Jamaica is the third largest of the Caribbean islands, and the largest English-speaking island in the Caribbean Sea. Situated 90 miles south of Cuba, 600 miles south of Florida, USA, and 100 miles south-west of Haiti, Jamaica is approximately 146 miles long, 51 miles wide, and has an area of 4,411 square miles. The capital, Kingston, is the largest city and is located in the south-eastern part of the island. The island’s name, Jamaica, is derived from the Arawak word Xaymaca, which probably means “land of wood and water” or “land of springs”.
Although the official language is English, most Jamaicans speak an English-based dialect which is known as patois. Jamaica’s multi-racial population of approximately 2.5 million, is predominantly of African, European, East Indian and Chinese heritage, and Jamaica’s motto – “Out of Many, One People” is based on these multi-racial roots. Jamaica has a parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster model of Government. Currency – US $1 = Jamaican $101. Climate Tropical.
Jamaica’s original inhabitants are the Arawaks, also called Tainos. They named the island Xaymaca, which means “land of wood and water”. The Arawaks have quiet and peaceful lives until they were destroyed by the Spaniards years after Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1494. Jamaica served mainly as a supply base in conquering the American mainland. Later in 1509, the first Spanish colonist came. On May 10, 1655 English had a successful attack on Jamaica. The Spaniards surrendered to the English. It was this set of slaves and their descendants who became known as Maroons. The slave trade became a popular and profitable venture for the colonist. The slaves however were unhappy with their status so they rebelled. The Maroon also had several wars against the English. In 1740 a treaty was signed with the British stating they were given the land and rights as free men. In return they were to stop fighting and help recapture runaway slaves but this result in a rift because other Maroons did not agree to return runaway slaves. On January 1, 1808 the Abolition Bill was passed. Trading African slaves be utterly abolished and declared to be unlawful. Emancipation and apprenticeship came into effect in 1834 and full freedom was granted in 1838.
On August 6, 1962, Jamaica was granted its independence from England. Jamaica now has its own constitution which sets laws by which the people are governed. Jamaica’s modern history has been characterized by a political seesaw between the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP). The principles of these 2 parties have changed over time.
What makes Jamaica Unique?
Multi-racial island. Contributors of Jamaica’s culture include: African, English, Spaniards and Indians. First Caribbean country to enter Winter Olympics (Jamaican Bobsled team). Known for their Blue Mountain Coffee, reggae music, and musician/singer Bob Marley. Natives speak PATOIS, a dialect of French. Patios is more of an island “ting”. Jamaican Revivalism is a mix of European and African religious traditions, turned into something uniquely Jamaican. Generally speaking a Revivalist ritual involves lots of signing, drumming, dancing, hand-clapping and foot-stomping. Sugar is Jamaica’s main export, but others include bananas, coffee, spices, cocoa, citrus, coconuts and pimentos. Columbus named the island SANTIAGO, but the original indigenous name of XAYMACA (Jamaica) persisted.