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The name Turks is derived after the indigenous Turk’s Head "fez" cactus, and the name Caicos is a Lucayan term "caya hico," meaning string of islands. Columbus was said to have discovered the islands in 1492, but some still argue that Ponce de Leon arrived first. Whichever it was, the first people to truly discover the islands were the Taino Indians, who unfortunately left little behind but ancient utensils. Then the Lucayans eventually replaced the Tainos but by the middle of the 16th Century they too had disappeared, victims of Spanish enslavement and imported disease.
The 17th century saw the arrival of settlers from Bermuda, who established themselves on Grand Turk, Salt Cay and South Caicos. They used slaves to rake salt for British colonies in America, and were later joined by British Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution. The economy of the island revolved around the rich cotton and sisal plantations, their harvests sold in London and New York. Due to competition and the thin soil, however, the cotton plantations slowly deteriorated, most of them finally perishing in a hurricane in 1813. Solar salt became the main economy of the islands.
In 1766, after being controlled by the Spanish, French and British, Turks and Caicos became part of the Bahamas colony, but attempts to integrate failed and were abandoned in 1848. London - Kingston boats frequently visited Turks and Caicos, so links with Jamaica were well developed. The Turks and Caicos were annexed to Jamaica in 1874. After Jamaicas’ independence in 1962, the Turks and Caicos Islands were loosly associated with the Bahamas for just over 10 years until Turks and Caicos became a British Crown Colony.
The 1976 elections were won by the PDM, the People’s Democratic Movement, who were then to negotiate independence if they won the next elections in 1980. But the other main political party, the Progressive National Party (PNP), won the 1980 elections and plans for independence were set aside. The Turks and Caicos Islands prides itself on having been stable for 250 years.