If you’re lucky enough to have chosen one of the top-class St Lucia hotels and are planning a holiday here, you might find the following slightly odder facts about the island interesting.
Today, the town of Castries is the island’s capital and an attractive, bustling place. Yet until the late 18th and early 19th century, the island’s capital was Soufrière (near the Pitons and the famous drive-in volcano). The capital was changed when the British finally took over the island for the last time during the Napoleonic wars. They preferred the harbour at Castries.
The island has produced two Nobel laureates in Arthur Lewis and Derek Walcott. The island can proudly proclaim that it has the second highest number of such laureates in the world, per capita!
English is the official language and is widely spoken. Yet the language spoken by the majority of islanders is patois, essentially a mixture of French, African languages plus some elements of English. Much of the French heritage can still be seen in place names, some of the cuisine and many of the St Lucia hotels.
Many people believe that this is an official and large-scale religion of some Caribbean islands including this one, however, the predominant religion of the island by far is Roman Catholicism. Many Rastafari (or Rastas if you prefer) don’t actually consider their movement to be a religion at all but rather a spiritual way of life. In fact, estimates place the number of adherents to be considerably lower than 5% of the total island population.
The drive-in Volcano
Not far from the town of Soufrière is the more-or-less dormant volcano of the same name. Although dormant, it does periodically vent some sulphurous smelling gases that manage to be both fascinating and offensive at the same time. You can also see some hot springs and bubbling mud. Don’t worry, luxury St Lucia hotels won’t be located anywhere too near those offensive odours!
Freedom of slaves
For a short period during the French Revolution, anti-royalist purges took place on the island and, in the spirit of the new freedom, the slaves were freed. Unfortunately, slavery was re-introduced under Napoleon and maintained initially following the subsequent British takeover of the island. It was only finally abolished under British rule in 1838.
Today you can still see echoes of that oppressive system in some of the plantation museums – some of which are still working.
Some people believe that the original population were the Caribs – the original group that gave their name to the Caribbean. In fact, as far as is known, the very first islanders were called the Ciboneys, and they arrived from the area we today call Venezuela in around 500BC. Other groups followed over time, including the Caribs who are thought to have arrived around 900AD. There is relatively little left of these early peoples other than some archaeological traces and some linguistic contributions to the Creole spoken on the island today.