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Saint Croix

This article is about the island of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. For other uses of the name, see Saint Croix (disambiguation).

Saint Croix
Nickname: Twin City
File:St croix usvi.jpg
Saint Croix from space, January 1992
Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Saint Croix, United States
Location Caribbean Sea

17°44′23″N 64°44′20″W / 17.73972°N 64.73889°W / 17.73972; -64.73889Coordinates: 17°44′23″N 64°44′20″W / 17.73972°N 64.73889°W / 17.73972; -64.73889

Archipelago Virgin Islands, Leeward Islands
Area 82.88 sq mi (214.66 km2)
Length 28 mi (45 km)
Width 7 mi (11 km)
Highest elevation 1,165 ft (355.1 m)
Highest point Mount Eagle
Territory United States Virgin Islands Virgin Islands
District District Of Saint Croix
Largest city Christiansted (pop. 2,626)
Population 50,601 (as of 2010)
Density 235.73 /km2 (610.54 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups Afro-Caribbean, Puerto Rican, Caucasian

Saint Croix (/ˌsnt ˈkrɔɪ/; Spanish: Santa Cruz; Dutch: Sint-Kruis; French: Sainte-Croix; Danish: Sankt Croix) is an island in the Caribbean Sea, and a county and constituent district of the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), an unincorporated territory of the United States. The island was a possession of France from 1650 until 1733. On June 13, 1733, France sold the island group to the Danish West Indies Company.[1] For nearly 200 years, the islands were known as the Danish West Indies. St. Croix and the Danish West Indies were sold to the United States by Denmark in the Treaty of the Danish West Indies of 1916, in exchange for a sum of US$25,000,000 in gold. In a national referendum 64.2% of Danish voters approved the sale. An unofficial referendum held in the islands resulted in 99.83% vote in favor of the purchase.

St. Croix is the largest of the islands in the territory, being 28 by 7 miles (45 by 11 km). However, the territory's capital, Charlotte Amalie, is located on Saint Thomas.


St. Croix lies at 17°45′N 64°45′W / 17.750°N 64.750°W / 17.750; -64.750: the easternmost point in the United States of America is St. Croix's Point Udall. The island has an area of 214.66 km² (82.88 sq mi). The terrain is rugged, though not extremely so. The highest point on the island, Mount Eagle, is 1,165 feet (355 m) high. Most of the east end is quite hilly and steep, as is the north side from Christiansted west. From the north side hills a fairly even plain slopes down to the south coast: this was the prime sugar land on the island.


The trade wind blows more or less along the length of the island. The hills of the western part of the island receive a good deal more rain than the east end; annual rainfall is on the whole extremely variable, averaging perhaps forty inches (1,000 mm) a year. The east end of the island is a dry desert range with a substantial amount of cactus, while the west end has lush vegetation and palm trees, giving the island multiple ecosystems in a small area. Fairly severe and extended drought has always been a problem, particularly considering the lack of fresh ground water and lack of freshwater streams or rivers on the island. The island has a desalination plant, but most residential homes and businesses have a built-in cistern used to collect rainwater.


Inhabitants are called Crucians /ˈkrʒən/.[2]

There is much debate as to what constitutes a native Crucian. The general consensus in Crucian society is that if one is bahn ya ("born here" in Crucian dialect) on St. Croix, they can claim to be Crucian. Because of heavy migration from other islands in the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico throughout the 20th century, most native born Crucians are descended from enslaved Africans on other Caribbean islands. However, those who are considered the ancestral natives of St. Croix are the descendants of slaves brought to the island by the Danish during the 18th and 19th centuries and laborers recruited by the Danish after emancipation in 1848.

