Virgin Islands

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Coordinates: 18°5′37″N 64°49′49″W / 18.09361°N 64.83028°W / 18.09361; -64.83028 The Virgin Islands are the western island group of the Leeward Islands, which are the northern part of the Lesser Antilles, which form the border between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Politically, the north-eastern islands form the British Virgin Islands and the south-western ones the United States Virgin Islands.

Technically the official name of the British Virgin Islands is simply the "Virgin Islands" and the official name of the United States Virgin Islands is the "Virgin Islands of the United States", but in practice since 1977 both territories have been almost universally referred to as the "British Virgin Islands" and the "United States Virgin Islands" to distinguish the islands from each other.

The British Virgin Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom comprising Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke, over fifty smaller islands, and Anegada to the north. The United States Virgin Islands is an unincorporated territory of the United States comprising St. Croix to the south, with St. John, St. Thomas, and smaller islands. The Virgin Passage separates the U.S. Virgin Islands from the "Spanish Virgin Islands" or "Passage Islands", Vieques and Culebra, which are the easternmost islands of Puerto Rico.

Christopher Columbus named the islands Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Vírgenes, shortened to Las Vírgenes, after Saint Ursula and her 11,000 virgins. They were inhabited by the Arawak, Carib and Cermic, all of whom died out during the colonial period from disease, harsh labor conditions, and genocide.

Later, the islands were re-populated by European colonists, who established sugar plantations (and at least one tobacco plantation) worked by slaves brought from Africa. The plantations are gone, but the descendants of the slaves remain the bulk of the population, sharing a common Afro-Caribbean heritage with the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean.

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