Delegating Denver #51 of 56: Virgin Islands

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Virgin Islands

Total Number of Delegates: 9 Pledged: 3 Unpledged: 6

How to Recognize a Virgin Islands Delegate: Blown (way) off course during his second voyage, Christopher Columbus chose a religious theme and named this grouping of islets for the virgin handmaidens of some obscure marriage-avoiding saint. He was going through his idealistic phase (pre-tyrant), and hoped that the sail-by edict would be enough to convert the natives into Catholics. Instead, the islands attracted pirates, who loved the hidden harbors as a place to dock their ships. The beautiful white-sand beaches also gave them a perfect spot to lay out their towels and gawk at one another's booties. And that's how America's cruise vacation industry began! The only trouble was that the islands belonged to Denmark. The United States wanted them badly and started making offers in 1845. Finally, in 1917, an arrogant U.S. government claimed that it had intelligence reports showing German plans to use the islands for launching U-boats of mass destruction, and forced the Danes to sell for $25 million. Today the U.S. Virgin Islands are a haven of American prosperity and proud home to both the largest oil refinery in the Caribbean and Captain Morgan's new worldwide rum distillery. It's also a popular port of call for compulsive snorkelers and cautious honeymooners. In return, Virgin Islanders are prohibited from voting for the United States president and collecting Social Security. They will be extremely easy to detect on the streets of Denver. Females will look like movie stars making guest appearances on Sesame Street circa the 1980s, with their outdated pastel-hued cruise-wear pantsuits. Their shoes will be low-heeled strappy sandals in citrus colors from the Essentric Shoe Boutique. Males will wear comfortable, color-coordinated shirt-and-slacks ensembles with matching fabric shoes in aquamarine, oyster and lavender from Asfour Department Store.

Famous Virgin Islanders: Anti-slavery activist hero Denmark Vesey; Liberian nation-builder Edward Wilmot Blyden; Father of Impressionism Camille Pisarro, socialist labor leader Frank Rudolph Crosswaith; black nationalist turned conservative firebrand Roy Innis; beloved national librarian Enid M. Baa; sitcom psychiatrist Kelsey Grammer; video vixens Karrine Steffans and Jasmine St. Claire; "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" songwriter Claude A. Benjamin; basketballers Tim Duncan and Raja Bell; baseballers Joe Christopher and Midre Cummings; runners Bruce Sewer and Iroy Chittick.

Famous Virgin Island Democrats: United States representative Donna Christian-Christensen; 27th governor Charles Wesley Turnbull; 28th and current governor John deJongh; senators Pedro "Pete" Encarnación, Louis Patrick Hill and Lorraine Berry.

Denverites With Virgin Island Connections: 2004 Virgin Islands Olympic team and current University of Denver head swim coach Brian Schrader

Territory Nickname: American Paradise. Island Nicknames: Rock City (St. Thomas), Love City (St. John) and Twin City (St. Croix) (official); Duty Free Town (St. Thomas), Straw Hat Town (St. John) and Fruity Rum Drink Town (St. Croix) (unofficial).

Population: 108,708 Racial Distribution: 9% white, 76% black, 1% Asian, 14% Hispanic Per Capita Personal Income: $17,200 Unemployment: 11%


Most Virgin Island Neighborhood: Skyland

Most Virgin Island Bar: Ocean 201 Columbine Street Come for the variety of rum drinks and perfectly prepared appetizers in the lounge. The pirate decor is the perfect backdrop for watching Denver's arrogant professional athletes swash their buckles and shiver their timbers.

Most Virgin Island Restaurant: 8 Rivers 3609 West 32nd Avenue Need a quick fix of dasheen? This may be the only place in town to find callaloo. But since this is Denver, tofu cubes will replace the saltfish.

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Best Day Trip: Sand Dunes National Park

Moko Jumbies are stilt-walking dancers who take to the street during carnival to celebrate freedom. These towering fiqures represent the half-god/half-ghost legend who walked across the Atlantic Ocean from West Africa to protect islanders’ descendants during slavery and colonial life. Today the Moko Jumbies’ major source of income is collecting donations from onlookers on the upper floors of buildings that line the parade route. Lofty spirits from lush tropical islands may sound foreign to Colorado, but they'll feel comfortably at home in the San Luis Valley. From downtown Denver, take I-25 south for 160 miles to Walsenburg. At exit 50, take U.S. Highway 160 westbound for another 58 miles. Turn right on Colorado Highway 150 and drive to the entrance of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The dunes rise so abruptly from the San Luis Valley floor that they seem to have been scooped up against the base of the towering Sangre de Cristo Mountains by some giant's hand. Against the sapphire-blue grags by day (and ethereal red by dusk), the sands look creamy white, but a closer inspection reveals a remarkable coloring of red, pink, green and grey with shadows of purple and chocolate. The best view can be had by walking up to them from the parking area and climbing the first slope. It is not advisable to proceed any farther, for fear of never being seen again: The Great Sand Dunes are as dangerous as they are mysterious. Naysayers attribute the eerie moans and deep rumblings that come from beyond to the ever-shifting sands. But it’s more than the rubbing together of sand grains that electrifies the air above the dunes and makes a visitor's hair stand on end. The dunes sit directly between Crestone, a tiny mountain town with more than two dozen religious centers, and Hooper, home to Colorado's only UFO watchtower. Something ethereal is happening here — but whether the area is holy or haunted depends entirely on a visitor's belief in gods or ghosts. Visiting Moko Jumbies of the United States Virgin Islands can believe it all.

-- Kenny Be

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Cory Casciato is a Denver-based writer with a passion for the geeky, from old science fiction movies to brand-new video games.
Contact: Cory Casciato