Saturday, August 4, 2007

About The Bahamas

The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is an English-speaking nation consisting of two thousand cays and seven hundred islands that form an archipelago. It is located in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Florida and the United States, north of Cuba and the Caribbean, and northwest of the British overseas territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Arawak Indians inhabited the islands when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World on San Salvador in 1492. British settlement of the islands began in 1647; the islands became a colony in 1783. Since attaining independence from the UK in 1973, The Bahamas have prospered through tourism and international banking and investment management.

Most Bahamians are of African descent -- about 85 percent. The remaining white population is directly descended from Loyalists, Eleutheran adventurers and sailors. Some families have been Bahamian for over two centuries.

Bahamians are a dynamic, independent and friendly people who love music. Religion is an important part of their lives and churches are plentiful.

English is spoken throughout the islands.

Bahamian culture is like no other. It has embraced a panorama of native customs of the indigenous "Indian" people who populated the Islands of the Bahamas over the eons.

Then Bahamian culture suddenly underwent an abrupt change beginning in 1648 when English Puritans settled on the island of Eleuthera. It has further evolved over the past four centuries, witnessing the arrival of Bermudan slaves and free blacks, British Loyalists (accompanied by slaves) fleeing America after the War of Independence, freed Africans from slave ships, Black Seminoles from Florida, people from other Caribbean islands, as well as Chinese, Syrian and Greek immigrants.

These people - with their different backgrounds, traditions and beliefs - shaped Bahamian culture into the unique, colorful patchwork of life and lifestyles that it is today.

The deeply religious Bahamians find time to celebrate every occasion, from a wedding to a death. The prevalence of religion on the islands can be easily traced back to the Puritan Eleutheran adventurers who escaped to The Bahamas to flee a religiously oppressive atmosphere in England. Churches saturate the landscape, and locals don their most stunning attire for regular church service. West African slaves also brought religion, medicine, and music, all of which would have an impact on The Bahamas over the years.

Festivals and celebration play an important role in Bahamian culture, and events such as the Fox Hill Festival and the All Andros Crabfest include food and lively music. The most unique and vibrant of all of the Bahamian festivals is the well-known Junkanoo. The festival, much like Carnival held in other parts of the Caribbean, is characterized by parades, costumes, dance, and food.

The tradition grew out of the break that slaves used to receive around Christmas time during the plantation era on the islands. Crepe paper is used to meticulously fashion intricate and colorful costumes that provide the perfect visual accompaniment to the energetic music. Parades are held for the event on Dec. 26 and Jan. 1.

Colorful local artwork has found a staid place in The Bahamas. With the vistas of sparkling crystalline waters and luminous beaches, it is not hard to understand why art is important to the people of these islands. Music is also intensely important in The Bahamas, and a number of styles have found permanent homes.

Goombay is the official music of The Bahamas. This rhythmic music played during Junkanoo is often referred to as rake and scrape music, and makes use of the goombay drum. The guitar and saxophone are other instruments that help create this lively and entertaining music.

The true test of a culture is its resilience to change and disappearance. With Junkanoo and a strong sense of religion and heritage, the proud culture of The Bahamas has continued to survive and strengthen, no matter how many tourists call upon these beautiful islands.

Blessed with the perfect location—less than 100 miles off the coast of Florida; the perfect climate—averaging a little over 75 degrees; and the perfect environment—crystal clear turquoise blue waters and pearly white sandy beaches, the Islands of the Bahamas is the perfect travel destination for your wedding, siesta, party, honeymoon, or family vacation.