Saint Kitts and Nevis, two of the Eastern Caribbean arc of islands, arose from the volcanic eruptions and geological upheavals associated with the convergence of the Caribbean and Atlantic plates of the earth's moving crust. Volcanoes and earthquakes are therefore their legacy and their destiny.
The islands also lie in the pathways of the seasonal hurricanes spawned off the coast of Africa on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Towering mountains, thickly forested above 2,000 feet – three in Saint Kitts, one in Nevis – dominate their landscapes. In Saint Kitts the lower land is composed for the most part of easily worked sandy loams; while in Nevis, the soils are, for the most part, clayey and stony.
Saint Kitts, the larger of the two islands, enjoys a relatively ample supply of fresh water, easily accessed from mountain springs; while in Nevis water has to be won by the public drilling of wells and the private catchment of the rain. Interestingly, the deep subterranean lakes of water in Nevis appear to hold exploitable reserves of thermal energy which can potentially yield tremendous economic benefits.
Its strategic location made Saint Kitts a colonial hotspot and a focus point of European nations in their struggle for power over the West Indian islands.
The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis also known as the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis), located in the Leeward Islands, is the smallest sovereign state in the Americas, in both area and population. The total area is 261 sq km (104 sq miles) and the population is just over 51,000 individuals.
The capital city Basseterre is located in Saint Kitts. The smaller island of Nevis lies about 2 miles (3 km) southeast of Saint Kitts, across a shallow channel called "The Narrows".
The highest peak, at 1,156 metres, is Mount Liamuiga. There is also a smaller uninhabited island called Booby Island. The islands are of volcanic origin, with large central peaks covered in tropical rainforest; the steeper slopes leading to these peaks are sparsley populated.
The majority of the population on both islands lives closer to the sea where the terrain flattens out. There are numerous rivers descending from the mountains of both islands, which provide fresh water to the local population.
Historically, the British dependency of Anguilla was also a part of this union, which was then known collectively as Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla. Saint Kitts and Nevis are geographically part of the Leeward Islands. Saint Kitts and Nevis were among the first islands in the Caribbean to be settled by Europeans. Saint Kitts was home to the first English and French colonies in the Caribbean, and thus has also been titled "The Mother Colony of the West Indies".
The first English colonists kept the English translation of this name, and dubbed it "Saint Christopher's Island". In the 17th century Kit, or Kitt, was a common nickname for the name Christopher, and so the island was often informally referred to as "Saint Kitt's island," which was further shortened to "Saint Kitts." Today, the Constitution refers to the state as both "Saint Kitts and Nevis" and "Saint Christopher and Nevis" but the former is the one most commonly used.
When invader Christopher Columbus came to the island its inhabitants were mainly the Kalinago people (Carib Indians). It is said that in 1493 Christopher Columbus ‘discovered’ the islands. In 1538, French Huguenots established a settlement on St. Kitts. In 1623, an English settlement was established, which was soon followed by other French settlements. In 1626, the Anglo-French settlers massacred nearly all the Kalinago People.
The island of Nevis was colonised in 1628 by English settlers from Saint Kitts which became the hub of English and French expansions. A Spanish expedition, sent to enforce Spanish claims, occupied both islands and deported the English and French settlers back to their respective countries in 1629. However, they soon returned and re-established their colonies. During the late 17th and early 18th century, France and Spain battled for control over the island until it was ceded to the British in 1713.
Saint Kitts and Nevis are separated by two miles (3 km) of water. The islands were governed as different states until the late 19th century, when they were forcibly unified along with the island of Anguilla by the British. Anguillians defied being linked to Saint Kitts and Nevis and in 1971 it formally separated.
Saint Kitts and Nevis achieved independence in 1983. It is the youngest sovereign state in the Americas. In August 1998, a vote in Nevis on a referendum to separate from St. Kitts fell short of the two-thirds majority needed.
The country gained its independence from the United Kingdom on September 19, 1983, however, as a member of the British Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state, represented by a Governor-General, who acts on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
The Prime Minister is the leader of the majority party of the House, and the cabinet conducts affairs of state. Saint Kitts and Nevis has a unicameral legislature, known as the National Assembly. It is composed of fourteen members: eleven elected Representatives and three Senators who are appointed by the Governor-General. Two of the senators are appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister, and one on the advice of the leader of the opposition.
