Overview of Island
Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea spanning 10,990 sq. kms. (4,240 sq. mls) in area. At its greatest extent, Jamaica is 230 km long (146 mi), and its width varies between 34 and 84 km (21 and 52 mi). It is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and the Caribbean (after Cuba and Hispaniola). Jamaica lies 140 kms (90 mls. south of Cuba and 190 kms. (118 mls.) west of Haiti.
Jamaica's history is rich and vibrant and speaks to experiences of hardships and prosperity, and the growth and determination of a people.
Language: English and Jamaican Creole or Patwa
Population: 2.935 million
The original Tainos tribe, Arawaks from South America, settled in Jamaica 2500 years ago prior to Christopher Columbus' first arrival at the island in 1494. A peaceful people they grew cassava, sweet potatoes, corn fruits and vegetable, cotton and tobacco. Columbus had heard about Jamaica from the Cubans, then named Xaymaca by the Indians, which meant 'land of wood and water'. The Cubans had described it as “the land of blessed gold” something Columbus soon discovered was only an interpretation and that there was no gold in Jamaica. During Spain's occupation of the island, starting in 1510, the Arawaks were exterminated by disease, captivity and destruction by Columbus and his men. The Island subsequently served as a supply base for his men in their attempts to conquer the American mainland until 1509. Then the first Spanish colonists arrived and settled in St. Ann's Bay. Due to little attention paid to the colony itself internal strife ensued. Frequent attacks by pirates added to their woes. Spain brought the first African slaves to Jamaica in 1517.
In 1655 the British successfully attacked the Spanish, who surrendered and fled to Cuba after first freeing their slaves, who later became known as The Maroons. Over the next several years the buccaneers under the leadership of Henry Morgan took control of the seas looting the Spanish ships and retiring to Port Royal with all of the gold, silver and jewels. Port Royal became known as 'the wealthiest and wickedest city in the world".
Meanwhile the English settlers focused on growing crops that could be sold in England with sugar becoming the primary industry. Due to the need for cheap labour the slave trade was born and became a popular and profitable venture for the colonists who sold the slaves to the other Islands to work in the plantations. The journey became known as the "Middle Passage' as the voyage started in England to Africa with trade goods which were exchanged for slaves, then on to the West Indies where the slaves were then exchanged for sugar, rum and molasses, then back to England.
Many unhappy slaves joined the Maroons in the almost inaccessible mountains. Notwithstanding, several rebellions from both slaves and Maroons with the British occurred over the years.
It was these wars and those in other Caribbean Islands, supported by the quakers and other Humanitarian groups that led to the abolition of the slave trade. In the 1930's Jamaica underwent more crises. Out of these was formed two major political parties namely the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union and the Jamaica Labour Party. Not long after the National Workers' Union was formed by Norman Manley. The latter two forged ahead with the movement towards Jamaica's goal of self government. In 1958 led by Jamaica, 10 other Caribbean countries formed The Federation of the West Indies, later to be disbanded when Jamaica withdrew.
By the 1900's most of Jamaica's population was Christian, with some traditional practices persisting in an unorganized manner. Another movement, the Rastafari religion emerged among the poor and socially disenfranchised Afro-Jamaican communities as a reaction against the dominant British colonial culture. This new consciousness was influenced by both Ethiopianism and the Back-to-Africa movement promoted by Marcus Garvey.
Jamaica was granted its independence from England on August 6, 1962, 30 years after the first call was made for self-governance by Marcus Garvey. The Jamaican Constitution is the most fundamental legal document in the country, guaranteeing the freedom, rights and privileges of every Jamaican citizen. The Constitution reflects the country’s independence as a nation state and, to this day, remains the cornerstone of the island’s legal systems and institutions. Jamaica joined the Commonwealth of Nations with the British Monarch, the Queen of Jamaica and head of state. Bustamante became the first Prime Minister of Jamaica.
The Island country experienced an extensive period of growth resulting from the export of bauxite together with agriculture. Since then Jamaica has undergone many political platforms and ideological changes notwithstanding the many economic challenges. Today, tourism is its major product with services accounting for over 60% of the national GDP. Unfortunately much of that money made does not remain on the Island but goes instead to the multinational resorts and out of the country.
Things to do
Where to stay
The Jamaica Pegasus
The Jamaica Pegasus Hotel “Kingston’s Preferred Hotel” is a full-amenities hotel where you can rejuvenate - a historical landmark as a timeless beauty with a rich tradition of personalized service.
Sea Garden Beach Resort (All Inclusive)
Welcome home to great food, friendly people and family fun. Combine a tropical paradise with endless food, drink, activities and fun in the sun, - a vacation that the whole family will enjoy.
Round Hill Hotel and Villas
Timeless elegance. Understated luxury. Warm Jamaican heart. Discover the essence of Round Hill. No matter what you are seeking we have something for everyone.
Sunset at the Palms (All Inclusive - Adults Only)
Awaken each morning to the sounds and scents of nature at our adults only retreat, Sunset at the Palms. Join us for an unmatched sensory experience in a luxurious, beachside setting.
Merrils Beach Resorts (All Inclusive)
Merrils Beach Resorts, two small Jamaican owned family managed properties, located on the beach front of one of Jamaica’s most popular resort towns, Negril.