Map - Cayman Islands (Cayman Islands)

Cayman Islands (Cayman Islands)
The Cayman Islands is a self-governing British Overseas Territory, and the largest by population. The 264 km2 territory comprises the three islands of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, which are located to the south of Cuba and northeast of Honduras, between Jamaica and Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. The capital city is George Town on Grand Cayman, which is the most populous of the three islands.

The Cayman Islands is considered to be part of the geographic Western Caribbean Zone as well as the Greater Antilles. The territory is a major world offshore financial centre for international businesses and wealthy individuals, largely as a result of the state not charging taxes on any income earned or stored.

With a GDP per capita of $91,392, the Cayman Islands has the highest standard of living in the Caribbean. Immigrants from over 130 countries and territories reside in the Cayman Islands.

No evidence of an indigenous people has been found on the Cayman Islands. It is believed that they were discovered by Christopher Columbus on 10 May 1503 during his final voyage to the Americas. He named them 'Las Tortugas' after the large number of turtles found there (which were soon hunted to near-extinction); however, in the succeeding decades the islands began to be referred to as Caimanas or Caymanes, after the caimans present there. No immediate colonisation followed Columbus's discovery, but a variety of settlers from various backgrounds eventually came, including pirates, shipwrecked sailors, and deserters from Oliver Cromwell's army in Jamaica. Sir Francis Drake briefly visited the islands in 1586. The first recorded permanent inhabitant, Isaac Bodden, was born on Grand Cayman around 1661. He was the grandson of an original settler named Bodden, probably one of Oliver Cromwell's soldiers at the taking of Jamaica in 1655.

England took formal control of the Cayman Islands, along with Jamaica, as a result of the Treaty of Madrid of 1670. That same year saw an attack on a turtle fishing settlement on Little Cayman by the Spanish under Manuel Ribeiro Pardal. Following several unsuccessful attempts at settlement in what had by now become a haven for pirates, a permanent English-speaking population in the islands dates from the 1730s. With settlement, after the first royal land grant by the Governor of Jamaica in 1734, came the perceived need for slaves. Many were brought to the islands from Africa; this is evident today with the majority of native Caymanians being of African and/or English descent. The results of the first census taken in the islands in 1802 showed the population on Grand Cayman to be 933, with 545 of those inhabitants being enslaved. Slavery was abolished in the Cayman Islands in 1833. At the time of abolition, there were over 950 people of African ancestry enslaved by 116 families.

On 22 June 1863, the Cayman Islands became officially declared and administered as a dependency of the Crown Colony of Jamaica. The islands continued to be governed as part of the Colony of Jamaica until 1962 when they became a separate Crown colony while Jamaica became an independent Commonwealth realm. On 8 February 1794, the Caymanians rescued the crews of a group of ten merchant ships, including HMS Convert, an incident that has since become known as the Wreck of the Ten Sail. The ships had struck a reef and run aground during rough seas. Legend has it that King George III rewarded the island with a promise never to introduce taxes as compensation for their generosity, as one of the ships carried a member of the King's own family. While this remains a popular legend, the story is not true.

In the 1950s, tourism began to take off with the opening of Owen Roberts International Airport (ORIA) in 1952, a bank and several hotels, plus a number of scheduled flights and cruise stop-overs. Politically the Cayman Islands were an internally self-governing territory of Jamaica from 1958 to 1962; however, they reverted to direct British rule following the independence of Jamaica in 1962. In 1972, a large degree of internal autonomy was granted by a new constitution, with further revisions being made in 1994. The Cayman Islands government focused on boosting the territory's economy via tourism and off-shore finance, both of which mushroomed from the 1970s onwards. The Cayman Islands have historically been a tax-exempt destination, and the government has always relied on indirect and not direct taxes. The territory has never levied income tax, capital gains tax, or any wealth tax, making them a popular tax haven.

In April 1986, the first marine protected areas were designated in the Cayman Islands, making them the first islands in the Caribbean to protect its fragile marine life.

The constitution was further modified in 2001 and 2009, codifying various aspects of human rights legislation.

On 11 September 2004 the island of Grand Cayman, which lies largely unprotected at sea level, was hit by Hurricane Ivan, creating an 8 ft storm surge which flooded many areas of Grand Cayman. An estimated 83% of the dwellings on the island were damaged including 4% requiring complete reconstruction. A reported 70% of all dwellings suffered severe damage from flooding or wind. Another 26% sustained minor damage from partial roof removal, low levels of flooding, or impact with floating or wind-driven hurricane debris. Power, water and communications were disrupted for months in some areas as Ivan was the worst hurricane to hit the islands in 86 years. Grand Cayman began a major rebuilding process and within two years its infrastructure was nearly returned to pre-hurricane status. Due to the tropical location of the islands, more hurricanes or tropical systems have affected the Cayman Islands than any other region in the Atlantic basin; it has been brushed or directly hit, on average, every 2.23 years. 
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