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St Lucia country profile

Map of St Lucia
[BBC]

Tourism is the main source of income for St Lucia and the industry is its biggest employer.

The tropical eastern Caribbean island boasts beaches, mountains, exotic plants and the Qualibou volcano with its boiling sulphur springs.

Before the visitor influx, banana exports sustained St Lucia, especially after 1964 when it stopped producing sugar cane.

Crops such as mangoes and avocados are also grown, but bananas are the biggest source of foreign exchange after tourism.

Most St Lucians are the descendants of African slaves, brought in by the British in the 19th Century to work on sugar plantations.

Although St Lucia is a former British colony, the French settled in the 17th Century. Their influence lives on in the patois spoken in the country.

ST LUCIA: FACTS

  • Capital: Castries

  • Area: 617 sq km

  • Population: 184,900

  • Languages: English, St Lucian Creole

  • Life expectancy: 71 years (men) 77 years (women)

LEADERS

Head of state: Charles III, represented by a governor-general

Prime Minister: Philip Joseph Pierre

St. Lucia's Prime Minister Philip Joseph Pierre
[Getty Images]

Philip Joseph Pierre was sworn in prime minister on 29 July 2021, after his St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) won a clear victory in a general election

The SLP won 13 of the 17 seats while the outgoing United Workers Party lost nine of its eleven seats. It was the fourth consecutive election in which the incumbent government lost.

MEDIA

St Lucia's Pitons
The area around the Pitons, two volcanic landmarks, is a Unesco World Heritage Site that includes hot springs, corals and subtropical rainforest [Getty Images]

St Lucia's newspapers and broadcasters are mainly privately-owned and carry a range of views.

TIMELINE

1758, Bellin Map of Saint Lucia, Sainte Lucie, West Indies
1758 French map of Saint Lucia [Getty Images]

Some key dates in St Lucia's history:

200-400AD - Island settled by Arawaks, believed to have come from northern South America, who call the island Iouanalao or "Land of the Iguanas"

1502 - St Lucia possibly sighted by Christopher Columbus, though he does not mention the island in his log.

1520 - A globe in the Vatican shows the island as Sancta Lucia, supporting a Spanish claim to the island.

1550s - French pirate François le Clerc, or Jambe de Bois due to his wooden leg, sets up camp and attacks passing Spanish ships.

1605 - An English ship on route to Guyana is blown off course. The colonists on board attempt to settle but are soon attacked and driven off by the natives.

1638 - The English again attempt to settle.

1650 - France claims the island.

1660 - The French sign a treaty with the indigenous Carib people.

1664 - English again claim the island but leave in 1666.

1667 - France gains full control of the island under the Treaty of Breda, which ends the Second Anglo-Dutch War between England, the Dutch Republic and Denmark-Norway.

1674 - Saint Lucia is made a French crown colony.

18th Century - With the development of the slave-based sugar industry developed, the British and the French compete for control. The island repeatedly changes ownership, although the French settlements remain.

1756-63 - Seven Years War. Britain occupies the island for a year, but hands it back to France at the end of the war under the Treaty of Paris.

1778 - Battle of St Lucia: During the American Revolutionary War, French and British navies and troops clash as the French attempt to take over British colonies in the Caribbean. The French fail and the island surrenders to the British.

1789 - French Revolution. The island changes hands numerous times until Britain gains control in 1803.

1782 - Battle of the Saintes: A British naval squadron, based in St Lucia, defeats a French fleet off Dominica, ending a Spanish and French bid to invade Jamaica during the American Revolutionary War.

1814 - France cedes St Lucia to Britain following the Treaty of Paris; Britain proclaims the island a crown colony.

1834 - Slavery abolished.

1939-45 - Second World War: A German U-boat sinks two ships in Castries harbour in 1942. The US establishes two military bases on the island.

1951 - Universal suffrage introduced.

1958-62 - St Lucia is part of the sort-lived West Indies Federation.

1967 - St Lucia becomes self-governing in internal affairs, with Britain remaining in charge of external matters and defence.

1979 - St Lucia becomes independent.

1992 - Derek Walcott, a native of the capital, Castries, wins the Nobel Prize for literature.

2002 - Tropical Storm Lili destroys about half of the banana crop. In some places entire plantations are wiped out.

2003 - Parliament amends constitution to replace oath of allegiance to British monarch with pledge of loyalty to St Lucians.

2007 - St Lucia restores political ties with Taiwan.

2023 - St Lucia and Venezuela sign agreements to deepen their existing political ties, and to develop economic and air transport links.

Castries, the capital of St Lucia
The capital Castries, which has a natural deep water harbour, is a key stop-off point for cruise liners [Getty Images]