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History of the Turks
and Caicos Islands
Perhaps Christopher Columbus or Juan Ponce de Leon were the first Europeans to step foot on Grand Turk or one of the Caicos Islands. Legends abound. It is, however, well documented that the Arawak, Lucayan and Taino Indians were in the region 800 years before Europeans ever ventured into the Caribbean.
Historical evidence shows they cultivated many of the indigenous plants. "Caicos" is the Lucayan term meaning "string of islands.

The period immediately following the "discovery" by the western world brought rapid depopulation due to the introduction of western diseases and enslavement of native populations by conquistadors. It took 150 years for the region to begin developing its own economy and character.

By 1668, Bermudans began to spend their summers extracting salt in "salinas" (salt-drying pans) created on many of the low-lying islands. Because of its ability to preserve foods, salt was a much sought after commodity at the time.
Bermudans sold it to early settlements in the United States and Maritime Canada. The abundance of fish and plants also made the long sea voyage to the region worth the effort for the Bermudans. By the 1780s, permanent settlements were established on Grand Turk and its sister island, Salt Cay, for salt mining and the harvesting of seafood.

Following the American Revolution, 40 British Loyalists from the southern United States were given large plots on the islands to cultivate cotton, but the tropical climate didn't lend itself to rich harvests and the efforts didn't prosper. The former cotton magnates either became salt miners or left the islands by 1820, but the British influence has endured through many French, Spanish, Bahaman and Jamaican shifts in power.

While many attempts to cultivate the poor soil have been made over the centuries, the limited rainfall has left the islands with the ruins of several plantations. The bounties from the sea are the island's most abundant crop. As in past centuries, dinners today often include conch and lobster tails prepared in imaginative ways. Enjoy!

  Tourism is now the
primary industry for
the Turk and Caicos Islands
Grand Turk and Providenciales (called Provo locally) have become major travel destinations as a result of their airports, deep seaports, fine beaches, and world famous fishing and diving. Provo is home to two thirds of the country's 35,000 residents and has a thriving economy which has attracted an international population. Parrot Cay is nearby and is a famous resort destination in its own right.

Grand Turk Island is only 7.5 miles long and has a population of less than 6,000. It has been the seat of government since 1766. Cockburn Town, the capital city, is known for its classic Bermudan/British colonial architecture and historic sites including the National Museum and a 150 year old lighthouse.


North Caicos is the country's third largest island yet has a population of less than 2,000. It's called the "Emerald Island" because of its lush vegetation and natural features. The government has taken actions to encourage development here. In 2007, a causeway linking North and Middle Caicos Islands was opened, a deep water port near Sandy Point is now completed for docking boats and larger cargo vessels, and the runway at the existing airport is being extended to accommodate large commercial jets.

As a result of civic improvements throughout The Islands, property sales have been brisk on North Caicos.



 

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