Sunday, July 10, 2011

Happy Independence Day, again!

One good Independence Day follows another! Did you know that the Bahamas celebrates their independence on July 10th? Yes indeed! While they cheerfully celebrate the national holidays of all countries (ours included) due to the large role that tourism plays in their nation, they have a wonderful time celebrating their own holidays! The blue, yellow and black Bahamian flag flies proudly, with float parades, and special events from church services to family fun days, to junkanoos – a masked and wildly decorated parade of drummers and dancers that combines a bit of Mardi Gras mixed with West African roots, and spiced with island flavor. The celebrations reach all communities throughout the nation, and its a fun time indeed! 

The road to independence for the Bahamas was a long one, but generally peaceful, for the most part. According to accepted history, Columbus landed at San Salvador Island in the Bahamas to claim the Caribbean islands for the Spanish on his first journey to the Americas in 1492. (There are some scholars who think Columbus actually made his first landfall at Guanahani Beach on Grand Turk Island in the Turks and Caicos, but that is another story!) The word “Bahamas” is believed to come from the Spanish, "Baja Mar," which means "shallow sea.", referring to the shallow banks that surround much of the archipelago islands:
You can clearly see the "baha mar"  -- the turquoise waters of the shallow banks
of the Bahamas in this photo from MODIS, courtesy of NASA. 
From Spanish rule to Dutch, the Bahamas changed hands yet again when they were claimed by the English in 1670. For the next 300 years, the Bahamas remained mainly under British rule. (The one exception was a brief one-year return to Spanish rule in 1782, before the British ruled once more.) In 1838, slavery was abolished, and many former slaves remained on the land and eventually became land-owners themselves. Although all residents of the Bahamas were free, the Islands remained a colony of the United Kingdom, and were eventually granted limited self-government in 1964. The Bahamas became a British Commonwealth in 1969, officially ending the colonial rule, and finally, the Islands became a nation on July 10, 1973. 

Since then, during the past 38 years, the Bahamas has evolved from a small colony on the periphery of the British Empire into a vibrant democracy, with tourism and international banking the largest part of their economy. We can attest to the genuine warmth and welcoming attitude of the Bahamian people; their hospitality and willingness to share their beautiful islands is one of the reasons we enjoy cruising here so much. Definitely a cause for celebration, in my book! Happy Independence Day, Bahamas!

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