During the greater part of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Providence and Santa Catalina were the scene of conflicts and battles, as England and Spain vied for power in the New World. The islands were also a base for pirates such as Henry Morgan and Mansveld, who carried out attacks on Spanish galleons carrying treasures. Sponsored by The Providence Island Company, the first settlers arrived from England in 1631 to colonize and cultivate the islands. Finally, a pact signed in 1786 by England and Spain left Providence under Spanish rule. The settlers and their slaves were permitted to remain after swearing allegiance to the Spanish Crown. Today, Providence belongs to the Republic of Colombia.
The culture and traditions reflect the European origins of the inhabitants of these islands, with a strong Afro-Caribbean element. Funeral rites have a marked African Influence; the folk dances are traditionally English; the cuisine reflects the Caribbean, and the Protestant religion is a throwback from puritan times. The sea and the land are important components of the native culture. The Islanders are traditionally intrepid seafarers, avid fishermen, and keen boat builders. Cat-boat racing and horse races on the beach are both activities with a long-standing history. Traditional methods of farming and raising livestock still dominate.
-Anni Chapman, author
“Our colourful and often violent history has given us so much as a people. England, Spain, and even the pirates who at different times possessed the island, left us a legacy that is alive today: religion, architecture, dances and, most importantly, our pride as a people."
-Ingrid Robinson, Linguistics and literature teacher, and history buff
“Agriculture and fishing have always been a part of our culture. Fish pots are still common, and various artisanal fishermen continue using the 'water-glass' (a box with a glass bottom) to identify the fish in the area. Farmers still plant their crops according to the phases of the moon. Many of the old-time practices exist today, and play an important part in our daily lives."
-Carmelina Newball, President of the Cultural Center
“Our culture is 'sui generis' because it´s made up of a variety of expressions from Africans, Indians, English, and Spanish, resulting in a cultural diversity that make us special, but to conserve and strengthen this vast identity is a challenge we are now facing."
-Samuel Robinson, historian and cultural promoter