June 21, 2021

Discovery Day in Cayman Islands

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Last Monday (20) was Discovery Day in the Cayman Islands and a Public Holiday.

The “celebration”, however, passes with hardly a murmur and no pageants, public demonstrations, flag waving, etc.

 Christopher Columbus sighted the Cayman Islands on May 10, 1503 and named them Las Tortugasafter the numerous sea turtles seen swimming in the surrounding waters. Columbus had found the two smaller sister islands (Cayman Brac and Little Cayman) and it was these two islands that he named “Las Tortugas”.

The 1523 “Turin map” of the islands was the first to refer to them as Los Lagartos, meaning alligators or large lizards,[1] By 1530 they were known as the Caymanes after the Carib word caimán for the marine crocodile, either the American or the Cuban crocodile, Crocodylus acutus or C. rhombifer, which also lived there. Recent sub-fossil findings suggest that C. rhombifer, a freshwater species, were prevalent until the 20th century.

Archaeological studies of Grand Cayman have found no evidence that humans occupied the islands prior to the sixteenth century.[2]

The first recorded English visitor was Sir Francis Drake in 1586, who reported that the caymanas were edible, but it was the turtles which attracted ships in search of fresh meat for their crews. Overfishing nearly extinguished the turtles from the local waters. Turtles were the main source for an economy on the islands. In 1787, Captain Hull of HMS Camilla estimated between 1,200 and 1,400 turtles were captured and sold at seaports in Jamaica per year. According to historian Edward Long the inhabitants on Grand Cayman had the principal occupation of turtle-fishery. Once Caymanian turtlers greatly reduced the turtle population around the islands they journeyed to the waters of other islands in order to maintain their livelihood.[3]

Caymanian folklore explains that the island’s first inhabitants were a Welshman named Walters (or Watler) and his companion named Bawden (or Bodden), who first arrived in Cayman in 1658 after serving in Oliver Cromwell‘s army in Jamaica.[4] The first recorded permanent inhabitant of the Cayman Islands, Isaac Bodden, was born on Grand Cayman around 1700. He was the grandson of the original settler named Bodden.

  1.  Roger C. Smith, The maritime heritage of the Cayman Islands, 2000 p.26
  2. ^ Stokes, Anne V.; Keegan, William F. (April 1993). “A SETTLEMENT SURVEY FOR PREHISTORIC ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES ON GRAND CAYMAN”. Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville. Retrieved 5 January2013.
  3. ^ Williams, Christopher (2011). “Did Slavery Really Matter in the Cayman Islands?”. The Journal of Caribbean History45: 165.

Main Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Cayman_Islands

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