top of page
Search

A-Z Around the World: Jamaica


Welcome Back to another installment of A-Z Around the World. Today is all about Jamaica!! Enjoy :)

Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea. Spanning 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi) in area, it is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and the fourth-largest island country in the Caribbean. Jamaica lies about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 kilometres (119 mi) west of Hispaniola (the island containing the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Originally inhabited by the indigenous Arawak and Taíno peoples, the island came under Spanish rule following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1494. Many of the indigenous people died of disease, and the Spanish transplanted African slaves to Jamaica as labourers. The island remained a possession of Spain until 1655, when England (later Great Britain) conquered it and renamed it Jamaica. Under British colonial rule Jamaica became a leading sugar exporter, with its plantation economy highly dependent on African slaves. The British fully emancipated all slaves in 1838, and many freedmen chose to have subsistence farms rather than to work on plantations. Beginning in the 1840's, the British utilized Chinese and Indian indentured labour to work on plantations. The island achieved independence from the United Kingdom on 6 August 1962. With 2.9 million people, Jamaica is the third-most populous Anglophone country in the Americas (after the United States and Canada), and the fourth-most populous country in the Caribbean. Kingston is the country's capital and largest city, with a population of 937,700. Jamaicans mainly have African ancestry, with significant European, Chinese, Indian, Lebanese, and mixed-race minorities. Due to a high rate of emigration for work since the 1960's, Jamaica has a large diaspora, particularly in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Jamaica is an upper-middle income country with an average of 4.3 million tourists a year. Jamaica is a Commonwealth realm, with Elizabeth II as its queen. Her appointed representative in the country is the Governor-General of Jamaica, an office held by Sir Patrick Allen since 2009. Andrew Holness has served as Prime Minister of Jamaica since March 2016. Jamaica is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with legislative power vested in the bicameral Parliament of Jamaica, consisting of an appointed Senate and a directly elected House of Representatives. Etymology

The indigenous people, the Yamaye, also known as the Taíno called the island Xaymaca in an Arawakan language, meaning the "Land of Wood and Water" or the "Land of Springs". Colloquially Jamaicans refer to their home island as the "Rock." Slang names such as "Jamrock", "Jamdown" ("Jamdung" in Jamaican Patois), or briefly "Ja", have derived from this. History

Prehistory

The Arawak and Taíno indigenous people, originating in South America, first settled on the island between 4000 and 1000 BC. When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1494, there were more than 200 villages ruled by caciques (chiefs of villages). The south coast of Jamaica was the most populated, especially around the area now known as Old Harbour. The Taino still inhabited Jamaica when the English took control of the island in 1655. The Jamaican National Heritage Trust is attempting to locate and document any evidence of the Taino/Yamaye. Today, few Jamaican natives remain. Most notably among some Maroon communities as well as within some communities in Cornwall County, Jamaica. Spanish rule (1509–1655)

Christopher Columbus claimed Jamaica for Spain after landing there in 1494. His probable landing point was Dry Harbour, called Discovery Bay, and St. Ann's Bay was named "Saint Gloria" by Columbus, as the first sighting of the land. One and a half kilometres west of St. Ann's Bay is the site of the first Spanish settlement on the island, Sevilla, which was established in 1509 and abandoned around 1524 because it was deemed unhealthy.The capital was moved to Spanish Town, then called St. Jago de la Vega, around 1534 (at present-day St. Catherine). British rule (1655–1962)

Spanish Town has the oldest cathedral of the British colonies in the Caribbean. The Spanish were forcibly evicted by the English at Ocho Rios in St. Ann. In the 1655 Invasion of Jamaica, the English, led by Sir William Penn and General Robert Venables, took over the last Spanish fort on the island. The name of Montego Bay, the capital of the parish of St. James, was derived from the Spanish name bahía de manteca (or Bay of Lard), alluding to the lard-making industry based on processing the numerous boars in the area. In 1660, the population of Jamaica was about 4,500 white and 1,500 black. By the early 1670s, as the English developed sugar cane plantations and "imported" more slaves, black people formed a majority of the population. The colony was shaken and almost destroyed by the 1692 Jamaica earthquake. The Irish in Jamaica also formed a large part of the island's early population, making up two-thirds of the white population on the island in the late 17th century, twice that of the English population. They were brought in as indentured labourers and soldiers after the conquest of Jamaica by Cromwell's forces in 1655. The majority of Irish were transported by force as political prisoners of war from Ireland as a result of the ongoing Wars of the Three Kingdoms at the time. Migration of large numbers of Irish to the island continued into the 18th century.

Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 and then forcibly converted to Christianity in Portugal, during a period of persecution by the Inquisition. Some Spanish and Portuguese Jewish refugees went to the Netherlands and England, and from there to Jamaica. Others were part of the Iberian colonisation of the New World, after overtly converting to Catholicism, as only Catholics were allowed in the Spanish colonies. By 1660, Jamaica had become a refuge for Jews in the New World, also attracting those who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal.

An early group of Jews arrived in 1510, soon after the son of Christopher Columbus settled on the island. Primarily working as merchants and traders, the Jewish community was forced to live a clandestine life, calling themselves "Portugals". After the British took over rule of Jamaica, the Jews decided the best defense against Spain's regaining control was to encourage making the colony a base for Caribbean pirates. With the pirates installed in Port Royal, which became the largest city in the Caribbean, the Spanish would be deterred from attacking. The British leaders agreed with the viability of this strategy to forestall outside aggression. When the English captured Jamaica in 1655, the Spanish colonists fled after freeing their slaves.The slaves dispersed into the mountains, joining the maroons, those who had previously escaped to live with the Taíno native people. During the centuries of slavery, Maroons established free communities in the mountainous interior of Jamaica, where they maintained their freedom and independence for generations.

The Jamaican Maroons fought the British during the 18th century. Under treaties of 1738 and 1739, the British agreed to stop trying to round them up in exchange for their leaving the colonial settlements alone, but serving if needed for military actions. Some of the communities were broken up and the British deported Maroons to Nova Scotia and, later, Sierra Leone. The name is still used today by modern Maroon descendants, who have certain rights and autonomy at the community of Accompong. During its first 200 years of British rule, Jamaica became one of the world's leading sugar-exporting, slave-dependent colonies, producing more than 77,000 tons of sugar annually between 1820 and 1824. After the abolition of the international slave trade in 1807, the British began to "import" indentured servants to supplement the labour pool, as many freedmen resisted working on the plantations. Workers recruited from India began arriving in 1845, Chinese workers in 1854. Many South Asian and Chinese descendants continue to reside in Jamaica today. By the beginning of the 19th century, Jamaica's dependence on slave labour and a plantation economy had resulted in black people outnumbering white people by a ratio of almost 20 to 1. Although the UK had outlawed the importation of slaves, some were still smuggled in from Spanish colonies and directly. While planning the abolition of slavery, the British Parliament passed laws to improve conditions for slaves. They banned the use of whips in the field and flogging of women; informed planters that slaves were to be allowed religious instruction, and required a free day during each week when slaves could sell their produce, prohibiting Sunday markets to enable slaves to attend church. The House of Assembly in Jamaica resented and resisted the new laws. Members (then restricted to European-Jamaicans) claimed that the slaves were content and objected to Parliament's interference in island affairs. Slave owners feared possible revolts if conditions were lightened. Following a series of rebellions on the island and changing attitudes in Great Britain, the British government formally abolished slavery by an 1833 act, beginning in 1834, with full emancipation from chattel slavery declared in 1838. The population in 1834 was 371,070, of whom 15,000 were white, 5,000 free black; 40,000 'coloured' or free people of color (mixed race); and 311,070 were slaves.

Over the next 20 years, several epidemics of cholera, scarlet fever, and smallpox hit the island, killing almost 60,000 people (about 100 per day). Nevertheless, in 1871 the census recorded a population of 506,154 people, 246,573 of which were males, and 259,581 females. Their races were recorded as 13,101 white, 100,346 coloured (mixed black and white), and 392,707 black. In the 19th century, the British established a number of botanical gardens. These included the Castleton Botanical Gardens, developed in 1862 to replace the Bath Botanical Gardens (created in 1779) which was subject to flooding. Bath Botanical Gardens was the site for planting breadfruit, brought to Jamaica from the Pacific by Captain William Bligh. It became a staple in island diets. Other gardens were the Cinchona Plantation, founded in 1868, and the Hope Botanical Gardens founded in 1874. In 1872, Kingston was designated as the island's capital. In 1945, Sir Horace Hector Hearne became Chief Justice and Keeper of the Records in Jamaica. He headed the Supreme Court, Kingston between 1945 and 1950/1951. After Kenya achieved independence, its government appointed him as Chief Justice and he moved there. Independence (1962)

