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Bahamas Information - Page 2
Christopher Columbus made his first landing in the New World in The Bahamas, on the island of Guanahani, which he renamed San Salvador, on October 12th 1492. The inhabitants of the island were Arawak Indians who had migrated from South America some five hundred years before and now called themselves Lucayans. They told the Spanish that their few gold ornaments came from the South and Columbus soon sailed away in search of its source.

Eventually the Spanish transported the Lucayan population to Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic) and Cuba to work in gold mines and fish the pearl beds. Within forty years all the Lucayans were dead. The Bahamas remained uninhabited until the seventeenth century, called the "useless islands" by the Spanish because of their lack of resources.

In 1629 Charles I granted the Carolinas in America and The Bahamas to the British Attorney General. In the early seventeenth century, British Puritans escaping religious persecution in Bermuda colonized the island they called Eleuthera (derived from the Greek word for freedom). Although a number of the colonists left because of the difficulty in farming the poor soil, others, including freed slaves, took their place.

In the late seventeenth century The Bahamas were the haunt of notorious pirates. Among the most famous of the pirates were Edward Teach (known as Blackbeard), and Mary Read. In 1718 Captain Woodes Rogers, an ex-privateer, was appointed the Royal Governor. Woodes Rogers rid The Bahamas of its pirate inhabitants by hanging a number of their leaders.

In 1728 Woodes Rogers assembled a Parliament which in 1979 celebrated two hundred and fifty years of parliamentary democracy. The Bahamas remained under the United Kingdom's control apart from a brief encounter with American revolutionaries and a year between 1782 and 1783 when the Spanish occupied the islands.

The many islands and cays of The Bahamas were ideal for gun runners during the American Civil War. Likewise, the islands were used by smugglers during Prohibition in the USA in the 1920s and early 1930s and, more recently, drug-runners from South America have also passed through.

During the Second World War the Duke and Duchess of Windsor lived in The Bahamas, the Duke governing the Colony. On 10 July 1973 the Commonwealth of the Bahamas became independent from the UK.

Nassau, the capital, is an important commercial centre. Over half of the inhabitants of The Bahamas live in Nassau on New Providence. Freeport, on Grand Bahama, was developed in the 1950s by American business interests and is now home to a number of US commercial enterprises.

The global recession in 2009 severely affected the economy resulting in a contraction in Gross Domestic Product; the decline continued into 2010.

Banking and financial services are vital to the economy. Favourable tax laws have made The Bahamas an international banking centre.

Tourism, together with tourism-driven construction, accounts for much of the country's revenues and employs a large percentage of the labour force.

Farming has always been difficult because of the thin soil and early cotton plantations failed. Historically the islanders survived by salvaging cargo from ships wrecked on the reefs; some dived for sponges; while others turned to smuggling.

A very small percentage of the land is used for agriculture. Produce includes citrus fruits, bananas and vegetables. Chickens are reared. The fishing industry provides crawfish - spiny lobster - for export. Other exports are rum, pharmaceuticals and steel pipe. (2011)

Artifacts of the original Amerindian inhabitants have been found though much of the traditional culture draws on the islanders' roots in slavery and, before that, in West Africa. Many of the stories and folk tales are closely related to those of the American South.

Music in The Bahamas is influenced by African rhythm, Caribbean calypso and English folk music. Rhyming spirituals, a form of religious folk songs, are unique to The Bahamas. The local music is called goombay; reggae is also popular.

Clement Bethel, a Bahamian musician, set Obeah folk tales to music and dance, bringing a new dimension to an important part of the Caribbean's spiritual heritage. Obeah rhythms also feature in the work of Tony Mckay.

Junkanoo, is a traditional Bahamian festival combining music and dancing. Instruments used include goatskin drums, whistles, horns and cowbells. The Junkanoo takes place in the early hours on Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

Traditional crafts are important additional sources of income from tourism and there are a number of Bahamian artists of international status.

The seas around The Bahamas, with their coral reefs and beautiful beaches, have made the islands famous for water sports such as water-skiing, windsurfing and underwater swimming.

Bimini is said to be the most well known big-game fishing area in the world. Visitors can fish for barracuda, sharks, dorado and marlin.

The islands also provide facilities for golf and tennis. Cricket is the national sport, though not widely played.

The national holidays include Christian holidays as well as Labour Day, Independence Day, Emancipation Day and Discovery Day.

By far the biggest celebration is Junkanoo, a festival which takes place during the Christmas season, with big parades on Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

News from The Bahamas can be found in Newslink.

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