Puerto Rican migration was prevalent in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, as many Puerto Ricans relocated to St. Croix to cut sugar cane after the collapse of the sugar industry in Puerto Rico. In addition, the U.S. Navy purchase of two-thirds of the nearby Puerto Rican island of Vieques during World War II resulted in the eviction of thousands of agricultural workers, many of whom relocated to St. Croix because of its similar size and geography. There is a local holiday, Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands Friendship Day, that has been celebrated since the 1960s on October 10, (the same date as Columbus Day). Puerto Ricans in St. Croix, most of whom are removed from Puerto Rico by at least a generation, have kept their culture alive while integrating into the mainstream Crucian culture as well. For example, many Puerto Ricans in St. Croix speak a unique Spanglish-like combination of Puerto Rican Spanish and the local Crucian dialect in informal situations.

Migration from "down-island" (a Virgin Islander colloquial term for Caribbean islands east and south of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands), occurred mainly throughout the 1960s and 70s, when agriculture died out as a main industry on St. Croix, which was replaced by tourism, alumina production and oil refining. Jobs were plentiful in these industries and down-islanders came to St. Croix by the thousands to fill the jobs. Many down-islanders made St. Croix their permanent home, while others eventually returned to their native islands. Most down-islanders came from St. Kitts, Nevis, Antigua, St. Lucia and Dominica, although people from every Anglophone Caribbean island can be found on St. Croix.

Continental Americans, although small in number in comparison to Caribbean immigrants, have also been part of the St. Croix community. Most reside on the East End of St. Croix.

Arab Palestinians have been an influential part of the local economy since the 1960s when they first started to migrate to St. Croix to set up shops, supermarkets and gas stations.

Recent waves of migration to St. Croix include people from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, the Philippines, and various South American nations.

St. Croix's history of migration has sometimes caused tensions among immigrants and those Crucians whose ancestry on the island dates back for generations. While tensions have subsided to some extent in recent years, mainly due to intermarriage among Crucians and other Caribbean peoples, in the late 1990s an attempt was made to legislate the definition of a "native U.S. Virgin Islander" as anyone who could trace their ancestry to 1927, the year in which U.S. Virgin Islanders were granted American citizenship. This effort, by a select group of nationalist senators, eventually failed after much public outcry, considering the fact that most born U.S. Virgin Islanders would not qualify as "native" under the proposed legislation (but, ironically, thousands of Danish citizens would).

In 2009, the proposed U.S. Virgin Islands Constitution voted by the Fifth Constitutional Convention established three definitions of U.S. Virgin Islanders: "Ancestral Native Virgin Islander" - those with ancestral ties (and their descendants); "Native Virgin Islander" - those born on the island (and their descendants); and "Virgin Islander" - any United States citizen who has resided in the territory for five years. The proposed constitution was rejected by the United States Congress in 2010 for violating the principle of equal rights for all citizens of the territory, "native" or not, and was sent back to the convention for further consideration.

The total population of the island as per the 2010 U.S. Census is 50,601.[3]

St. Croix is divided into the following subdistricts (with population as per the 2010 U.S. Census):

  1. Anna's Hope Village (pop. 4,041)
  2. Christiansted (pop. 2,626)
  3. East End (pop. 2,453)
  4. Frederiksted (pop. 3,091)
  5. Northcentral (pop. 4,977)
  6. Northwest (pop. 4,863)
  7. Sion Farm (pop. 13,003)
  8. Southcentral (pop. 8,049)
  9. Southwest (pop. 7,498)


English is the most common language. Spanish is spoken by the large Puerto Rican and Dominican (Dominican Republic) populations, and various French creoles are spoken by the large St. Lucian and Dominican (Dominica) and smaller Haitian populations. A native English-based creole known on the island as Crucian is also spoken by the majority of the population in informal situations.[4]


Christianity is the dominant religion on St. Croix. Protestant denominations are the most prevalent, but there is also a significant Roman Catholic presence due to St. Croix's large Hispanic population as well as Irish influence during the Danish colonial period. Anglican, Jehovah's Witness, Methodist, Moravian, Presbyterian, Pentecostal and Seventh-day Adventists are among the Protestant denominations prevalent on the island. As in most of the Caribbean, various forms of Rastafari are practiced on the island. Islam is prevalent among the small local Arab population, and there is a small Jewish presence as well.


