St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin
The USVI is comprised
of three principal islands - St. Thomas, St. John and St.
Croix and Water Island, a lesser island off the southern
coast of St. Thomas. There are also numerous smaller islands
scattered throughout the USVI's warm tropical waters. Because
of their number, Christopher Columbus named them "The
Virgins" when he first saw them in 1493 in reference
to the legend of St. Ursula and her 11,000 seagoing Virgins.
Since then, the islands have had a history of international
influence, being settled at various times by the English,
French, Spanish, Dutch and Danish. Although agriculture was
important, these islands were most valued for their location
and trade, and were home for such notorious seamen as Blackbeard,
Captain Kidd, and Sir Francis Drake. In 1679, the Danes built
a watchtower at the highest point above the harbor of Charlotte
Amalie to protect the island from attack by enemy ships.
at Blackbeard’s Castle
It is because of their
location that the United States purchased them from Denmark
in 1917 for $25 million in gold. They were to serve as protection
for the Panama Canal.
Today the islands, a rich blend of cultures
embracing European, African, West Indian and native heritage,
are a popular destination for tourists and businessmen from
the world. St. Thomas is the second largest of the islands.
Lying between the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Caribbean
Sea to the south, it covers 32 square miles. It is the most
accessible and, with 47,000 inhabitants, it is the most densely
populated of the islands.
The USVI is an unincorporated U.S. territory with a locally
elected one house legislature, governor, and lieutenant governor,
and a non-voting member of the U.S. House of Representatives. It
is subject to the laws of the United States and has both a
Federal and local court system.
Amalie, St. Thomas
The capital city is Charlotte
Amalie where the EXPORT ASSIST office is located. Its deep
water harbor makes it an attractive international port for
cruise ships. St. Thomas is also known for its many high quality
resorts, fine restaurants, white sandy beaches, and sparkling
blue water for sailing, snorkeling, and deep sea fishing.
Virgin Islanders are U.S. citizens but are not considered U.S. residents.
The island houses the governor's offices, the legislature,
and the University of the Virgin Islands. USVI schools are
structured on the U.S. model and English is the local language.
The USVI is part of the U.S. postal system and telephone system.
There are excellent courier services and daily airline connections
to various U.S. cities. It is in a comparable time zone to
the Eastern United States and the local currency is the U.S.