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San Salvador Island
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San Salvador Island

San Salvador Island, also known as Watling Island, is an island in The Bahamas. It is widely believed that during his famous first expedition to the New World, San Salvador was the first land sighted by Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492 and he gave the island its name meaning "Holy Savior." The indigenous Lucayan people, who inhabited the island before the arrival of Europeans, called it Guanahani.

The British gained control of what are now The Bahamas in the early 1700s. For some time, San Salvador was the home of the buccaneer George Watling, who gave the island its alternative name by which it was officially known until 1925. At that time, the name "San Salvador" was transferred from another place, now called Cat Island, and given to Watling Island under the belief that is seemed a much more likely match for Columbus's description of Guanahani. This theory is contested, however, and some believe that Cat Island, in addition to being the original bearer of the name, is a far better match for the land sighted during Columbus's voyage.

Today, thanks to its many sandy beaches, the island's prosperous main industry is tourism. About 1,000 people reside on San Salvador Island and its pricipal community is Cockburn Town, Bahamas, the seat of local government and home of a public teacher's college.