St Lucia is one of the most beautiful Caribbean islands and a popular tourist destination. The island is home to the famous Gros Piton and Petit Piton mountains and its pristine beaches, and also has a variety of plant species including bananas, cocoa, and nutmeg. St Lucia is a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and the Commonwealth, and seeks balanced international relations with emphasis on economic development.
The majority of the population is of African descent, descended from people brought to St Lucia as enslaved workers by European colonizers during centuries of European rule. A smaller percentage is of mixed African and European descent, and the remainder are East Indians, descendants of people brought to work on the plantations from India in the 18th century. English is the official language, although many people also speak a French dialect called Creole.
Most of the population is Roman Catholic, a reflection of early French influence on the island. There are also smaller communities of people who are Jewish and Hindu. The population is fairly evenly divided between urban and rural areas.
Education is generally of a good standard, although tertiary education is mostly private. There are also a number of government-run hospitals and multiple health centers. Public expenditure on education stood at 2.1% of GDP in 2012.
There are more than 20 Catholic churches on the island (thecatholicdirectory), and a large number of Protestant churches. There is also a small community of people who practice a form of Hinduism known as Rastafari, which combines elements of Christianity with traditional African beliefs and practices.
Saint Lucia is known for its tropical beauty, including its lush rain forests and gorgeous sandy beaches. Its volcanic mountains are also spectacular, and its stunning natural attractions attract tourists from around the world.
Tourism is an important part of the economy, accounting for more than a quarter of the country’s GDP. The most popular activities are scuba diving, fishing, and walking tours of the rain forest. Other popular activities include visiting the Diamond Waterfalls and exploring the Sulphur Springs.
The government is a parliamentary democracy with an executive branch consisting of the governor general (representing Queen Elizabeth II) and the prime minister, and a legislature comprising a bi-cameral parliament. The judicial branch consists of district courts and the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, with final appeal to the Privy Council in London. The Constitution of St Lucia guarantees religious freedom. The country is a member of the Commonwealth and the Organization of American States. Its foreign policy aims to promote economic development and trade, and maintain diplomatic ties with developed countries. It has participated in a number of peacekeeping operations, such as the 1983 Grenada intervention. The country is a major contributor of troops to the United Nations. In addition, it is a founding member of the Caribbean Free Trade Association and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.