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Map of the Virgin Islands
The Virgin Islands are an archipelago, part of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean Seamarker. The Leeward Islands are the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles, where the Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Oceanmarker.

The Virgin Islands are divided into two political entities; on the east, Anegadamarker, Jost Van Dykemarker, Tortolamarker, Virgin Gordamarker, and over fifty other smaller islands are administered as an overseas territory of the United Kingdommarker; and in the west, St. Croixmarker, St. Johnmarker, St. Thomasmarker, and Water Island are governed as an unincorporated territory of the United Statesmarker.

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 murder.

Later, the islands were re-populated by European plantation owners, and enslaved Africans who worked on sugar plantations, and at least one tobacco plantation. The sugar plantations are gone, but the descendants of the enslaved Africans remain the bulk of the population, sharing a common Afro-Caribbean heritage with the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean.

Motor vehicles are driven on the left-hand side of the road on both the British and the U.S. Virgin Islands, although the steering wheels on most cars is located on the left side (as is the norm for drive-on-the-right localities). Also, the United States dollar is the official currency on both the British and U.S. Virgin Islands.

West of the Virgin Islands lie the islands of Viequesmarker and Culebra, that since a 1990s tourist campaign have re-christened themselves the Spanish Virgin Islandsmarker, though they are seldom identified as such on maps and atlases. The "Spanish Virgin Islands", or Passage Islands, are just east of Puerto Rico, and governed as part of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Natives speak Spanish, and the culture is similar to Puerto Rico. Vieques and Culebra belonged to Spain prior to the Spanish-American War in 1898. Though the islands are not labeled part of the Virgin Islands archipelago, some argue that Vieques and Culebra are geographically part of the Virgin Islands chain, and note that Vieques and Culebra are closer to St. Thomas, than St. Thomas is to St. Croix.

Virgin Islands political regions


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