The Bahamas

The Bahamas
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Bahamas, officially the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is an English-speaking country consisting of twenty nine islands, six hundred and sixty one cays and two thousand, three hundred and eighty seven islets (rocks). Its total land area is five thousand, three hundred and eighty two square miles; (slightly larger than Connecticut and Rhode Island combined), with an estimated population of three hundred and thirty thousand people. The capital is Nassau. Geographically, the Bahamas lie in the same island chain as Cuba, Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

 

 

 

History: Taino people moved into the uninhabited southern Bahamas from Hispaniola and Cuba around the 11th century AD. These people came to be known as the Lucayans. There were an estimated 30,000+ Lucayans at the time of Columbus's arrival in 1492. Christopher Columbus's first landfall in the New World was on an island named San Salvador (known to the Lucayans as Guanahani), which is generally accepted to be present-day San Salvador Island, (also known as Watling's Island) in the southeastern Bahamas. An alternative theory holds that Columbus landed to the southeast on Samana Cay, according to calculations made in 1986 by National Geographic writer and editor Joseph Judge based on Columbus's log. Evidence in support of this remains inconclusive. On the landfall island, Columbus made first contact with the Lucayans and exchanged goods with them.

 

 

The Spaniards who followed Columbus depopulated the islands, carrying most of the indigenous people off into slavery. The Lucayans throughout The Bahamas were wiped out by exposure to diseases to which they had no immunity. The smallpox that ravaged the Taino Indians after Columbus's arrival wiped out half of the population in what is now The Bahamas. It is generally assumed that the islands were uninhabited by Europeans until the mid-17th century. However, recent research suggests that there may have been attempts to settle the islands by groups from Spain, France, and Britain, as well as by other Amerindians.

 

 

In 1648, the Eleutherian Adventurers migrated from Bermuda. These English Puritans established the first permanent European settlement on an island which they named Eleuthera - the name derives from the Greek word for freedom. They later settled New Providence, naming it Sayle's Island after one of their leaders. To survive, the settlers resorted to salvaged goods from wrecks. In 1670 King Charles II granted the islands to the Lords Proprietors of the Carolinas, who rented the islands from the king with rights of trading, tax, appointing governors, and administering the country.

 

 

18th century: During proprietary rule, the Bahamas became a haven for pirates, including the infamous Blackbeard. To restore orderly government, The Bahamas were made a British crown colony in 1718 under the royal governorship of Woodes Rogers, who, after a difficult struggle, succeeded in suppressing piracy. In 1720 he led local militia to drive off a Spanish attack. During the American War of Independence, the islands were a target for American naval forces under the command of Commodore Ezekial Hopkins. The capital of Nassau on the island of New Providence was occupied by US Marines for a fortnight. In 1782, following the British defeat at Yorktown, a Spanish fleet appeared off the coast of Nassau, which surrendered without a fight. After American independence, some 7,300 Loyalists and their slaves moved to the Bahamas from New York, Florida and the Carolinas. These Americans established plantations on several islands and became a political force in the capital. The small population became mostly African from this point on. The British abolished the slave trade in 1807, which led to the forced settlement on Bahamian islands of thousands of Africans liberated from slave ships by the Royal Navy. Slavery itself was finally abolished in the British Empire on the 1st of August 1834.

 

 

20th century: Modern political development began after the Second World War. The first political parties were formed in the 1950's and the British made the islands internally self-governing in 1964, with Roland Symonette of the United Bahamian Party as the first premier. In 1967, Lynden Pindling of the Progressive Liberal Party became the first black premier of the colony, and in 1968 the title was changed to prime minister. In 1973, The Bahamas became fully independent, but retained membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. Sir Milo Butler was appointed the first black governor-general (the representative of Queen Elizabeth II) shortly after independence. Based on the twin pillars of tourism and offshore finance, the Bahamian economy has prospered since the 1950s. However, there remain significant challenges in areas such as education, health care, international narcotics trafficking and illegal immigration from Haiti. The origin of the name "Bahamas" is unclear. It may derive from the Spanish baja mar, meaning "shallow seas"; or the Lucayan word for Grand Bahama Island, ba-ha-ma "large upper middle land".