St. Croix was once an agricultural powerhouse in the Caribbean, but ended with the rapid industrialization of the island's economy in the 1960s. Like many other Caribbean islands today, St. Croix has tourism as one of its main sources of revenue. However, there are a number of other industries on the island to help support the economy.

St. Croix was home to HOVENSA, one of the world's largest oil refineries. HOVENSA is a limited liability company owned and operated by Hess Oil Virgin Islands Corp. (HOVIC), a division of U.S.-based Hess Corporation, and Petroleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA), the national oil company of Venezuela. Despite this, gas prices were slightly higher than average when compared to gas prices in the continental United States.

It was announced on January 18, 2012, that the HOVENSA refinery would be permanently shut down. This was expected to have a major impact on St. Croix and the entire U.S. Virgin Islands, as the refinery employed 1,200 residents and 950 contractors.[5]

St. Croix is also home to the Cruzan Rum Distillery,[6] makers of Cruzan Rum, a brand of Beam Global. The Cruzan Rum Distillery was founded in 1760 as Estate Diamond, and for many years used locally grown sugar cane to produce a single "dark" style rum. The distillery now imports sugar cane molasses from other Caribbean islands, primarily from the Dominican Republic. In recent years, Cruzan Rum, along with Bacardi from Puerto Rico and Gosling's from Bermuda, has contributed to the resurgence of "single barrel," super-premium rum. The quality and smoothness of the Cruzan Estate Rums has won more than 30 Spirit Awards.[7] Cruzan Estate Diamond Rum (aged 5 years in American oak barrels) and Cruzan Single Barrel Estate Rum (aged 12 years in American oak barrels) are just a couple of examples.

Diageo has completed construction of a new distillery on a 26 acre industrial site next to the Hovensa Refinery. The new distillery currently produces Captain Morgan Rum.[8] Diageo's entrance into the U.S. Virgin Islands rum industry is not without controversy, however, as the cash-strapped U.S. Virgin Islands government secured $250 million in bonds for the plant, about which the Puerto Rican government has bitterly complained.


Island roads tend to be poorly surfaced and may take sharp turns due to the terrain. Cars drive on the left hand side of the road, but nearly all the automobiles on the island have left side steering columns. This has proven difficult for new residents and visitors from right-hand traffic locales such as the mainland United States and Puerto Rico.

There is a public bus service called Virgin Islands Transit, also known as VITRAN, operated by the Virgin Islands Department of Public Works.

In addition to taxis and buses, St. Croix has shared taxis, locally known as "taxi buses" (also found on the other U.S. Virgin Islands). Taxi buses are full-sized vans running a route from Frederiksted to Christiansted. Taxi buses are privately owned and operated; they do not follow a regular schedule, and there are no pre-specified stops. People simply wait by the side of the road until a taxi bus approaches, then flag the driver down by waving. Passengers can get out anywhere along the taxi route. Taxis are not metered and are required by law to charge a flat rate for a trip, regardless of where a rider gets on and off. Taxis to specific locations are much more expensive and are typically used by tourists.

The Henry E. Rohlsen International Airport services St. Croix with regular flights from the U.S. mainland, Puerto Rico, and the Eastern Caribbean. Seaplanes, operated by Seaborne Airlines, also serve the island, taking off and landing in Christiansted Harbor. Ferry service to St. Thomas operates from Gallows Bay, although it has been suspended indefinitely since July 2011. Although St. Croix is a U.S. territory, the U.S. Virgin Islands are maintained as a free port in a separate customs zone. Therefore, travelers to and from the continental United States and Puerto Rico must clear U.S. customs but do not need to present a passport, and only need proof of U.S. citizenship or nationality. The immigration status of non-U.S. citizens may be verified during this process.


