The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) are located in the North Atlantic Ocean, some 575 miles south-east of Miami, Florida and 90 miles north of the Haiti and the Dominican Republic. An archipelago of 40 islands and cays, only eight of which are inhabited, they form part of the southern extremity of the Bahamas chain. The total landmass is estimated at some 167 square miles.
The nation consists of two groups of islands, separated by a deep 22 miles wide channel, known as the Turks Island Passage. The Turks Islands lie to the east of the passage and the Caicos Islands to the west. The TCI consists entirely of limestone, rising steeply from the ocean floor some 7000 feet below. Around the coastline is the world’s third largest continuous barrier reef of living coral.
The TCI is an internal-governing British Overseas Territory, with a government that is democratically elected for a term of four years. The nation’s capital and the seat of government is Cockburn Town, on Grand Turk. The Governor serves as Head of State and he/she is appointed by and acts as the representative of HM the Queen. The Cabinet is made up of the Governor, the Premier, and six other ministers appointed by the Governor. The House of Assembly consists of a Speaker, 15 elected members, four appointed members and the Attorney General. The legal system is based on English Common Law.
Providenciales has an area of around 38 square miles and is home to a third of the total population of around 40,000. Known locally as ‘Provo’, it accommodates the vast majority of the more than 300,000 long-stay visitors who come to the TCI every year, drawn by world-famous Grace Bay beach and its resorts. Other islands making up the Caicos group include South Caicos, Middle Caicos, North Caicos and East Caicos, plus the tiny private resort islands of Pine Cay and Parrot Cay. The capital island of Grand Turk (7 square miles) and Salt Cay (3 square miles) are the main islands in the Turks group.
The National Bird is the Brown Pelican. The National Plant is Island heather found nowhere else in the world. The National Tree is the Caribbean pine. The National Costume consists of white cotton dresses tied at the waist for women and simple shirts and trousers for men, with straw hats. Colours representing the various islands are displayed on the sleeves and bases. The National Song is “This Land of Ours” by the late Rev. E.C. Howell. Peas and hominy (grits) with dry conch is revered as symbolic island fare.