U.S. Virgin Islands: Shared History, Appeal, and Attractions
This month we are going to start taking a little different direction with the Caribbean Connection. We here at the Old Town Crier have formed a partnership with the USVI Department of Tourism and will be offering more information of a general nature as well as highlighting some individual businesses and events throughout the year. We hope you enjoy where we are taking you!
In addition to picturesque beaches, the U.S. Virgin Islands share a rich history from colonial forts, restored plantations, greathouse museums, and contemporary art galleries displaying the work of local artists.
Seven flags have flown over St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix since their discovery in 1493 by Christopher Columbus. The islands have been ruled in succession by the Spanish, English, French, Knights of Malta, French (for a second time), the Danish, and now, of course, the islands are part of the United States. This eclectic historical path has influenced the development of all three islands, particularly during the Danish reign. Street, town and area names, architecture and former plantations all reveal the vast influence on the islands still remaining after 251 years under Danish rule.
Today, the U.S. Virgin Islands are leaders in the development of “sustainable tourism” which protects the beauty of the natural environment while allowing visitors to enjoy its pristine wonder. St. John leads in eco-tourism resorts that allow visitors to experience intimate encounters with the natural beauty of the Caribbean outdoors, along with comfort and convenience at an affordable cost. St. Thomas offers a guided kayak tour through its marine sanctuary and mangrove lagoon led by experienced naturalists and biologists. Off the shores of St. Croix, Buck Island provides memorable snorkeling experiences at the only underwater national monument in the United States.
Fun and adventure are abundant because of the islands’ endless choice of activities including tennis, golf, horseback riding, kayaking, biking, hiking and sportfishing. Numerous watersports are also available on each island including scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, windsurfing, parasailing and “snuba” – a unique sport that combines snorkeling and scuba diving.
A vast choice of accommodations on all three islands is available to international visitors, ranging from scenic, environmentally sensitive campsites to luxurious resorts, private houses, villas and condominiums available for lease. (See the advertisements in this section for Cliffhanger on St. Thomas and Las Brisas Caribe on St. John – both fantastic villas).
The U.S. Virgin Islands offer year-round warm temperatures with averages of 77°F (25°C) in winter, and 82°F (28°C) in summer. St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas are within the Atlantic Standard Time zone, one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time (except during Daylight Savings Time).
For information about the United States Virgin Islands, call 800-372-USVI (8784) and visithttp://www.usvitourism.vi. As a United States Territory, the U.S. Virgin Islands does not require proof of citizenship from U.S. citizens arriving from Puerto Rico or the U.S. mainland. Entry requirements for non-U.S. citizens are the same as for entering the United States from any foreign destination. Upon departure, a passport is required for all but U.S. citizens.
Columbus Day: Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship Day (Second Monday in October)
Since Christopher Columbus landed on St. Croix in 1493, seven flags have flown over St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. Owing to the rich Hispanic influence and abundance of Puerto Ricans who migrated to St. Croix in the 1960s, the USVI honors Columbus Day with their own special holiday. V.I.-P.R. Friendship Day is celebrated during Hispanic Heritage Month. Locals have the entire first half of October to attend celebratory activities, including a sunset jazz concert, a family-fun day, dance and craft workshops, cock-fighting demonstrations, a paso fino horse presentation and a cultural exchange event.
Liberty Day (November 1)
This USVI holiday honors the legacy of labor leader David Hamilton Jackson and the establishment of free press and assembly in what was then the Danish West Indies during the late 19th century. Jackson, who was a St. Croix native, fought hard for the removal of strict censorship that had been in place in the islands since 1779 of which he was successful. Virgin Islanders honor Jackson and his efforts with ceremonies featuring speeches by public officials. The holiday is also known as Bull and Bread Day owing to the first issue of David Hamilton Jackson’s newspaper, The Herald was published on that day. To fete this historic occasion, a bull was slaughtered resulting with beef and bread being served to the community. Now, roast beef and bread with gravy are traditionally served on Liberty Day every year in the USVI.