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Caribbean, Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands, dependency of the United Kingdom, in the West Indies, in the Caribbean Sea. It comprises three islands: Grand Cayman, located northwest of Jamaica, and Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, located 130 km (80 mi) northeast of Grand Cayman. The islands are generally low-lying and of coral formation. Tourism and international banking form the backbone of the economy. Fishing, shipbuilding, turtle raising, and crop farming are locally important. The leading exports include turtle shells, green turtles, lobster, finfish, and fish for aquariums. The capital is George Town, on Grand Cayman. Sighted in 1503 by Christopher Columbus, who named them Las Tortugas (Spanish for “the turtles”), the Cayman Islands were colonized about 1734 by British settlers from Jamaica. The islands remained a dependency of Jamaica until 1959, when they became a self-governing member of the Federation of the West Indies. In 1962 they became a British dependency again. Area, 260 sq km (100 sq mi); population (2002 estimate) 36,273.

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