Cayman Islands: Country and Foreign Investment
Population, Language and Culture
This page was last updated on 27 June 2019.
Columbus discovered the Cayman Islands in May 1503 and named them las Tortugas after the turtles in the surrounding sea. On a voyage in 1585-6, Francis Drake visited the islands and renamed them the Cayman Islands after the local word for crocodile (that is, the caiman).
In 1655 Cayman officially became part of the British Empire under the Treaty of Madrid, and for the next 300 years the islands were administered as a dependency of Jamaica. After the courageous rescue of ten merchant vessels in the royal fleet which ran aground in rough seas on 8 February 1794, King George III granted the Cayman Islands freedom from taxation.
The Caymanians have few inland resources and have tended to live off the sea and are good sailors –more of a maritime people than most Caribbean nations. Perhaps this is why recreational scuba diving is said to have originated on Cayman; it is now a staple of the islands' pervasive tourist industry.
The population is 63,100 (June 2019 estimate) and has risen sharply in recent years. The majority live on Grand Cayman with about 1,200 people on Cayman Brac and only 120 on Little Cayman. The capital is George Town on Grand Cayman. Just over a third of the population are non-Caymanians, from 113 different countries. English is the official language with a brogue reflecting Welsh, Scottish and English origins. Jamaican patois is also common among the substantial part of the population that has emigrated from Jamaica.