The St. Croix School District operates public schools in St. Croix.[9] There also exist multiple private schools, including, but not limited to, St. Croix Montessori, Star Apple Montessori School, The Good Hope Country Day School, and The Manor School. The only college on island is The University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix campus.



The island's largest festival, termed "Crucian Christmas Festival," is celebrated on St. Croix throughout late December and early January. Another significant festival is the Agricultural and Food Fair held in mid-February.

Several times a year, there is a nighttime festival in Christiansted called "Jump-Up" and a monthly event called "Sunset Jazz" in Frederiksted, where local jazz musicians play on Frederiksted Beach. Every year on the Saturday before Mardi Gras, there is a local Mardi Croix parade and a dog parade through the North Shore.

The St. Croix Half Ironman Triathlon is held in the first week of May.[10] The Triathlon includes a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run. Because the bicycle route includes a ride up an extremely steep hill known as "The Beast", this triathlon is often nicknamed "Beauty and the Beast".

Points of interest

Fort Christiansværn built in 1749 and other buildings are maintained by the National Park Service as the Christiansted National Historic Site.

Buck Island Reef National Monument preserves a 176 acre (71 ha) island just north of St. Croix and the surrounding reefs. This is a popular destination for snorkelers. Buck Island maintains a U.S. Coast Guard weather station and is also home to a student monitored lemon shark breeding ground. Green Cay (pronounced green key) is a small island located southwest of Buck Island and also hosts a nearby reef popular among scuba divers and snorkelists—Tamarind Reef. A small dive shack on Tamarind Beach, near a resort and bar named the "Deep End," provides snorkels and fins to prospective divers. As well, the reef is often marked with floating buoys in order to help guide inexperienced divers along the underwater terrain.

There are several scuba diving companies operating from Christiansted. Off the north coast of the island there are many good destinations for diving, featuring scenic coral reefs, clear water, and abundant tropical fish and migrant sea turtles. Prominent among these are Cane and Divi bays along with Long reef, which encompasses a large portion of the northern side of the island. Cane Bay is a popular destination for scuba enthusiasts due to the fact that just a few hundred meters off shore the topography makes a sudden drop into a deep underwater trench. The reef also serves as a natural barrier against sharks and jellyfish. However around other portions of the island, notably Frederiksted, hammerhead and tiger sharks can be seen. Shark attacks on the island are very rare.

Bioluminescent Bays

There are two bioluminescent bays or bio bays on St Croix. The most widely known and visited is located at Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve. A second bio bay can be found at Altona Lagoon. Bio bays are extremely rare with "only seven year-round lagoons known to exist in the Caribbean".[11]

A combination of factors creates the necessary conditions for bioluminescence: red mangrove trees surround the water (the organisms have been related to mangrove forest,[12] although mangrove is not necessarily associated with this species).[13] A study at the bio bay located at Salt River is being conducted as of 2013 by faculty and students from the University of South Carolina, the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and the University of the Virgin Islands. Their research is focused on analyzing quality and nutrient composition of the water, the distribution of a micro-organism, the dinoflagellate Pyrodinium bahamense, which glows whenever the water is disturbed, and the abundance of “cysts,” dormant dinoflagellates embedded in the sea floor.

The two bio bays on St Croix have very different characteristics. The one at Altona Lagoon is large in size but is very shallow allowing one to see the various marine life swimming and agitating the water, lighting it up. The bio bay at Salt River is smaller in size but is deeper than Altona Lagoon. Because of its depth this bay is also home to a second form of bioluminescence called Ctenophora or comb-jellies, which are not found at Altona Lagoon. [14]

National protected areas

Famous Crucians, St. Croix-born persons and Saint Croix residents

See also


External links

  • St. Croix - United States Virgin Islands Department of Tourism
  • Office of the Lieutenant Governor - Office of the Lieutenant Governor Gregory R. Francis
  • St. Croix USVI Google Map - Satellite Map of St. Croix, USVI

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