The Bahamas in the Past and in the Present

The present popularity of The Bahamas is linked to both its natural beauty and its rich past

Photo credit: © Ramunas Bruzas |

When Christopher Columbus landed on San Salvador in 1492, he christened the collection of islands that are now known as the Bahamas as "baja mar," or shallow sea. Over the years, these shallow waters would see Puritans, pirates, Loyalists, slaves, smugglers, and finally tourists.


...history of piracy...


Historically, the Bahamas have hosted groups of people running from persecution or seeking spiritual refuge and even buried treasure. The Arawak Lucayans were the first indigenous people of the Bahamas who had come north from South America to the Antilles before again running north to escape the fierce Caribs. The Eleutheran Adventurers were English Puritans escaping the religious atmosphere of England. English Loyalists fled to the Bahamas after the colonists defeated the English army in the American Revolution. The location of the Bahamas just off the coast of Florida also made it ideal for pirates and smugglers. Some of the most infamous names in the history of piracy have haunted the waters of the Bahamas, including Blackbeard and Calico Jack. Smugglers seeking high adventure used to transport cotton and alcohol using the Bahamas as a transit point. These escapades may seem like the stuff of movies, but this is the real history of the islands.


Slaves, the one group of people who did not come to The Bahamas of their own free will, have also significantly influenced the culture of the islands. To this day, the majority of the more than 300,000 residents are of West African descent. After the English abolished slavery in 1834, former slaves were free to make the islands their home rather than their prison. Some plantation owners even gave their land to their former slaves. The West African population brought music, culinary delights, medicine, and language to the islands that have all largely contributed to the culture of the Bahamas.


Tourists from North America now take advantage of the Bahamas close location to the United States by descending upon the islands in large crowds every year.  Approximately 50 percent of the workforce in the Bahamas is comprised of those working in the tourism industry, whether direction or indirectly.  The islands are the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean, with more than 1.3 million Americans alone visiting the islands each year.  Cruise travelers are especially important to the Bahamas, because 40 percent of guests who visit on day excursions from a cruise come back for a longer visit at a later time. 

However visitors get there, and no matter how many times they have been to the Bahamas, they are greeted by sparkling, crystalline waters, resplendent beaches, and endearing people.


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