 

 

Geography and climate: The closest island to the United States is Bimini, which is also known as the gateway to The Bahamas. The island of Abaco is to the east of Grand Bahama. The south easternmost island is Inagua. The largest island is Andros Island. Other inhabited islands include Eleuthera, Cat Island, Long Island, San Salvador Island, Acklins, Crooked Island, Exuma and Mayaguana. Nassau, capital city of The Bahamas, lies on the island of New Providence. All the islands are low and flat, with ridges that usually rise no more than 49 to 66 feet. The highest point in the country is Mount Alvernia, formerly called Como Hill, which has an altitude of 207 feet on Cat Island. To the southeast, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and three more extensive submarine features called Mouchoir Bank, Silver Bank, and Navidad Bank, are geographically a continuation of The Bahamas, but not part of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

 

 

Climate: The climate of the Bahamas is subtropical to tropical, and is moderated significantly by the waters of the Gulf Stream, particularly in winter. Conversely, this often proves very dangerous in the summer and autumn, when hurricanes pass near or through the islands. Hurricane Andrew hit the northern islands during the 1992 Atlantic hurricane season, and Hurricane Floyd hit most of the islands during the 1999 Atlantic hurricane season. While there has never been a freeze reported in the Bahamas, the temperature can fall as low as 2–3 °Centigrade during Arctic outbreaks that affect nearby Florida. Snow was reported to have mixed with rain in Freeport in January 1977, the same time that it snowed in the Miami area. The temperature was about 4.5 °Centigrade at the time.

 

 

National symbols: The symbolism of the flag is as follows: Black, a strong colour, represents the vigour and force of a united people, the triangle pointing towards the body of the flag represents the enterprise and determination of the Bahamian people to develop and possess the rich resources of sun and sea symbolized by gold and aquamarine respectively. In reference to the representation of the people with the colour black, some white Bahamians have joked that they are represented in the thread which "holds it all together."

 

 

Coat of arms: The Coat of Arms of the Bahamas contains a shield with the national symbols as its focal point. The shield is supported by a marlin and a flamingo, which are the national animals of the Bahamas. The flamingo is located on the land, and the marlin on the sea, indicating the geography of the islands. The Coat of Arms was designed by Bahamian artist and Clergy, Rev. Dr. Hervis L. Bain, Jr; MBE. On top of the shield is a conch shell, which represents the varied marine life of the island chain. The conch shell rests on a helmet. Below this is the actual shield, the main symbol of which is a ship representing the Santa Maria of Christopher Columbus, shown sailing beneath the sun. Along the bottom, below the shield appears a banner upon which is scripted the national motto: "Forward, Upward, Onward Together."

 

 

National Flower: The yellow elder was chosen as the national flower of the Bahamas because it is native to the Bahama Islands, and it blooms throughout the year. Selection of the yellow elder over many other flowers was made through the combined popular vote of members of all four of New Providence's garden clubs of the 1970's – the Nassau Garden Club, the Carver Garden Club, the International Garden Club, and the YWCA Garden Club. They reasoned that other flowers grown there – such as the bougainvillea, hibiscus and poinciana – had already been chosen as the national flowers of other countries. The yellow elder, on the other hand, was unclaimed by other countries (although it is now also the national flower of the United States Virgin Islands).

 

 

Economy: One of the most prosperous countries in the Caribbean region, the Bahamas relies on tourism to generate most of its economic activity. Tourism as an industry not only accounts for over sixty percent of the Bahamian GDP, but provides jobs for more than half the country's workforce. An example of Tourism in the Bahamas is the number of cruise ships that land in the capital of Nassau where tourists visit the straw market to buy different items or have their hair braided. After tourism, the most important economic sector is financial services, accounting for around 15 percent of GDP.

Age structure: 0–14 years: 25.9% (male 40,085; female 38,959) 15–64 years: 67.2% (male 102,154; female 105,482) 65 years and over: 6.9% (male 8,772; female 12,704) (2009 est.)

 

 

Culture: In the less developed outer islands, handicrafts include basketry made from palm fronds. This material, commonly called "straw", is plaited into hats and bags that are popular tourist items. Another use is for so-called "Voodoo dolls," even though such dolls are the result of the American imagination and not based on historic fact. Although not practised by native Bahamians, a form of folk magic obeah derived from West African origins, is practiced in some Family Islands (out-islands) of the Bahamas due to Haitian migration. The practice of obeah is however illegal in the Bahamas and punishable by law. Junkanoo is a traditional African street parade of music, dance, and art held in Nassau (and a few other settlements) every Boxing Day, New Year's Day. Junkanoo is also used to celebrate other holidays and events such as Emancipation Day. Regattas are important social events in many family island settlements. They usually feature one or more days of sailing by old-fashioned work boats, as well as an onshore festival. Some settlements have festivals associated with the traditional crop or food of that area, such as the "Pineapple Fest" in Gregory Town, Eleuthera or the "Crab Fest" on Andros. Other significant traditions include story telling.

 

 

 

 

ALL IN ALL YOU COULD SPEND YEARS EXPLORING THE BEAUTIFUL BAHAMAS

                      SANDY, LOW-LYING AND THE WATER IS STUNNING