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The Cayman Islands, an autonomous British Overseas Territory, is situated in the western Caribbean Sea and consists of three islands: Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman. The islands were governed as part of the Colony of Jamaica until 1962, at which time, they became a Crown colony separate from Jamaica. It makes its own laws and has its own government officials, and it will move to a "single member constituency" in 2017.

A single member constituency is a voting system of "one man, one vote." The capital and largest city is George Town, which is located on Grand Cayman Island. Cayman, which is south of Cuba, north of Panama, and east of Mexico, is different from most Caribbean islands because it is considered part of the Western Caribbean Zone and part of the Greater Antilles. It is considered to be one of the major offshore financial havens for the wealthy.

Christopher Columbus was on his fourth and final journey to the New World on May 10, 1503 on his way to Hispaniola when he was blown off course. He had no idea where he was but sighted two islands which turned out to be what we call today Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. He noted that there were a tremendous number of sea turtles in the water around the islands, and he called the islands "Las Tortugas," which means "the turtles."

In 1586, Sir Francis Drake was the first known Englishman to visit the islands. He named them The Cayman Islands. "Calman" is the Taino word for alligator. Despite its sightings by Columbus and by Drake, the islands were pretty much uninhabited until the 1660s.

Archeologists have found no evidence of indigenous people, though we do know that the territory was at least a temporary home to pirates, slaves, castaways, people fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, and, reportedly, deserters from Cromwell's army in Jamaica.

The Cayman Islands is on the route of treasure galleons returning to Spain with their gold and silver from the New World. This made the area extremely inviting to pirates. Perhaps the most infamous pirate of them all, Edward Teach, was a frequent lurker on the Caymans from 1714 until his death in 1718.

Teach, more often referred to as Blackbeard, was only one of the pirates who frequented the islands. Ned Lowe, George Lowther, and Henry Morgan who inspired the book Captain Blood were no strangers to the area and collected plenty of loot. The annual Pirates Week Festival is celebrated on all islands separately on different days, so those who attend don't have to miss a single event.

This celebration has been going on since 1977. Life was difficult for those who settled around 1700. They made a meager living subsistence farming, fishing, turtling, and woodcutting. They became boat builders, fishermen and ferrymen. It became a place which attracted what might be called the fringes of society to settle there.

The early settlement days were a time of lawlessness, and the environment was very much a frontier culture, and it remained that way until the twentieth century was well underway. Isaac Bodden, who was the grandson of a deserter from Cromwell's army during the Invasion of Jamaica, is the first recorded permanent resident.

In the predawn hours of February 8, 1794, ten ships which were part of a convoy which was escorted by HMS Convert wrecked in Gun Bay on the east end of Grand Cayman, caught up in the surrounding reef there. Local settlers tried to rescue those they could, despite the fact that it was still dark. The numbers are sketchy, but they lost fewer than 10 lives that night, including the Captain of the Britannia who went down with his ship. Incredibly, more than 450 people were rescued by the settlers.

Three days after the wreck, the settlers reluctantly informed the captain of Convert, Captain Lawford, that they could no longer house and feed the people they had saved. Lawford managed to ship everyone off, and before three weeks had passed, numerous sloops and schooners arrived from Jamaica full of food and supplies.

The wreck is remembered as the Wreck of the Ten Sail, and a park memorializes the night of the shipwreck and the courage and heroism of the settlers who saved almost all of the shipwrecked.

Interracial mixing is common, and the majority of Caymanians are of African and English descent in varying amounts.

The government relies on indirect taxes and so has never levied any income, capital gains, or any wealth tax, which is why the Cayman Islands are known as a tax haven.

The financial center include buildings and offices of hedge fund, banking, structured finances and general corporate activities, making it the fifth largest banking center in the world.

Additionally, it is a tourist destination and frequent port of call for cruise ships. With its numerous hotels and resorts, beachside bars and side beaches, it is a mecca for scuba divers and snorkelers.



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