Today, the Bahamas are commonly understood to refer to a chain of 700 islands in the Atlantic Ocean. But the original meaning of “Bahamas” is not so simple. The word isn’t even found in modern dictionaries; in fact, the word is so old that you won’t find it anywhere online. For centuries, the word “Bahama” referred not just to an island chain but also to an indigenous tribe that was native to these lands. Thus, when people say “The Bahamas” today, they are referring to two things — a group of islands and also a Native American tribe. We see this dual connotation repeated throughout history and literature as even Christopher Columbus used this name for the archipelago he visited in 1492 during his second voyage to the Americas.
Is Bahamas In The Us?
No, the Bahamas are not part of the United States. They are a sovereign nation and are separate and apart from the United States. The United States has had an extensive military presence in the Bahamian islands of San Salvador, Grand Turk, and Great Inagua since the 1980s. About 5,000 U.S. military personnel are stationed on these islands, which also house major U.S. military assets, such as six missile systems.
The Bahamas: A Short History
1. The First (And Last) Humans
The Bahamas were, appropriately enough, the first place ever inhabited by humans. The earliest writings of the islands’ history record how a group of Native Americans settled here between the 10th and 12th centuries. The first inhabitants were led by a woman called “Sitapana” who was dubbed “The Grandmother of the Bahamas.” Over time they lived in this area as well as Curriaghee Island, which would be called Anegada in modern times, and Paria Peninsula. Sadly, by the end of their reign here they were wiped out by a land-hungry tribe called “the Lucayans” who drove them out for unknown reasons around 1502-03.
2. The Spanish Treasure Fleet
In the early 1500s, the Spaniards became interested in this area because they wanted to take control of it but also so that they could find a sea route to trade with South America. This led them to try and establish control over the islands by sending expeditions here. In 1521, for example, a Spanish expedition led by Juan Ponce de León discovered San Salvador Island and in 1566, another one was sent to find and explore Bahama Channel. These expeditions first made contact with the native Arawak tribe called “the Lucayans” which must have been a surprise to them as these people were tattooed from head-to-toe with red striping that indicated their rank within their society.
3. Bahamas Isolation
Fortunately for us, there were no other Spanish expeditions sent here right after this one so we know that another century passed before any more humans made contact with these islands…which is also sadly very brief considering that it is estimated that we have been here for at least 25,000 years! Even though we are extinct Native Americans who farmed a thriving society here for hundreds of years but then became extinct because we were wiped out by new discoverers, Native Americans and Europeans alike refer to these islands as “the first people.”
4. The English Only Later
French and Dutch explorers also came here in search of the island’s rich gold deposits in the 1600s but, again, like the Spanish before them, they were not explored until well after they left (insert a joke about us not being very good explorers here). This was a period of great interest because it was at this time that European governments began to consider cutting deals with slave-trading ships (just kidding! They still do that). One such ship called the “Lexington” arrived in 1699, captained by Sir William Sayle and carrying over 400 slaves from Africa along with a load of cargo.
5. British Occupation, the 1670s
When Lexington made port in our islands, the Company of Royal Adventurers was founded with a very long-term goal in mind: to “explore and settle” in the Bahamas. There were approximately 100 people on board this ship but many of them weren’t even English! Among them were black and white American sailors who were members of a company that had been formed by black slaves called the “Danish West Indies Company.” So, my fellow Danes, if you ever find yourself stranded on a deserted island, look for signs that say “Babylon 5” and be sure to say hello!
Why Visit The Bahamas In The Us?
1. The Great Bahama Banks
This is a wide strip of land that extends from the Bahama Islands of the eastern Caribbean to Florida! I’m telling you, it’s awesome. It’s over 3,000 miles long and is only about 150 feet across. The Great Bahama Bank holds approximately 50% of all coral reefs in the world and has incredible biodiversity with over 500 species of fish. It is one of only four locations on Earth that contains more than 1,000 plant species! And while this may sound obvious, there are only three places with this many plant species: Hawaii, Madagascar, and Indonesia…which is why many people are drawn to these islands!
2. The Atlantis Museum
At a glance, you might think that this museum looks like any other (at least for those who haven’t been stuck at a US airport for 18 hours), but taking a step inside we find ourselves staring at one kind of artifact and artifacts of ancient history.
3. World-Class Luxury Resorts
On my first trip to the Bahamas, I stayed at one of the top hotels in our country: Harborside. This hotel was so amazing that I saw it twice during my four-night stay! Located on Paradise Island (one of three islands found within the Great Bahama Bank), Harborside was built in 2009 by David Beckham and is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful hotels on earth! If you’re ready to kick back and relax, this resort has everything you need: a private pool, an entertainment center with a full screening room, a spa, two restaurants, and four bars.
4. Beaches And Beaches & Beaches
There are approximately 50 beaches on the island of Nassau alone (an island within the Great Bahama Bank), so you can be sure that there’s something for everyone! My favorite beach is Cable Head Beach which is located on Paradise Island. It has white sand and turquoise water and the beach itself is lined by restaurants, bars, and shops. After a day at the beach, you can relax in one of their many fine hotels to enjoy some resort-wide activities like snorkeling or volleyball!
5. The New York City Of The Bahamas
If you’re staying in Nassau, you may have noticed that this city practically looks like New York City! This is because it used to be called New Amsterdam Town (And they even have Big Apple Bridge!). It was used as an example of how New Amsterdam would be if it were to become the capital of the United States of America. If you look closely, you’ll notice that it has all the buildings that you’re used to seeing throughout Manhattan!
My favorite thing about this city is that there are so many buildings with family portraits on them (I love looking at images of old family members.)
1. The Female Advantage & The “Lady” Of A Song
Nassau is widely known for its custom of the female having an advantage (a person who plays/performs in a game that is usually reserved for females). The lady of the game plays cards or otherwise acts as a referee during the exchange. This custom has its roots in the days when slavery was very common in Nassau. Slaves were generally only allowed to gamble among themselves, but if they lost, they would then be punished. To prevent slaves from cheating, people held a special game that was only played by women – since this was such an important event, it became known as “The Lady’s Game”.
2. Two-Step & Two-Step Hoedown
The Bahamians are not only known for their love for mini golf and water skiing but also their extremely slow two-step. Their 2-step is so slow that it takes about 2 minutes for one person! The word for these slow dances is “tying talk”. One of the most famous musicians in Nassau is Hailey Glasson, who is known for being part of the band “The South and East Minds”. Despite their slow two-step, the Bahamians love to party and dance at every opportunity they can get!
3. Mule Logging & More
The native Bahamian’s favorite pastime is to go out on their sailboats to harvest logs (particularly mahogany). This involves finding a suitable spot and then bringing a large piece of mahogany up to the boat by a rope. They then cut it up into large chunks and take it back ashore, usually going on a small motorboat. The main reason why they use mules rather than horses or other animals is that the former are much less likely to injure themselves on trees or rocks.
The Bahamas are an excellent choice for a leisurely vacation. From kayaking to snorkeling to fishing, there is something for everyone in this tropical paradise. The Bahamas have a very long history and have been inhabited by many different cultures. There are plenty of museums and attractions that tell the story of these cultures. If you are looking to do something more active, there are plenty of water sports available, such as snorkeling and scuba diving. The Bahamas are a wonderful place to visit.