Christopher Columbus landed in Jamaica in 1494, but it is believed that Jamaica was originally inhabited by the Arawak between 1000 and 4000 BC. Today, the Jamaican National Heritage Trust is looking for any evidence of the Arawaks. Some believe that they were gone before the Europeans arrived, and others believe that they were still there, but only survived a short time after the arrival of the Europeans. www.travelrows.com
While Jamaica was claimed for Spain when Columbus landed there, it was seized by the British in 1655 by William Penn. This William Penn was the father of the famous William Penn of Pennsylvania. While Jamaica was under British rule, it became the top sugar exportation location, producing over 77,000 tons of sugar each year until 1824.
Unfortunately, this mass sugar production and exportation was done with slave labor. Slave labor was originally provided by Africans, and later by Indians and Chinese. Because of constant revolts, slavery was abolished in 1834. Jamaica remained under British rule until 1962, when the country left the Federation of the West Indies. Many of the people who reside in Jamaica today are actually descendants of those slaves.
The country thrived until about 1980. Most of the economy came from tourism and manufacturing, with only a small portion of the income coming from sugar and other agricultural interests until that time. Today, the economy thrives with income produced from agricultural interests, mining, manufacturing, tourism, financial services, and insurance services. However, tourism and mining are the two biggest money makers for Jamaica.
The capital city of Jamaica was Spanish Town, in St. Catherine. It was originally named Santiago de la Vega by the Spanish, but renamed by the British. Spanish Town was the capital until 1872, when Kingston became the capital. Today, Jamaica is divided into three main counties, which are Surrey, Middlesex, and Cornwall.
Surrey which is in the East is made up of the Kingston, Portland, Saint Andrew, and Saint Thomas parishes. Middlesex is made up of the Clarendon, Manchester, Saint Ann, Saint Catherine, and Saint Mary parishes. Middlesex is located in the middle of Jamaica.
Cornwall, in the west, is comprised of the Hanover, Saint Elizabeth, Saint James, Trelawny, and Westmoreland parishes. These three counties are just used as ‘descriptions’ today, as they do not have any form of Government that is associated with the counties, only with the parishes.
Most people who travel to Jamaica do so to enjoy the beautiful beaches or visit it during a Jamaican cruise. But there is also a great deal of history to be enjoyed in Jamaica as well as other sites. Many of the beautiful botanical gardens that exist in Jamaica today were actually established in the 1800’s. This includes the Castleton Garden and the Hope Garden.
When you visit Jamaica, remember that it is rich in history, including history that is tied to Spain, England, and the United States. Take the time to seek out information pertaining to that history, and you will find that you have a greater appreciation for Jamaica – aside from the gorgeous beaches.
Interesting Facts About Jamaica
1. The Ackee, also known as Blighia Sapida is a national emblem of Jamaica. This gorgeous red, yellow, black and green plant is not native to Jamaica, however. It was imported from West Africa, and it is believed that it originally arrived in Jamaica via a slave ship. Jamaica is the only place in the world that considers the fruit of the Ackee edible.
2. Jamaica was the first Caribbean country to gain their independence. They were also the very first country in the entire Western hemisphere to build a railroad. Other first include: the first to produce bananas in the Western part of the world, first in the Caribbean to produce rum for commercial sale, first Caribbean island to enact legislation to promote making films, the first country to sign the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria grant agreement, the first tropical country to enter the Winter Olympics (bobsledding, which inspired the movie Cool Runnings), the first place that England acquired by conquest, and the first of all British colonies to establish a postal service.
3. Jamaica has the oldest Golf club in the western hemisphere: The Manchester Golf Club, which was established in 1868. After the United States, Jamaica has won the most world medals and Olympic medals. The fastest men and women, according to records are Jamaicans.
4. There are more multiple live births, meaning two or more babies, in Jamaica than anywhere else. Jamaica has the second largest butterfly in the world, it is the third largest island in the Caribbean, and Jamaica was the first country to impose economic sanctions against South Africa during the apartheid regime.
5. The very first settlers in Jamaica, the Arawak Indians, gave us the words canoe, hurricane, potato, tobacco, and barbecue. Jamaica is only 10,991 square kilometers, but more than 2,700,000 are residents there. The capital city is Kingston, and the industry includes tourism, bauxite, alumina, textiles, agro processing, apparel, rum, cement, metal, paper, chemical products, and telecommunications. Agricultural products include yams, vegetables, poultry, goats, milk, sugarcane, bananas, coffee, citrus, crustaceans, ad mollusks.
6. The majority of families in Jamaica are headed by women. Marriage is not as common here as it is in other countries, and many couples don’t marry until their children are grown. Families are very tight knit, and they love children. Jamaicans believe and live by the old saying: It takes a village to raise a child. Most Jamaicans are of the Christian faith. A nine-day wake is common for a person who has died.
7. In rural Jamaica, after the birth of a child, the placenta is buried, with a sapling planted on top of it – the tree is called the Baby’s tree. Jamaicans use more natural products, such as fruits, vegetables and herbs for healing than they do chemical medication. Jamaicans don’t visit a doctor, they visit a balmist.
8. Jamaica has more churches per square mile than any other country in the world. While they are Christian, the majority are Rastafarian, which is a religion that is based on the Christian bible, but that originated in Jamaica. In rural areas, some Jamaicans practice witchcraft as well.