Saint Lucians - Orientation

Identification. Although Saint Lucians regard themselves as West Indians, their Saint Lucian identity is primary.

Location. Saint Lucia is one of the Windward Islands, which constitute the southern chain of the Lesser Antilles, in the eastern Caribbean. The island is located 40 kilometers south of Martinique and 48 kilometers north of Saint Vincent. Its proximity to these two islands—a former French colony and a former British colony—reflects and reveals Saint Lucia's dual European history and culture.

Demography. The population of Saint Lucia was estimated to be 151,774 in 1992. In contrast to other West Indian societies, Saint Lucia is and always has been ethnically homogeneous. People of African descent constitute 90.3 percent of the population; of these, some are Melates (a combination of African and European lines), others are Doglas (African and East Indian), and still others Chabeans (African, East Indian, and Amerindian). East Indians, descendants of contract workers recruited from India in the 1850s, account for 3.2 percent of the population. Less than 1 percent of Saint Lucians are Caucasians.

Linguistic Affiliation. Saint Lucians are largely bilingual. Although English is the island's official language and about 45 percent of the population is literate in English, Patwah, the nonwritten language that developed between French-speaking planters and African slaves, is widely spoken. Whereas French and Patwah had at one time been the island's sole languages, a linguistic transition to English occurred in the early 1800s, after Saint Lucia became a British colony.

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