During the course of the 17th and early 18th centuries, the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia was fought over by the British and French 14 times, becoming the possession of one or the other of the colonial powers seven times apiece. It became known as the “Helen of the West Indies” (after Helen of Troy) because of this almost continuous switching of control. The first country to colonize the island were the French, who signed a treaty with the indigenous Carib people in 1660. By 1814 the British had gained complete control over the island. In 1979 Saint Lucia became an independent state of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Saint Lucia is one of the Windward Islands of the Lesser Antilles chain, located between Saint Vincent & The Grenadines, Barbados and Martinique. It was named after Saint Lucy of Syracuse. It is a place of striking beauty, as exemplified by the twin Pitons (Gros Piton and Petit Piton)—cone-shaped volcanic peaks—and by its exotic plants and boiling sulphur springs. It also boasts significant human achievement. With two of its citizens having received Nobel Prizes (in Economics and Literature), it has the highest per-capita percentage of Nobel laureates in the world.
As on most other Caribbean islands, African slaves were imported to work the sugar cane plantations. These gained their freedom following the abolition of the slave trade throughout the British Empire in 1833. Today the descendants of those former slaves make up more than 90% of Saint Lucia’s population. Most of the remainder of the island’s relatively small population are of mixed Afro-Caribbean (Carib) descent, plus a tiny minority of European descendants of the original colonists.
Nearly 68% of the population adhere to Roman Catholicism. A number of Protestant denominations exist as well, with the Seventh Day Adventists claiming the largest percentage. Rastafarianism is practiced by just over two percent.
English is the official language of Saint Lucia, while Saint Lucian Creole French is spoken as the main lingua franca on the island. This Creole is quite similar to other French-based Creoles spoken in the Caribbean region. A New Testament was published in the language in 1999.