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Present Economy Structures

The history of Jamaica, this Caribbean island is quite a fascinating

            one beginning with the fact that it was originally inhabited by

            the Tainos/Arawaks since circa 1,000 BC right up until 1494. The

            island was called "Xaymaca". It is believed that the Tainos

            originally came from mainland South America, and were known as a

            peaceable people. (They're credited with inventing the hammock.)

            Arrival Of The Spanish

            "Xaymaca", was phonetically changed to Jamaica by the Spaniards who

            colonised the island between 1509 and 1655. It is unclear as to what

            actually caused the complete demise of the Tainos as part of the

            early history of Jamaica. It is speculated that either:

              disease brought by the settlers,

              their enslavement and harsh treatment,

              and even the suicide of many

            ...brought about their fall.

            Christopher Columbus has been attributed with having "discovered"

            the island (for the West) on May 4, 1494. He called it Santiago (St

            Jago) but that name never caught on Jamaica was imprinted in the

            minds of the seafarers and settlers.

            Jamaica history radically departed from what it had been at the

            arrival of the Spanish, when circumstances changed dramatically with

            the enslavement of the Tainos sometime between 1498 and 1509. The

            first Spanish settlement was called New Seville (or as the Spanish

            would say Sevilla Nueva).

            A new settlement was founded in the interior, several years later

            called Villa de la Vega, which later became known as Spanish Town,

            and has retained the name till today.

            With the demise of the Tainos, by the mid to late 16th century, the

            first African slaves were brought in to replace the workforce. Soon

            thereafter the Caribbean became a war zone between the Spanish and

            the British. The Spaniards made Villa de la Vega, their main centre

            on the island.

            Attacked by The British

            With the constant fight for dominion over the Caribbean, the British

            ransacked Villa de la Vega, in 1596 then again in 1643, eventually

            capturing it in 1655, (once again radically changing the history of

            Jamaica). The British Governor devised a clever plan - he invited

            the pirates and buccaneers to settle in Jamaica.


                        May 10, 1655. The British seizure of Jamaica under

                        Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables.

                        Cromwell's ships sinking the Spanish vessels in Kingston

                        Harbour. (Photo: Illustrated London News/Getty Images)



            The Maroons

            The capturing of Jamaica was bittersweet as the fleeing Spanish

            freed the slaves and equipped them with weaponry. These freed slaves

            made their way to the overgrown jungle of the sparsely populated

            interior... where they formed into a loose company, called the

            Maroons. These Maroons were an annoyance, and made life quite

            difficult for the British in the early part of their colonisation.

            As a matter of fact, the Maroons gained a reputation as being

            cunning rebels... often defeating the British military in battle...

            and playing a unique and long lasting role in the evolution of the

            history of Jamaica. Descendants of the Maroons still inhabit certain

            parts of Jamaica to this day.

            Slave Trading

            Next, the British lured many settlers, through offering portions of

            land on which to raise crops. Sugarcane plantations flourished, and

            during the 1700's produced approximately 22% of the sugar being

            produced in the world at that time. Other popular crops that were

            grown were coffee and cocoa. With this boom came an increase in

            slave trading. Without these slaves the economy of Jamaica would

            never reach the pinnacle that it did.

            The downside was that the slaves were ill-treated, a heartbreaking

            affair for many Africans who were wrenched from their families. It

            became worse when the American colonies separated themselves from

            British colonialism... forever altering the history of Jamaica as

            well as the history of the other Caribbean islands.

            As a result, the slaves revolted on several occasions, but in 1831

            approximately 60,000 slaves revolted laying waste to the plantations

            and killing their owners. This was about 1/5th of the slave

            population at the time... and the revolt lasted for 4 months.

            Abolition of Slavery

            There was a great outcry in Britain, and by the 1830's the abolition

            move gained ground. By 1834 slavery was outlawed by an Act of

            Parliament changing Jamaica history.

            The plantation owners brought in indentured labourers from China and

            India, to bolster the labour shortage. The fortunes of the

            plantation owners waned after the introduction of sugar beet as a

            crop. Other crops such as bananas, coffee and cocoa where introduced

            to supplement the flagging sugarcane industry.

