The Reef's History of the Cayman Islands
A Summary of Cayman History
Christopher Columbus discovered the Cayman Islands in 1503. He named the islands Las Tortugas because of the abundance of turtles that inhabited the nearby waters. By 1530, the islands were being called the “Caymanas,” which derived from a Carib Indian name for crocodiles, who were known to be abundant here at the time.
In 1794, one of the most famous local legends occurred. This was “The Wreck of the Ten Sails.” As the story goes, a group of convoy merchant ships who were traveling from Jamaica to Britain ran aground on the reef at East End. The people of Cayman showed great courage in rescuing the shipwrecked passengers, as no lives were lost. One of passengers on the ship was Prince William of England who would go on to become King William IV. For this, as the legend goes, the Cayman Islands were granted freedom from taxation.
Although The Cayman islands were commonly regarded as a dependency of Jamaica, a need for self-government became critical, which leads to another important date in Caymanian history. In 1831, the people of the Cayman Islands, together with eight magistrates from Jamaica, formed a legislative assembly at Pedro's Castle (commonly called “the birthplace of democracy”) to allow the people to have a voice in the direction of the island.
The people of Cayman and the sea have gone together since the first settlements back in the 1700’s. For many years, the main sources of income were turtle fishing or working on commercial ships. This is where Caymanians earned their reputation as some of the best seamen in the world.
After Jamaican independence in 1960, the Cayman Islands chose to remain as a British crown colony. In the years since, Cayman has become one of the world’s leading financial sectors, as well as a top tourism destination in the Caribbean.