Saint Kitts and Nevis
History & Background
The Federation of State of St. Kitts and Nevis (formerly the Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis) is in the northern part of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Sea, about one-third of the way from Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Tobago. It encompasses an area of 262 square kilometers (101 square miles), approximately 1.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. Of that area St. Kitts occupies 168 square kilometers, (65 square miles) and Nevis 93 square kilometers (36 square miles).
St. Kitts has a central mountain range, reaching its highest point at Mount Liamuiga (1,156 meters or 3,792 feet). The capital of the country, Basseterre (population 15,000), is located on the southeastern shore of the island. Nevis lies to the southeast, with a central volcanic mountain rising to 985 meters (2,232 feet). The islands have 135 kilometers (52 miles) of coastline, with a tropical climate tempered by constant sea breezes with little temperature variation. Twenty-two percent of the land is arable with approximately 17 percent in permanent crops, 3 percent permanent pastures, and 17 percent woodland. The rainy season occurs from May to November, with the threat of hurricanes generally from July through October. The island economy once depended heavily on sugarcane production; however, falling prices have forced the country to depend more on tourism, export-oriented manufacturing, and offshore banking activity.
The population estimate as of July 2000 was 38,800, 30 percent aged 0-14 years, 61 percent 15-64 years, and 9 percent 65 years and older. The growth rate is estimated to be slightly less than zero. The population is predominantly of African descent with some British, Portuguese, and Lebanese. The language spoken is English, and the predominant religion is Anglican, with some Protestants and Roman Catholics. Ninety-seven percent of the population aged 15 and over have attended school.
Christopher Columbus discovered the islands in 1493. They were partially occupied by the British (1623) and the French (1624), remaining under joint control until ceded to the British in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht, only to be recaptured by the French in 1782, but finally passing to the British by way of the Treaty of Versailles the following year. For most of its history, the country was administered as part of a federation, which included at one time or another Anguilla, Jamaica, Trinidad, and Tobago. St. Kitts (then St. Christopher) and Nevis finally received their independence from Britain in 1983.
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