By Donald E. de Castro
It is embarrassing, shameful, disgraceful and totally unacceptable that so many thousands of students from these two territories graduate from high schools, colleges and universities along with those persons that come here to work or just visit don not know the difference between the Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands.
If you would listen to our leaders, our politicians, educators, governor, attorney general, the news media and the tourist board as they refer to this territory and you are a true Virgin Islander you should be embarrassed.
It has been accepted over the years that Columbus discovered these islands on his second voyage in 1493. It is said that when he discovered these islands they reminded him of St. Ursula and her eleven thousand Virgins, so called them ‘Las Once Mil Virgines’.
These islands change hands many times over the years and when it was all over Denmark ended up with one group and Great Britain ended up with the others in 1672. Denmark called their group the Danish West Indies. In 1917 the United States bought them from Denmark and renamed them the US Virgin Islands.
These Virgin Islands (The Virgin Islands) remained under direct rule of Britain, and then became a Presidency of the Colony of the Leeward Islands partly ruled by Antigua. On July 1, 1956 we became the Colony of the Virgin Islands and this began some form of autonomy. Then on July 1, 1978 the Virgin Islands were referred to as a Territory as the result of progress generally. So while the US Virgin Islands celebrate the US Independence on July 4th, the Virgin Islands celebrate July 1st as colony/territory day, when this community of islands obtained colonial status from Britain in 1956. However, to our leaders and others it is just another holiday.
As the years moved on since the Virgin Islands Constitution was given in 1956, there have been several constitutional amendments to improve the quality of life of the citizens and residents of this territory. At the time of the writing we are going through more amendments, and in none of these amendments were there ever changes made to the name of the country. Yes, I forgot to mention that Britain continued to call her group The Virgin Islands. So for the benefit of those of you that do not know, there is no such place as the “British Virgin Islands”.
I spoke to the president of the HLSCC, Dr. O’Neal, and he assured me that there is a program in place to teach the students that there is no such place as the British Virgin Islands. The former Deputy Governor Dancia Penn, QC, who was also a former attorney general tried to make it clear on several occasions. However there seems to be evidence that maybe they are not emphasizing this enough in either the high schools or the primary schools. In addition there is only a handful of us who are proud of our country and are very much concerned. It is about time the people should become aware and know the proper name of the country in which they live.
I spoke to one lawyer and he supports my concern. However, he said to me it is a matter of money. A member of the tourist board also told me this indirectly. These two comments are telling me that our only concern should be the DOLLAR. I am very sorry but we should be more concerned about the generations to come and not let the dollar be the death of our SOULS and the lost of our HOME.
I now appeal to the educators, news media, leaders, politicians, our courts and all other concern persons to educate our people in both groups of islands. You are always hearing discussions about why we are not. Talking about the courts it was brought to my attention by an attorney that was doing some work for me. This attorney had written the name “British Virgin Islands” on one of my documents and I asked to have it removed.
I was told that was the practice here. However the same attorney told me that at one time there was a judge here from Barbados who made it clear that there was no such place. So why are the other judges, magistrates and attorney general permitting it? And why is the speaker of the house permitting it in the legislature?
At one time I went to St. Thomas and on the entry card it calls place of birth and of course, I put the Virgin Islands as I always do. The immigration officer that was admitting me kept asking where I was born and I kept on repeating the same thing, The Virgin Islands. I then tried to give her the history; she got mad and sent me through.
And for those of that may not know, the next time you see one of our passports, on the inside front cover it reads, “The Governor of the Virgin Islands” and nowhere in our passport you will see, “British Virgin Islands.”
Let us be proud to be Virgin Islanders and not something we are not. We are not British. Only those persons who have now obtained British passports are British Citizens. And these persons are not interested in their country; they are only interested in their personal selves so that they may travel to the US. They are only assisting the British Government to eventually take back our country from us. Maybe not in my lifetime but as soon as enough persons become British Citizens. Only time will tell. Remember we were never British Citizens, but at one time like the former British West Indies we were all British Subjects.
While those persons born in the US Virgin Islands are US Citizens and are covered by the US Constitution, we that are born here in the Virgin Islands are citizens of an Overseas Territory of Britain similar to Bermuda. Montserrat, Anguilla, The Cayman Islands and the Turks & Caicos Islands. Each one of these groups of islands has its own constitution.
I was born in The Virgin Islands and my son was born in the US Virgin Islands. KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.
I would love to hear from you comments positive or negative. You can contact me at Tel/Fax 284-494-4629, email Donald.firstname.lastname@example.org or write
Donald E. de Castro
Road Town, Tortola
Virgin Islands, VG1110
PS: My son only born in St. Thomas because The Cottage Hospital now known as Peebles Hospital was unable to handle an emergency that came up and the doctor recommend that I take the mother to St. Thomas. No. I am not one of those Virgin Islanders who wants their children to be born in the US or one of its Territories, and everyone else from everywhere else are trying to have their children born here.