            From 1830 to about 1940, tremendous change took place with regard to

            civil liberties on the island, with several more revolts and riots

            taking place.

            Early 20th Century

            Marcus Garvey became a national hero as a result of his tireless

            efforts to promote the cause of black people of Jamaica and other

            conquered territories. He forever changed the perception in the

            minds of many... and added significantly to Jamaica and its history.

            Traveling the world, he raised support for the Back-to-Africa

            movement and started the Universal Negro Improvement Association

            (UNIA) which took fire across the rest of the Caribbean. He then

            went on to form the first political party, the People's Political

            Party in 1929.

            Click here to read about other famous people from Jamaica.

            Other prominent names in the political history of Jamaica are

            Alexander Bustamante, the first Jamaican trade unionist and founder

            of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). The lawyer Norman Manley

            (Bustamante's cousin), founded the People's National Party (PNP),

            another political party.


            It was not until August 6, 1962, that Jamaica gained independence

            yet opted to stay within the Commonwealth of Great Britain this

            today underscores the past history of Jamaica.

            The Governor General is the Head of State, and is appointed by the

            British Monarch, while the Prime Minister is chosen through

            democratic election. The present Prime Minister, The Hon. Orette

            Bruce Golding, is a member of the JLP, the current ruling party.

 Capital: Kingston

Population: 2,506,000

Island Size: 146 miles long and between 22 and 51 miles wide; 4,411 square miles.

Electric Current: Mostly 110 volt. Adapters are supplied by most hotels, but are always a smart travel accessory.

Medical Emergencies: There are numerous hospitals and clinics on the island.

Time Zone: Standard time zone: UTC/GMT -5 hours

Daylight Saving Time: No known DST-adjustments for year 2000

Marriage Info: Process: Apply for a marriage license.
                   Wait Period: 24 hours
                   Documents to bring: Birth certificates

Climate: Temperatures range from high 70 to mid-80 F. Annual rainfall averages 78 inches. Rains and storms frequent Jamaica May through October but usually don't hang around long.

Official Language:

Currency: The Jamaican dollar - US dollars widely accepted.

Taxes: The government tax is 12.5% and hotels will add a service charge of 10% to your bill.

Dress Code: Casual - a lightweight jacket or sweater for the evenings; some hotels and restaurants require jackets for men when dining. Topless and nude sunbathing is acceptable on specified private beaches.

Telephone: Local area code is 876.

Getting To Jamaica: Served by Air Canada, Air Jamaica, ALM, American Airlines, Northwest Airlines, TWA and US Airways.

Entry Documents: Proof of citizenship for US and Canadian citizens, (passport or birth certificate with a photo ID). Passports required for citizens of other countries. All visitors must have an ongoing or return ticket.

Airport: Vacationer's typically fly into Sangster airport in Montego Bay. Kingston's Norman Manley airport is the second most highly used airport mostly for business or resident traffic.

Departure Tax: US$27

Driving: On the left - valid driver's license is required.

Local Transportation: Local transportation : Taxis are not regulated by the government. Drivers may increase rates at night because they can. Set the price for your trip before you leave. Buses in Kingston and Montego Bay are cheaper but can be dangerous. Car rentals are very expensive, but may be necessary to explore outside the major tourist areas. Make sure you have insurance coverage. Driving is difficult in Jamaica and can be risky, especially to those unused to driving on the left. Hiring a local driver may be your best bet. Also, take advantage of any hotel or restaurant offered transportation. Look online for sites that offer cheap car insurance.

Churches: Below are some of the main churches in Negril. There are many churches in
Jamaica and we made the Guinness Book of Record for the country with the most churches per sq. mile.

  • United Church (Presby)
  • Seven Day Adventist
  • United Penticostal
  • Roman Catholic
  • New Testament Church of God
  • Assemblies of God
  • Anglican Episcopal
  • Jehovah Witness

For more information, contact:
Jamaica Tourist Board
64 Knutsford Boulevard
P.O. Box 360
Kingston 5, Jamaica
Ph. (876) 920-4924
Fax: (876) 929-9375

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