Saint Lucia was first inhabited by the Amerindians (Kalinago) for about 800 years. They made it very difficult for the early Europeans to settle on the island. The Amerindians named the island “Ianoula” which according to Dominican missionary Pere Raymond Breton means “There where the iguana is found”. The name eventually evolved to “Hewanorra”. The present name is derived from “ Sainte Alousie” said to have been first given by French seamen shipwrecked on the island in 1502, and “Sancta Lucia” given by the Spanish explorers later in 1511.
In 1650 the French purchased the island and settled there in 1651. The French were able to ward off attacks by the Caribs and the colony increased. In 1659, the English arrived and tried to take over the island with claims that they were entitled to it because of their earlier attempt at colonization. They were eventually defeated. However, this was the beginning of a fight between the French and the British over Saint Lucia which lasted for 150 years. During that period Saint Lucia changed hands fourteen times; seven times British and seven times French. As a result of these battles, the island became known as “The Helen of the West Indies” after the myth of Helen of Troy. Saint Lucia was surrendered to Britain by the French in 1814.
Saint Lucia is one in the chain of islands situated between North and South America, which make up the Caribbean. It is a subgroup of the Windward Islands and is located between 60 and 61 degrees West longitude, and 13 and 14 degrees North latitude. Its closest neighbors are the French island of Martinique 21 miles to the north, St. Vincent and the Grenadines 24 miles to the south, and Barbados 100 miles on its north-eastern side. It is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic ocean.