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Saint Lucia - People

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 164,000 (July 2015 estimate). St. Lucia's population is predominantly of African and mixed African-European descent, with small East Indian and European minorities. St. Lucian society was homogeneous; 90 percent of the population was black. The balance of the population was mulatto (5.5 percent), East Indian (3.2 percent), or white (0.8 percent). By another estimate, the population is 82.5% of African descent, 11.9% mixed minority, 2.4% East Indian with the remaining 3.1% coming from European, North American, Lebanese, Syrian and Chinese backgrounds.

The population of just over 170,000 is evenly divided between urban and rural areas, although the capital, Castries, contains more than one-third of the population.

Some sources claim that ninety percent of the population is Roman Catholic, a further reflection of early French influence on the island. Other sources report that approximately 70% of the population is Roman Catholic. The 2010 Population and Housing Census reports Roman Catholics account for 61.1 percent of the population; Seventh-day Adventists, 10.4 percent; Pentecostals, 8.8 percent; evangelicals, 2.2 percent; Baptists, 2.1 percent; and Rastafarians, 2 percent. Other groups together constituting less than 5 percent of the population include Anglicans, members of the Church of God, Jehovahs Witnesses, Methodists, Muslims, and Bahais. Nearly 6 percent of the population claims no religious affiliation.

Rastafarians stated the governments prohibition of marijuana use prevented them from carrying out religious practices. Rastafarians also stated they faced extra scrutiny from police and immigration officials. Because of their belief against vaccinating their children, they stated they faced discrimination in the school system.

English is the official language, although many St. Lucians speak a French patois. The British, as the dominant social, political, and economic group in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, replaced French with English as the official language. English, however, lacked the common roots that French shared with patois, causing a clash of languages and cultures that previously had not existed. Although patois was replaced by English over time, it was still employed in some ceremonial functions. However, because patois continued to be associated with a sense of vulgarity and lack of culture and education, many St. Lucians hid their ability to communicate in it.

The development of patois during slave times served two purposes. It facilitated communication between both the French and the slave population and among the various ethnolinguistic African groups, who often did not share a common language. Until St. Lucia became British, French and patois coexisted harmoniously and were used interchangeably by the middle and upper classes; the uneducated, however, particularly the slave population, communicated only in patois.

The effect of language on social status was still very pronounced. Those elements that did not speak English, comprising approximately 20 percent of the population, were excluded from the education system and hence unable to participate fully in political, economic, and social power sharing. The St. Lucian government recognized the problem and was attempting to incorporate this minority into the mainstream of society through language outreach programs. An improved infrastructure, especially an islandwide road network, was also bridging the gap between these two groups.

Observers believed that with time, English would be spoken by virtually the entire population, and as a result patois probably would become less influential even among the French descendants on the island. Nevertheless, it appeared unlikely that patois would disappear completely, given the fact that it was a symbol of cultural identity for many St. Lucians.

According to the 2010 census, the total estimated population in 2010 was 166,526, including 83,600 females (50.2%) and 82,926 males (49.8%) (Figure 1). Of the total population, 165,595 lived in households and 931 in institutions. The census report also showed that the population density was 796 persons per square mile, with 72.0% of the population living in rural communities. The census also revealed that approximately 43,545 people (26% of the population) lived in the rural areas of Castries, the capital, as compared with 26,795 (17%) in 2001, an increase of 9% over the nineyear intercensal period. Suburban Castries accounted for 11% of the total population in 2010, down from 15% in 2001.

The population of Castries itself has declined from 7.9% of the total in 2001 to 2.5% in 2010, presumably because of the expansion of commercial activity in the metropolitan area, as a result of which people have moved to the suburbs. Whereas between 1991 and 2001 the country's population grew by 1.2% per year, preliminary estimates for 2010 indicate that between 2001 and 2010 it increased by 5.3%, as the number of live births exceeded the number of deaths. Average life expectancy was 73.2 in 2007 (70.8 years for males and 75.8 for females), as compared with 74 years in 2001 (72.5 for males and 75.5 for females). Figures for international outbound migration indicate that 8,435 people emigrated between 2001 and 2010-3,608 males (42.7%) and 4,827 females (52.3%).





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