Before Christopher Columbus and colonialism, the United States Virgin Islands, which are located in the Leeward Islands, were inhabited by the Ciboneys, Arawaks and Carib Indians. These first residents were wiped out by European settlers after Columbus’s second voyage in 1493 when he claimed the islands for Spain. After this, many European countries expressed interest in these islands; however Denmark was the first one to actually set up a settlement on the island of St. Thomas, in 1672, expanding to the other islands as time passed. Plantations soon spread throughout the islands. In 1916, the Danish sold the islands to the United States, through the Treaty of the Danish West Indies. However, it was only in 1927 that the people of the United States Virgin Islands were granted citizenship, and in 1936 allowed to create a senate. In 1970 the United States Virgin Islands elected Melvin Harris, who was their first governor. After the United States embargo on Cuba, tourism started to grow in the area and the islands have since seen much of this kind of development.
Despite being a great tourist destination for many Americans, who don’t need a passport to visit, West Indian culture is still extremely strong here. Music, parades, artisan fairs and storytelling is found in abundance, and similarly the architecture is noted for its diverse range (from colonial influences to traditional Caribbean ones). The United States Virgin Islands has imported many pan-Caribbean influences in terms of music as well, including reggae from Jamaica and calypso from Trinidad. The islands also enjoy and practice folk music, although it has declined since the mid twentieth century; however scratch bands and fungi music are still lively in the islands music scene. Even though the United States Virgin Islands was a Danish colony, Danish is not spoken here. Instead, English is the official language, with Virgin Island Creole also being spoken within more informal situations. Literature here has also been growing, in both these languages, especially on the assorted topics in relation to colonialism and self-determination. An interesting book in relation to the history here is Guide to Sources for the History of the Danish West Indies by Erik Gobel.