Columbus, the Lucayans and the Discovery
The Bahamas was discovered by Christopher Columbus on October 12 1492, what follows below is a historical recount of what happened when Christopher Columbus embarked on this new land known as San Salvador, or formerly Guanahani.
The meeting between East and West, initiated by Christopher Columbus’ epic voyage of 1492 began a new era in World history. It resulted in changes which were mainly detrimental to the native populations. It led to the exchange of crops, destruction of the local Indian culture and the introduction of African slavery and European colonization.
When Christopher Columbus set sail for India on August 3rd 1492, he left with three ships the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. After many days at sea his men became distraught and urged him to turn around. After convincing them to go on for a few more days, he set upon a beautiful island known as Guanahani and its inhabitants.
Although considered primitive by the Europeans in that they were semi-naked, had no weapons and worshipped multiple gods, the Lucayans were well adapted to their environment. Their houses were constructed to allow the maximum passage of air and they slept in hammocks designed to use as little space as possible.
Some of the foods he encountered which made up the local diet were maize, potatoes, yam, beans and pumpkins. The Lucayans made a bread from cassava, while the juice was fermented and distilled to make an alcoholic beverage called Kasiri. In addition the Lucayans smoked and sniffed tobacco, a “New World” practice which became the rage in Europe in later centuries.
The daily Lucayan economy was supported by inter-island and the intra-island trade of bartering salt, tobacco and cotton for other items. In order to sell their wares these people travelled from island to island in canoes carved out of tree trunks.
In the Lucayan society the women were responsible for farming, food preparation, cloth weaving and pottery making. The men on the other hand made weapons and tools and hunted and fished.
Like the peoples of other civilizations the Lucayans worshipped a supernatural being, but unlike those in the old world; they worshipped two main gods and many lesser spirits.
The encounters and its effects
Soon after Columbus’ discovery, the Western Hemisphere became an area for exploitation and settlement, and became a route on the Triangle slave trade. The Bahamian local population of Lucayans was destroyed and the remaining Lucayans were herded away as slaves to work in gold mines and pearl fisheries. Disease also set in as the Lucayans had no immunity to the viral European diseases. In addition many of them committed suicide to avoid captivity.
The legacy of Columbus to the Bahamas
When the Lucayans could no longer meet the demand for labor the European conquistadors resorted to the importation of African slaves. Consequently a mass movement of peoples, ideas, cultures and traditions began. This movement shaped and re-shaped the countries of the Western Hemisphere, which moved from hunting, and subsistence economies to a government comprised of slave owners and based on slave labor. The introduction of plantations affected the environment also, as mass deforestation ensued.
In the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the Bahamas, was involved in large cotton production which required slave labor. Thus a society of slavery evolved in the Bahamas, which was previously unprecedented.
In later times the Bahamas would then see a shift in political ideals that ranged from Republicanism, Proprietorship, Colonialism and then finally to independence on July 10 1973; when the Bahamas was officially given its Independence by Great Britain.
All historical data was provided by the Department of Archives, located in Nassau Bahamas.