Jamaica is one of the three islands in the Northern Caribbean forming the Greater Antilles. It’s the largest English-speaking country in the Caribbean Sea, and stretches 146 miles from east to west. The country’s name is derived from an Aarawak word “Xaymaca”, meaning “land of wood and water”. Jamaica has one of the richest and most varied landscapes in the region. The center of the island is mostly mountainous and heavily wooded, spotted occasionally with small mining towns and villages, while the land is low along the coast, providing for some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Although many people view Jamaica as being a primarily black nation of primarily black ancestry, the truth is that Jamaica is actually a cultural mosaic society. Jamaica has a very diverse background and the national motto, “Out of Many, One People,” rejects the notion of black separatism and black nationalism, embracing instead the notion of diversity in peoples and cultures.
Jamaica’s recorded history began before the birth of Christ when Indians arrived from South America. Arawaks were not very well prepared to absorb the impact of the Spanish under Christopher Columbus on May 4, 1494. When an English force of 5,000 men invaded the island in 1655, the Spanish offered little resistance and within a few years abandoned it as a colony. The English then ruled Jamaica uninterrupted for more than 300 years.
The British had quite an impact on the economic, political and social development of Jamaica. One important factor here was the slave trade, which took place not only in Africa, but Jamaica as well. England’s government was also a big factor in influencing the political ways of Jamaica. Before Jamaica was conquered by England, it had a military government, but England installed a civil government based on the principle of the right of the governed to have a voice in the making of laws. At this time King Windsor ended martial law and appointed a twelve-member council of Jamaica.
What many people don’t know about Jamaica is that it has a Spanish town, which was formerly the capital, Sevilla la Nueva, now called New Seville. Jamaica’s social and economic development began here under the Spanish rule. The first domesticated animals and new species of plant life were brought here. In addition the first sugar mill on the island was erected at New Seville. However, by 1534 the town had been abandoned by its inhabitants because of the unhealthy environment. One of the most unique things about Jamaican culture is the food. Since a part of Jamaica is Spanish and part is not, the food is very original and is typically very spicy. Some of the most typical dishes in Jamaica are curry chicken, jerk chicken, and curry goat. The most common beverages in Jamaica are soda, carrot juice, beat juice, and sorrel if it is in season.
Another thing that sets Jamaica apart from other countries is its music. Jamaica is most popular know for reggae music which is growing more popular across the globe. Bob Marley is one of the most famous reggae musicians to come from Jamaica, known for his band, Bob Marley and the Wailers. The album they released was “Catch a Fire”, it was very well received by critics and was one of the first reggae albums. Before the Wailers reggae was sold on signals or compilation albums. Another type of music though, which doesn’t get as much recognition is ska.
What makes Jamaica what it is today is its unique history, blend of people, and culture. Had the Spanish stayed in Jamaica and settled it successfully, today’s Jamaica would be much different. The blend of cultures is what makes it so unique.
Works CitedAbrahams, Peter. Jamaica an Island Mosaic. 1957. His Majesty’s Stationary Office.
London Hurwitz, Samuel and Edith. Jamaica a Historical Portrait. 1971. Praeger Publishers. NewYork, New York.