The Bahamas: Islands of Rich Cultural Havens

I have always been a bit of a rebel when it comes to most things in my life and travel is no different.  While it seemed most African-Americans were going to the Caribbean for cruises, vacations, and honeymoons, I wanted to do something different. Not because I was dismissing who I am, my culture and history but simply because in my mind “everyone” was doing it and well, I like to be different.  Turns out they were on to something and my attitude of “I’ll get there one day” has changed to wanting to get back there very soon to see more after a short mini-vacation to The Bahamas. Yes, it just took four days to realize that I was missing out on the very thing I yearn for when traveling, a connection with the people, savory stories about local fare and a host of activities to fit whatever I want to do.  The Bahamas, specifically Nassau, felt like home.

In four days, I learned so much about the people and culture, food and wine and destination attractions that it wouldn’t do any justice to cram it all into one article.  So, join me over the month of June as I tell the country’s story through my eyes and then encourage you to go and come back and do the same.

There are a lot of factors that are taken into account when selecting a travel destination and the people is certainly one of them.  Some places that you go to may intentionally make you feel like a tourist and in others, you’re called family and treated like family.  That is exactly how I felt from the beginning to the end of my trip. During this mini getaway, I spent time with native Bahamian Anita Johnson-Patty, who is also the general manager of communications for The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. She describes the people as “God-fearing, friendly, big personalities, sincere and friends for life.”

The Bahamas and Bahamians have a long and rich history that is traced all the way back to 300 AD.  First settled by the English Puritans or “Eleutheran Adventurers,” the country is young in terms of its independence.  It was in July 1973 that the British ended its rule of 325 years which allowed The Bahamas to become a free and sovereign country.

You’ll be wonderfully surprised if you think once you go to Nassau, you’ve seen all there is to see in The Bahamas. It is just one out of 700 islands for you to experience and each has its personality and uniqueness.   Want to go on a little eco-exploration? Try the Grand Bahama Island.  In the mood to golf, go sailing or lay out on an island that boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, plan to visit The Abacos. Better yet, relax your mind and create a Nobel Prize Acceptance speech like Martin Luther King, Jr. did on the island of Bimini. To top that, why not own your own island or “key’ as they are called like celebrities Tyler Perry and Johnny Depp.  Wherever you want to go, The Bahamas has hundreds of possibilities.

We may have learned a little about Bahamians and their culture from those who have graced the big screen or dribbled a little down the court. Although he was born in Miami, actor Sydney Poitier is a Bahamian-American who was raised on Cat Island. Former NBA star Rick Fox moved to his father’s native Bahamas from Toronto when he was three where he enjoyed the island life prior to leaving for high school and college.

Any time of the year in my eyes is a great time to go, but if festivals and seeing cities come alive is what you are looking for, then right around Christmas may be just the right time.  Why? Because it is time to celebrate Junkanoo or The Bahamas’ carnival.  On your trip, make plans to stop by The Junkanoo Mini-Museum and Resource Centre owned by Arlene Nash Ferguson. Ferguson hosts tours and interactive workshops that will have you wanting to come back and join this event that is a huge part of Bahamian people and their culture each year.

Lastly, want to interact more with Bahamians than just at the hotel, restaurant or store?  Sign up to experience the People-to-People program which is free and one of the best ways to connect with natives personally.  I was fortunate to attend a dinner in the local home of the Jacksons along with their friends and it was not only one of the best meals during my trip, but one of the most memorable highlights.  I will talk more about the food in next week’s installment, but let’s just say mother Muggy Jackson and friends put their foot in it. In addition to hosting dinners, ambassadors of the program are there to make sure you experience their country in the most authentic way. Join them for a Sunday worship service or other happenings that only locals may know about such as karaoke on Friday nights at Goldie’s Conch House in Arawak Cay.  Because after all, you know what they say, when in The Bahamas, do what the Bahamians do.

For more adventure in The Bahamas, check out these articles in Cuisine Noir:

“The Bahamas: A Notable Caribbean Culinary Star,” click here.

“The Bahamas: A Paradise for Family and Fun,” click here.

“Harbour Island: One of The Bahamas Great Escape,” click here.

Photo credit: V. Sheree Publishing

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Sheree has been penning stories since the fifth grade. Her stories took a delicious and adventurous turn as an adult when she became a foodie.