The British Virgin Islands also called the BVI is one of the remaining overseas British territories in the Caribbean basin. The islands of the BVI are part of the Virgin Islands Archipelago, with the USVI completing group. The British Virgin Islands (BVI) are made up of the main islands of Tortola, Jost van Dyke, Anegada as well as over 50 other islands and BVI cayes. The largest of these BVI islands is Tortola and the capital of the BVI is found on the island of Tortola and is called Road Town. About 80% of the BVI population lives on the main island of Tortola, while the other are scattered amongst 15 other inhabited islands. The last estimated population of the BVI was just over 22,000 people.
Most of the locals on the BVI island are decedents of slaves from Africa which were brought the islands by the British and are called afro-Caribbean. There are large populations of British (expats, Portuguese, Syrian/Lebanese and other European origin). The BVI islands people are predominantly Christian with bases of protestant, and there are Anglicans, Catholics, and Methodist make up the larger.
Interestingly, the BVI has a local dish called fungi, not to be mistaken for fungus related, and is a main dish made from cornmeal, similar dishes are found in other Caribbean islands but what’s interesting is that the BVI have developed a local and native style of music which they in turn call fungi. Fungi is a fusion between their African and the European music, and uses traditional instruments such as the bongo, the washboard, the calabash, and more western instruments like the guitar, the saxophone and keyboards. This form of art is used as a way of storytelling and the folklore of the island is passed on. This type of music in the BVI is considered form of cultural expression and to preserve it, it is a part of the school’s curriculum.
Education in the BVI is provided by public or government schools, and private schools. The highest level of education in BVI is the college level, and most students go offshore to England or North America to continue Educations.
Although still a territory of England where the Queen is head of state, her representation on island is the Governor. Britain main role is responsibility for the security, external affairs and defense of its territory. Internally the country is self governed operating under a bi-cameral parliamentary democracy with local members who are elected by the people. The judicial system in modern days is led by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court of which the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal lie in the Final Court of Appeal are still under the Privy Council in England. The legal system, like most other countries in the Caribbean, is based on English Common law.
The BVI enjoy a stable economy which is dependent primarily on Tourism and its Financial Services. Tourism caters to interests in the dive sector, the yachting sector and now the cruise business. The BVI are a haven for duty free shopping and especially for jewellery. The Financial sector of the BVI has been truly enhances through progressive legislation and ongoing government support of the program the country is regarded for its high quality in Financial Services and specifically in its Offshore international Business Companies.
The BVI attract many British expats to make the island second homes or vacation destination as it has the warm tropical climate which are consistent throughout the year. Then there are the white sand beaches, and BVI is known worldwide as a sailing destination, and charter sailboat business is lucrative in the BVI. The island is also known for its international sailboat races that occur more than twice a year and draw the crème de la crème of the world of sailing. There are quite a few sailing schools based in Tortola.
The local currency in the BVI is the US dollar and not the GB pound, although the British had a stronghold on the island as early as 1672. The islands were however home to the Arawaks long before the Europeans were to set foot on the island. It is said that later on, the Caribs would displace the Arawaks as they had done in so many other islands. In 1493 the islands were sighted by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the “Americas”, and he named the island Santa Ursula y las Once mil Virgenes (of Saint Ursula and her 10,000 Virgins). Although the Spanish fist discovered the islands and laid claim to them. They never settled the islands, and in the years to come, the English the French, the Spanish the Danes and the Dutch would all wrangle for control of the areas.
Eventually through various treaties and agreements the islands would be divvied up between the British, the US (in 1917 bought what is today known as the USVI. The BVI remains a country which is diverse in its culture. It has many strong influences inherited from the long stay o the British, but the local culture and heritage of its original settlors and the slave’s lives on. The economic success based on Tourism and financial services, makes the BVI a well known territory in this world, and its first world charm, its physical attributes, its developing infrastructure make this a mort interesting place to live, or visits.