Known officially as the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, this Caribbean country is made up of a pair of islands separated by a shallow strait called The Narrows and united by their shared culture. Before Columbus, the two islands were known as Liamuiga and Oualie, or “fertile land” and “land of beautiful waters.” Although the names have since fallen out of use, their meanings hold true, as demonstrated by the local economy’s two biggest industries: agriculture and tourism.
Although Saint Kitts is now an independent, democratic sovereign state (the smallest in size and population in the Americas), it remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. It is also a member of the Caribbean Community and Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, and therefore uses the East Caribbean Dollar as its currency. Its official language is English, although a large percentage of the population also speaks a local Creole dialect. The capital city is Basseterre. The country’s economy is dominated by the tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing industries.
Saint Kitts and Nevis, both islands formed from volcanic activity, are now covered in tropical rainforest. The northern foothills are blanketed by grassland and sugarcane plantations, while the lowland supports numerous tropical fruit trees bearing mangoes, avocadoes, bananas, papayas, coconuts, and breadfruit. The two islands are bordered by white sand and coral beaches. The country’s climate is hot and typically humid, varying only slightly throughout the year between dry season and wet season.
Kittitian culture is most evident in the islands’ annual celebration of Carnival, the festival season celebrated from late November to early January to coincide with Christmas and the new year (rather than the pre-Lenten period during which it is commonly observed elsewhere). Festivities feature parades, costumes, pageants, and nationwide merrymaking that highlight folk theatre, traditional dance, calypso and soca music, and other aspects of Caribbean culture. Local athletes have found some international success in cricket, football (soccer), cycling, and track and field.