Visitors to St. Vincent and the Grenadines might almost expect to turn to see a pirate flag flying over an old frigate off the coast. Part of the Walt Disney film “The Pirates of the Caribbean” were filmed on this island paradise, but despite the tales of the movie the pirate activity was lighter than in other parts of the region.

The islands were however fiercely contested by European powers for centuries, and defended as aggressively by the native Carib tribes. In fact the first foreigners to arrive on St. Vincent were former African slaves, who likely escaped from other nearby Caribbean islands. The two peoples intermarried and the island locals became known as the “Black Caribs” to the Europeans.

The French were able to settle the island at the beginning of the 18th century, and built the first plantations to grow tobacco, cotton and sugar. With the end of the French and Indians Wars the island of St. Vincent was ceded to the British in 1763, and then retaken by the French during the American Revolution in 1779. Finally, by the terms of the Treaty of Paris it was ceded again to the British. This led to increased hostilities between the indigenous Black Caribs and the British. Slavery was abolished in the British Caribbean in 1834, and the island of St. Vincent along with the smaller Grenadines became a crown colony in 1877.

The islands were the last of the Windward Islands of the Eastern Caribbean to gain their full independence, which finally took place in October of 1979.