“Born in The Bahamas, raised in the Turks & Caicos……., she considers the Turks & Caicos her only home. “ – Jena Janse
Due to the sensitivity of this topic, I contemplated whether or not to write about this but it is a topic that needs to be addressed. It is also an opportunity for us to reflect on how we live with each other. The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos are basically one land mass and our cultures are almost the same except we pronounced some of our words differently. We are so intertwine, that no matter how much we try to separate from each other, we just can’t. There are more people of TCI Heritage living in TCI than there are in TCI.
In the 1930s, some TC Islanders migrated to Abaco Bahamas to work in the Lumber Industry. In the 1940s, more move to Inagua to work in the Salt Industry. In the 1950, more move to the Grand Bahama to work in the Pine Yard Industry and after the Salt Industry in TCI collapsed in 1960s , more moved to the Bahamas in search of a better living. As a result of this migration, Bahamians of TCI Heritage were birthed.
After the Bahamas became independent in 1973, some of the Turks and Caicos Islanders along with their children returned to TCI. In the late 80s and early 90s, the economy of the TCI started to flourish and Bahamians of TCI Heritage and TCI Islanders were invited to return to TCI as the local population was too small to accommodate the growing economy. This trend continues to date.
There appears to be constant conflict between TCI Islanders and Bahamians. Perhaps this started when TCIs people migrated to the Bahamas and many of them were treated unfairly by some Bahamians. In fact some TCI Islanders hid their heritage and amended the spelling of their last names. Today some Bahamians of TCI Heritage are complaining that we do not treat them fairly and treat them like outsiders. We referred to them as Bahamians and foreigners. They also felt that TCI Islanders think when their family left TCI to reside in the Bahamas they have no more rights in TCI. Some Bahamians also felt that we blamed the increase in crime in TCI due to Bahamians migrating to TCI.
Some TCI Islanders on the other hand say some Bahamians of TCI Heritage do not assimilate with TCIslanders even though their family is from here. Some of them say Bahamians have been living here for years and still do not consider TCI themselves as home. In fact some of them say your country instead of our country. Very rarely do you see them showcase their Turks and Caicos Heritage. Many of them like to refer TCIslanders as being passive and backward. Some TCI Islanders also claimed that Bahamians think they are better than us.
Ironically though, I am aware of a few Turks and Caicos Islanders who were born in the Bahamas but spent most of their life in TCI but yet called themselves Bahamians. I am also aware of a few persons who were born in the Bahamas but consider themselves Turks and Caicos Islanders.
Should your birth place determine the place you call home? Shouldn’t your home be where your heart is or where you have been living for years? I started this article off with a lovely quote from Jena Janse who was born in the Bahamas but considers the Turks and Caicos her home.
The relationship between Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas is so unique and quite frankly I think the Bahamas should be the first place we should recruit individuals to come to our country to work whether in the private sector or the public sector
Bahamians of TCI Heritage must learn to appreciate and assimilate in the Turks and Caicos culture especially given the fact that their ancestors are from TCI. Turks and Caicos Islanders on the other hand must learn to appreciate the Bahamians of TCI Heritage as we are one family. National Heritage month will take place in October and I challenge the committee to see how we can set aside a day to focus on our history between Bahamas and TCI and let us start the conversation on how we can live as one. I encourage all of us who are of TCI Heritage to participate in this day by showcasing the TCI Flags and wearing the TCI national costumes.
I think all of us need to see each other as one. I know I do and more of this unity needs to be encouraged.