An Arawak Indian Village, dating back to as early as 950 AD was discovered on Middle Caicos. It is believed that the country was inhabited as early as 500 AD, by Indians whose ancestors lived in Venezuela. In 1492, Columbus made his voyage across the Atlantic and, while all historians do not share the same view, a growing body of evidence suggests that Columbus's first landfall was in the Turks and Caicos Islands. During the 16th and 17th centuries the many small cays of the Turks & Caicos Islands were used as safe hideouts by marauding pirates. In the seventeenth century Bermudians visited on a regular basis to rake salt from the ponds on Salt Cay, Grand Turk and South Caicos, and eventually established permanent residence on those islands. Near the end of the 18th century British Loyalists from the American Revolution landed in the TCI.
The Turks and Caicos Islands became an independent colony of Britain in the middle of the 19th century. In 1962, the TCI had the opportunity to become independent, but it chose to remain a British Crown Colony. Today, the Turks and Caicos Islands remain a British Crown Colony, however, there is a possibility that within the next few years the people of the Turks and Caicos Islands will opt for independence.
The two groups of islands that make up the TCI are separated by water, but their vegetation and land formation are similar. The islands are comprised of limestone and the land is well weathered. The northeastern sides of the islands are built up and form cliffs and ridges with many cracks, caves and holes that lead to the ocean. The southwestern coastlines of most of the islands are indented with creeks, mangrove swamps and tidal flats.
The majority of the "Belonger" population are descendents of Africans who were brought to the Caribbean with Bermudians in the 1700's to work on the salt pans and later with Loyalists to work on cotton plantations. There is also a growing number of "expatriate" residents of North American, European and Asian descent.
English is the official language in the Turks & Caicos Islands, however, a number of expatriate residents speaks Creole (spoken in the Haitian community), French, and Spanish.
The Turks & Caicos Islands lie 575 miles southeast of Miami, one hundred miles north of the Dominican Republic and thirty miles southeast of the Bahamas. Flying time is just ninety minutes . The Turks & Caicos Islands cover a land area of 193 square miles. The islands are surrounded by a continuous system of coral reef.
In 1962 the Turks and Caicos Islands became a British Colony. A Governor was appointed by the Queen of England, and a local government was elected. The Governor, acting as the Queen's representative, is responsible for internal security, external affairs, defense and judicial matters. The Governor presides over an Executive Council formed by a locally elected government and headed by a Chief Minister. The government offices are located on Grand Turk, with branches on other islands as needed. There are two major political parties: the People's Democratic Movement ("PDM") and the People's National Party ("PNP"). There are 13 electoral districts divided over the inhabited islands. Elections are held every four years. The PDM's won a majority of seats in the March 1999 elections and they currently form the government. An election must be called before March 2013.
The legal system is based on English Common Law and is administered by a resident Magistrate and Chief Justice, and by a court of appeals that sits four times a year. Appeal from the Court of Appeals is to the Privy Council in England and Wales. The country's offshore finance sector, is internationally respected. The Turks & Caicos Islands offer a wide range of financial services and products, as well as an experienced financial community within our industry that is highly competitive with those of the world's other offshore finance centres. Our offshore financial services sector is our second largest industry, next to tourism.
Much of the land in the Turks and Caicos Islands is owned by the government. Generally, this is not for sale but it can be available on long leases for purposes that are considered to be beneficial to the Islands' economy. A large portion of the land on the inhabited islands is also privately owned, and there are generally no restrictions on land transfer. There are also no land, development, capital transfer or capital gains taxes. However, a stamp duty is levied on transfers of land where the value of the property exceeds $25,000. The country has a modern Registered Land system for recording transfers or other rights over property. For further details you are advised to contact a local Attorney or Real Estate Agent.
In previous centuries, the Turks and Caicos Islands relied on the export of salt as the mainstay of the economy. Since then, the Turks and Caicos Islands have depended on the export of a variety of products, most notably fish, conch, lobster, sponges and cotton. Over the last 15 years tourism and offshore finance have replaced the export trade as the major economic industries in the country. As an important offshore financial centre, the Turks and Caicos Islands offer a variety of products and services to international clients, including formation and management of international business companies, the establishment of limited life companies and trusts, estate and tax planning, portfolio management, and securities trading. The Financial Services Commission regulates this industry and the development of offshore legislation.
"Beautiful By Nature"
Preservation of our resources is of the highest concern to the government and people of the Turks & Caicos Islands. In 1992, the Turks and Caicos Islands Government created a National Parks system to keep our islands "Beautiful by Nature" and to keep our cultural heritage intact. As part of the plan 33 national parks, nature reserves, wildlife sanctuaries and historical sites throughout the islands were designated. The Turks and Caicos Islands has designated a greater portion of its lands as National parks than any other country in the world. Whether swimming with our nation's favourite dolphin JoJo, or scuba diving amongst our world-renowned coral reefs, visitors are kindly urged to respect this very sacred heritage so that it will remain "Beautiful by Nature" for future generations.
The Turks and Caicos Islands?
It is believed that the Turks and Caicos Islands derived its name from the combination of two themes: the "Turks Head Cactus" and "Cays".
The Turks Head cactus is almost cylindrical in shape with a red blossom on the top. When the Spaniards visited Grand Turk they saw many Turks Head cacti which they thought looked similar to the fez worn by the Turks in Turkey. Thus, the cactus was named Turks Head cactus and the first part of the Islands' name was derived.
There are four banks within the territorial area of the Islands: the Turks Bank, the Mouchoir Bank, the Silver Bank and the Caicos Bank. It is said that the Arawaks called these banks 'cays', which the Spaniards later termed 'cayos'. The residents at the time pronounced the word as 'Caicos', hence the second part of our name.