I have been living in England for a little over 5 years, and every time when asked where I am from I reply, “Bermuda,” only to be followed by, “you must be crazy to leave there for here.” People from England only see Bermuda as this tropical paradise with an annual temperature of 23°C. It’s obvious when people are not from a place and they rely on tourist propaganda, that they began to find unusual holes in your story when you simply tell them, “I came here for work purposes only.”
Although it is heard that the first human visit to the islands of Bermuda took place in 1503 by some Europeans, there is hardly anything known about such visit. In 1511, the Spanish historian Peter Martyr in his publication Legatio Babylonica mentioned about the Spanish explorer Juan de Bermudez who discovered Bermuda. But very little is known even about this discovery. Bermuda’s real history started only in 1609 when a group of British colonists landed ashore after their ship got wrecked at a nearby reef. In 1609, Admiral Sir George Somers had set sail with a fleet of nine ships from Plymouth of England towards the new English colony Jamestown of Virginia. As the chief, Somers was aboard the flagship Sea Venture along with some 150 sailors and settlers, and a dog. The fleet was caught in a severe storm on the way and the flagship Sea Venture got separated from the remaining vessels. After a long struggle, the sailors of Sea Venture were somehow able to notice the east-end reefs of Bermuda and were able to steer the ship towards the rocks. The ship however got wrecked on the reefs, but all on board including the dog were able to come on shore safely. The survivors later built two new ships – The Deliverance and the Patience. The ships were constructed mainly from plenty of available Bermuda Cedar and the materials stripped from the Sea Venture itself.
Having constructed the two new vessels, all of them set sail again for Jamestown after 10 months. But Somers left behind two volunteers so that the British claim on the island could continue. And since then, Bermuda has been continuously inhabited.
It is for this effort on part of George Somers that the original name of Bermuda was given Somers Isle which continues to be used as an alternative name for the island.
Sculpture of Sir George Somers in St. George. He is known as the founder of Bermuda.
The first slaves were brought to Bermuda in the 1620’s soon after the British colony was established in the island. The indentured or debt bonded contract labor in Bermuda continued until 1684. White population in Bermuda remained the majority until the 18th century despite a continuous influx of Latin American and African blacks, native Americans, Irish and Scots. The first Blacks to come to Bermuda in real large numbers were free West Indians, who emigrated from territories taken from Spain. The slaves initially worked under seven years of bond, as did most English settlers. This was to repay the administrators for the cost of their transport. As the size of the Black population started growing, the administrative company made many attempts to reduce the number of blacks in the island. They changed the terms of indenture for the Blacks and raised it to 99 years in order to discourage blacks to come to the island. An indenture of 99 years meant that one became a slave for life. A white owner could obtain the slaves by sale or purchase, auction, legal seizure or by gift. The price of a slave varied based on the demand. Throughout the 17th century, black children were sold for £8, women from £10 to £20, and able bodied black and Indian men for around £26. Blacks and Indians never willingly accepted their status as slaves and used all opportunities to escape or rebel. It was not easy to escape because of the small size of the island. Also the nearest land was about 680 miles away. But still slaves ran away from their masters and hid in the caves along Bermuda’s coast. He was finally re-captured though. Others attempted to plot against their masters. One such plot occurred in 1656 when a dozen of black men led by a free Black man William Force plotted to murder their English masters. As the target night arrived, two of the slaves lost their nerves and reported the conspiracy to authorities. The conspirators were rounded up and tried by court martial. Two were hanged and William Force was later sent on exile to Bahamas with most of the island’s other free blacks. Native American slaves were brought in large numbers from as far as Mexico. They were preferred as house servants because they proved less troublesome than the Blacks and Irish who were constantly plotting rebellion. The slave trade was finally outlawed in Bermuda in 1807 and all slaves were freed in 1834. This day of freedom is celebrated as the Emancipation Day in Bermuda. At the end of the 18th Century, Whites were majority of Bermuda’s population. Blacks and Native Americans were both small minorities. However about 10,000 Bermudians emigrated prior to American independence, most of who were Whites. This had left Blacks with a slight majority in Bermuda. Portuguese immigration, which began in the 1840’s was offset by the black immigration from the West Indies which began at the end of the 19th Century. Bermuda’s trade relationship with the Caribbean and particularly with West Indies had been quite good. This resulted in the large influx of blacks from West Indies. Today, about 60% of Bermudians are of African descent and many others have European ancestry. Most Bermudians would be able to relate themselves to ancestors and relatives of either African or European descent.
Today Bermuda has been transformed into an island for the super rich. Those White Englishmen whose families have passed fortunes down from centuries ago still remain as the island’s foremost decision makers. The names Outerbridge, Trott, Smith, Simons, Simmons and Gibbons are the remains of the descendant slave owners, yet titles and recognition have been denied or unsubstantiated. In 2013 Bermuda claimed to have been hit by a severe economic downfall and local businesses as a show of proof closed many of their doors creating a great number of unemployed. However the construction trade has stayed to thrive, with many of its owners now serving as MP’s. Hundreds of millions of dollars is finding its way into new development that will increase the visibility of Bermuda as a tax haven for the super rich. Bermuda development is not for the betterment of its people, but for the betterment of Government, and the rich. The little guy is being moved out and in order to preserve a normal lifestyle many Bermudians are forced to have to live in other countries such as England or America. This is quietly known as “Economic Genocide.”