Profile Source: Wallace Revels
Introduction / History
There are 700 flat coral islands (30 are inhabited) that make up The Bahamas scattered across 100,000 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean. The former British territory gained its independence in 1973 and transformed itself into one of the world's most desired resort locations via the development of massive tourism, international banking, and investment management. Located just 50 miles off the southeastern coast of Florida, the Bahamas boast some of the clearest ocean water and the third largest barrier reef on earth. English is the official language and tropical weather is the norm for this island paradise. (1) (2)
In 1492, Christopher Columbus made landfall in the New World on the island of San Salvador. Inspired by the surrounding shallow sea, he described them as islands of the "baja mar" (shallow sea), which became The Islands of The Bahamas. When he arrived, there were about 40,000 Lucayans living on the islands. Their peaceful nature made the Lucayans easy targets for enslavement however, and within 25 years, all of the Lucayans were wiped out due to diseases and the hardships of slavery. (2)
English Puritans known as "Eleutheran Adventurers" arrived in 1649 in search of religious freedom. Instead, they found food shortages. Captain William Sayles sailed to the American colonies for help and received supplies from the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Upon his return, the settlers thanked them by shipping brasileto wood. The proceeds helped purchase land for what later became Harvard University. (2)
During the late 1600s to early 1700s, many privateers and pirates came to the Bahamas. The most famous ones were Blackbeard and Calico Jack. The shallow water and 700 islands made great hiding places for treasure. The close proximity to well-traveled shipping lanes made the perfect spot to steal from merchant ships. (2)
Nassau, the Bahamian capital, was established around 1670 as a commercial port. It had many struggles staying secure however being overrun by pirates, being trounced by Spanish foot soldiers, and being attacked by French and Spanish naval forces. Later, pirates began looting the heavily laden cargo ships. By 1718, the King of England appointed Woodes Rogers to serve as the Royal Governor. His job was to restore order and he did. He offered amnesty to those who surrendered and those who resisted were hanged. (2)
More than a century later, American colonists loyal to Britain arrived in Eleuthera. Many brought their slaves as well as their building skills, agriculture knowledge, and shipbuilding expertise. These greatly influenced Eleutheran life. In 1783, they solidified their independence and forced the retreat of the Spanish forces from the region without firing a shot. (2)
During the US Civil War and the US Prohibition era, The Bahamas served as an alternate trading haven for goods. Nassau ports and businesses benefitted greatly from the trade ushered in via the US blockade-runners and alcohol smugglers. However, once these times passed, prosperity ended in The Bahamas. It was the Hotel and Steam Ship Service Act of 1898 that opened the doors of The Bahamas to the world. This act provided the government support needed for the construction of hotels and subsidized steamship service. Since this time, tourism has grown greatly. The Bahamas became independent from peaceful British rule in 1973 and celebrate July 10 as their Independence Day.(1)(2)
Where are they Located?
Some of the Bahaman islands are as close as 50 miles to the east of Florida's southeast coast. The clear, shallow water surrounding The Bahamas offers many opportunities for recreation both above and beneath the water. The tropical weather invites water sports year round.
What are Their Lives Like?
