"Maintaining, Believing and Moving Forward"
The Bahamas or Commonwealth of the Bahamas form an archipelago consisting of approximately 700 islands and islets, north of the Caribbean Sea, in the Atlantic Ocean.
The islands of the Bahamas are themselves part of the archipelago of the Lucayes Islands separated from the mainland by the Strait of Florida and Cuba by the Old Bahama Channel. The Bahamas is a Commonwealth monarchy. Elizabeth II is therefore the head of state and monarch of the Bahamas since 1973, the date of independence of the country. The queen is represented by a governor.
The island of New Providence is the main island of the Bahamas but not the largest. The majority of the population live there, mainly in the capital Nassau.
The Bahamas at a glance
Constitutional monarchy, member of the Commonwealth
Administrative divisions: 32 districts
Population: more than 320,000 inhabitants
Main languages: English and Creole
Main religion: Christianity (mainly Baptists)
Current monarch: Elizabeth II of England
Current Governor General: Marguerite Pindling
Current Prime Minister: Hubert Minnis
Currency: Bahamian Dollar (1 Bahamian Dollar = 100 cents)
Conversion into euro: 100 rand = 89 euro
Tourism: The safety of tourists is generally ensured but it is necessary to remain vigilant and to avoid to circulate at night in isolated places
The Whites from Bahamas
The Bahamas, together with the Turks and Caicos Islands, form the archipelago of the Lucayes Islands, in the north of the Antilles. This archipelago is, erroneously, often assimilated to the Caribbean.
The islands of the Bahamas are the emergent parts of the Bahamas Banks, a vast limestone plateau formed in the Upper Jurassic, more or less 150 million years ago, as a result of plate tectonics. The accumulations of sediment deposited by water and wind as well as erosions carved the archipelago.
During glacial periods the water level dropped by 120 meters, leaving the entire Bahamas bank dry, causing chemical changes in the limestone due to the acid rain that penetrated the soil and have dug the underground caves. The collapse of the ceiling of these caverns is at the origin of the phenomenon of the blue holes, immense abysses generally circular which were then covered by the sea at the end of the glacial period. The difference in depth explains the much darker color of the sea above the holes.
The Dean blue hole in the Bahamas is 202 meters deep and has an average diameter of 30 meters.
Of the 700 islands (and islets) forming the Bahamas only about forty are inhabited. They generally have a fairly flat relief. The highest hill, Mount Alvernia, is located on Cat Island and culminates only at 63 meters above sea level.
Most of the territory of the Bahamas is protected by the Bahamas National Trust, which manages many national parks, and is home to a wide variety of marine birds, waterfowl, crustaceans and shellfish, as well as endangered species such as the striped grouper or the green turtle. Andros also boasts the third longest coral reef in the world.
The sun shines throughout the year in the Bahamas but it is recommended to go there between April and August to escape the Caribbean hurricanes that sometimes touch the archipelago. The climate is tropical and influenced by the Gulf Stream.
The territory of the Lucayens
The settlement of the Antilles probably began with the arrival of the Arawaks, Amerindian tribes originating from Central America or the South speaking the same language. The Arawaks subsided mainly from gathering, fishing, and farming, and produced painted ceramics.
One of the tribes belonging to the Arawak language group, the Tainos, has inhabited the Greater Antilles. In spite of their language close to that of the Arawaks, some historians incline to the thesis of a Mayan origin because of the similarity of the beliefs of the two peoples.
Around the 6th century, a branch of the Tainos, the Lucayans, crossed the strait separating Cuba (and/or Hispaniola) and the island of Great Inagua with canoes dug in tree trunks. They will gradually visit all the islands of the archipelago and settle on the largest of them. It is estimated that the population of Lucca reaches 40,000 inhabitants spread over 19 islands in the 15th century, the time of the arrival of the Europeans.
The Lucayans were organized in chiefdoms, each of them regrouping a few villages.
They have established trade relations with the various Caribbean islands and mainly with Cuba. The merchants carried their merchandise in a pirogue. In addition to trade, the Lucayans subsided from hunting, fishing, gathering and cultivating (sweet potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, and yams .... for food/cotton and hibiscus for the textile/tobacco they used as money change).
Their society was of the matriarchal type (filiation by the mother) and families in the broad sense generally comprising twenty members were grouped under the same roof. The huts made of wood and thatch were circular in shape and had a hole in the roof to allow the smoke to escape. They were grouped around a square near the sea, rivers and fertile lands.
The arrival of Europeans
The Lucayans were peaceful and when Christopher Columbus landed in 1492 on the island of San Salvador (called Guanahani by the local population) contact was established without violence.
The Bahamas are indeed the first lands of the "New World" discovered by the Italian explorer charged by the Spaniards to trace a route to the Indies.
Christopher Columbus visits the neighboring islands before continuing his journey to Cuba in the hope of finding gold.
The resources of the Bahamas being very poor, Christopher Columbus brought back from this first expedition only the Lucayans serving as free labor for the Spaniards. A large number of Lucayans were also sent to Hispaniola, whose population had been largely enslaved and sent to Spain. The Lucayans had to compensate for the lack of manpower in Hispaniola and Cubagua. Excellent divers, they were used mainly for conch and pearl fishing.
