Historical Background


Turks & Caicos Islands are an archipelago of eight major islands and numerous uninhabited Cays. The origin of its name is rather interesting; Turks derived from the Turks Head Cactus and Caicos is a Lucayan term 'caya hico' which means string of islands. This British dependency within the West Indies is located 39 miles southeast of the Bahamas and 575 miles south of Miami, Florida and has an area of 193 square miles.

Blessed with miles of quiet sugary beaches and close to several uninhabited cays, Grand Turk is the administrative and political capital of the Turks & Caicos Islands, founded by Bermudan Salt Rakers some three centuries ago. Its Bermudan British Colonial architecture amidst the colourful, Carribean-style local dwellings made Grand Turk worth the visit. Donkeys, horses and cattle which were the means of transportation during the salt industry are still seen wondering the streets in Grand Turk and South Caicos. Grand Turk excels in providing spectacular diving, snorkeling, fishing and sailing.

The largest in the chain, Middle Caicos is also the least populated. This luch island is suitable for agriculture, grows almost anything from medicinal herbs to majestic fruit trees. This island houses the largest above ground caves in all of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos.

North Caicos, known in the past as the "Garden Island' has been the bread basket of the islands. This island is composed of swamp and lush tidal flats which are the homes of the largest sanctuary of West Indian flamingos within the country. Also found in Whitby, North Caicos is the rare Whistling duck.

With luxurious exclusive facilities, Parrot Cay is a private island where a resort was recently built. It is believed that Pirate Cay was the original name of this island.

Pine Cay, home of the Prestigious Meridian Club and its small cadre of homeowners and seasonal residents, is a private cay with miles of nature trails and pristine beaches good for shelling and searching for sand dollars.

Scattered with beaches on all sides, Providenciales faces the Caicos Bank. The Caicos Bank, filled with an abundant resource of conch and lobster, is a shallow, pale turquoise sea and is partly composed of swamps and tidal flats. Provo, as it is commonly known, is home to the only Conch Farm in the world which takes five years to grow to adult life.

Salt Cay possesses quiet bays with beaches excellent for swimming, snorkeling and beach combing offering a complete relaxed atmosphere because of its charm and tranquility.

South Caicos is known for its excellent scuba diving, deep sea and bone fishing, has the most protected and finest natural harbour. Also known as "East Harbour', 'The Big South', and 'The Rock'. South Caicos is home to the Boiling Hole, herds of wild horses and cows, flocks of flamingos, opsrey and pelicans. In the waters around the island there exists dolphins, manta rays, eagle rays, giant groupers, turtles, sharks and humpback migrating whales.

The islands comprise mostly black descendants from early Bermudans, Loyalists and slave settlers and salt rakers dating back 300 years. The immigrant population consists mostly of Haitians and Dominicans, though there are many residents from around the world as well.



The Turks and Caicos Islands lie to the southeast of the Bahamas, and are just 90 miles to the north of Haiti. They lie between 21 and 22 degrees latitude, with the result that they enjoy a subtropical climate with temperatures averaging 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter period-December to March - and over 80 degrees in the period April to November. The islands are in the path of the annual hurricanes that develop off the west coast of Africa and visit the Carribean Basin and the southeast coastal area of the United States.

They consist of two groups of islands separated by a deep-water channel about 22 miles wide with a depth of over 7000 feet, known as the Turks Island Passage. The Turks Islands lie to the east of the passage and the Caicos Islands to the west. The Turks Islands consist of two inhabited islands, Grand Turk and Salt Cay and six uninhabited cays.

The Caicos Islands consist of six islands, four of which are inhabited. The Caicos Islands form a bank - the Caicos Bank, with the islands separated from one another by shallow passages. Altogether, both sets of islands have a total land area of 366.11 sq miles or approximately 948.23 sq kilometers¹. The largest of all the islands is Middle Caicos.



Local artists in the Turks and Caicos Islands thrive on the beautiful land and seascapes as themes for their paintings, sketches and drawings. The colorful characters of the natives also offer lots of subjects for the creative artist. Local art is influenced by the styles of our neighbors, Haiti and Dominican Republic.



Bush Medicine is the term used for remedies made from herbs, plants, barks and roots of trees grown in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Without proper medical facilities and doctors in the past, the natives relied on passed down knowledge of the healing properties of their local plants and herbs to cure their ailments. Bush Medicine is still widely used in the Turks and Caicos Islands, especially Middle and North Caicos where you will always find one of the older fold willing to enlighten you on its healing powers. Most of these herbs, flowers, plants, barks and roots were boiled down or steeped in hot water to extract their active ingredients and then strained or mixed with other extracts and given in dosages depending on the age of the patient and the seriousness of the ailment.

Castor Oil
This oil was widely used as a purgative for children to keep them regular. Hot castor oil massaged into the hair and scalp will eliminate dandruff and lice.

This plant is used as a tea, relieves headaches and calms the nerves. As a bath it relieves stress and fatigue and acts as a natural deodorant.

This herb prepared as a tea is used as a pain reliever for kidney stones and is very effective for asthma and whooping cough.

Prickly Pear Cactus

By applying peeled, warmed slices directly to the patients joints, this cactus is considered the best cure for sore joints and rheumatism.

This plant can be used as a laxative and cleanser. It heals sunburn and other types of burns. It is also used on mosquito bites, skin wounds, cuts and bruises, healing them without scaring. Aloe is the best natural shampoo. It helps to restore the natural oils to dry hair and encourages growth. Most Rastafarians use aloe in the grooming of their locks.

Love Vine
This vine is used for backaches, prickly heat and baby's gripes.

Steamed or boiled and taken with a dash of salt and limejuice is said to cure colds and fevers. It is also used as preventive medicine when taken before the onset of illness such as hypertension, diabetes and worms.



