“Since pre-Columbian Amerindians are not known to have visited the Cayman Islands, the history of the islands and their people effectively began on 10 May 1503, when Christopher Columbus and his men were the first Europeans to sight and describe Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.”
– Michael Craton, ‘Founded upon the Seas’
When Christopher Columbus and his crew sailed by the Sister Islands some 516 years ago, they did little more than take note of the “two very small and low islands, full of turtles”. A forgivable oversight: They were, after all, lost – and in the midst of a rather disastrous expedition that would be punctuated by a year’s marooning on the coast of Jamaica.
Centuries have passed. The Cayman Islands have boomed. And Columbus’s legacy has been shaped and reshaped time and again. Now, many also perceive him as an archetype for colonial oppression and slavery, in addition to his reputation as a legendary explorer. If Columbus could have known that Cayman someday would be seen as one of the few places he can still be credited for genuinely discovering (and not just being the first European to visit), one wonders if he would have lingered here a bit longer.
Discovery Day, which we celebrate on the third Monday of May, is among the lowest-profile of Cayman’s public holidays. Easter camping is finished; Ash Wednesday’s Agricultural Show is long gone; and Christmas remains on the opposite side of the calendar. This lack of emphasis, and stress, can perhaps be seen as one of Discovery Day’s most positive qualities.
The coming long weekend may provide an ideal opportunity for Cayman residents to rediscover the attraction of Discovery Day.
Many people will experience the vibrancy of Caribbean culture, to the rhythm of soca music, during Saturday’s CayMAS celebration. (Organisers give a nod to Monday’s holiday with the event’s tagline: ‘Experience the Carnival… Discover the Islands’.)
Others may choose to investigate quieter regions of our country, which contains a wealth of beaches, green spaces, aquatic spots and other soul-satisfying destinations.
In even humbler fashion, many families will take the extra day to slow down and re-establish the peace and joy that underpin the foundations of healthy and harmonious households.
And there are plenty of residents who are seizing the holiday to jet off and go explore somewhere new entirely – places Columbus himself never dreamed of. We can’t help but notice the abundance of fully booked flights to and from Cayman over the weekend.
Whatever our readers decide to do for Discovery Day, whether it’s something extravagant or ‘a whole lot of nothing’, our wish is for you to encounter clear skies, calm seas and an irresistible sense of absolute contentment.
Happy Discovery Day, Cayman. Here’s to another 516 years.