Monday, January 19, 2015


The Bahamas, not just any old Bahamas, but very definitely the Bahamas; and officially the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, a country of islands, more than seven hundred of them, as well as cays (low banks of coral reef, or rock, or sand, generally uninhabitable), and islets (small, habitable islands). 

The best known are Grand Bahama (because it's the nearest large island to Florida and therefore gets the bulk of the American tourist trade), and Nassau, which likes to remind people that its full name is Nassau and Paradise Island, though after a couple of days most of the tourists who came with that aspiration have been sadly disillusioned. 

Possibly the arrival of Columbus, possibly the arrival of the first slave ships, possibly a contemporary rebuild to give tourists an authentic flavour of the historical complexities of tourism; definitely San Salvador in the Bahamas

Among the islands whose names do not tend to crop up in pub quizzes or games of Jeopardy are The Abacos (itself a chain of islands stretching more than 120 miles), and Acklins & Crooked Island (described, somewhat alarmingly, on as "miles of undisturbed sandy beaches, coral gardens, limestone caves, magnificent cliffs and even remnants of slave and cotton plantations. It’s the perfect way to forget about the complexities of life." Read it again, and then a third time; and when you've done so, go back to my piece about complacency on the Welcome page; does a visit to a former slave plantation really encourage one to "forget about the complexities of life"?).

Then there are Inagua (home to over 80,000 flamingos), Andros (home to the mythical Lusca, the Tongue of the Ocean), Long Island (not to be confused with the one outside New York), The Berry Islands (remnants of slave and cotton plantations there too, mostly among the caddies and resort staff of the private golf courses), Mayaguana (remnants of the same here as well, mostly in the form of poverty-stricken fisher-families and the residents of what are called "small countryside fishing villages inhabited by friendly locals" on the official tourist website. 

Then there is Bimini, which is actually closer to the US than Grand Bahama, a mere fifty miles in fact, and has the distinction that this was Ernest Hemingway's favourite destination when he took his boat out of Key West. I cannot resist the official tourist site yet one more time, which notes that "Visitors from around the world enjoy its historical complexity and renowned past, including Bimini Road, which some believe is a remnant of the legendary Lost City of Atlantis." Forget the lost city of Atlantis - Atlant-Is is off the coast of Britanny, in France. But "historical complexity and renowned past" - might that be yet another allusion to those slave and cotton plantation remnants? Or did the proof-reader fail to notice the obvious inference of the repetition of the word "complexity"? 

Which leaves Cat Island (even the tourist website admits that there is absolutely nothing to do on Cat Island), Ragged Island (which name speaks for itself), Eleuthera & Harbour Island (Eleuthera sounds like a Latin name, but actually it isn't; it's made up; not clear by whom; self-evidently not an advertising company, who would surely have rejected Ragged Island as well), The Exumas (how do you pronounce that without wanting to add an "h" after the "ex", and then finding yourself among the complex remnants of slavery and cotton plantations yet again?), Rum Cay (which name also speaks for itself, though this time in a voice that slurs), and finally San Salvador, with its competitive commemorations of Christopher Columbus' first sighting of "The New World", which was also the discovery of Europe by the native populations of the Americas, but Bahaman history finds the slavery and cotton plantations complex enough, and prefers not to delve into that particular chapter. 

An independent nation is The Bahamas, its most famous product cricketers and its two major imports tourists and foreign money, this latter not quite on the scale of Switzerland, but heading that way. Links to China are growing daily. A three billion dollar golf, casino and tourist resort outside Nassau will open in the coming year, built by more than three thousand Chinese, living in the meanwhile in a purpose-built village on the construction site, on low wages, and without their families for months at a time. Apparently the historical complexities are still alive and well and making profits for speculators in The Bahamas.

Marks For: 2
Marks Against: 6

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

No comments:

Post a Comment