It was on July 10, 1973 that the Bahamas gained its independence from Britain. The country is a fully self-governing member of the Commonwealth and concurrently a member of the United Nations, the Caribbean Community and the Organization of American States.
The Islands of the Bahamas extend 760 miles from the coast of Florida on the north-west almost to the island of Hispaniola on the south-east. The island chain consists of 700 islands and 2,400 cays with an area of 5,358 sq. miles (13,878 sq. km.).
The 2000 census disclosed that the population of The Bahamas totaled 306,611, with 155,896 females and 147,715 males. About eighty-five percent of the total population lives on the islands of New Providence, Grand Bahama and Abaco. New Providence has about seventy percent of the population, with the remaining population distributed throughout the rest of the islands and cays.
The original inhabitants of The Bahamas were Lucayan Indians, who migrated through the Antilles from South America. The origin of the name “Bahamas” comes from the Spanish words “Baha Mar”, which means “Shallow Sea or Shallow Water.” The Italian explorer Christopher Columbus is said to have been the first European to discover The Bahamas in 1492 in an expedition backed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. The expedition landed on the island of Guanahani, now called San Salvador. The island of Eleuthera was called “Cigatoo.” The first permanent settlement in The Bahamas was established on Eleuthera in 1647 by a group of English settlers from Bermuda seeking “religious freedom”. They called themselves the Company of Eleutheran Adventurers.