Saturday, July 14, 2012


Sun, blue-green sea, island breezes. Almost perfect (minus the occasional hurricane or tropical storm). The Bahamas are a Caribbean island nation that is southeast of the state of Florida in the United States and northeast of the island of Cuba.

It’s only one of two countries [in English] that start with the word “The.” (The Gambia, being the other one.) It’s somewhat vague as to the origin of the word “Bahama.” Some think it may be from the Spanish baja mar, meaning “low tide or short sea.” Others think it may be from a Lucayan word (the original peoples) ba-ha-ma, meaning “large upper middle land.”

The Bahamas are where it’s widely thought that Christopher Columbus first landed in the Western Hemisphere. Even though he named the island where he landed San Salvador (that the natives already called it Guanahani), it’s not clear which island it is exactly.

The Bahamas were once colonized by the British, which is why their official language is English, even though a Haitian Creole is spoken among the Haitians who live there. The British used the area as stop in the slave trade (which many stayed after being freed), and many freed African Americans also settled in The Bahamas after their emancipation. 

Today, The Bahamas make most of their wealth through two things: tourism and international banking. Between the two, The Bahamas is one of the richest countries in the Northern Hemisphere (behind the United States and Canada). There isn’t much land space available for farming and only small amount of manufacturing, so the majority of jobs available are in the tourism field or banking industry. That being said, they still have an unemployment rate of around 14%.
The capital, Nassau, was once burned to the ground by the Spanish but later rebuilt and named after William III from the House of Orange-Nassau (in the Netherlands). Not only was it a center for its rudimentary government, but it was also used as a refuge for pirates, including the infamous Blackbeard.  With a population of around 249,000, Nassau is a little larger than St. Petersburg, Florida.  It’s famous for its year-end festival called Junkanoo, a wild costume-ridden, music-and-dance-filled celebration that rivals Carnival or Mardi Gras.

My suggestion is to sit back with some rum or coconut water (or both), let the breezes flow through your hair (which in my case is a box fan blowing the humidity around), and relax as we go through Bahamian culture together.

Up next: Holidays and Celebrations

Wikipedia: “The Bahamas” “Christopher Columbus” “Nassau, Bahamas” “List of United States Cities by Populations”
CIA World Factbook: The Bahamas

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