Visit Little Cayman

Island History

Island History
Relief of Christopher Columbus at Christopher Columbus Gardens

Cayman Brac – A Look Back

On his forth and final voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus sighted Cayman Brac and Little Cayman on May 10, 1503. It was written in the ship's log book: “we were in sight of these...two small islands, full of tortoises, as was all the sea about insomuch as they look like little rocks.” He named the islands “Las Tortugas” (The Turtles) and claimed them for Spain. Eventually they came to be known as the Cayman Islands.

From a Pirate’s Playground…

During the decades that followed, Cayman Brac became a prominent home for pirates, known as the “Brethren of the Sea,” seeking hiding places for their stolen treasures. Of these swashbuckling pirates, the most famous one to roam the island’s shores was Edward “Blackbeard” Teach. Legend has it that Blackbeard”s booty is still buried below the surface or hidden in the recesses of a Cayman Brac cave.

…to a British Overseas Territory

When the Treaty of Madrid was signed in 1670, it was agreed that Jamaica would claim the Cayman Islands as its dependants and be ceded to Britain. The Islands remained a dependency of Jamaica until our first Constitution was written in 1959 and Jamaica gained independence in 1962. At that time, the Cayman Islands decided to remain a British Crown Colony. Today the Cayman Islands are now considered a British Overseas Territory.

Caymanian Heritage & Culture

Cayman Catboat
Cayman Catboat

The history and culture of Caymanian people is still very much alive. Heritage days – showcasing everything Caymanian – routinely take place to showcase the country's humble beginnings. The elders of the community would plait thatch, lay rope, make turtle nets, cook in the caboose or build catboats. To preserve these authentic Cayman pastimes, programmes were developed at the Cayman Brac Heritage House to pass these rich traditions on through the generations.  Live Demonstration Days take place monthly with re-enactments. 

Historical Milestones

  • Discovered on May 10, 1503

  • Celebrated our quincentennial in 2003

  • Worst hurricanes to ever hit Cayman Brac occurred on Saturday, November  8, 1932, 76 years later in 2008, Hurricane Paloma cause significant damage on the same day and date as the '32 storm

  • Women first allowed to vote in 1959 after first Constitution

  • First woman (a “Bracka”) elected Speaker of the House in 2001

  • Catboat invented and built in 1904 by “Bracka” Daniel Jervis

  • The first Government School was opened in 1921. The first teachers were R.C. Kennedy and Wrennie Scott

  • At one time the children of Cayman Brac went to Little Cayman for schooling

  • The first Bracker to be honored by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was Mr. Guy A. Banks, MBE, in 1971

  • During World War II, it was a Bracker decoding messages for General Douglas McArthur in the Pacific war zone, stationed in Okinawa

  • The 2017 national elections, saw the first time ever that two representatives from the Sister Islands were given the position of Cabinet Ministers
For more information and historical milestones, visit the Cayman Brac Museum or Cayman Brac Heritage.

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