The islands of the Bahamas are completely depopulated at the beginning of the 16th century and will remain uninhabited for more than a century. They become a den for pirates and filibusters who were foaming the seas.
The islands of the Bahamas offered as a gift
In the 17th century, King Charles II of England regained his throne after the English Revolution and the execution of his father, Charles 1st. In order to reward his supporters who helped him during the restoration, the king offered them lands in the New World, mainly in Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey, which would allow him to enlarge his settlements. He also embarked on a campaign against the pirates of the Caribbean to protect his possessions. The islands of the Bahamas are offered to seven Lords who will cede them to the British Crown and therefore to James II in 1685.
In 1715, the islands of the Bahamas are again in the hands of the pirates and the royal navy sends
the corsair Woodes Rogers to reconquer them, to suppress the piracy in the region and to secure the trade routes. The Republic of the Corsairs established on the island of New Providence since 1706 is annihilated.
Woodes Rogers became the first Royal Governor of the Bahamas in 1718 and was officially named Captain, General and Governor in Chief on lands and around the Bahamas.
Even if the Spaniards tried in vain to seize it in 1782, the islands of the Bahamas knew a long period of peace and welcomed many colonists.
Beginning in 1833, Blacks landing in the Bahamas were freed and officially enjoyed the same rights as white settlers. However, the racial segregation persisted for many decades.
In 1973, Great Britain recognized the independence of the Bahamas, which, however, remained faithful to the Crown by becoming a member of the Commonwealth.
The islands of the Bahamas form a Commonwealth kingdom and a general governor (currently Dame Marguerite Pindling) is appointed to represent Queen Elizabeth II.
The head of government is the Prime Minister and the legislative power is vested in the Parliament constituted of the Senate and the House of Assembly.
The current Prime Minister, Hubert Minnis, is the leader of the National Free Movement (FNM) party, he was elected on May 11th, 2017.
An economy based on tourism
The economy of the Bahamas relies heavily on tourism. A large hotel infrastructure has been set up to welcome more and more foreigners (mainly North Americans) to enjoy the climate and paradisiacal beaches of the archipelago.
The Bahamas also benefits from the attractiveness of offshore banks that allow depositors to take advantage of bank secrecy and a very low tax rate. The foreign ship-owners can also get a flag of convenience with a great financial advantage and avoiding too strict controls.
These two activities, if they are legal, often conceal an underground economy or even protect organized crime (tax evasion and money laundering).
Some of the islands of the Bahamas can be leased through a 99-year lease for a few million dollars.
The industry and the agriculture represent only a fraction of the economic resources of the Bahamas.
A marriage between two worlds
The Bahamians are predominantly (85%) black, descendants of African slaves. The rest of the population is of European origin and, much more rarely, Asian.
The official language is English but Creole is the language spoken by almost all Bahamians.
Almost the entire population is Christian. The Baptist community is the best represented and represents 35% of believers. Angolanism, the Roman Catholic Church, Methodism, the Church of God and Pentecostalism share the rest of the population. Less than 3% of Bahamian Islanders claim to be atheists.
At the same time, the Bahamian voodoo called Obeah remains anchored in the traditions and is even tolerated by Christian priests.
The food is traditional in the Bahamas. There are spicy fish and shellfish dishes found throughout the Caribbean. The conch, the lobster, the grilled or the stewed fish are the daily dishes of the Bahamians.
The desserts are made from fruits, coconuts, bananas, pineapples, mangos ... prepared in cakes, pies, ice creams or creams. The fruits are also used to make lemonades.
The tourists love rum cocktails served in bars and restaurants while the Bahamians prefer a local or American beer.
The music accompanied by drums combines African and European rhythms and is omnipresent in life in the Bahamas, mainly during Carnival (December 26th and January 1st).
The Bahamas is a relatively safe destination but one must remain vigilant and not venture into isolated areas at night. The risk behaviors must also be avoided because of the high rate of adults infected with the HIV virus.
No vaccinations are required but vaccinations against Diphtheria-Tetanus-Poliomyelitis and yellow fever are recommended.
Finally, it is recommended to protect against the mosquito bites responsible for the Zika virus.
The Americans and, in recent years, Europeans choose the Bahamas as a holiday destination.
The Island of Paradise Island, linked to the capital Nassau by two bridges, offers incomparable hotel infrastructure and vast sandy beaches. It was built by billionaire Huntington Harford to attract tourists and especially the Atlantis Paradise Island, a huge complex including a casino, a luxury hotel, a golf course, a marina and many restaurants. More than 6,000 people work there, which is the first post-state employment provider in the Bahamas.
The New Providence is the most populous island in the Bahamas and 60% of the 400,000 inhabitants live there, more than half of them in Nassau. The tourism is booming.
Very sparsely populated until 1955, the island of Grand Bahama has been booming since the foundation of the port of Freeport which now has nearly 30,000 inhabitants. An agreement with the government allows it to be a free port and the companies that settle there must pay no tax until 2054. The island also attracts tourists who want to discover the pre-Columbian city of Lucaya.
The beaches of these tourist islands are often black and it is imperative to rent a location for a chance to settle there and enjoy the sun and the many proposed activities.
The travelers in search of authenticity and above all calm will prefer the less luxurious islands known as the "Family Islands" like Cat Island or the archipelago of Exumas.