Home to the world’s only conch farm, and exporter of the mollusks to other nations, the Turks and Caicos Islands has one of the most dynamic and healthy economies in the Caribbean region. Earlier known for its salt production, the country now has strong tourism and offshore finance industries.
Consisting of two island groups in the North Atlantic Ocean, just southeast of The Bahamas and north of Haiti, the Turks and Caicos Islands have a history of being administered under more dominant political entities. Until 1962 they were part of the UK’s Jamaican colony, but attained status as a separate crown colony following Jamaica’s independence. Then they came under oversight by the governor of The Bahamas between 1965 and 1973. After Bahamian independence, the Turks and Caicos Islands were administered by their own governor. They remain as a British overseas territory today. In recent years there has been talk of the territory joining formally with Canada.
The islands are sparsely populated. Out of about 40 islands total in the two groups, with only eight inhabited at all, the population is a mere 21,000. Around 95% of the people are Afro-Caribbean (Carib) in origin, descended from African slaves brought in by the Europeans to work the sugar plantations. There is a rapidly growing minority of Haitians in the territory as well.
English is the official language, but the common tongue is Turks & Caicos Creole English, which may be related closely with Bahamas Creole.
Most of the people claim to be Christians, mainly adhering to one of several Protestant denominations. The Baptists are most numerous, at 40%, followed by significant numbers of Anglicans, Methodists and members of the Church of God.