About Turks and Caicos
The Taino Indians were the first known inhabitants of the island, who left little behind but some utensils. There is some dispute over which European was first to discover the island – either Christopher Columbus or Ponce de Leon. The Tainos fell victim to slavery and European borne-diseases, and by the mid-16th century there were no natives remaining.
A group of Bermudans were the first to settle the islands in 1678, when they began extracting salt and logging trees. Salt traders dried salt in salinas (salt-drying pans), mainly for use in the cod-fishing industries of North America. A group of British loyalists fled the United States following the American Revolution, and around this time cotton and sisal plantations added some fuel to the islands’ economy. The thin soil and a hurricane in 1813 put an end to the plantations. Salt production became the main economy of the islands.
Ownership of the islands bounced between French, Spanish, and British until the late 1700s, when Turks and Caicos became part of the Bahamas colony. In 1848, following a petition by the people of Turks and Caicos, the island became self-governing under the guidance of the Governor of Jamaica. The islands were annexed to Jamaica in 1872, and maintained ties to Jamaica until 1962, when the Turks and Caicos became a separate colony of Great Britain. Since the islands held their first election in 1976, two parties have won all but one election – the People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) and Progressive National Party (PNP), with the PDM desiring full independence for the islands and the PNP remaining anti-independence.
The tourism industry has been growing since the 1960s, when a group of millionaires leased land from the British government and built a small airstrip for their private planes and a deep-water anchorage for their yachts. Today, Club Med, Beaches and Sandals as well as a number of private villas provide luxury accommodations to the island’s guests.