St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is a multi-island, southern Caribbean country. With lush tropical vegetation and sandy beaches, it is a popular holiday destination.
Let’s have a look at the top 10 most interesting facts about SVG.
St. Vincent and the Grenadine facts
1. Columbus was the first European to discover St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Columbus discovered the islands of SVG in 1498. He named the main island after the Spanish saint, St. Vincent of Saragossa. The thirty-two smaller islands he called “Grenadines,” the Spanish for pomegranate because their geography is reminiscent of the distribution of pomegranate seeds. (Pomegranates don’t grow on SVG, an interesting fact about Saint Vincent and Grenadines).
2. The native people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines may have been cannibals.
The native Island Caribs aggressively defended their islands against European settlement. The Spanish painted them as savage cannibals. There is evidence that they took human trophies and that there might have been ritualized cannibalism of war captives. It is also possible that the reports were fictional or exaggerated to justify the killing of the local population by colonizers. Many Caribs died from European diseases like smallpox to which they had no natural immunity. After unsuccessful attempts by the English and Dutch, the French eventually colonized the islands in 1719. They brought African slaves with them to work the plantations, and these slaves mingled with the Caribs producing offspring who became known as “Black Caribs.”
3. The British abolished slavery in 1834.
The British eventually claimed SVG from the French in 1763, then lost it again briefly, and regained it twenty years later. They also brought African slaves with them, but in 1834 they abolished slavery in all the British West Indian colonies. Indentured laborers arrived to take the place of the slaves – first from Madeira, Portugal, and later from India. Conditions were harsh, and depressed sugar prices resulted in many landowners abandoning their plantations to be run by the freed slaves.
4. Fort Charlotte still stands today.
Between 1763 and 1806, the British used slave labor to build a fort north of the capital city, Kingstown. It was intended to fight sea advances by the French as well as internal Carib and slave uprisings. It was named after the wife of King George III, Queen Charlotte. At the time, it housed 600 troops and more than 30 cannons. The fort still stands today and can be visited, an interesting Saint Vincent and Grenadines fact.
5. St. Vincent and the Grenadines attained independence on October 27, 1979.
The islands went through various stages of colonization under the British, including attempts to consolidate the British territories into a single federation for ease of administration (all of which failed). In 1969, it was awarded “associate statehood,” which gave it full control of its internal affairs, and in 1979, it finally attained complete independence. It chose to remain within the Commonwealth and be ruled by a Governor-General with the Queen as head of state, and a Westminster-style democracy.
6. The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Botanical Gardens is possibly the oldest botanical garden in the tropics.
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Botanical Gardens in Kingstown, St. Vincent, is one of the oldest in the western hemisphere, and possibly the oldest in the tropics. The garden was conceived in 1763 by Robert Melville, the governor of the southern British Caribbean islands, and George Young, the military surgeon in St. Vincent. At the time, there was great interest in commercial plants from the West Indies, especially those with medicinal properties. But interest dwindled in the 19th century, and by 1850, the garden was in a state of neglect. It wasn’t until 1884 that local interests revived it, and today it is one of the most visited sights on St. Vincent.
7. Captain Bligh brought breadfruit to the islands.
A fun fact about Saint Vincent and Grenadines is that Captain William Bligh introduced 66 species of the nutritious and quick-growing breadfruit to SVG on January 23, 1793. Breadfruit and other plants were brought from Tahiti to the West Indies as food for the slave labor. Bligh’s first attempt at the mission was on the HMS Bounty. It failed due to the infamous mutiny mounted by Christian Fletcher. The captain’s extraordinary journey home won him the trust and respect of his superiors, and he was sent back on the HMS Providence – this time completing his mission.
8. There is an active volcano on the island of St. Vincent.
La Soufriere, meaning “Sulphur Mine” in French, is an active volcano on St. Vincent island. At 4,049 feet, it the highest point in the country. It erupted in 1718, 1812, 1902, 1971, and 1979. The famous painter, J. M. W. Turner, painted a scene depicting the 1812 eruption which is housed in the Victoria Gallery & Museum at the University of Liverpool. The 1902 eruption killed approximately 1600 people, most of whom where Carib. It effectively destroyed the last significant example of the Carib culture. The 1971 eruption was quite mild, and the 1979 eruption was identified early enough to evacuate residents and prevent casualties.
9. St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a financial secrecy law.
The Preservation of Confidential Relationships (International Finance) Act of 1996 makes SVG one of only three countries that prohibit the disclosure of confidential information to other jurisdictions. Release of information is only permitted in the event of a criminal matter (in terms of St. Vincent & the Grenadines law as well as that of the foreign jurisdiction). Infringements of tax codes or revenue collection do not qualif, a fun Saint Vincent and Grenadines fact. Non-residents can easily open bank accounts, and fees are low.
10. LGBT rights are non-existent.
Homosexuality is illegal in terms of SVG law, and same-sex acts are punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment (although the law is not actively enforced.) Same-sex marriage is not recognized, and the law does not address discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. In 2018, non-governmental organization, The Human Rights Watch, urged all Eastern Caribbean nations to repeal sexually discriminatory colonial legislation.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines is more than just an island paradise. I hope that this article on Saint Vincent and Grenadines facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!