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The Commonwealth
Saint Lucia


Caribbean and Americas

Did you know:

Saint Lucia is a mountainous country of volcanic origin ringed with sandy beaches.

The country has more Nobel laureates per capita than any other country: poet and playwright Derek Walcott, born in Castries, Saint Lucia, on 23 January 1930, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992; and Sir Arthur Lewis was Nobel economics laureate in 1979.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 1979
Population: 182,000 (2013)
GDP: p.c. growth: 1.1% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: World ranking 97
Official language: English
Timezone: GMT minus 4hr
Currency: Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$)


Area: 616 sq km
Coastline: 158km
Capital city: Castries
Population density (per sq. km): 295

Saint Lucia is part of the Windward Islands group, which form an arc jutting out from the Eastern Caribbean into the Atlantic. It lies south of Dominica and north of Barbados.

Main towns:

Castries (capital, pop. 67,700 in 2010, including Bexon, Babonneau, Ciceron and La Clery), Dennery (3,700), Laborie (3,500), Monchy (3,100), Vieux Fort (3,000), Grande Rivière (2,700), Augier (2,500), Micoud (2,200), Soufrière (1,500) and Anse La Raye (1,400).


There are 1,210 km of roads, mainly unpaved. The main cross-island route runs from Castries in the north to Vieux Fort in the south.

The main ports are Castries and Vieux Fort. A fast catamaran service operates between Saint Lucia, Martinique and Dominica. Several cruise lines call at the island.

Hewanorra International Airport lies 67 km south of Castries and George F. L. Charles, 3 km to the north-east.

International relations:

Saint Lucia is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, Association of Caribbean States, Caribbean Community, Non-Aligned Movement, Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, Organization of American States, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Saint Lucia hosts the headquarters of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.


Saint Lucia is a pear-shaped mountainous island of volcanic origin, 43 km long. In the centre of the island, Mt Gimie rises to 950 metres, while Gros Piton (798 metres) and Petit Piton (750 metres) lie to the west, rising sheer out of the sea. Sulphurous springs, steam and gases bubble out of a volcanic crater a few kilometres from Petit Piton. The mountains are intersected by short rivers, debouching in places into broad fertile valleys.


The hot tropical climate is moderated all year round by the north-east trade winds. The dry season is January to April, the rainy season May to November.


The most significant environmental issues are deforestation and soil erosion, particularly in the north of the island.


With its economy traditionally based on agriculture, about 30 per cent of the land area is under cultivation. Elsewhere there is rainforest with exotic and varied plant-life, many with brilliant flowers. Forest covers 77 per cent of the land area.


This small island has rich birdlife including several unique species, for example the Saint Lucia oriole and the Saint Lucia black finch. The Saint Lucia parrot was the subject of a successful conservation programme established in 1978 which raised the population from some 150 birds to over 400. Native reptiles include the Saint Lucia tree lizard and the pygmy lizard.


Saint Lucia has been much fought over. The Caribs ousted earlier Arawak settlers by around 800 CE, with the first Europeans arriving in the 16th century, but historical sources vary as to which explorers landed on the island first. What is more certain is that European powers wrestled with the Caribs, and one another, for control of the island between 1660 and 1814, with the flag of Saint Lucia changing 14 times in that period.

After unsuccessful early attempts by the Spanish to take control, possession of the island was disputed, often bloodily, by the French and British. A small English group made a failed attempt to settle in 1605; another English colony, started in 1638, was annihilated by the Caribs three years later.

The Caribs resisted French settlement with equal vigour, until a peace treaty (1660) with them permitted settlement, and ensured the safety of some French settlers from Martinique who had arrived during the preceding decade. The British made further attempts to gain control, and the island changed hands again and again, and was a focus for Anglo-French hostilities during the Napoleonic Wars. The British ultimately took possession under the Treaty of Paris in 1814, and Saint Lucia became a Crown colony.

A prosperous plantation economy developed; it was based on sugar, and worked by enslaved Africans until Britain abolished slavery in 1834.

The island was a member of the Windward Islands Federation until 1959. In 1959, Saint Lucia joined the West Indies Federation, under which it was proposed that the British Caribbean countries should proceed to independence as a federation. Disagreements among the larger members led to dissolution of the federation in 1962, and the larger members proceeded alone to independence.

In 1967, Saint Lucia received a new constitution, giving full internal self-government under universal franchise, as one of the states of the Federated States of the Antilles. In February 1979, it became independent, as a constitutional monarchy and member of the Commonwealth, with John Compton of the United Workers Party (UWP) as its first Prime Minister.

The Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) won the election in 1979 and adopted a policy of close collaboration with Grenada, which had recently undergone a revolution led by Maurice Bishop, and was aligned with Cuba and North Korea. Allegations of corruption resulted in an early general election in 1982, when the UWP was returned with a large majority. It was re-elected in 1987 and 1992 (with an 11:6 majority). Prime Minister Compton adopted IMF adjustment measures and returned the country to operation of a market economy. He also pursued the integration of the Eastern Caribbean countries through the OECS.

In March 1996, at a UWP convention, Compton lost the leadership, after 30 years, and was replaced as Prime Minister by Dr Vaughan Lewis. An early general election in May 1997 resulted in victory for the SLP, winning 16 of the 17 seats, with 61 per cent of the votes, and SLP leader Dr Kenny Anthony became Prime Minister. Lewis resigned as leader of the UWP, having lost his seat.

History of Saint Lucia

Learn more about Saint Lucia on The Commonwealth site Society, Economy, Constitution & politics, History and Travel.

St Lucia Tourism

St. Lucia Vacation Travel Guide

Business in the Commonwealth
Web site of the Country

Return to our Commonwealth Page


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