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This article is about the country. For others uses, see Jamaica (disambiguation).

Jamaica is a country in the Caribbean Sea, located south of Cuba and to the west of Hispaniola, on which Haiti and the Dominican Republic are situated.

(In Detail)
National motto: Out of Many One People
Official languageEnglish
Capital Kingston
Queen Elizabeth II
Governor General Sir Howard Cooke
Prime Minister Percival James Patterson
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 159st
10,991 km²
 - Total
 - Density
Ranked 135th
2,695,867 (July 2003)
 - Date
From the UK
August 6, 1962
Currency Dollar
Time zone UTC -5
National anthem Jamaica, Land We Love
Internet TLD.JM
Calling Code1-876

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Parishes
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Miscellaneous topics
9 External links


Main article: History of Jamaica

The name of the country derives from the name Xamayca, meaning land of wood and water, given to it by the original Arawak people from South America, who first settled there around the year 1000.

Jamaica was first claimed for Spain after Christopher Columbus discovered it in 1494. Columbus used it as his family's private estate. The British Admiral Penn (father of Penn of Pennsylvania) and General Venables seized the island in 1655. Under the first 200 years of British rule, Jamaica became the world's largest sugar exporting nation, which was achieved through the massive use of imported African slave labor.

Britain's over-zealousness in using slavery soon backfired, and by the start of the 19th century, blacks outnumbered whites to a rate of almost 20 to one. A series of revolts followed, and in 1838 slavery was formally abolished.

Over the years Jamaica slowely gained independence from Britain, and in 1958 Jamaica became a province in an independent nation called the Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica separated from the federation in 1962 and is now a completely sovereign nation. They celebrated the tricenntenial in 1955.

Deteriorating economic conditions during the 1970s led to recurrent violence and a drop-off in tourism.

Former capitals of Jamaica include Port Royale, where the pirate Governor Morgan held sway, and which was destroyed by a storm and earthquake, and Spanish Town, in St. Catherine parish, the site of the old Spanish colonial capital and the English capital during the 18th and 19th century.


Main article: Politics of Jamaica

Jamaica is a constitutional monarchy, the head of state being the monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. The monarch's representative in Jamaica is the Governor-General, who fills the role of approving bills, and other state functions. For the most part, the monarch (through her representative, the Governor-General) is a figurehead, and what little real power she has reserved for times of crisis. The present government favours turning Jamaica into a republic within the Commonwealth, in which the Queen and Governor-General would be replaced by a President.

The Jamaican Parliament is bicameral, consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Members of the House (known as 'Members of Parliament' or MPs) are directly elected, and the leader of the majority party in the House becomes the Prime Minister. Senators are appointed by the Prime Minister, and the parliamentary Leader of the Opposition.

Jamaica has traditionally had a two party system, with power often alternating the People's National Party and Jamaican Labour Party.


Main article: Parishes of Jamaica

Jamaica is divided into 14 parishes, viz.:


Main article:
Geography of Jamaica

The island of Jamaica has mountainous inlands surrounded by a narrow coastal plain. For this reason, all major cities are located on the coast. Chief towns include the capital Kingston and Montego Bay.

The climate in Jamaica is tropical, with hot and humid weather, although the inlands have a more temperate climate.


Main article: Economy of Jamaica

Jamaica's economy is heavily based on bauxite exports and tourism.

Serious problems include high interest rates; increased foreign competition; the weak financial condition of business in general resulting in receiverships or closures and downsizings of companies; the shift in investment portfolios to non-productive, short-term high yield instruments; a pressured, sometimes sliding, exchange rate; a widening merchandise trade deficit; and a growing internal debt for government bailouts to various ailing sectors of the economy, particularly the financial sector.

Depressed economic conditions in 1999 led to increased civil unrest, including a mounting crime rate.


Main article: Demographics of Jamaica

Jamaica is almost entirely a blend of African and Taino culture. This majority was created by descendants of enslaved Africans who mixed with the remaining Ciguayo Arawaks. These Tainos (sub-Arawaks) were known for archery and have left many of their spiritual beliefs behind in religion ("Obeah" from the Taino word "Opias"), food and culture. Today there is a significant minority of Asian and Indian immigrants, as well as many people of mixed racial background. Whites compose a tiny minority, less than 1% of the population. However, they have historically played a large role in the nation's political and economic development.

The official language is English, although the patois form Jamaican English is widely spoken. About two-thirds of the Jamaicans have been forced through colonization to accept Christianity, although this forced acceptance was spread over a large number of denominations. The remaining third adheres various other religions, including local faiths.


Main articles: Culture of Jamaica, Music of Jamaica

Though a small nation, Jamaica is rich in culture, and has a strong global presence.

The musical genres reggae and ska originated in Jamaica. Bob Marley, perhaps the best known reggae musician, was born in Jamaica, and is very respected.

The Rastafarian faith also originated in Jamaica, and is responsible for many well-known Jamaican cultural exports such as dreadlocks and red-yellow-and-green clothing.

For a good introduction to Jamaica, watch the movie The Harder They Come from 1973. The main character is involved in dealing and smuggling ganja, and it was largely this movie that introduced reggae music in America. See further The Harder They Come (soundtrack).

Miscellaneous topics

External links

[ Edit {}] Countries in West Indies
Antigua and Barbuda | Bahamas | Barbados | Cuba | Dominica | Dominican Republic | Grenada | Haiti | Jamaica | Saint Kitts and Nevis | Saint Lucia | Saint Vincent and the Grenadines | Trinidad and Tobago
Dependencies: Anguilla | Aruba | Bermuda | British Virgin Islands | Cayman Islands | Guadeloupe | Martinique | Montserrat | Netherlands Antilles | Puerto Rico | Turks and Caicos Islands | U.S. Virgin Islands