For more than 7,000 years, the stunning island of Saint Croix, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, has been inhabited by various peoples. In the past 500 years, seven nations have flown their flag over this little gem of the Caribbean. In recent years, it has become a key destination for scuba enthusiasts and vacationers.
An Indigenous Legacy
In 5,000 B.C., early natives first settled in St. Croix. By 100, the Arawaks had settled the island and brought with them agriculture. In the 13th century, the Caribs arrived from Guiana, largely displacing the Arawaks.
The first recorded violence between a European and an indigenous North Americans took place on St. Croix on Nov. 14, 1493 when a member of Christopher Columbus' landing party killed a Carib.
A Period of Changing Ownership
The Spanish held St. Croix for nearly a century, in constant conflict with the Caribs, before finally abandoning it. At that point, it was claimed by the Dutch and the English, with the English eventually driving the Dutch away. Next, the Spanish reclaimed the island from the Dutch. Finally, the French bequeathed the island to the Knights of Malta in 1660.
An Age of Plantations
In 1665 the Knights of Malta sold the island to the French West India Company, which set about planting cotton, sugar and tobacco on the island. Eventually, the island was sold to the Danish West India and Guinea Company, which successfully administered the island for nearly two centuries.
Sale to the United States
Denmark sold their holdings in the West Indies for $25 million U.S. dollars to the United States, which was interested in having more strategic military locations in the Caribbean to defend against the Germans in 1917. In addition, the U.S. supported Denmark's contentious claim to Greenland.
Tourism and Beyond
The economy of St. Croix remained relatively stagnant until the early 1950s when tourism arrived in force on the island. The next five decades brought a growing tourism infrastructure, national parks and casinos to the island, making it an increasingly popular port of call for cruise ships.