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name of the Bahamas comes from the Spanish baja mar, meaning "shallow
water." The Bahamas officially includes the article "the" before
its name in English, the country's official language.
The islands of the Bahamas are flat and not particularly good for crop growth. The
land isn't infertile, but in many places the ground is rocky and the rains may
not come for months. Because of this, there is little agricultural history in the
Bahamas and for long stretches of time over history the islands have been abandoned
for these same reasons.
Of the few people that did live on the islands when the Europeans arrived, every
person was moved elsewhere to provide the Spanish with cheap labor on agriculturally
rich islands in the Caribbean. This raiding of the Bahamas led to the complete abandoning
of the islands as no one lived on the islands for years. This movement of people
also destroyed all traditions, languages, foods, and cultures of the people prior
to this time.
In the 1600s the Bahamas began to be repopulated by people from other islands, most
particularly from Bermuda and Jamaica. However, these people at the time were not
indigenous to these islands, but were primarily ethnic Africans who arrived to the
region via the slave trade. These people lived off the sea life and brought a distinct
British culture to the islands as both of these islands were controlled by Britain
at the time.
This British culture became even more pronounced in the late 1700s when the United
States gained independence from the United Kingdom. Many British loyalists who lived
in the United States fled to the British-controlled Bahamas, giving the islands
a unique culture that sat somewhere between Britain and the United States, yet held
on to influences from African through earlier immigration waves from Jamaica, Bermuda,
and other Caribbean islands.
Remaining under British rule, the islands of the Bahamas again gained more diversity
with the freeing of slaves in the British Empire; many of these former slaves fled
to the Bahamas, altering the culture once more. Since this time changes on the islands
have taken place, but not to any significant degree as the culture remains an odd
mix of British, American, and African. However, due to their location, the culture
today tends to have the greatest communication with and cultural associations with
the United States, although African and British influences are undeniable.
One significant trait of the islands from the past remains true today: the lands
are poor for crop growth so farming is difficult and few people make a living off
the lands. The people make a living in many ways and the way of life on the islands
differs from agriculturally-rich neighbors. Over time how the people have survived
has changed, but has always been reliant on foreign trade and influence. Today this
remains true in many ways as tourism helps sustain the country and economy. However,
as tourism expands in the Bahamas, so too does the number of cultural similarities
between the Bahamas and the countries from which the tourists arrive, primarily
the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. None-the-less, the lifestyle,
attitude, and, most importantly, the combination of the elements from these cultures,
makes the Bahamian culture and way of life very unique and individual.
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