Dominica, island republic in the West Indies, lying in the Caribbean Sea, approximately midway between the islands of Guadeloupe (on the north) and Martinique (on the south). One of the Windward Islands, Dominica is about 47 km (about 29 mi) long and has an area of some 751 sq km (some 290 sq mi).
The Land and People
Dominica is volcanic in origin and has a mountainous terrain, with several peaks rising above 1220 m (about 4000 ft); the highest point is Morne Diablotins (1447 m/4747 ft). The island has a tropical climate with an average annual temperature of about 26.7° C (about 80° F). The annual rainfall is considerable, ranging from about 1780 mm (about 70 in) on the coast to more than three times that figure in the mountains. The island has many small unnavigable rivers; Boiling Lake, from which sulfurous gases frequently arise, is located in the south. Luxuriant forests cover the mountains.
Dominica has a total population (1989 estimate) of 82,800. More than 90 percent of the inhabitants are black, descendants of slaves brought from Africa in the 18th century. A small number of Carib also live on the island. English is the official language, but a French patois is widely spoken. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion. Roseau (population, 1987 estimate, 22,000) is the capital and chief port.
Dominica has fertile soils that provide a good basis for farming, the principal economic activity. Agricultural products include bananas, citrus fruit (especially grapefruit and limes), coconuts, cocoa, cinnamon, vanilla beans, and vegetables. Pumice is quarried and exported. Manufacturing is limited to the processing of farm products. The main manufactures are fruit juices, alcoholic beverages, soap, and essential oils. The currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (2.6925 Eastern Caribbean dollars equal U.S.$1; 1990).
Dominica was sighted and named by Christopher Columbus on November 3, 1493. The indigenous Carib people successfully resisted early European attempts at colonization. In 1632 the French gained a foothold on the island, and they retained parts of it until 1763, when it was assigned to Great Britain by the Treaty of Paris. Under British rule Dominica became part of the Leeward Islands dependency in 1833 and was attached to the Windward Islands group in 1940. In 1967 it became an internally self-governing state associated with Great Britain. Dominica attained full independence on November 2, 1978, and subsequently joined the Commonwealth of Nations and the United Nations. The republic's first prime minister was Patrick R. John; he was succeeded by Oliver Seraphin in 1979 and by Mary Eugenia Charles in 1980, 1985, and 1990.