Reggae, Art, Tropical Breezes and Hurricanes
is one of the largest Caribbean islands, originally inhabited
by natives known as Arawaks, people who lived in simple communities,
based on fishing, hunting, and small scale cultivation of
Columbus arrived at the island, he claimed the land for Spain.
But within 70-80 years, plunder, disruption of economic activities,
new diseases, and migration decimated the indigenous population.
Only a few artifacts of the Arawaks remain.
by the absence of gold on the island, the Spanish used Jamaica
as a base for supporting the conquest of the Americas, particularly
Mexico with its gold and silver. The original Spanish settlement
was administered from the Town of Santiago de la Vega, now
Spanish Town, and much of the architecture of the original
buildings is still evident in the town square.
Jamaica was captured by the British expedition led by Admirals
Penn and Venables. By this time, the island was of little
significance to the Spanish crown, and very little was done
to defend it against the British.
invading the country, the British experimented briefly with
indentured European labor, but then turned to large-scale
importation of Africans for use as slaves on the sugar plantations.
Jamaica quickly became a treasure to the English crown because
of the great prosperity it brought to plantation owners, and
indirectly to cities such as Liverpool and Bristol, which
serviced trade with Jamaica and the West Indies.
slavery serviced what was known as Triangular trade among
England (manufactured goods), Africa (slaves), and the Caribbean
(sugar). The plantation dominated economic life in every sense:
it occupied the best lands, the laws supported the slave system,
and in general all commercial and other economic activity
depended on the rhythm of activity of the plantation. Some
slaves inevitably ran away from the estates to live in small
bands in the mountains as Maroons.
close of the 18th century, sugar was losing its economic dominance
because of competition from beet sugar as well as rising production
costs. In 1838, the slaves were emancipated and the plantations
began paying wages to its workers.
Emancipation, many ex-slaves settled down as small farmers
in the mountains, cultivating steep hill slopes far away from
the plantations. Others settled on marginal lands in the plains
near the plantations on land leased or bought. As production
of sugar continued to decline, peasant exports of logwood,
coffee, and eventually bananas grew steadily.
movement’s most enduring political institutions are
the two major political parties, and the labor unions affiliated
to them. The founder of the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) and
the Bustamante Industrial Trades Union (BITU), Alexander Bustamante
and the founder of the People's National Party (PNP) and the
National Workers Union (NWU), Norman Manley have been declared
national heroes for their individual and combined efforts
in securing political independence from England. The emergence
of these parties also facilitated the granting of adult suffrage
and self-government in 1944.
period, 1944 to 1962, heralded major political changes and
transformations in economy’s structure. The economy
included the export of sugar, bananas and other agricultural
commodities, the export of bauxite and alumina, and the tourist
industry. These in turn stimulated a vibrant construction
industry, as the United States displaced the UK as Jamaica's
principal trading partner.
was granted political independence in 1962, following the
country’s rejection, by referendum, of membership in
the Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica was given a Westminister
style constitution, with a Governor-general as the representative
of the British Crown, and a bicameral Parliament. There is
a House of Representatives consisting of elected representatives
and a Senate appointed by the Prime Minister and the Leader
of the Opposition. The government is headed by a Prime Minister,
who is required to consult with the Governor General and the
Leader of the Opposition on certain matters.
end of the 60’s, there were well-established mining,
tourism, manufacturing, and construction sectors, alongside
the traditional agricultural and distribution sectors. In
the 70’s, social reform was established to protect the
weakest sections of the population, and to promote the welfare
of the poor through subsidized food, housing, education, health,
and other important social services. In international affairs,
Jamaica opened up relations with many non-capitalist countries,
and promoted the solidarity of the Third World in international
negotiations with the advanced countries.
saw the development of Free Zone manufacturing especially
of garments for export to the USA, the gradual recovery of
bauxite/alumina production, and the rapid growth of tourism
from North America. In the process, the traditional international
economic relations, particularly with the USA, were strengthened
at the expense of regional relations. The 80’s also
saw large volumes of emigrants, primarily to the USA.
is the native language in Jamaica. But native people have
their own special expression for peace. It is “level
expression expanded greatly in Jamaica in the 1930s and '40s,
in conjunction with the movement toward self-government.
