sexta-feira, 19 de outubro de 2007

BAHAMAS

The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is an English-speaking nation consisting of two thousand cays and seven hundred islands that form an archipelago. It is located in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Florida and the United States, north of Cuba and the Caribbean, and northwest of the British overseas territory of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Although the area may have been populated previously, the seafaring Taino people moved into the southern Bahamas around the 7th century from Hispaniola and Cuba. These people came to be known as the Lucayans. There were an estimated 40,000+ Lucayans at the time of Columbus' arrival in 1492.

Christopher Columbus's first landfall in the New World was on San Salvador Island, also known as Watling's Island, in the southern part of Bahamas. Here, Columbus made contact with the Lucayans and exchanged goods with them.

Bahamian Lucayans were later taken to Hispaniola as slaves; and within two decades, Lucayan societies ceased to exist due to forced labour, warfare, disease, emigration and outmarriage. After the Lucayan population was eliminated, the Bahamian islands were virtually unoccupied until English settlers came from Bermuda in 1647. The Eleutherian Adventurers established settlements on the island of Eleuthera.

The Bahamas became a British crown colony in 1717. Some 8,000 American Loyalists and their slaves moved to the Bahamas after 1783 from New York, Florida and the Carolinas. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire on August 1, 1834. This led to many fugitive slaves from the US braving the perils of the Atlantic for the promise of a free life in the Bahamas.

On May 8, 1782, during the American Revolutionary War, Count Bernardo de Gálvez, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, captured the British naval base at New Providence in the Bahamas.

The British made the islands internally self-governing in 1964. In 1973, the Bahamas became fully independent, but retained membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. In 1967, Lynden Pindling became the first black premier of the colony, and in 1968 became prime minister. Another black Bahamian, Sir Milo Butler, was appointed govenor-general upon Independence.

Based on the pillars of tourism and offshore financial services, the Bahamian economy has prospered since the 1950s. Today, the country enjoys the third highest per capita income in the hemisphere, and the highest in the Caribbean, excluding the dependent territory of the Cayman Islands. Despite this, the country faces significant challenges in areas such as education, health care, international narcotics trafficking, correctional facilities and illegal immigration.

The origin of the name "Bahamas" is ambiguous. It is thought to derive from the Spanish baja mar, meaning "shallow seas"; others trace the name to the Lucayan word for Grand Bahama Island, ba-ha-ma "large upper middle land".

The closest island to the United States is Bimini, which is also known as the gateway to the Bahamas. The island of Abaco is to the east of Grand Bahama. The most southeastern island is Great Inagua. Other notable islands include the Bahamas' largest island, Andros Island, and Eleuthera, Cat Island, Long Island, San Salvador Island, Acklins, Crooked Island, Exuma and Mayaguana. Nassau, The Bahamas capital city, lies on the island of New Providence.

To the southeast, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and three more extensive submarine features called Mouchoir Bank, Silver Bank, and Navidad Bank, are geographically a continuation of the Bahamas, but not part of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.

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