British Virgin Islands: Country and Foreign Investment
Population, Language and Culture
The population of the British Virgin Islands is approximately 31,150 (2012 est) and the official language is English. The population consists of a mixture of British, Spanish, Dutch, Amerindian and Caribbean racial types; in the last twenty years immigrants in search of work from other parts of the Caribbean have more than doubled the population. Some relatively minor tensions exists between the newcomers and the 'belongers' who see their relaxed lifestyle threatened. Proposals for tough new immigration laws are controversial.
Historically, the Islands were settled by the Arawak and Carib Indians. In 1493 the islands were discovered by the Spanish, however, the first foreign settlers were Dutch planters. The British controlled the islands from 1666; they were part of the Leeward Islands from 1872 until 1956, since when they have formed a separate territory.
Economic ties have been forged with the US Virgin Islands rather than the West Indies Federation of British Territories.
Tourism is inevitably a dominant feature of the islands' present culture with over 300,000 annual visitors in 2012.
Despite the BVI's status as a British dependent territory (with which the islanders are content) and many British influences, the prevailing cultural influences are more American than British. However, Road Town's picturesque setting and sheltered harbour still offer a glimpse of the easy lifestyle evolved over the last four centuries by English, Dutch, French and Spanish adventurers followed by plantation owners and early settlers.