The Institute of Jamaica, includes:
• the National Library of Jamaica, which boasts the
largest collection of West Indian material in the world;
• a comprehensive network of museums;
• the African Caribbean Institute of Jamaica(ACIJ);
• a cultural program for youth, conducted through junior
• the National Gallery of Jamaica, which houses the
national collection of art.
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture is responsible
• the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing
Arts, a modern complex comprising the Jamaica Schools of Art,
Music, Drama and Dance. It is the only one of its kind in
the English Speaking Caribbean.
Cultural Development Commission organizes the cultural activities
of the country through training and several annual competitions
in the arts. Displays and exhibitions in these areas form
part of the annual Independence celebrations. The Jamaican
art movement goes back to the early part of the century. Today,
many Jamaican artists are internationally acclaimed. Among
these are the late Edna Manley (1900-1987), who emerged as
a visionary mother of art in Jamaica, and as a teacher and
role model to other artists. Other renowned Jamaican artists
include Basil Watson and Cecil Baugh. Watson, the founder
of the Contemporary Jamaican Artists Association (Kingston)
is known for his exceptional murals and special portraits.
Baugh, an epitome of true craftsmanship, is known for his
work in ceramics and pottery. Exhibitions are held on a regular
basis at island's several galleries.
popular music has achieved world fame through the emergence
of reggae, a music form that emerged from traditional indigenous
Jamaican music with African and Black American roots. Many
reggae artistes have won international fame for original compositions,
recordings and performances--notably the late Robert(Bob)
Marley. For his cultural contributions, Marley received Jamaica's
third highest national honor--the Order of Merit.
folk music is said to have origins in West Africa. Groups
include the Jamaica Folk Singers led by Dr. Olive Lewin, the
University Singers, the Carifolk Singers and the National
Dance Theater Company (NDTC).
lies 145 kilometers south of Cuba and 190 kilometers west
of Haiti. The country is 235 kilometers long, and it varies
from 35 to 82 kilometers wide. With an area of 10,911 square
kilometers, Jamaica is the largest island of the Commonwealth
capital city, Kingston, is where soil was collected for Common
Ground 191. Angella E. Harvey, Cultural Affairs Specialist
at the American Embassy in Kingston, wrote Gary Simpson, founder
of Common Ground, explaining that she and her assistant, Bernadette
Hutchinson, collected the soil sample from the grounds of
Devon House on October 2, 2006. Angella wrote, “Devon
House is one of Jamaica’s leading national monuments
and a symbol of the cultural diversity that makes this island
a unique choice for thousands of visitors. This 125-year-old
site, located in the heart of Kingston is an 11-acre property
that was built by Jamaica’s first black millionaire,
types of climate are found on Jamaica. An upland tropical
climate prevails on the windward side of the mountains. A
semiarid climate predominates on the leeward side. Warm trade
winds from the east and northeast bring rainfall throughout
the year. The average rainfall is 196 centimeters per year.
are fairly constant throughout the year, averaging 25 °C
to 30 °C in the lowlands and 15 °C to 22 °C at
higher elevations. The island receives northeast trade winds,
onshore breezes during the day and cooling offshore breezes
at night. These are known as the "Doctor Breeze"
and the "Undertaker's Breeze."
lies in the Atlantic hurricane belt. Powerful hurricanes that
have hit the island directly include Hurricane Charlie in
1951 and Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. Several other powerful
hurricanes have passed near to the island with damaging effects.
In 2004, Hurricane Ivan swept past the island causing heavy
damage and a number of deaths. Category 4 Hurricane Dean caused
deaths and heavy damage to Jamaica in August 2007.