Green Turtle Cay, an absolutely beautiful island in the Bahamas is often mentioned as being Key West's “Sister City” and by legal decree, Green Turtle Cay and Key West are, in fact, sister cities.
However, that's a polite way of cities bonding in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Green Turtle Cay is, in fact, much, much more than a “sister”.
More accurately, Green Turtle Cay is Key West's mother city.
Additionally, not only Key West, but the entire archipelago of keys stretching from Key Largo to Key West, Green Turtle Cay is the “Mother Key” (Note: The words Key and Cay have the exact same meaning and, for the most part, the same pronunciation).
In the 1700's people from Green Turtle Cay would sail to the Florida Keys for the fishing. These fishermen continued fishing here in the Keys, then in the very early 1800's they began to settle throughout the Keys setting up actual communities, the majority of these people settling in Key West. Prior to this, the keys were just a staging ground for fishing. The Bahamian's from Green Turtle Cay were the first to actually set up an actual civilization with communities throughout the Keys.
The population of Green Turtle Cay is nothing short of fascinating. The people there were Tory exiles from Massachusetts who supported the King. They left at the end of The American Revolution seeking refuge in The Bahamas, a British territory. These exiles and their offspring were of British lineage and hence, Caucasian. A significant note here:
Affectionately, white Bahamians are referred to as “Conchs” and that holds true to this day.
These Conchs settled throughout the Keys and to this day their decedents born in the Keys are refereed to as Conchs. That's their heritage, after all.
After the first Conch's arrived, others came and settled here First, naturally African Bahamian people came and settled in both Key West and Coconut Grove in Miami. These people are very proud of their Bahamian roots and all Bahamian-heritage citizens proudly will tell you what generation they are! Later, Cubans brought the cigar industry here, New England sea captains built winter homes here and they, like their "cousins" from Green Turtle Cay, added to the New England style architecture originally brought to Key West from those Conch's.
Other Americans from all over the U.S. came and settled here. In local Keys lore, today it doesn't matter if you're heritage, or skin color is from The Bahamas, Cuba, or the mainland, if you're born in the Keys you're a Conch. It's interesting. I had seen a YouTube video that was made about twenty/twenty-five years ago interviewing a man of Cuban decent, over by the Cuban Club on the 1100 block of Duval. He was talking about the neighborhood and said where he was, on Duval at rebuilt The Cuban Club location, was where you'd find “the Cubans”. He then stated living and up a block to Virginia St. was where you'd find “The Conchs”. So, at that point, not everyone was a Conch!
The bottom line of all of this is that throughout the Keys, we are all tied to the Conchs of Green Turtle Cay. Green Turtle Cay now desperately needs our help. Category 5 Hurricane Dorian not only hit them with a vengeance, but one it's fury hit the island, it just stayed there. Death and destruction was left in it's wake. All Bahamians need our help!
As a band, the Shanty Hounds started last night to collect a portion of our tip jar to the aid and relief of Green Turtle Cay. I have also donated personally via Pay Pal. I urge everyone to send what you can.
A group has been started “Key West Cares”. You can also donate directly to their website:
They also have a Facebook page:
A lot of Key West folks are helping out on site! Former mayor Craig Cates, Danny Hughes ... an employer who after Irma hit KW, knowing full well he was going to lose his tail, put everyone back to work at his restaurant, Two Friends Patio Restaurant, because he knew they needed work. The Shanty Hounds are proud to play there every Sunday for the last three years. Danny, also a pilot, is helping to organize flights from Key West to Green Turtle Cay. Paul Menta, owner of Key West First Rum Distillery, Carol Tedesco, Commissioner Clayton Lopez, Radio Station 104.9 The X has been helping out both on the are and on site with Gary Ek and Parker Chapman... the list goes on and on of fabulous Key West citizens volunteering to help out our....
Mother City - Green Turtle Cay
Picture by Craig Cates
Picture By Craig Cates
Picture by Craig Cates