Saint Croix

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
A separate article treats the several rivers known as the St. Croix River in North America.
Saint Croix from space, January 1993
Saint Croix from space, January 1993

Saint Croix is one of the United States Virgin Islands, a United States territory, in the Caribbean. It is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands being 28 by 7 miles (45 by 11 km).



It was inhabited by Arawaks and Caribs prior to European colonization of the Americas. Christopher Columbus visited there on November 14, 1493 giving it the name Santa Cruz. His initial visit led to a battle in which one Spaniard and one Carib were killed. This heralded warfare between the Spaniards and Caribs which lasted for over one hundred years until the Spanish abandoned their colony. In the seventeenth century the island was colonised by Dutch and English settlers, who were soon in conflict with one another. Eventually the Dutch abandoned their settlement, and then the English settlement was destroyed by the Spanish who retook the island in 1650. However they on their turn were immediately ousted by the French.

The island was owned by the Knights of St John after being bequeathed by De Poincy, Governor of the French colony of St Kitts in 1660. However they sold it to the French West India Company in 1665. Under Governor Dubois the colony became profitable with over 90 plantations growing such crops as tobacco, cotton, sugar cane, and indigo. After Dubois' death the colony declined and the island was abandoned by Europeans until 1733 when it was sold to the Danish West India and Guinea Company. This company placed no national restrictions on colonists and soon attracted Spanish Sephardic Jews, Huguenots, and English settlers, the last of which came to dominate the Island. Sugar became the major crop. However the development of sugar beet in Europe undermined the economy of the colony.

Slavery was abolished in 1848, but in 1862, St. Croix received a shipload of East Indians that were indentured on the island for five years. There was a revolt by former slaves in 1878 when much of Frederiksted, the major town was burnt.

In 1917, the Virgin Islands were sold by Denmark to the United States of America for $25 million. In return, the United States backed Denmark's claim to Greenland.

The island suffered major damage in September 1989 when it was struck by Hurricane Hugo.

Although the U.S. Virgin Islands remain under the U.S. flag, the islands are an unincorporated territory with a non-voting delegate to the United States House of Representatives. Although taxpaying citizens, residents of the islands have no vote in national elections.


A 1754 Danish map of the island
A 1754 Danish map of the island

There are two towns on the island; Christiansted with a 2004 population of 3,000 and Frederiksted with a 2004 population of 830. The total population of the island is about 50,000. Inhabitants are called "Crucians" and English is the most common language with some Creole and Spanish also spoken.

Fort Christiansvaern built in 1749 and other buildings are maintained by the National Park Service as the Christiansted National Historic Site.

Buck Island Reef National Monument preserves a 176 acre (71 ha) island just north of Saint Croix and the surrounding reefs. This is a popular destination for snorkelers, and it is the only underwater national park in the United States.

There are several scuba diving companies operating from Christiansted. Off the north coast of the island, there are many good destinations for diving, featuring scenic coral reefs, clear water, and abundant tropical fish.

Point Udall on the island is the easternmost point in the United States.

St. Croix lies at 17°45′ N 64°45′ W. The island has an area of a little over eighty square miles (207 km²). The terrain is rugged, though not extremely so. The highest point on the island, Mount Eagle, is 1,165 feet (355 m) high. Most of the east end is quite hilly and steep, as is the north side from Christiansted west. From the north side hills a fairly even plain slopes down to the south coast: this was the prime sugar land on the island. The trade wind blows more or less along the length of the island, and the hills of the western part of the island receive a good deal more rain than the east end: annual rainfall is on the whole extremely variable, averaging perhaps forty inches (1000 mm) a year. Fairly severe and extended drought has always been a problem, particularly considering the lack fresh ground water. Desalination is an option, however most residential homes have a built-in cistern used to collect rain water.


St. Croix is home to HOVENSA, one of the worlds largest oil refineries. HOVENSA is a joint venture between Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corp. (HOVIC), a division of Amerada Hess, and the government of Venezuela.

St. Croix is also home to the Cruzan Rum Distillery, makers of Cruzan Rum. The Cruzan Rum Distillery was founded in 1760, and for many years used locally grown sugar cane to produce a single "dark" style rum. The distillery now imports sugar cane molasses from other caribbean islands, primarily from the Dominican Republic. In recent years Cruzan Rum, along with Bacardi from Puerto Rico and Goslings from Bermuda, has also contributed to the resurgence of "single barrel" super-premium rum.


While locals call themselves "Crucians", there is much debate as to what constitutes a "real" Crucian. Most people feel that as long as you were "bahn 'ya" ("born here", on the island) you can claim to be Crucian.

In the late 1990s an attempt was made to legislate the definition of "Crucian" as anyone who could trace their ancestry to 1927, the year in which Virgin Islanders were given U.S. citizenship. This effort, by a select group of nationalist senators, eventually failed after much public outcry.


St. Croix has an airport with regular flights from the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico; flights are also available to nearby islands. Although St. Croix is a U.S. territory, travelers do need to go through Customs and present a passport before returning to the continental United States. (U.S. citizens are not required to carry a passport when traveling to the USVI, although carrying photo identification and a copy of a birth certificate is suggested.)

Island roads tend to be narrow and often take sharp turns. Cars drive on the left hand side of the road. There are automobile rental agencies on the island, but it is often helpful to make reservations in advance. There is a public bus service, but this can be unreliable at times. Taxis are a more common means of transport, particularly for tourists; expect to spend around US$20 for a taxi ride to or from the airport.

In addition to taxis and buses, St. Croix has what are known as "Taxi Buses" (these may also be found on other U.S. Virgin Islands). Taxi Buses are full-sized vans which follow a more-or-less predefined route from one end of the island to the other. These Taxi Buses are generally privately owned and operated; they do not follow a regular schedule, and there are no pre-specified stops. Instead, people simply wait by the side of the road until a Taxi Bus approaches, then flag the driver down by waving. Likewise, when a rider is approaching his or her destination, a simple, "Stop up here at the next intersection!" will suffice. While often less costly than a public bus or regular taxi (most Taxi Buses charge a flat rate for the trip, regardless of where a rider gets on and off), this informal system of transportation may be confusing or intimidating for someone unfamiliar with local customs.

See also

Flag of the United States Virgin Islands

  Territory of the Virgin Islands of the United States  

Geography | Economy | Demographics | Communications | Transportation


Politics | Governors | Congressional Delegates | Senators | Elections


Charlotte Amalie

Small Cities:

Charlotte Amalie | Christiansted | Frederisksted | Cruz Bay


Saint Croix | Saint John | Saint Thomas | Water Island | Other

Personal tools
In other languages