The art of basket weaving, plaiting palm leaves for straw hat, net making, binding mosquito brushes, and weaving fanner dishes and bowls is very much alive in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The majority of these craftsmen and women are found in the three settlements on Middle Caicos Conch Bar, Bambarra and Lorimers.

Many of the crafts people donate their time and skills to teaching and training the young people of the settlements with the intention of keeping the techniques alive.



There are a number of local dance steps and styles in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The most popular is winin also known as Wine-up or The Wine. To wine is to gyrate the hips from the waist in a circle, to the beat of the music being played, usually Rip-Saw, Soca or Calypso song.

It is common to see even very young children stealing the show with their Winin technique at parties and local festivals. Most of the elderly folk prefer the more stylized moves of the Shati which is a Waltz dance and The Heal & Toe Polka both a mix of our European and African heritage. The Conch Style is a local dance that is done by stepping ang hooking one foot behind the ankle of the other in time to the ripsaw music.

Another common dance is called the Shay-Shay. This dance is done without a partner and performed as a free for all. Dancers can show off their individual styles and steps when they dance the Shay-Sha.



The Turks and Caicos Islands first language is English. There are certain phrases that vary from the English language and certain proverbs and terms which give a distinctly Turks and Caicos flavour to the spoken word.

The natives of each Island have their own unique way of pronouncing certain words making it easy to tell the home town of a person just by hearing them speak. The following are words and phrases unique to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Ga (Got/Have) - I GA five coconuts and one banana.
Gal (Girl) - She ya GAL friend ay?
I'een (I'm not) -I'EEN going out tonight gal, I tired.
Gee (Give) - Did Frank GEE you some fish?
Shut (Shirt) - My SHUT is red and my pants is blue.
Buck(To Meet/Met) - I BUCK Susan in the shop today.

As a multi-national country, we use quite a number of words and phrases from our Carribean and US neighbors such as:
Irie & Ya Man from Jamaica
Sak Passe & Mab Boule from Haiti
Que Passa & Mucho Gracias from the Dominican Republic
What's up & Yo from the U



Some of the most popular dishes are conch dishes such as Conch Creole, Curried Conch, Conch Fritters, Conch Chowder, Cracked Conch and Dried Conch. Lobster is also regularly served and is one of the main exports of the country.

Another popular dish is Grits, known locally as Hominy cooked with peas and dried conch which was a staple for our ancestors who added local fish, chicken and ground vegetables to complete the meal. Peas and rice is also another native food that is served with ninety percent (90%) of local meals. It is often flavored with bits of salt beef and pig tail. Boiled fish with Johnnycake is a native dish often served as a weekend specialty.

One of the most popular drinks in the Turks and Caicos Islands is rum punch. This is made with Lucayan rum, coconut rum, orange juice, pineapple juice and sirop de grenadine.



The national music of the Turks and caicos Islands is called Ripsaw Music. Another name for this type of music is 'Rake 'n' Scrape'. The basic instruments used are the saw, the goatskin drum, the hand acordion, also known locally as the Constentina, hand made maracas and the acoustic guitar.

The main instrument is the ordinary carpenters' handsaw found in any hardware store. The saw is held with either end in a number of ways to produce a unique percussive scraping sound, this action is called Ripping the Saw. Bending the body and ripping the saw in time with the beat of the music produces a wobbled overtone. This gives the characteristic sound of ripsaw music.



The English speaking population is dispersed over the eight main islands; the native people are descendants from African slaves who were originally brought over to grow cotton on the island of Providenciales. The natives or Belongers as we call them are very kind, friendly and religious people.

The expat community of British, American, French, Canadian, Haitians, Dominicans and Scandinavians gives the islands some international influences.



The Turks and Caicos economy is based on tourism, fishing and offshore financial service. Most capital goods and food for domestic consumption are imported. The US is the leading source of tourists, accounting for more than half of the 93,000 visitors in the late 1990s.

Labour Force: 11,275 (2001)

Labour Force by Industry: Hotels, Restaurants & Tourism-23.26%; Public Administrative and Defense, Social Security-19.86%; Construction-13.50%; Personal Services-8.65%; Financing, Insurance, Real Estate and Business Services-8.47%; Wholesale & Retail Trade-6.45%; Transport, Storage & Communication-4.62%; Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing-2.33%; Manufacturing-2.20%; Electricity, Gas & Water-1.60%; Computer & Information Technology Services-0.20%; Mining & Quarrying-0.17%; (2001)

Agriculture Products: corn, beans, cassava, citrus fruits, fish

Electricity Production: 15 million kwh (2003)

Electricity Consumption: 13 million kwh (2003)

Import Commodities: food; beverages & tobacco; crude materials, inedible except fuels; mineral fuels, lubricants & related materials; animals & vegetable oils, fats & waxes; chemicals & related products; manufactured goods classified chiefly by materials; machinery & transport equipment; miscellaneous manufactured articles.

Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time [EST] (May - October) and Daylight Savings Time [DST] (November - April)

Currency: US Dollar

Fiscal Year: April 1 - March 31

Ports and Harbours: Grand Turk & Providenciales

International Airport: Grand Turk (GDT) & Providenciales (PLS)

Providenciales Location

Ministry of Finance Building
(Former TCI Bank Limited)
Butterfield Square, Providenciales
Turks and Caicos Islands
British West Indies

Grand Turk Location

South Base, Grand Turk
Turks and Caicos Islands
British West Indies

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Contact Numbers

Grand Turk Office
Tel No. (649) 338-3005
Tel No. (649) 338-3002
Tel No. (649) 946-1700

Providenciales Office
Tel No. (649) 338-4979