Country Fast Facts: U.S. Virgin Islands

U.S. Virgin Islands


The Virgin Islands is an archipelago in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea. The islands are divided into two parts, one of which, the British Virgin Islands to the east and north, is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. The other, the United States Virgin Islands to the west and south, is an organized unincorporated territory of the United States.

Christopher Columbus named the islands Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Vírgenes (shortened to Las Vírgenes), after Saint Ursula and her 11,000 virgins. They were inhabited by Arawak, Carib and Cermic Indians, all of whom died out during the colonial period from disease, harsh labor conditions, and murder.

The islands were later populated by Africans who were enslaved on sugar plantations, and on at least one indigo plantation. The sugar plantations are now gone, but the descendants of the slaves are still there, sharing a common West Indian culture with the other English-speaking islands of the Caribbean.

On both the British and the U.S. Virgin Islands, vehicles are driven on the left-hand side of the road, yet most cars on the islands have their steering wheels on the left side (usually common for drive-on-the-right localities). Also on both the British and the U.S. Virgin Islands the United States dollar is the official currency. From the CIA World Factbook 2000.

The islands just to the east of the island of Puerto Rico (and territorially part of it) are locally called the Spanish Virgin Islands. Although often not included on maps of the Virgin Islands archipelago, it is actually closer to St. Thomas than St. Croix is (both part of the U.S. Virgin Islands).

Source: CIA World Fact Book


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