Our Christmas cruise took us to three islands similar in many ways but also very different. They are geographically close, in the eastern Caribbean near South America. They were created by volcanoes, are small in size and population, and gained independence relatively recently. But St. Maartin, St. Lucia and St. Kitts are each very distinct.
St. Lucia has about 238 square miles and is quite rugged. Approximately 170,000 people live on the island. The island switched hands between the French and the English fourteen times before the English took firm control in 1814, and became an independent state in the Commonwealth in 1979.
There is very little flat land for agriculture, and a large banana cooperative has found it hard to compete with Central America. Mount Gimie, at 3120 feet above sea level, is the highest point. But two other sharply conical mountains, the Pitons, are the most famous landmarks.
English is the official language and the official currency is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (EC$). However most of the population speaks Creole, a mix of English, French, Dutch and several other languages, and the U.S. dollar is widely accepted.
Sir Arthur Lewis won the 1979 Nobel Prize for economics; Derek Walcott received the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature. Both were born on January 23, though years apart. And together they give St. Lucia the highest ratio of Nobel Laureates to overall population in the world.
The country is working hard to develop tourism and industry, but it is still very poor with a per capita GDP of about 5500 U.S. dollars in 2009 (The U.S. per capita GDP is over $47,000). Not surprisingly, we were warned about crime and cautioned not to wander from the main areas. Nonetheless, it is a beautiful island and there are some beautiful resorts with a little less crowding than in St. Maartin/St. Martin.