Just visiting Turks & Caicos Islands – happy to report the islands currently have a grand total of three permanent residents of Turkish decent. No, they are descendants of the islands original inhabitants—rather construction professionals who stayed behind after a failed development project at Dellis Cay by a Turkish developer. During the heydays of the project, there were apparently more than a dozen Turks…
Anyway, the name has two sources: first, the island is home to so-called “Turk’s Head Cactus,” also depicted on the islands’ flag. This cactus variety has a red top, resembling the red fez worn by Turkish soldiers around the time of the European discovery of the islands. Here is a couple of Turk’s Head Cacti keeping sentry on the shores of the Grand Turk Island:
The other reason the name stuck may well be that the European discovery
of Turks & Caicos Islands in 1513 corresponds to the pirating phase of the famous Turkish captain Barbaros (whose name comes from Italian “barba rossa,” red beard). Barbaros was a fearsome raider of merchant
mariners in the Mediterranean from 1500s until he entered the service of the Ottoman sultans in 1516 – and continued to be fearsome, but for other warships. He eventually became the commander of the Ottoman Navy. Red fez, red beard, the islands, despite the name, have only the scrawniest connection to Turks.