Fun:U.S. Virgin Islands
“”I met with the president of the Virgin Islands.
|—Donald Trump in 2017[note 1]|
The United States Virgin Islands, formerly the Danish West Indies, is a group of islands located in the lesser Antilles, east of Puerto Rico. There are the three main islands of Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas, and 50 much smaller ones (only one of which, Water Island, is inhabited, it being a short boat ride away from St. Thomas). They are a part of an archipelago collectively called the Virgin Islands, alongside the British Virgin Islands to their east and the Spanish Virgin Islands (which are considered a part of Puerto Rico) to their west. They changed hands a number of times throughout history, but were brought into U.S. hands after they purchased the islands from Denmark. Yes, Trump's dream of buying Greenland isn't 100% unprecedented.[note 2]
The U.S. Virgin Islands were first settled somewhere around 1000 BCE. A number of ethnic groups, including the Ciboney and Arawaks, had inhabited the islands. The Kalinago, also known as the Caribs, were a later arrival. They had a fierce reputation, and destroyed numerous Arawak villages; they are believed to have caused the Arawak population to decrease from a few million to a few thousand. But even they were not prepared for what would come next.
Christopher Columbus was the first European to visit these islands on his second voyage from 1493-1496. He named them "Santa Úrsula y las Once Mil Vírgenes" after the legend of Saint Ursula and the 11,000 virgins. When Columbus first landed on the islands, it led to a battle with the Caribs, and he later kidnapped several Arawaks to act as guides to other islands. Afterwards, the islands were settled by Danish, Dutch, English, French, and Spanish settlers, with various countries having competing claims over the islands. The settlers tried to convert the native population and enslave them to work on plantations. This led to most of the native population dying, including the rest of the Arawaks. By the time Alexander Hamilton was growing up on St. Croix, it was a remarkably desolate place that he couldn't get the hell out of fast enough.
The U.S. Virgin Islands would prove to be an important location for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which began in 1673. Slaves were often forced to work on tobacco, and later sugar, coffee, and cotton plantations; ruins of these litter the forests of St. John. In 1733, a group of slaves revolted and took over the island, which lasted six months. The Danish called on the French to help, and thus began a period of Danish control over the islands. Another, nonviolent slave revolt occurred in 1848; when thousands of slaves marched to the capitol and threatened to burn it down, the governor was forced to free the slaves. St. Thomas has one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere and is now the second oldest in the United States, though it was built during its time under the control of Denmark; it was originally intended as a Sephardic congregation.
During World War I, Woodrow Wilson was fearful of potential German influence in the Caribbean, which led him to intervene in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It, combined with the increasingly unprofitability of the sugar trade from the islands, led to the Americans purchasing the "Danish East Indies" in 1917 for 25 million dollars (over half a billion dollars in today's money), and ten years later, it became an official unincorporated U.S. territory. St. Thomas and St. Croix are extremely densely populated, but thanks to one of the Rockefeller (of all people) family a large portion of St. John is a very well preserved national park.
The U.S. Virgin Islands could rival DC for the most overly Democratic area of the United States, to the point that Republicans often don't even bother to run, likely due to the islands' 75% black population. Their legislature contains thirteen Democrats, two Independents, and zero Republicans. Like other U.S. territories, the U.S. Virgin Islands can't vote for President, with their only influence on the process being during the primaries, and only have a non-voting delegate in the House. In 1993, the residents voted overwhelmingly (81.6%) to remain a U.S. territory, although the voter turnout was low at 27.49%. Whether public opinion has shifted since that time is unclear, regardless, the U.S. Virgin Islands are unlikely to become a state any time soon.
The dark side of the Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands are a well-known tax haven. Jeffrey Epstein was its most infamous resident, having set up shop there so he would pay less in taxes. He also used his residence there to rape and traffic girls as young as 13. The capital, Charlotte Amalie, is nice enough by day, but only someone with a death wish ventures there at night; as a general rule anywhere in the territory, avoid large crowds and by nightfall it's best to be indoors or in your car (especially around New Years, since the most popular mode of celebration is shooting guns in the air).
Also, the Virgin Islands are unique in that it's the only part of the U.S. where they drive on the opposite side of the road. However, according to Article 9 of the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, "All vehicular traffic proceeding in the same direction on any road shall keep to the same side of the road, which shall be uniform in each country for all roads." So by allowing the U.S. Virgin Islands to drive on the opposite side of the road, the U.S. is violating the Geneva Convention. And you just have to ask Yugoslavia what happens to countries that violate the Geneva Convention... what makes it even more fun is they use American cars, so you drive on the left with the driver's seat on the left.[note 3] Add to that how generally terrifying the topography makes the roads, the weather, and the number of people on the roads, driving is not for the faint of heart. Plus, once you get where you're going, parking is only slightly easier than New York City.
Famous Virgin Islanders
- Alexander Hamilton - Although born on the island of Nevis, he was raised in St. Croix.
- Kelsey Grammer (actor and wingnut)
- Jeffrey Epstein
- ↑ To explain why this quote is stupid, Trump was the president of the U.S. Virgin Islands when he said this. If he was referring to the British Virgin Islands, it still wouldn't make any more sense because they don't have a president
- ↑ Denmark did once offer to trade the U.S. Greenland in exchange for the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, which they wanted to in turn trade to Germany for Northern Schleswig. However, after Denmark received Northern Schleswig during the fallout of WWI, the offer was promptly forgotten.
- ↑ The British Virgin Islands do this too, though at least the side of the road is in line with the rest of the UK.
- ↑ David Emery, Did President Trump Say ‘I Met with the President of the Virgin Islands?’, Snopes 25 Sep 2018
- ↑ http://tps.cr.nps.gov/nhl/detail2.cfm?ResourceId=-535831004&Date=&Ownership=Private&priorityname=&ResourceType=Building
- ↑ Tom Metcalf, Greg Farrell, and David Kocieniewski, The Jeffrey Epstein Guide to Cutting Your Tax Bill by 90%, Bloomberg.com 27 Jul. 2019]
- ↑ Daniel Arkin, Jeffrey Epstein abused, trafficked girls and young women in U.S. Virgin Islands, local AG says, NBC News 15 Jan. 2020
- ↑ https://travellersworldwide.com/is-st-thomas-safe-to-visit/
- ↑ Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, Wikisource