One of the fascinating aspects of living here in the first year listening to and observing different Caymanians formulate answers to the question: "What is the essence of Cayman Culture?" On the one hand, there are certainly aspects of Cayman Culture that stand out proudly (I am not counting the Batabano Festival -- during which I had to shield my children's eyes) ; yet, it is a relatively young island whose government didn't really even come into being until 1831 and who has relied greatly on inhabitants and contributions from a number of places, especially Britain & Jamaica.
To what degree Cayman is related culturally to Britain & Jamaica seems to have been a question even back in the early 1800s. In 1776, there was a matter of potentially wrongful selling of slaves to planters in Cayman. The matter was resolved, but the British-installed governor of Jamaica was surprised to find out from his law-officers that the Cayman Islands had never been declared a dependancy of Jamaica -- furthermore, no one could tell him to what extent Jamaican laws applied to the Islands.
Despite this ambiguity, which continued, Cayman was managed by a number of Magistrates, one of whom usually served as chief magistrate. Around 1823, there were a number of needs to which the Magistrates appealed to Jamaica & the Crown. When nothing happened, the Magistrates met at the famed Pedro St. James and leased the property from William Eden to use it as an animal pound, courthouse, and jail.
Eight years later a number of Cayman Magistrates had some specific requests of the Jamaican Governor -- namely, that their authority would be recognized by Jamaica and the Crown so that their authority would carry more weight among the commoners in Cayman. Apparently no one acknowledged that this group of Magistrates had any authority -- in fact, there was open opposition to it. Jamaica agreed to appoint some new Magistrates for Cayman but said they had to ask the Crown for permission on other matters like raising taxes and pursuing legal redress to recover outstanding debt. Once again, nothing happened.
So rather than waiting on Jamaica or the Crown, the group of Magistrates and the island inhabitants, led by Waide Bodden, began to organize themselves into a formal, bicameral legislature. The magnitude of this should not be underemphasized -- they did this without any permission from either Jamaica or the Crown. A militia was formed and the legislature met twice a year for the next ten years.
What bold initiative by the Cayman people! While inextricably linked to Jamaica & Britain in family origin, in trade, and in culture, with two bold strikes they had independently asserted that they were willing to care for and provide for themselves.
So as we view the landscape today and all aspects of culture that has borrowed/imported onto this island, perhaps this period of history might help make sense of the importance of a sense of independence as well. A people who historically have been left to survive on their own -- forging a culture even still in this 21st century. I'm grateful to be a part of it.
(**I'd welcome any thoughts or any correctives to my still limited grasp of Cayman History)