The People and Culture of St. Kitts
Steeped in a rich and tumultuous history that has shaped the island and its people, St. Kitts was once considered the gateway to the Caribbean. Step back in time, stay at a remarkable Caribbean resort, take a scenic railway tour of the old sugar plantations, sample island delicacies, get a glimpse into our fascinating culture and connect with the warm Kittitians you’ll meet along the way.
In the middle of it all - The peaceful calm of St. Kitts suggests nothing of the extraordinary history of the island. For centuries, St. Kitts occupied a critical position in the European struggle for the islands of the West Indies, which were rich with sugar plantations and were considered the gateway to the Caribbean. As a result, the struggles and conflicts in and around St. Kitts shaped much of the history of the entire Caribbean.
The peace and tranquility of St. Kitts belies the extraordinary and often violent history of the island. For centuries, St. Kitts occupied a critical position in the European struggle for the islands of the West Indies, which were rich in sugar plantations and were considered the gateway to the Caribbean. At the center of it all, the struggles and conflicts in and around St. Kitts shaped much of the history of the Caribbean, prompting the island to be known as the “Mother Colony”.
Discovery and early times
The recorded history of St. Kitts begins in 1493, when Christopher Colombus sailed past the island on his second voyage of discovery, but did not land. Its not certain if he named the island after himself, or after the patron saint of travelers, St. Christopher. Nevertheless, by the time Englishman Thomas Warner arrived with fourteen other settlers in 1624 to establish the first non-Spanish European colony in the Caribbean, the island was known as St. Christopher's. Later on it was affectionately nicknamed St. Kitts.
Blessed by a volcano
Mt. Liamuiga, St. Kitts’ central peak is actually a 3,792-foot extinct volcano, known as Mt. Liumuiga (meaning fertile soil) and the source of the island’s lush tropical vegetation and rich geological history. The volcano stands majestically above the growing rainforests that continue to spread their green canopies where sugar cane fields were once cultivated. The islands fertile soil, along with its fresh water, abundant forests and salt is what drew settlers of the Caribbean to St. Christopher.
Sweet Spot of the Carribean
Of all the English colonies in the Caribbean, St. Kitts was the oldest and wealthiest - with rich volcanic soil and an ideal climate for lucrative sugar plantations. Annually St. Kitts yielded a fortune in sugar and rum for its wealthy, mostly absentee, landholders. By around 1775, the time of the American Revolution, 68 sugar plantations existed on St. Kitts, one for every square mile. Production innovations on the island, led St. Kitts to become the world leader in sugar cane cultivation and a catalyst for the industrial revolution.
A Bitter Sweet Ending
Slavery was finally abolished throughout all the British colonies in 1834, and with it the eventual demise of the sugar industry. Europe's beet sugar undersold Caribbean cane. Depressed market prices could not offset the production and transportation costs for an island crop. In 2005, the Government officially closed both the remaining cane fields and sugar factory due to plummeting profits. An exciting new era has dawned on the island, with tourism the new focus of income for St. Kitts. Perhaps best symbolized by the sugar train railway, now transformed into the St. Kitts Scenic Railway, a one-of-a-kind tour offering breathtaking ocean vistas and takes visitors through many of the sugar plantation ruins.