Senators do not constitute a separate Senate or upper house of parliament, they sit in the National Assembly alongside representatives. All members serve five-year terms. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are responsible to the Parliament –The National Assembly is the Parliament of Saint Kitts and Nevis. The federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis is divided into fourteen parishes: nine divisions on Saint Kitts and five on Nevis.
Tourism is now the main contributor to the economy. This sector of the economy is steadily increasing, thereby, leading to developments in the construction and service industries. Sugar plantations are burned to make room for land development.
Since the 1970s, tourism has replaced sugar as the traditional mainstay of the economy. Following the 2005 harvest, the government closed the sugar industry after several decades of losses. To compensate for lost jobs, the government has embarked on a program to diversify the agricultural sector and to stimulate other sectors of the economy, such as export-oriented manufacturing and offshore banking.
GDP composition per sector
Services: 74.7% (2011 est.)
The total GDP is US $886.2 million (2011 est.) : Per Capita $15,800 (2011.)
Saint Kitts and Nevis is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
Education & Demographics
There are eight public secondary level schools and several private secondary schools.
As of July 2011, there were 50,726 inhabitants; their average life expectancy was 72.4 years. The population mix comprises:
African descent 75.1%
East Indian and Afro-East Indian 5%
South Asian ethnic groups 3%.
The capital, Basseterre has about 13,000 individuals living there.
Nationality : Kittitian and Nevisian
Official Language : English is the official language of Saint Kitts and Nevis. However, the Creole language is also spoken. The Caribbean creole has its roots in African languages (west, central and Nigerian), standard English, Scottish, Spanish, Perso-Arabic, and Sanskrit. The influence of the French, Irish, and Caribs is less evident.
Religion: Anglican, other Protestant, and Roman Catholic are the major religions. The people of Saint Kitts and Nevis are devoutly religious. Several historic Anglican churches remain on Nevis, and fifty percent of the country's population still practices the religion.
The Mongoose Play, is a popular production of folk theatre and music. The play is based around a battle against mongooses (mongeese) which threatened the island's chickens, an important food source. They were imported to help with the eradication of rats and snakes. The Mongoose Play includes dance and music performed by costumed masqueraders.
Saint Kitts and Nevis is popular for a number of celebrations including Carnival (18 December to 3 January on Saint Kitts). The last week in June features the St Kitts Music Festival.
Each year – July/August – Nevisians celebrate their heritage during Culturama. Nevisians from all over the world return to celebrate this festival annually.
The festivities include music, food, parties, and concerts through downtown Charlestown. Other festivals include Inner City Fest, in February in Molineaux; Green Valley Festival, usually around Whit Monday in village of Cayon; Easterama, around Easter in village of Sandy Point; Fest-Tab, in July or August in the village of Tabernacle; and La festival de Capisterre, around Independence Day in Saint Kitts and Nevis (19 September), in the Capisterre region.
These celebrations typically feature parades, street dances and salsa, jazz, soca, calypso and steelpan music.
Cricket is a common sport in Saint Kitts and Nevis. The late Runako Morton, was one of the most notable players. The 2007 Cricket World Cup was held in Saint Kitts and Nevis.
The St. Kitts and Nevis national football team, known as the "Sugar Boyz", has experienced some international success in recent years. The team played in the semifinal round of qualifications for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in the CONCACAF region.
Kim Collins is the country's best know track and field athlete. He won gold medals in the 100 metres at World Championships. In the 2000 Sydney Olympics he was the country's first athlete to reach an Olympic final. He and three other athletes represented Saint. Kitts and Nevis at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
The different periods of cultural change led to the evolution of the vibrant and festive culture that Kittitians and Nevisians possess. Festivities, crafts displays, ruins of plantations are aspects of their culture which tourists revel in.
The scenic travel by the railways of old sugar train tracks is a great way to see the best of the countryside. However, nothing makes the islands history as tangible as the impressive and well preserved remains of the Brimstone Hill Fortress. It is a National park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site and provides some stunning views over the surrounding areas and some nearby islands.
The picturesque countryside with panoramic views of green hills covered in rain forest its magnificent beaches, and bright blue sea are enchantments for everyone. The main road circling the island will take you to most points of interests, some great beaches, and several villages. The hike up Mount Liamuiga, a dormant volcano on Saint Kitts and the highest peak of the islands, is particularly popular and worthwhile for the great views from the top.