By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises
Tortola is the largest and most populated of the British Virgin Islands, which sounds very impressive,
Except that none of the islands are very large or have all that many people.
Pity, since they are very nice places.
The islands—in total—have a population of about 28,000. Of that number, about 23,000 live on Tortola, many near the capital city of Road Town, which is where we are scheduled to dock.
The principal islands are Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost van Dyke.
Although the Spanish Empire claimed the islands, they never settled them: they found no gold. On nearby Virgin Gorda there is a small deposit of copper, and British entrepreneurs later imported miners and technology from Cornwall.
In subsequent years, English, Dutch, French, Spanish, and Danish powers scuffled over control of the region, but the predominant power for much of the time were pirates including Blackbeard and Captain Kidd.
In the late 16th century, the English, who had successfully displaced the Dutch, established a sugar cane plantation colony on Tortola and the surrounding islands.
Wherever there was sugar cane, there were slaves because the industry was very labor-intensive.
In the late eighteenth century, new settlers arrived: Loyalists from the Thirteen Colonies after the American Revolutionary War who were given land grants by the Crown to encourage development. They brought their African-American slaves with them, outnumbering the British colonists.
English is universally spoken throughout the British Virgin Islands, along with some local dialects and creole.
British Virgin Islanders are classed as British Overseas Territories citizens, and since 2002 have had full British citizenship.
Although the territory is not part of the European Union and not directly subject to EU law, its citizens are deemed to be citizens of the EU as well. Just to make things confusing—or easier, if you prefer—the official currency of BVI is the U.S. dollar.
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