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By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 4, 2003, 10:05
Saint Lucia is an island nation in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north of the islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and south of Martinique.
Arawak Amerindians first settled on the island in the 3rd century, while the Caribs later took over. European discovery of the island is somewhat vague, but it was probably discovered around 1500 by the Spanish explorer Juan de la Cosa. After some early failed attempts to settle there, the French and British fought over the island, with its fine natural harbor at Castries, during the 17th and 18th centuries (changing possession 14 times), until Britain finally obtained control in 1814. The island was granted self-government in 1967 and independence in February 22, 1979.
Being a Commonwealth Realm, the head of state of Saint Lucia is the British monarch, represented on the island by a Governor-General. Executive power, however, is in the hands of the prime minister and his cabinet. The prime minister is normally the head of the party winning the elections for the House of Assembly, which has 17 seats. The other chamber of parliament, the Senate, has 11 appointed members.
The volcanic island of Saint Lucia is more mountainous than many other Caribbean islands, with the highest point being Mount Gimie, at 950 m above sea level. Two other mountains, the Pitons, form the island's most famous landmark. They are located near Soufrière, on the western side of the island.
The capital city of Saint Lucia is Castries, where about one third of the population lives. Major towns include Gros Islet, Soufrière and Vieux Fort. The local climate is tropical, moderated by northeast trade winds, with a dry season from January to April and a rainy season from May to August.
The recent changes in the European Union import preference regime and the increased competition from Latin American bananas have made economic diversification increasingly important in Saint Lucia. The island nation has been able to attract foreign business and investment, especially in its offshore banking and tourism industries. The manufacturing sector is the most diverse in the Eastern Caribbean area, and the government is trying to revitalise the banana industry. Despite negative growth in 2001, economic fundamentals remain solid, and GDP growth should recover in the future.
The small population of Saint Lucia is mostly black or of mixed descent; just 1% are of European origin, with an East Indian minority of some 3%. The official language of the country is English, but a patois based mainly on French is also spoken. The majority of the population are Roman Catholics (ca. 90%); the rest are Anglicans (3%) or other Protestants (7%).
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