Today, everybody thinks of the Bahamas as a gorgeous vacation destination. Most likely the first thing that comes to mind is fine sand, palm trees and a wonderful view of the crystal-clear waters that surround the islands. What you probably didn’t know was that Christopher Columbus was actually the first person to encounter the Bahamian islands and not the United States as many would believe. Many people are unfamiliar with the history of the Bahamian Islands and its first inhabitants that walked amongst it.
Prior to Christopher Columbus’ exploration of the New World, the Bahamian islands were inhabited by a group of civilization known as Lucayan. The Lucayan people were settlers who migrated from what we know now to be Cuba. According to history, the Lucayan civilization settled in the Bahamian islands during 900-1500 AD. Over a period of time, the Lucayan further developed the island, established political, social and religious systems.
It wasn’t until 1492 when Christopher Columbus made the discovery of the Bahamian islands. The site was discovered as the islands of the “Baja Mar”, which means shallow sea in San Salvador. According to multiple resources, Columbus described the people in the following words;
“They have opened their hearts to us. We have become great friends”
The Lucayan civilization was peaceful and became vulnerable to enemies. They were overpowered by their weapons. Because of this, a majority of the Lucayan people became sick, wounded and died in massive numbers. According to history, the Spaniards were responsible for enslaving the Lucayan, then later forcefully transported to Hispaniola, where a large number of Lucayan people died working under horrible conditions. Later, many travelers and the British pirates sailed along into the island to utilize its resources before sailing out again. Most of the British pirates were refugees from the religious persecution attempt. This religious persecution took place during 1648 under Charles I, in Cigatoo.
The remaining people of the Bahamians attempted to build a government of some type; however, it was abolished in 1717. During the 1700s, the island faced a few more misfortunes, as it was again bombarded by French and British pirates that sailed along the shorelines. At that time, the United States was in the midst of the Revolution. By 1784 it is believed the population soared to 4,058 and by 1789 it had increased to more than 11,000. A majority of the 11,000 people consisted of the “white settlers” that later formed a significant minority system. By 1834 abolition was enforced, causing a major economic change for the island.
Between 1861-65, The United States was going through the Civil War, which overall benefited the Bahamas in multiple ways. Since most of Britain’s textile industry was greatly sourced from the Southern cotton plantations, the Union had prevented the British ships from reaching their Southern ports which led them to the Bahamas.
In 1919, the USA had passed their 18th amendment, prohibiting alcohol usage. However, the colonial government continued its flow of business by supplying alcohol to its buyers through the Bahamas. The steady flow of profits helped build the Bahamas wealth. In 1934 the alcohol band was finally lifted, causing an economic collapse for the Bahamas. Since 1898 the Hotel and Stream Ship Service Act was the Bahamas regain wealth which ultimately led the government to support the need for construction of hotels and steamship services.
Finally, by 1973 the authority in the Bahamas established its own independence as a country, ending the 325 years of war, unlawful trade and corruption. Today, the Bahamas is ruled and maintained under the British system.
It’s a fact that even the most beautiful places that exist today have some of the darkest historical events that helped to pave the path to what it is today. Nevertheless, it is understood that from chaos comes beauty and that is a lesson that we all should never forget!