Jamaica slowly gained increasing independence from the United Kingdom. In 1958, it became a province in the Federation of the West Indies, a federation among the British West Indies. Jamaica attained full independence by leaving the federation in 1962. Strong economic growth, averaging approximately 6% per annum, marked the first ten years of independence under conservative Jamaica Labour Party governments; these were led by successive Prime Ministers Alexander Bustamante, Donald Sangster and Hugh Shearer. The growth was fueled by high levels of private investment in bauxite/alumina, tourism, the manufacturing industry and, to a lesser extent, the agricultural sector. The optimism of the first decade was accompanied by a growing sense of inequality among many Afro-Jamaicans, and a concern that the benefits of growth were not being shared by the urban poor.Combined with the effects of a slowdown in the global economy in 1970, the voters elected the PNP (People's National Party) in 1972. It tried to implement more socially equitable policies in education and health, but the economy suffered under its government. By 1980, Jamaica's gross national product had declined to some 25% below its 1972 level. Owing to rising foreign and local debt, accompanied by large fiscal deficits, the government sought International Monetary Fund (IMF) financing from the United States and others. Economic deterioration continued into the mid-1980s, exacerbated by a number of factors. The largest and third-largest alumina producers, Alpart and Alcoa, closed; and there was a significant reduction in production by the second-largest producer, Alcan. Reynolds Jamaica Mines, Ltd. left the Jamaican industry. There was also a decline in tourism, which was important to the economy. Independence, however widely celebrated in Jamaica, has been questioned in the early 21st century. In 2011, a survey showed that approximately 60% of Jamaicans believe that the country would be better off had it remained a British colony, with only 17% believing it would be worse off, citing as problems years of social and fiscal mismanagement in the country. Geography and environment

Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean. It lies between latitudes 17° and 19°N, and longitudes 76° and 79°W. Mountains, including the Blue Mountains, dominate the inland. They are surrounded by a narrow coastal plain.Jamaica only has two cities, the first being Kingston, the capital city and centre of business, located on the south coast and the 'second' city being Montego Bay, one of the best known cities in the Caribbean for tourism, located on the north coast. Other towns include Portmore, Spanish Town, Mandeville and the resort towns of Ocho Ríos, Port Antonio and Negril.

Kingston Harbour is the seventh-largest natural harbour in the world, which contributed to the city being designated as the capital in 1872. Tourist attractions include Dunn's River Falls in St. Ann, YS Falls in St. Elizabeth, the Blue Lagoon in Portland, believed to be the crater of an extinct volcano. Port Royal was the site of a major earthquake in 1692 that helped form the island's Palisadoes. The climate in Jamaica is tropical, with hot and humid weather, although higher inland regions are more temperate. Some regions on the south coast, such as the Liguanea Plain and the Pedro Plains, are relatively dry rain-shadow areas. Jamaica lies in the hurricane belt of the Atlantic Ocean and because of this, the island sometimes suffers significant storm damage. Hurricanes Charlie and Gilbert hit Jamaica directly in 1951 and 1988, respectively, causing major damage and many deaths. In the 2000s (decade), hurricanes Ivan, Dean, and Gustav also brought severe weather to the island. Among the variety of terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems are dry and wet limestone forests, rainforest, riparian woodland, wetlands, caves, rivers, seagrass beds and coral reefs. The authorities have recognised the tremendous significance and potential of the environment and have designated some of the more 'fertile' areas as 'protected'. Among the island's protected areas are the Cockpit Country, Hellshire Hills, and Litchfield forest reserves. In 1992, Jamaica's first marine park, covering nearly 15 square kilometres (5.8 sq mi), was established in Montego Bay. Portland Bight Protected Area was designated in 1999. The following year Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park was created on roughly 300 square miles (780 km2) of wilderness, which supports thousands of tree and fern species and rare animals. Flora and fauna

Jamaica's climate is tropical, supporting diverse ecosystems with a wealth of plants and animals. Jamaica's plant life has changed considerably over the centuries. When the Spanish arrived in 1494, except for small agricultural clearings, the country was deeply forested. The European settlers cut down the great timber trees for building and ships' supplies, and cleared the plains, savannas, and mountain slopes for intense agricultural cultivation. Many new plants were introduced including sugarcane, bananas, and citrus trees. Today, however, Jamaica is now the home to about 3,000 species of native flowering plants (of which over 1,000 are endemic and 200 are species of orchid), thousands of species of non-flowering flora, and about 20 botanical gardens, some of which are several hundred years old. Areas of heavy rainfall also contain stands of bamboo, ferns, ebony, mahogany, and rosewood. Cactus and similar dry-area plants are found along the south and southwest coastal area. Parts of the west and southwest consist of large grasslands, with scattered stands of trees.

