Where is St Kitts?
The Federation of Saint Christopher (Kitt) and Nevis consist of two islands in the Eastern Caribbean approximately 1,200 miles (1,931km) from Miami, 218 miles (350 km) east-southeast of Puerto Rica and 50 miles (80km) west of Antigua. Its distance from London (UK) is approximately 4,000 miles (6437 km). It is part of the Leeward Island chain of the Lesser Antilles archipelago. St Kitts is the larger of the two islands separated from the island of Nevis by what is termed “The Narrows”, a shallow ocean channel. The island of St Kitts covers an area of approximately 69 square miles (111square km) and Nevis approximately 36 square miles (58 square km). The capital of St. Kitts and Nevis are Basseterre which is located on the island of St. Kitts.
The islands of Saint Eustatius, Saba, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin (Maarten) and Anguilla are north-northwest of the islands and to the east and northeast are the islands of Antigua and Barbuda.
The islands enjoy a hot tropical climate with the driest period between January and April. The wettest months are May through to October, with hurricanes most likely between August and October.
Travelling from the US and Canada you fly direct to the Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw International Airport just outside Basseterre on the island of St. Kitts. Flying in from Europe or other countries means you will fly via Antigua and land at the Nevis airfield at Newcastle on the island of Nevis.
History of St. Kitts and Nevis
The first inhabitants of the islands were Native Americans who first inhabited the islands more than five thousand years ago, followed by the Kalinago (Carib) Indians who arrived around 300 years before the islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. The Kalinga people named the island of St. Kitts ‘Liamuiga’ (fertile land). This name still exists today but only names the Western peak on the island, Mount Liamuiga.
Christopher Columbus first sighted the islands in 1493 and named the island of Nevis, San Martín. However, its present day name is derived from the Spanish Nuestra Señora de las Nieves. For a short, while the island was known as “Dulcinea” (sweet one), but soon reverted to the original Spanish name which was abbreviated to ‘Nevis’.
During the 17th century the island of St. Kitts was recorded as ‘San Cristóbel’ (Saint Christopher), and it is the English nickname that is used today, Kit (Kitt) being the short form of Christopher.
French Huguenots arrived on St Kitts in 1538 but the Spanish were none too happy with this invasion by the French and they destroyed their settlement and deported the survivors. The next settlers to arrive were the British in 1623, who were soon followed by French colonialists. However, in the first few years, both the French and British settlers ran a campaign to discredit the indigenous peoples to justify their systematic genocide of the local population of the islands. This continued until the Spanish returned and destroyed their settlements and in 1629 deported all the French and English settlers back to their homelands. However, in 1630 the Spanish allowed both the French and the British to resettle the islands and so the French and British were able to establish a strong foothold in the Caribbean. The islands became known as “The Mother Colony of the West Indies”. Constant friction between the two nationalities finally ended when the French ceded the islands to the British in 1713.
At first, the two islands were governed as two separate entities until they were unified by the British together with the island of Anguilla. In 1967 the islands were granted autonomy over their internal affairs. However, in 1971 Anguilla separated from this ‘associated state’ leaving the two islands of St. Kitts and Nevis to gain their own independence in 1983.
The island of Nevis has long been dissatisfied with the treatment meted out by the ruling island of St. Kitts and did, in 1998, put the possibility of succession to the vote in a referendum, but the vote was not carried and Nevis remains part of the two islands sovereign state.
The people of St. Kitts and Nevis
The majority of the population of the islands are Afro-Caribbean, descended largely from the slaves imported by the British to work on the sugar plantations. A very small percentage of the population is of British descent.
The lingua franca of the islands is English but socially locals employ a dialect of English mixed with West African languages known as Kittitian (St Kitts) and Nevisian (Nevis). The islands are known for their idiosyncratic music, dance and dress and the telling of stories based on myth and legend is very much part of the island culture.
Goat meat and sometimes mutton, as well as fresh seafood, are the staples of traditional fare accompanied by either pea and rice or squash. Fried chicken is also a favourite for special occasions. The islanders love to spice up their dishes with hot sauces and much of the local food is either carried or cooked creole style.
As can be expected with its sugar plantation heritage, rum is the most popular alcoholic beverage, although beer has become a fierce contender. A local brewery on St. Kitts provides the local brew which is much cheaper than the island’s rum.