mi. (344 sq. km.). Population--80,000. British Virgins: Size--59 sq. mi. (153 sq. km.). Population--12,000.

The Virgins are a group of almost 100 islands east of Puerto Rico, between the Caribbean and the Atlantic. There are 7 main islands, 3 U.S. (St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John) and 4 British (Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegad, Jost Van Dyke). The American Virgins were purchased from Denmark in 1917 for $25 million for use as a naval base when the U.S. feared that the Germans might seize them and then move on to the Panama Canal. The British Virgins fell into English hands in 1666 when British buccaneers drove out the Dutch and claimed the islands for Charles II. Tourism, the mainstay of the economy, experienced a serious decline following a series of slayings and crimes in 1973 and 1974 that appeared to be racially motivated. However, the industry seems to have recovered. "Crucians" (or Cruzans), native-born blacks, are a minority numbering about 25%. "Down-islanders," English-speaking blacks from other Caribbean islands, number about 33%. Forty percent of the population are Spanish-speaking, mainly from Puerto Rico. A tiny number of "continentals," U.S. whites, generally dominate the economy. American Virgin Islanders are U.S. citizens, but they are not allowed to vote in national elections and they have no representative in Congress.

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