The multi-island country of St Vincent and the Grenadines is home to La Soufriere, an active volcano which last erupted in 1979.
Of the many islands and cays that make up the Grenadines, Mustique, Palm Island and Union Island are haunts of the rich and famous - offering yachting, diving and fine beaches.
Efforts are being made to diversify the economy away from bananas. Tourism is said to have great potential and the construction of an international airport has been under way.
Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor
Prime minister: Ralph Gonsalves
Ralph Gonsalves has been the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines since 2001.
A former university lecturer and lawyer, he leads the Unity Labour Party (ULP).
His party won a landslide victory in the March 2001 general elections, which ended 15 years of rule by the New Democrat Party.
In December 2015 he was re-elected to serve a fourth consecutive term in office.
There are several private radio stations and a national radio service which is partly government-funded.
Some key dates in the history of St Vincent and the Grenadines:
1300 - Carib Indians of South America conquer the indigenous Arawak Indians.
1498 - Christopher Columbus visits the main island on St Vincent's Day.
1783 - Treaty of Versailles recognises St Vincent as a British colony.
1795-97 - Britain, with French support, deports 5,000 caribs to Belize following an uprising.
1834 - Slavery abolished, forcing plantation owners to free more than 18,000 slaves; foreign labourers indentured.
1958-62 - St Vincent a member of the British-sponsored West Indies Federation.
1979 - Independence. A revolt on Union Island by a group that wanted more power in the country's new government is put down.
2003 - The country is removed from a list of nations deemed uncooperative in the fight against money-laundering.
2009 - Voters reject the proposal to replace the monarchy with a republic in a constitutional referendum.