After the abolition of slavery, East Indians came to St. Lucia as indentured servants. Most worked in the large sugar factories in the Cul-de-Sac, Roseau, and Mabouya valleys and in Vieux Fort, where there is still a significant East Indian community. In comparison to other immigrant groups, their numbers were small. Although their traditional culture has almost disappeared, the East Indians have had a notable and lasting influence on the island's fine cuisine.
The fertile, volcanic soil of the island yields an enormous supply of produce, and the island is one of the leading banana exporters in the Caribbean, with six different varieties available. In addition to bananas, St. Lucia's abundant tropical fruits include mangoes, papayas, pineapples, soursops, passionfruit, guavas, and coconuts.
The island, with its fine natural harbor at Castries, was contested between England and France throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries (changing possession 14 times); it was finally ceded to the UK in 1814. Even after the abolition of slavery on its plantations in 1834, Saint Lucia remained an agricultural island, dedicated to producing tropical commodity crops. Self-government was granted in 1967 and independence in 1979.
The manufacturing sector is the most diverse in the Eastern Caribbean area, and the government is trying to revitalize the banana industry, although recent hurricanes have caused exports to contract. Saint Lucia is vulnerable to a variety of external shocks including volatile tourism receipts, natural disasters, and dependence on foreign oil.
Saint Lucia's foreign relations emphasize mutual economic cooperation and trade and investment. The country seeks to conduct its foreign policy chiefly through its membership in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. Saint Lucia and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization of American States, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.
Saint Lucia's economy depends primarily on revenue from tourism and banana production. More Americans visit Saint Lucia than any other national group. Saint Lucia is a beneficiary of the Caribbean Basin Initiative, which aims to facilitate the economic development and export diversification of the Caribbean Basin economies by providing beneficiary countries with duty-free access to the U.S. market for most goods.
The Senate presently comprises 11 Senators, six appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister, three on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition, and two by the Governor General on the advice of the general community. The House of Assembly comprises 17 elected members and a Speaker, who may be elected from outside the House. The Cabinet comprises the Prime Minister and such other Ministers as he may consider necessary. The post of Attorney General ceased to be a public one in 1979.
The first civil governor of Saint Lucia was Brigadier General George Prevost, commissioned on April 15 1801. General Prevost was assisted in the Civil Administration by a “Conseil Superieur composed of 12 of the most respectable inhabitants in Saint Lucia.”
In 1802, when the island was briefly occupied by the French, the Civil Administration continued, although with some minor changes. It was fully restored by the British in 1803.
Europeans first landed on the island in either 1492 or 1502 during Spain's early exploration of the Caribbean. The Dutch, English, and French all tried to establish trading outposts on St. Lucia in the 17th century but faced opposition from the Caribs.
St. Lucia's first known inhabitants were the Arawaks, believed to have come from northern South America in 200-400 A.D. Numerous archaeological sites on the island have produced specimens of the Arawaks' well-developed pottery. Caribs gradually replaced Arawaks during the period from 800-1000 A.D.