Turks & Caicos Islands: Culture & History
The majority of islanders today are black descendants of African slaves who were brought over by the loyalists at the end of the eighteenth century, and the beginning of the nineteenth century. Others belong to a rapidly expanding population of immigrants from Haiti and the Dominican Republic who were greatly discriminated by against by everyone. They are also whites that have retired with other people whose characters can be classified as dubious.
Recently unearthed artifacts found on Grand Turks clearly show the indigenous cultures of the Taino Indians. These artifacts are similar to those found in the Mayan cities of Central America. The art scene has also taken shape there, and has begun to blossom due in large part to the Haitian community. Traditional music, folklore and sisal weaving, which evolved during the colonial days, are in much part of the Turks & Caicos culture. The first inhabitants in the Turks & Caicos islands were Taino Indians. The Europeans through the following measures decimated these people: some were carried off into slavery and others died by imported European diseases. The Turks & Caicos Islands got their name on account of the great number of Turk's head cacti found there. The name is also a derivation from the Lucayan term "Cape hico" which means "a string of islands". The Lucayans were another group of Indians who replaced the Tainos but by the middle of the 16th century, they had disappeared.
Even though the islands are surrounded by one of the most extensive coral reef systems, no colonialist country seemed very interested in the islands for two reasons. First, the soil was thin and there was a lack of water to grow sugar crops. Secondly, the islands lay off the main sailing routes and did not possess gold or good facilities for docking ships.
Bermudans became the first settlers in the islands during the seventeenth century as they settled mainly in Grand Turks, Salt Cay and South Caicos. The Bermudans obtained salt, sisal, cotton and logging timber from the islands. Salt traders cleared the land and created the Salinas (salt-drying pans) that still exist on several islands. The majority of the salt was sent to the cod-fishing industries of New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. The Bermudans prospered and that got the attention of the Spanish and the Bahamian governments. Turks and Caicos islands underwent a number of colonialist masters through the years. These colonialist powers were the French, Spanish and the British. Britain gained control of the islands by defeating the French. The French regained control of the islands for brief periods of time in 1778 and 1783. The British regained control at the beginning of the nineteenth century and made Turks & Caicos a part of the Bahamas. Jamaica then annexed the islands in 1872 and made them a Jamaican dependency. This annexation remained in place until 1962, when the British again linked them to the Bahamas. The islands became a separate Crown Colon of Great Britain in 1973.
The Americans in the forms of peoples such as Teddy Roosevelt and the Duponts 'discovered' the islands and built a landing strip for their private planes and a deep-water harbour to anchor their boats. The Europeans again joined in and created Club Med. This has transformed the islands into a tourist resort.