The name Bahamas is of LucayanTaino (Arawakan) derivation, although some historians believe it is from the Spanish bajamar, meaning “shallow water.” The islands occupy a position commanding the gateway to the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the entire Central American region. Their strategic location has given the history of The Bahamas a unique and often striking character. It was there that Christopher Columbus made his original landfall in the Americas. The subsequent fate of the peaceful original inhabitants remains one of the more tragic episodes in the development of the entire region, while the early attempts at European-dominated settlement were marked by intense national rivalries, interspersed with long periods of lawlessness and piracy. As a result, the society and culture that has evolved in The Bahamas is a distinctive blend of European and African heritages, the latter a legacy of the slave trade and the introduction of the plantation system using African slaves.
Junkanoo is a street parade with music, which occurs in many towns across The Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands every Boxing Day (December 26), New Year's Day and, more recently, in the summer on the island of Grand Bahama. The largest Junkanoo parade happens in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. There are also Junkanoo parades in both Miami, in June and Key West, in October, where the local Afro-American populations have their roots in the Bahamas. The word "Junkanoo" is derived from an African slave master and trader named "John Canoe" in the 17th century.