GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands - To many clients, the Cayman Islands are synonymous with scuba diving and tax-free banking.
But through an islandwide effort on the part of the Cayman Islands National Trust, Caymanians have been rediscovering their heritage.
Visitors can also share in these discoveries and return home with memories of more than just sand,, sun and sea.
With the formation of the National Trust in 1987, a group of dedicated Caymanians set out to preserve island culture.
Preservation efforts since then have taken several forms: historical, cultural and environmental.
For example, walking tours of West Bay, Grand Cayman's second-largest district, on the northwestern tip of the island, and George Town, the capital, introduce visitors to a variety of architectural styles in public buildings and private homes.
The West Bay walking-tour brochure also includes interesting descriptions of several former residents, such as Clement Welds, the district's only beekeeper; seaman Willie Bodden, who also served as the local dentist, shoemaker and sewing-machine repairman, and Aunt Sally Ebanks, who treated common ailments with her well-known home remedies.
Cultural preservation also is taking place throughout the Cayman Islands these days.
George Town and its famed Seven Mile Beach resort area are restoring their traditional 19th and early 20th century homes and public buildings.
Bodden Town, the island's first capital, remains untouched by modern times. Its slower pace, more representative of Caymanian life, provides a contrast for visitors who venture beyond Grand Cayman's resort areas.
East End, the least developed part of the island, is home to sailors, fishermen and turtlers. These trades were the mainstay of the Cayman Islands' economy before the influx of divers and bankers.
In the farming villages of the Northside, the most frequently asked question is "Are the mangoes ripe yet?.
Rum Point, overrun by seashells and starfish, offers a startling contrast to Seven Mile Beach, at times overrun by tourists.
In the district of Independent West Bay, called the Republic by most islanders, Caymanians are busy restoring homes, promoting local craft and reviving old recipes.
One of the most unusual preservation efforts taking place is the Memory Bank, a National Archive project that involves the creation of an oral legacy for future generations of Caymanians.
More than 300 residents most of whom are more than 70 years old and remember the islands as they were before the development of tourism and finance in the 1960s, have been interviewed by Heather McLaughlin, Memory Bank coordinator.
Their memories and anecdotal recollections contribute valuable information about the Caymanian way of life and offer a vehicle for preserving and appreciating the island heritage, McLaughlin said.
She pointed out that the interviews have become more than just information-gathering sessions. Older Caymanians in reliving their early days, realize that their years of struggle and hardship were not in vain. And younger islanders, inspired by their elders' stories, are expressing an interest in their own history.
Gloria McField, a 20-year-old student at Howard University in Washington and a resident of Grand Cayman, echoed the sentiments of many who have made "withdrawals" from the Memory Bank's accounts.
"The Memory Bank has taught me that the most interesting history doesn't origin in textbooks but in the ever day experiences of my ancestors," McField said.
"Through the tales of elderly residents, my heritage comes alive."
The National Trust also focuses on collecting, preserving and promoting native handicrafts, music, recipes and other artifacts of 19th and 20th century life here.
Other ventures undertaken by the National Trust include conservation programs both offshore and on the mainland.
The 60-acre Botanic Park, which opened in 1994, is a nature preserve with more than 200 varieties of plants, birds and wildlife, a one-mile-long nature trail and a mini-ecosystem ranging from wetlands to cactus thickets, logwood swamps and majestic mahogany groves.
For information on the Cayman Islands, contact the Department of Tourism offices in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and New York.
Source Citation:Hockman, Fyllis. "Caymanians preserve their heritage." Travel Weekly 54.n21 (March 16, 1995): C6(1). InfoTrac Small Business eCollection. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 13 Oct. 2009
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