S is for SNORKELING
Snorkeling at Buck Island Reef National Monument is legendary, and although I did not get to see all the fish featured in the 2014 Telly award winning video “Caribbean Gem: Buck Island Reef National Monument”, I will never forget the clarity of the water, the size and abundance of the various types of coral, or the enormous parrotfish that live here. Turtle Beach, on the island’s west end, is pure paradise.
T is for TRANSFER
Transfer of St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas from Denmark to the United States occurred on March 31, 1917, when the U.S. paid Denmark $25,000,000 in gold coin. The name of the islands was subsequently changed from Danish West Indies to Virgin Islands of the United States. Today, Virgin Islanders are considered U.S. citizens, but they don’t get to vote in the presidential election, and their one representative in Congress has a limited role. She is allowed to vote in committee, but does not get to vote on the final passage of bills.
C is for CHRISTIANSTED
Christiansted, on the north coast of the island, is one of the two main towns on St. Croix. The other - Frederiksted - is nicknamed “Freedom City” for its role in the slave rebellion and eventual emancipation that occurred in 1848. Frederiksted sustained much more damage from hurricane Maria, but it had better wheelchair access along its picturesque waterfront. The streets are wider and less congested, there are more curb cuts, and Fort Frederik, which operates now as a museum, showcases some of the island’s historic, artistic, and cultural artifacts.
R is for ROLLING
Rolling hills dominate the landscape on St. Croix. Measuring 28 miles long x 7 miles wide, it is the largest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands and is sometimes referred to as “the big island”. Point Udall, named for former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, marks the easternmost point in the United States. The views of Buck Island, open ocean, and surrounding hills are spectacular from Point Udall. Interestingly, the westernmost point in the United States is also called Point Udall. It’s in Guam, and is named for Stewart’s brother Morris, a U.S. Representative from Arizona.
O is for OUSTING
Ousting the evil spirits is no small feat for the Moko Jumbies. It is believed that the Moko Jumbies originated in West Africa and arrived in St. Croix over 200 years ago. While they originally were believed capable of seeing and preventing evil spirits from harming their villages, 21st century Moko Jumbies in the Virgin Islands attend festivals, weddings and other events as a way to maintain cultural traditions. Previously this tradition was passed down from father to son, but today there are female Moko Jumbies, too.
I is for INDIVIDUALS
Individuals whose assistance contributed to the fun I had on St. Croix - Mom; Francis Didier, our favorite cab driver; Bethany, Ortiz, Dion and CJ at Mermaid Beach; Steve and Danny at Big Beard’s Adventure Tours; Mike, Greg and Cory at St. Croix Ultimate Bluewater Adventure (SCUBA). Edith Wharton said it best - “One of the great things about travel is that you find out how many good, kind people there are.”
X is for EXAMPLES
Examples of the devastation caused by last year’s hurricane season can be seen from the air, land and sea. While some of the blue roofs visible from above the island are solid metal, others are tarps that have been secured with nails and small boards. According to one resident, the homes with the “FEMA roofs” still don’t have power. At Buck Island, a large section of elkhorn coral was covered in several inches of sand that was blown across it. Gradually the depth of the sand is lessening and islanders are optimistic that the coral may survive. In spite of all the loss and damage suffered on St. Croix last year, it is still entirely possible to have a wonderful vacation in America’s Caribbean.