About the Island of St. Croix

 

St. Croix is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, an unincorporated territory of the United States of America.  It is located in the Caribbean, approximately 90 miles east-southeast of Puerto Rico, 1100 miles southeast of Miami, and 1700 miles south-southeast of New York.  The island, somewhat triangular in shape, has a maximum length of 23 miles and width of 6 miles, for an area of 84 square miles.  St. Croix is geologically uplift, as distinct from the volcanic origins of most other islands in the Antillean chain.  The south-facing slopes of two ranges of steep hills open to fertile, gently rolling-to-flat terrain.  The climate is temperate year-round, refreshed by trade winds.  Rainfall, even during customary “rainy” months, is moderate.

 

Denmark established two towns on St. Croix:  Christiansted (1735) on the north east coast, and Frederiksted (1752) on the west coast.  The majority of residents, however, live in rural areas, including several residential communities.  In the 2000 U.S. Census, St. Croix had a population of 53,234 (median age of 31.9 years), of which 71% was black, 14% Hispanic, 12% white, and 3% “Other” (including Palestinian Arab).  Forty-four percent of the residents were born on the island, most of the remainder coming from former British colonies in the Caribbean, together with Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.  Religion is an integral part of community life.  Christianity is predominant, with faith-communities of Reform Judaism, Islam, Bahai’i, Universal-Unitarian, and Rastafarians also represented.  The island’s principal economic base consists of HOVENSA (the second-largest oil refinery in the Western Hemisphere), the Cruzan Rum distillery, and tourism.

 

St. Croix’s human history began with the arrival of migratory stone-age Amerindians from the northern Amazon approximately 4,500 years ago.  Two and a half millennia later, they were succeeded by more advanced cultures--the Igneri, Taino (or Arawak), and Kalinago (or Island Carib).  Native American control changed forever after November 14, 1493, which marked the arrival of Christopher Columbus on his second voyage of exploration to the New World.  He named the island Santa Cruz, or “Holy Cross”.  Between 1631-1696, there were a number of ill-fated attempts to colonize Santa Cruz by England, Holland, the French Chapter of the Knights of Malta, and France (a variant of whose Sainte. Croix—pronounced “croy” in the local English creole dialect—still prevails).  Denmark, already in possession of the islands of St. Thomas and St. John, purchased St. Croix from France in 1733 for its agricultural potential, especially cane sugar.  St. Croix’s history can count the formative years of Alexander Hamilton; the first foreign salute to the flag of the rebellious American colonies in 1776; the emancipation of the slaves in 1848; and a major labor revolt 30 years later, locally called the “Fireburn”.  The United States of America purchased the Danish West Indies in 1917, formally renaming them “the Virgin Islands of the United States”.  Congress got around to granting U.S. citizenship to the residents in 1927.