Cannons at Fort George on
Brimstone Hill, a UNESCO
World Heritage Site

The twin-island nation of St. Kitts & Nevis is located in the northern section of the Eastern Caribbean, approximately 1,300 miles southeast of Miami, Florida.

The name St. Kitts is a shortened form of its official name, St. Christopher, given to it by Christopher Columbus when he first landed there in 1493. There is some controversy about whether it was named for himself or St. Christopher. In any event, it is commonly referred to as St. Kitts and the inhabitants call themselves Kittitians.

Nevis is named after the Spanish word for snow--not because there is any!--but because of a white cloud surrounding the island's single peak.

St. Kitts became Britain's first colony in the West Indies with the founding of a settlement in 1623. In 1983, the Federation of St. Kitts & Nevis gained independence as a two-island nation within the British Commonwealth. Today, St. Kitts & Nevis is developing a distinct style and culture, although, not surprisingly, British influence is still strongly evidenced in many traditions.

The islands' history is long and bloody. The French and English settled here early in the 1600s and subsequently fought with, and then annihilated, the local Carib people. For the following 200 years the islands and their vastly valuable sugar trade were an important pawn in the European struggle for supremacy of the seas and the new world. England ultimately won out over France (and then Spain). These islands played important parts in new world events during that period: at the height of their power, Nevis was considered "the richest jewel" of the Caribbean and St. Kitts was known as the Mother Colony and "cradle" of the Caribbean. Today's population of 45,000 is mostly descended from African slaves brought to the islands to work sugar and tobacco crops and indentured servants and small farmers who stayed on after the world drop in sugar prices in the mid-1800s made plantation farming less than lucrative.