Introduction and Fact sheet
Jamaica is often times referred to as a cultural superpower, because though a very small island nation, it’s name and various aspects of it’s culture especially music is world renowned. Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean and is one of the larger set of islands referred to as the Greater Antilles. Jamaica’s neighbors are Haiti to the north east, Cuba to the north and Cayman Islands to the north west. Jamaica is the third largest English speaking country in the western hemisphere and a founding member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Population 2.7 Million (July 2005)
Size 10, 991 sq. km.
Official Language English
Time Zone -5 GMT
The majority of people living in Jamaica today are descendants of African slaves brought to Jamaica in the late 17th to early 19th centuries. There are also many people decended from Indians, Chinese whose forefathers migrated here to fill the large labour gap which resulted form the abolishing of slavery in 1834. Various other minority groups have migrated to Jamaica over the years which gives true meaning to the national motto “Out of many One People.”
Jamaica’s current name is derived from the world Xaymaca, which was given to it by it’s indigenous Arawak people the Taino. It took less that 50 years after Columbus’ arrival in Jamaica for these Arawak Indians to be almost entirely decimated by diseases and harsh treatment from their Spanish rulers. Jamaica was called Santiago during the rule of the Spanish with it’s capital called Spanish Town. In 1655 Jamaica was seized by the British Admiral William Penn and made into a British crown colony. The British turned Jamaica into a Sugar cane producing behemoth by continuing from the Spanish lead of importing thousands of black slaves from West Africa to work the large sugar plantations, many of these plantations remain to this day.
Not long after the importation of slaves from West Africa a new group of people began to emerge, these people were made up of the escaped slaves who made a home for themselves in the remote areas of the island, the remnants of the Taino population assimilated into the maroon lifestyle and over a long period of time the maroons grew to become a formidable force and a very big thorn in the side of the British imperialists.
Throughout the late 19th into the early 20th century intensifying after World War 2, Jamaica along with many other colonies in the Americas grew increasingly nationalistic. In 1962 Jamaica broke away from the short lived Federation of the West Indies and was granted independence on August 06th of the same year. Jamaica flourished for the first few years after independence but soon fell into an economic nosedive in the late 1970’s –1980’s due most part to political rivalry between the Democratic Socialist; Peoples National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). During the 1990’s Jamaica endured various other industrial and financial problems, towards the end of the 90’s the economical nosedive was finally slowed and now in the 21st century Jamaica has been slowly showing signs of upward mobility while still battling numerous internal and external social and economical problems as it continues as a developing nation.
Politics and Administration
The largely ceremonial Jamaican head of State is Queen Elizabeth II who is represented on the island by the Governor General (Dr Patrick Allen). The real power lies in the hands of the Prime Minister of Jamaica (Bruce Golding) who is the leader of the political party who attains the most seats in Parliament through general elections held every four years.
Economy and Industry
Jamaica has a mixed free market economy which has both private and government owned business operating. The major contributors to the economy are agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism and financial and insurance services. The main foreign exchange owners for Jamaica are Mining and Tourism. After little or no growth throughout most of 1990’s Jamaica is now showing signs of a brighter economic future. Improvements in infrastructure, growth in the financial, tourism and mining sectors are signs of that growth but Jamaica’s economy is very vulnerable to international shocks such as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York USA and Natural disasters such as hurricanes.
Nature and Geography
Jamaica is a 10, 991 sq. km. island nation surrounded by the Caribbean Sea. In consists of a rugged mountainous interior with narrow flat coastal plains. Jamaica has a tropical hot humid climate though for the cooler months of the year the mountainous interior can be more temperate. Most major towns and cities are located along the coast due to the geography of Jamaica.
Jamaica has many species of animals and plants and such as the American crocodile, yellow snake, Jamaican iguana, giant swallowtail butterfly, fiddler beetle and the brown owl, many of these animals are indigenous.
Culturally Jamaica is world renowned especially in music. Jamaica is the birth place of reggae, rocksteady, dancehall, ska and many other forms of music that has influenced many major international genres such as hip hop and rock and roll. It is no surprise that the most popular Jamaican Bob Marley is a musician who was born into a society where the music evolves with the people. Africa and African traditions have also heavily influenced Jamaican culture and lifestyle. Jamaican cuisine is also well known internationally for dishes such as jerk chicken, run dung and ackee and saltfish.
Travel and Sightseeing
Jamaica is a beautiful tropical island that recently welcomed over three million visitors from all over the world within one year. Jamaica is attractive to various types of tourists as places such as Port Royal, Rose Hall Great House and Spanish Town appeals to the history lovers while bird watching, river rafting and hiking appeals to the naturalist while the resort centers of Ocho Rios, Montego Bay and Negril appeal to those who came for the sun sea and sand. Please visit the Jamaica Tourist Board website for full details about what Jamaica has to offer to visitors.
Sports and Leisure
Jamaicans are naturally athletic people and that can be seen in our success on the regional and international stage in various sporting activities. Track and Field, football and cricket are Jamaica’s most popular sports while sports such as netball, basketball and motor sport have been enjoying great success in recent years.