St. Kitts was originally inhabited by the Arawak and Carib tribes; the prehistoric hunter-gatherers who roamed the archipelago for centuries until the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1493. The Caribs aptly called the island Liamuiga, meaning fertile island because of its soft volcanic soil. Nonetheless, it was Christopher Columbus who named the island St. Kitts, after his favorite Saint.
The first Non-Spanish settlement in the Caribbean occurred in St. Kitts, thus making it the Mother Colony of the West Indies and the launching pad for British and French expansion and domination in the Western Hemisphere. In 1624, an English Captain, Thomas Warner settled on St. Kitts because of its strategic central location for expansion, fertile soil, abundant fresh water, large salt deposits and a hospitable native population. Then, in 1625 Thomas Warner allowed an embattled French Captain, Pierre D’Esnambuc, to settle on the island, thus making St. Kitts the site of the first permanent British and French settlements in the New World.
Consequently, St. Kitts became the battleground for many conflicts as the European powers fought for control of the island. The Indigenous Carib people were eventually wiped out in an ambush at Bloody Point, leaving the British and the French in a series of ferocious back and forth struggles for control of the island until 1783, when the French ceded the island to the British in the Treaty of Versailles.
St. Kitts’ long historical past, dominated by slavery and colonialism has been the incubator for the resilience and fortitude of its people. The cultivation of cane sugar spanned over three hundred and fifty years, until, the removal of trade preferences and un-competitive production costs forced The Government to close the industry in 2005. The sugarcane covered landscapes punctuated with centuries-old former sugar plantations tell a story a foregone era.
Basseterre, the capital city, to this day resembles a seventeenth century European metropolis transplanted in the middle of a vibrant twenty first century Caribbean, with its baroque Georgian architecture and centuries old landmarks. The City’s rich cultural heritage remains frozen in time; from the imposing tower of the St. Georges Anglican Church, originally named Notre Dame by the French in 1670, to the enchanting garden of Independence Square built in 1790 as a slave market.
During the Colonial era, St. Kitts claimed the title “The Pearl of the Caribbean” because of its riches and, the important role it played in the expansion of the British Empire; a title many would argue still holds true today as it engage the future in a global world. Now with full political autonomy, a legendary democracy and a transformed economy underpinned by tourism, financial services, information technology and agriculture, St. Kitts stands well-positioned to reclaim its past glory.