The Virgin Islands: Paradise Found
Pearl white sands mark a jagged border round the island of St. John, Johnny-come-lately of U.S. National Parks. In 1956 three-fourths of its 19 square miles was dedicated. Long before, in 1943, this little jewel of the Caribbean greeted its first tourist, Christopher Columbus. Struck by the myriad islands of its setting, he named the archipelago “Las Virgenes,” honoring Cologne’s martyred St. Ursula and the 11,000 virgins.
Earlier, Carib and Arawak Indians inhabited St. John. Their stone picture writings can be seem today at Reef Bay, Congo Cay, and Carvel Rock. Dutch moved in, bringing slaves to work the sugar plantations. In the mid-1800’s, after slavery was abolished, planters abandoned their estates to the creeping forests. In 1917 Denmark sold the islands to the United States for $25,000,000.
Not influenced by Miami’s glitter 1,000 miles away, and unlike domesticated neighbors St. Thomas and St. Croix, St. John retains its primitive charm. Philanthropist Laurence S. Rockefeller, a national Geographic Trustee, worked to keep it that way. On behalf of Jackson Hole Preserve, of which he is president, he donated 5,000 acres to the Federal Government, and the park was assured. Here coconut-laden palms, breadfruit, guava, and wild orange trees grow eagerly in the mild tropical climate. Ferns, orchids, flamboyant hibiscus shrubs, and cactus 20 feet tall flourish. Game fish thrive in the coastal waters. Bird life abounds. There are no snakes, few flies, and mosquitoes.
Like much of the English speaking Caribbean, Virgin Islands culture has merged with that of its early colonization of African, Early European and American influence. Though the Danish controlled the present-day U.S. Virgin Islands for many years, the very dominant language has been an English-based Creole since the early 19th century. The Dutch, the French and the Danish have contributed many elements to the islands’ influential culture, as have immigrants from many other Caribbean islands. Virgin Islands culture continues to change as a result of inter-Caribbean migration and cultural contact with other islands in the region, as well as the United States. Despite the cultural change, it continues to grow and thrive as a favorite vacation destination for tourists all over the world.
Awaiting you are crescent coves, and trails leading to bush covered ruins. This is where civilization takes a year round holiday. This is where the living is easy.