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The History and Evolution of the Cayman Islands

When I began going to the Cayman Islands more than 35 years ago, it wasn’t quite what it is today. Sure it had beautiful blue sky, turquoise ocean, and pristine sand.

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None of that has changed. However, the island has changed a lot. 35 years ago, you could walk miles down 7 mile beach before you saw another person. If you wanted meat? You brought your own. If you wanted to make a phone call? You searched high and dry for a pay phone. If you wanted to watch TV? Yeah, right. Needless to say, things have changed. 

Believe it or not, Christopher Columbus founded Grand Cayman back in 1503 during a voyage to the "new world." Due to the abundant amount of sea turtles, he coined the term Las Tortugas for the name of the islands. The turtle remains a face of the island to this day.

Despite Columbus’ findings, the Islands remained uninhabited until the 17th century. The first people to settle on the island were pirates, shipwrecked sailors, and slaves. Finally, in the 1730’s, Great Britain took control of the Cayman Islands. The first census taken in 1802 showed a population of 933 people on Grand Cayman, 545 of which were slaves. 

This British colony is located about 400 miles south of Miami, 180 miles south of Cuba, and 195 miles northwest of Jamaica.

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Due to its close proximity to the islands, Jamaica became a key country to the Cayman Islands’ development. Initially, the Cayman Islands were administered as a dependency of Jamaica. However, they became an independent colony in 1959 and are now a self-governing British territory. Several Jamaicans make the Cayman Islands their home today.

Cayman has become a very wealthy island that continues to advance and become more modernized. It has been amazing to see the transformation in the last 35 years from a very uninhabited island with little development to the island we know today. Now the island is equipped with several supermarkets, cell phones, cable TV, fitness centers and even wi-fi internet connections. As people continue to visit this beautiful island, they will continue to see changes, but perhaps none as drastic as the island has seen in the past 35 years. 


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