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Modern Caymanian History


For the next century, the Cayman Islands remained relatively isolated. Residents continued their old traditions but hurricanes, tidal waves, and a depletion of the green turtle supply forced some residents to sail to Cuba, Honduras, and Nicaragua to earn a living. The merchant seamen navigated the waters and this sustained the economy of the islands until tourism and finance rose to prominence in the 20th century. During this time the islands were cut off geographically and lacked much communication with the outside world. The first wireless station wasn't built until 1935.

The plunge into the 20th century was aided by commissioner Sir Allen Cardinall, who served from 1934 to 1940. Linking the public buildings of Grand Cayman with a network of roads, the commissioner was also the first public figure to recognize the tourism potential of the islands, even noting that this area held "the most perfect bathing beaches in the West Indies."

In 1953, the first airfield in the Cayman Islands was completed with the Owens Roberts Airport on Grand Cayman. A year later, an airstrip opened on Cayman Brac. Within three years tourism began taking hold on Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman.

By 1957, dive operator Bob Soto began the islands' first recreational diving business and introduced the world to these pristine waters. The islands continued as a dependency of Jamaica, both under the protectorate of Great Britain until 1962 when Jamaica became independent.

The Caymanians had a far different view of the Union Jack than their Jamaican neighbors, however; in 1962 a vote overwhelmingly favored remaining a British dependency.


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