The Virgin Islands Lonely Planet Guide
The Virgin Islands of the United States is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States located immediately east of Puerto Rico More than 50 separate islands and cays constitute this westernmost group of the Lesser Antilles, only three have size and population of any significance: St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John The capital is Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas Current status
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Tickles Dockside Pub • Tickles website
Blackbeard’s Castle Downtown, near Parrotfish Music
European discovery of the islands occurred when Columbus first sighted Santa Cruz, now known as St. Croix Exploring further, he found the islands of St. Thomas, St. John, Tortola (part of what is now the British Virgin Islands), and others, and named them collectively Las Virgenes (a name that means the Virgins, supposedly for the 11,000 virgins of St. Ursula) In the 17th century, the islands became part of the colonial struggle waged by France, England, Spain, Holland, and Denmark, with the islands' sugar production the primary reason for controlling them Denmark chartered the Danish West Indian Company and began colonizing St. Thomas (1671) and then St. John (1684) Denmark purchased St. Croix from France in 1733and maintained control until 1917 Some history
As early as 1865, for strategic military reasons, the United States made overtures to acquire the islands. During World War I, fear that Germany might occupy the islands provided the final impetus for the United States to purchase the islands from Denmark, for $25 million on March 31, 1917. In 1927, Virgin Islanders were granted U.S. citizenship. Since 1970, they have elected their governor, lieutenant governor, and a 15-member legislature. Since 1973, the Virgin Islands have been represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by a nonvoting delegate. History continued
The only functioning governmental unit in the Virgin Islands is the territorial government. On October 11,1993, Virgin Islanders had the opportunity to consider changing the territory's relationship with the United States. Eighty percent voted to retain territorial status; however, the referendum was legally meaningless because more than 50 percent of the eligible voters had to participate, but only 27.4 percent did so. Government Trunk Bay, St. Thomas
Sugar production in the West Indies was an extremely lucrative affair. The sudden introduction of sugar to Europe created a great demand for this exotic new product. With this high demand and preciously small supply, the price of sugar was high, and the profit potential was enormous. Many of those involved in this new industry were able to accumulate great wealth and power. It has been said that the only present day business comparable to the sugar trade of the colonial days is drug trafficking. European colonial powers battled fiercely over control of the new colonies. Pirates and privateers infested the seas in an orgy of murder and plunder. Worst of all was the development of slavery as an institution in the Americas. Slave labor was employed for the exploitation, settlement, and development of the new territories. Slavery in Virgin Islands
Pirates….yes, of the Caribbean Anne Bonney Pirate she was! Blackbeard at his castle: St. Thomas
Slavery, con’t • The Danish government and the government-supported and subsidized Danish West India Company tried to encourage young Danes to emigrate to St. Thomas to labor on the plantations. Very few responded. • Prisoners were then brought over to work as indentured servants with the stipulation that they would receive their freedom after six years, though few would survive that long. Apart from this, indentured servitude was exactly the same as slavery. They lived, ate and worked with the slaves and were subject to the same arbitrary punishments. Their social position was of the lowest order and they were looked down upon by both Africans and Europeans. • The prisoners viewed emigration to the colonies as a death sentence. Their desperation and discontent resulted in mutinies and resistance. In response, the Danes began to place more emphasis on the importation of slave labor from Africa.
The first African slaves were brought to Hispaniola in 1502, and slavery was not completely abolished until the early twentieth century. During this roughly four hundred year span, it has been estimated that as many as 12 million Africans were unwillingly transported to the Americas. The institution of slavery that developed in the colonization of the Americas was, first and foremost, a business. It was characterized by the profit motive, greed, and lacked morality, compassion and human decency. The Europeans' need for cheap labor created the demand. The existence of slaves acquired through the persistent warring of African nations provided the supply. Thus, a market and trade for human beings was established.
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St. John • Population: c. 5000 • Size: 20 square miles • 7 miles long and 3 miles wide • Highest Point: 1,277 - Bordeaux Mountain
Slave revolt of 1733 • In 1733 there was a revolt on St. John against plantation owners and against slavery. On November 23rd, about 14 slaves entered Fortsberg with cane knives hidden in bundles of wood. They killed 6 out of 7 men in the garrison, took over the fort and fired one cannon to signal to the other slaves that the revolt had begun. • The events that lead up to the revolt included; the adoption of a harsh slave code, the arrival of an elite group of African tribal rulers who preferred death to life as slaves and a summer of natural disasters, including a drought, two hurricanes, insect plaque and the possibility of famine
The seven month revolt left many Europeans and Africans dead. The recorded population at the time of the revolt was 1295. That was 1087 slaves and 208 freemen. During the revolt almost a quarter of the island's population was killed and large plantations were destroyed. Many slaves killed themselves when they thought the soldiers were going to capture them. French and Swiss soldiers from a neighboring island came to the aid of the Danes and settled the revolt. The toll?
Quelbe • Bembe + quadrille = quelbe?? • Now the official music of the USVI. Adopted in 2003, December.
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What is Quelbe? • “It is a true, hybrid, Afro-Caribbean folk tradition of the Virgin Islands. • Take the quadrille, the European dance craze that started in the mid-1700’s in France and migrated to the new world by the mid-1800’s. • Add African percussion instruments, including banjos, gourds, triangles, and even a kitchen sink if it has good tone. • Mix well for the next hundred and fifty years along with the African spirit that led slaves to sing gossip in the streets (it is said that a good song could make it’s way from Christiansted to Frederiksted, a distance of over 18 miles, within 48 hours) and you have the core of quelbe music.” Peter Des Jardins, St. Croix
Slaves in the cane fields, when they wanted to talk to each other, would sing messages, news, gossip and other bits of information in a way that the slavemasters could not understand. They also used it to plan revolts. Quelbe music was a kind of “oral newspaper” used to spread gossip or share the day’s events. “Quelbe recorded the history of the day,” said Freeman. “If you did something controversial, you’d end up in a song.” One popular Quelbe song, LaBega Carousel, shares the story of a Puerto Rican man named LaBega who brought a carousel to St. Croix in the 1930s. LaBega believed laborers were not worthy of a pay raise, and the song, still popular today, suggests boycotting the carousel. Purpose historically
Basic message • I rather walk and drink rum whole night Before me go ride on LaBega Carousel You no hear what LaBega say, ‘The people no worth more than fifteen cent a day’I am walking, I am looking, I am begging Before me go ride on LaBega Carousel.