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MAIN Arrow to Home Life Home Life Arrow to Home Life - Holidays Holidays Arrow to Independence Day Independence Days

Bahamas flagThe Islands became a nation on July 10, 1973, which is the date celebrated today as Bahamian Independence Day.

This July 10th it's a celebration not to be missed!

Like many areas in the Caribbean, the hundreds of islands and cays that make up the Bahamas were "discovered" and claimed by European explorers in the late 1400s. The road back to independence and self rule was long but relatively peaceful.

The history of the Bahamas between the time that the islands were settled and the centuries that passed before independence explains why the culture and people of the Bahamas are rich with native Caribbean, European and African influences.

The first settlers on many of the islands, thought to be predominantly the Arawak speaking Lucayan or Taino people, arrived from South America sometime in the 9th Century. For hundreds of years the indigenous culture thrived and spread from island to island.

Columbus landed at San Salvador and claimed the Caribbean islands for the Spanish on his first journey to the Americas in 1492. (The word Bahamas is thought to come from the Arawak name for the islands, but some historians believe it comes from the Spanish, "Baja Mar," which means "shallow sea.")

Bahamas coat of arms
Bahamas coat of arms with the nation's
motto, “Forward, Upward, Onward Together”.

During the time that Spain controlled the islands, African slaves were brought to work in the plantation fields or in the homes of the plantation owners, government officials and other wealthy Spaniards. Most of the original population was destroyed through fighting and diseases brought to the islands by the new African and Spanish inhabitants.

The Dutch gained control of the islands of the Bahamas for a short time, but lost them to the English. The Islands were claimed by the English in 1670. The Bahamas remained mainly under British rule for the next 300 years. A brief one year return to Spanish rule in 1782 ended with the Bahamas once again being claimed by the British.


On the road to independence

Slavery was officially abolished in the Bahamas in 1838. Many former slaves remained on the land and eventually became land owners themselves.

Bahamas independence parader
Parades and colorful costumes are
the order of the day for celebrating
Bahamas' independence.

Although all residents of the Bahamas were free, the Islands remained a colony of the United Kingdom, although much of day-to-day governing of the country was actually based in the Bahamas. This became a major factor that led to a peaceful negotiation for Bahama's independence.

In 1964, after decades of debate and legal maneuvering, Great Britain granted The Islands Of The Bahamas limited self-government. In 1969, the Bahamas finally became a British Commonwealth, which effectively ended colonial rule. Four years later, the Bahama Islands gained total independence from Great Britain and became a sovereign nation on July 10, 1973, ending 325 years of British rule.

Today, the big day is celebrated with a week-long celebration beginning on July 3 leading up to the official Independence Day on July 10.

A mix of traditional Junkanoo and carnival parades -- and lots of fireworks displays --- are a highlight of the celebrations, punctuated with official speeches celebrating freedom and independence throughout the islands!


More about Bahamian Independence Day around the Web:


Bahamas Sun Sets on the British Empire
- The BBC news coverage of the ceremonies in 1973 which changed the Bahamas from a British Crown Colony to a country that is a full member of the Commonwealth.

Bahamian Independence Day E-cards - Send a greeting card to celebrate Bahamian Independence Day. The blue, yellow and gold flag of the Bahamas waves to announce "It's Independence Day!"

All About Junkanoo - A link to some pictures of costumes adds depth to this brief history of the junkanoo from Geographia.com.


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