Unusual Facts And Snippets On The Cayman Islands
By Lawrence Reaves
The Cayman Islands are a group of three islands in the tropical paradise setting of the middle Caribbean, nestled about 190 miles south of Cuba and 90 miles to the west of Jamaica. They are home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, including Seven Mile Beach, and they are a favored destination for tourists and commercial financial companies alike.
The islands are an eclectic mix of well-developed infrastructure, focused on the west coast of the main island, and unspoiled and outstanding natural land and seascapes. There are a large number of foreign workers on the islands who are employed by the large numbers of foreign banks, insurers and financial companies who are based here taking advantage of the tax free status which has turned the islands into a major offshore tax-free haven.
The indigenous population is a diverse mixture of escaped slaves, British settlers and deserting soldiers with the odd reformed pirate looking for a safe harbor. Today, the Cayman Islands enjoy the highest standard of living amongst the entire Caribbean region with low crime, excellent health care and educational facilities.
The Cayman Islands were originally called Las Tortugas, by Christopher Columbus who discovered the islands in 1503. Columbus was blown off course during a storm on his fourth and final voyage to the New World. He called them Las Tortugas after the Portuguese word for turtles, of which the islands were surrounded in abundance providing a source of fresh meat for hungry sailors.
The British explorer, Sir Francis Drake visited the Cayman Islands in 1586 and renamed them the Caymans, which is the native word for turtle. Settlement did not immediately follow, though the islands were a refuge for deserting British soldiers and a base for privateers preying on shipping in the region.
The Cayman Islands gained their independence from the British in 1962, however the Caymanians decided they would remain a British dependency. The islands were designated a British Overseas Territory in 2010, with the UK responsible for defense and foreign relations.
The national identity of the Cayman Islands is augmented with a national anthem, a national flag, flower and bird. There is also a national emblem or logo, known as “Sir Turtle” which is a piratical turtle dressed up in pirate garb as a cartoon. The design was made in 1963 on commission from the Caymanian legislature and was designed by Suzy Soto.
The Cayman Islands may rely on the hundreds of offshore financial companies for a large part of the economy; however tourism is where many Caymanians are employed. There is always something happening on Grand Cayman, to cater for the needs of the tourists who vacation on the islands or are paying a visit from one of the numerous cruise liners docking at the capitol and chief port, George Town.
George Town is named for King George III, the former King of England who upset the American colonists so much. Originally, the town was named Fort George, but as settlement and development grew, the military outpost grew into a thriving and bustling community. Incidentally, the Cayman Islands were also given their tax free status by the same king; the same King George who sought to tax American colonists which ultimately provoked the War of Independence.
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