The Jamaican animal life, typical of the Caribbean, includes highly diversified wildlife with many endemic species found nowhere else on earth. As with other oceanic islands, land mammals are mostly several species of bats of which at least three endemic species are found only in Cockpit Country, one of which is at-risk. Other species of bat include the fig-eating and hairy-tailed bats. The only non-bat native mammal extant in Jamaica is the Jamaican hutia, locally known as the coney. Introduced mammals such as wild boar and the small Asian mongoose are also common. Jamaica is also home to about 50 species of reptiles,the largest of which is the American crocodile; however, it is only present within the Black River and a few other areas. Lizards such as anoles, iguanas and snakes such as racers and the Jamaican boa (the largest snake on the island), are common in areas such as the Cockpit Country. None of Jamaica's eight species of native snakes is venomous. Jamaica is home to about 289 species of birds of which 27 are endemic (found nowhere else in the world), including the endangered black-Billed parrots and the Jamaican blackbird, both of which are only found in Cockpit Country.

It is also the indigenous home to four species of hummingbirds (three of which are found nowhere else in the world): the black-billed streamertail, the Jamaican mango, the Vervain hummingbird, and red-billed streamertails. The red-billed streamertail, known locally as the "doctor bird", is Jamaica's National Symbol. One species of freshwater turtle is native to Jamaica, the Jamaican slider. It is found only on Jamaica, Cat Island, and a few other islands in the Bahamas. In addition, many types of frogs are common on the island, especially treefrogs. Birds are abundant, and make up the bulk of the endemic and native vertebrate species. Beautiful and exotic birds, such as the Jamaican tody and the Greater flamingo, can be found among a large number of others. Jamaican waters contain considerable resources of fresh-and saltwater fish. The chief varieties of saltwater fish are kingfish, jack, mackerel, whiting, bonito, and tuna. Fish that occasionally enter freshwater and estuarine environments include snook, jewfish, mangrove snapper, and mullets.

Fish that spend the majority of their lives in Jamaica's fresh waters include many species of livebearers, killifish, freshwater gobies, the mountain mullet, and the American eel. Tilapia have been introduced from Africa for aquaculture, and are very common. Also visible in the waters surrounding Jamaica are dolphins, parrotfish, and the endangered manatee. Insects and other invertebrates are abundant, including the world's largest centipede, the Amazonian giant centipede. Jamaica is the home to about 150 species of butterflies and moths, including 35 indigenous species and 22 subspecies. It is also the native home to the Jamaican swallowtail, the western hemisphere's largest butterfly. Life Below Water

Coral reef ecosystems are important because they provide people with a source of livelihood, food, recreation, and medicinal compounds and protect the land on which they live. Jamaica relies on the ocean and its ecosystem for its development. However the marine life in Jamaica is also being affected. There could be many factors that contribute to marine life not having the best health. Jamaica's geological origin, topographical features and seasonal high rainfall make it susceptible to a range of natural hazards that can affect the coastal and oceanic environments. These include storm surge, slope failures (landslides), earthquakes, floods and hurricanes. Coral reefs in the Negril Marine Park (NMP), Jamaica, have been increasingly impacted by nutrient pollution and macroalgal blooms following decades of intensive development as a major tourist destination. Another one of those factors could include tourist, being that Jamaica is a very touristy place the island draws people to travel here from all over the world. The Jamaican tourism industry accounts for 32% of total employment and 36% of the country's GDP and is largely based on the sun, sea and sand, the last two of these attributes being dependent on healthy coral reef ecosystems. Because of Jamaica's tourism, they have developed a study to see if the tourist would be willing to help financially to manage their marine ecosystem because Jamaica alone is unable to. The ocean connects all the countries all over the world, however, everyone and everything is affecting the flow and life in the ocean. Jamaica is a very touristy place specifically because of their beaches. If their oceans are not functioning at their best then the well-being of Jamaica and the people who live there will start to deteriorate. According to the OECD, oceans contribute $1.5 trillion annually in value-added to the overall economy.A developing country on an island will get the majority of their revenue from their ocean. Healthy oceans, coasts and freshwater ecosystems are crucial for economic growth and food production, but they are also fundamental to global efforts to mitigate climate change. Climate change also has an effect on the ocean and life within the ocean. Cuisine

The island is famous for its Jamaican jerk spice, curries and rice and peas which is integral to Jamaican cuisine. Jamaica is also home to Red Stripe beer and Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee. National symbols National bird: red-billed streamertail (also called doctor bird) (a hummingbird, Trochilus polytmus)

National flower – lignum vitae (Guiacum officinale)

National tree: blue mahoe (Hibiscus talipariti elatum)

National fruit: ackee (Blighia sapida)

National motto: "Out of Many, One People.

 

Travel to Jamaica: Lonely Planet

Jamaica is the Caribbean country that comes with its own soundtrack. Groove to its singular rhythm as you explore beyond the beaches and all-inclusive.

*The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises that there is a state of emergency in Jamaica. Tourists have been encouraged to limit movement and follow instructions of local authorities.*

 

4 views0 comments
bottom of page