Antigua and Barbuda, an independent nation in the Leeward Islands of the West Indies, about 260 miles (420 km) east-southeast of Puerto Rico. The nation consists of the islands of Antigua and Barbuda and the uninhabited islet of Redonda. It has a total area of 171 square miles (443 km) and a population of 65,000.
Antigua is generally low-lying and flat, but in the west there are hills that rise more than 1,300 feet (400 m) above sea level. The deeply indented coastline has good natural harbors. Barbuda, about 25 miles (40 km) north of Antigua, is a flat coral island with excellent beaches. The temperature range is from warm to hot; there are distinct wet and dry seasons.
The nation's economy is based mainly on tourism, which is the biggest employer on the island. Tourists are drawn to Antigua and Barbuda's tropical climate, beaches, and resorts. Also important to the economy are sugar, produced from sugar cane raised by farmers, and cotton. Other manufactured products include clothing, appliances, and paint.
Antigua and Barbuda is a constitutional monarchy. The prime minister is the head of the government. The leader of the majority party in the country's House of Representatives becomes the prime minister. The prime minister chooses a Cabinet to help run government agencies in Antigua and Barbuda. The island nation has a two-house Parliament elected by the people. It consists of a House of Representatives and a Senate.
St. Johns, on Antigua, is the capital, chief port, and largest city. The country's basic currency unit is the East Caribbean dollar. Most Antiguans are of African descent; their language is English.
Antigua was inhabited by Carib Indians when it was sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1493. A British settlement was established in 1632. Barbuda was colonized from Antigua in the 1660's. When the nation gained independence from Great Britain in 1981 it remained in the Commonwealth of Nations. After elections in 1997, all nine seats of Barbuda's governing body—the Barbuda Council—were held by a political party favoring secession from Antigua.