Virgin Islands National Park – Sugar and Rum

I’ve been without wifi for a week. Lenny and I were in the US Virgin Islands,visiting their national park units.

Virgin Islands National Park is the one park that most people have heard about. Beaches, drinks, sun and sand on the island of St. John. That’s why people visit the island. Most of the island is a national park, which means that it’s retained wide open beaches without the trappings of Coney Island.

But St. John is not untouched wilderness. The three islands which make up the US Virgin Islands were a colony of Denmark for over 200 years. The Danes, with the help of lots of enslaved labor, built the sugar works. They grew sugar cane and processed it for sugar and rum. Sugar was big business in the 1800s. Europe wanted their sweets.

There are ruins of sugar mills all over the island. Remnants of walls, towers, houses just lie in plain sight.

Annaberg is the most famous sugar mill, preserved by the park service. You can drive to the site. If you’re lucky, a Friends of Virgin Islands National Parks volunteer will give you a tour. This is a picture of the windmill tower which provided the power to crush the sugar cane.

All this processing also required work animals. It turns out that donkeys are perfect animals for work. They require little water in an area that can be quite arid. The Danes and sugar mills are long gone. But donkeys have now gone feral and walk the  roads. If you want one, you can pick one up for free.

The US bought the Virgin Islands from the Danes in 1917, while World War I was still raging. But Danish influence is still felt all over the islands.


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