The Bahaman Islands are more wealthy than most Caribbean countries and territories. As such, the way of life for its 310,000 citizens is more pleasant than many of its island neighbors. Bahamian citizens are made up of blacks of African descent (85%), whites of European descent (12%), and a small number of Asians and Hispanics. Bahamian culture is rich and diverse. Arts & Crafts, music, dance, food, celebrations, and story-telling bare hundreds of years of influence of diverse origins. Arts & crafts include handmade hats, baskets, clothing, musical instruments, woodcarvings, and more. (1)(2)
Music plays a big part in Bahamian culture. Throughout the islands, African rhythms, Caribbean Calypso, English folk songs, and unique Bahamian Goombay traditional music can be heard. Goombay music combines African musical traditions with European colonial influences. (2)
Goombay also includes dancing and storytelling, which are performed to a fast-paced beat on goatskin drums. Other instruments played include drums made out of a pork barrel and goatskin, a carpenter's saw that was scraped with a metal file, maracas, rhythm sticks, and a bass violin made from a washtub and string. Today, rake and scrape bands use modern instruments mixed with saws and goatskin drums. (2)
While most types of food are found in these islands, Bahamian cuisine is notable for its spicy and unique flavors. Seafood is the staple of Bahamian diet along with fresh conch scored with a knife and sprinkled with limejuice and spices. Other delicacies are land crabs and the Bahamian rock lobster. Fresh fish, especially boiled fish served with grits is also a local favorite. Many dishes are served with pigeon peas and rice mixed with spices, tomatoes and onions. (2)
Junkanoo is uniquely a Bahamian celebration parade. It's an energetic and colorful parade made up of brightly costumed Bahamians dancing to the music of cowbells, drums, horns, and whistles. It is widely believed that Junkanoo was created by John Canoe, an African tribal chief who demanded the right to celebrate with his people even after he was brought to the West Indies as a slave. (2)
Celebrated since the 16th or 17th century, today Junkanoo has grown into an organized event with groups of up to 1,000 persons competing for cash prizes for best music, costume, dancer, banner and best overall group presentation. Traditionally held on New Year's Day, Boxing Day and Independence Day, parades are also held during the annual "Junkanoo Summer Festival" and the "Just Rush" competition. In addition, many hotels offer Junkanoo shows for their guests throughout the year. (2)
The Bahamas is one of the wealthiest Caribbean countries with an economy heavily dependent on tourism and offshore banking. Tourism together with tourism-driven construction and manufacturing accounts for approximately 60% of GDP and directly or indirectly employs half of the archipelago's labor force. Prior to 2006, a steady growth in tourism receipts and a boom in construction of new hotels, resorts, and residences led to solid GDP growth but since then tourism receipts have begun to drop off. The global recession in 2009 took a sizeable toll on the Bahamas, resulting in a contraction in GDP and a widening budget deficit. (1)
Financial services constitute the second-most important sector of the Bahamian economy and, when combined with business services, account for about 36% of GDP. However, the financial sector currently is smaller than it has been in the past because of the enactment of new and stricter financial regulations in 2000 that caused many international businesses to relocate elsewhere. Manufacturing and agriculture combined contribute approximately a tenth of GDP and show little growth, despite government incentives aimed at those sectors. (1)
As one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean, modern conveniences similar to any major metropolitan city are commonly found throughout the populated islands. The Bahamian dollar is the currency of the islands and, as of 2010, its value is equal to the value to the US dollar. All major credit cards are used in the islands. Cautions similar to those taken in any heavily tourist areas should be used in The Bahamas. (1)
What are Their Beliefs?
Protestant Christianity represents the majority of declared religious affiliation of the islands' citizens. Roman Catholicism is practiced by quite a few. The remaining minority are considered non-religious or of unknown religious affiliation. (1)
People groups with traditional ties to Caribbean islands and to Africa are sometimes known to participate in superstitious practices, voo doo, and other pagan religious beliefs. Sometimes these beliefs and practices are interwoven into traditional Christian ceremonies and practices forming hybrid belief systems. People groups of European heritage are sometimes known to practice hybrid belief systems as well. Christianity and Catholicism are often blended with human philosophies and worldly perspectives creating a belief system very different from Biblical Christianity.
What are Their Needs?
Every nation and people group need to have the proper instruction and living example of Biblical Christianity. Proclamation of Biblical Christianity, scripture-oriented teaching, and discipleship need to be maintained in this area. The Bahaman Islands are visited by many people each year. Opportunities for ministry are available in abundance.
* Pray for Biblical Christianity to be proclaimed in these islands.
* Pray for local converts to be prepared for ministry unto their island neighbors in the Caribbean.
* Pray for God to raise up a people who will take the gospel message to their neighbors, their families, and into other nations.
* Pray for their protection and provision while they engage in spiritual warfare.
1. Information used with permission from http://goo.gl/VGGrI
2. Information used with permission from http://www.bahamas.com/bahamas/about
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