Jamaica is an island state south of Cuba. The island is part of the Great Antilles group and is the third largest island in the Caribbean after Cuba and Hispaniola. It is slightly larger than Rogaland. Jamaica is the fifth largest country in the Caribbean. The country was a British colony from 1665 to 1962. Jamaica is the third largest English-speaking country in North and South America. The capital and largest city is Kingston.
National anthem is ‘Jamaica, Land We Love’.
The name Jamaica comes from the native taino’s name Xaymaca, ‘Land with forest and water’ or ‘Land of the Sources’.
Geography and environment
Jamaica is part of an underwater mountain range that projects out of the sea. There are limestone plateaus and mountain ranges east-west. The highest mountain is Blue Mountain Peak , 2256 meters above sea level. The mountains are framed by a narrow coastal strip. Most of many white and beautiful beaches are on the north and west coasts. The Dunn’s River Falls waterfall is a well-known tourist attraction. Kingston Harbor is the seventh largest natural harbor in the world. Off the coast are coral reefs.
The climate is tropical on the coast and in the lowlands , and more temperate in elevation. Winds from the east and southeast can cause powerful and devastating storms in the fall. The average annual temperature is 26-27 degrees Celsius and the annual rainfall is 1000-1500 millimeters.
In the northern part of Jamaica, rainforests have been partly replaced by banana plantations. In the lowlands much of the original vegetation has been removed. There are more than 3000 species of flower plants.
The only original mammal apart from 25 bat species is the rodent hutia the size of a beaver. In 1872, mungo was introduced from India to fight snakes and introduced rats. There are about 200 species of birds and 50 species of reptiles , the largest of which is US crocodile with a limited distribution. There are reptiles such as anoles and iguanas. None of the eight original snake species are poison snakes. A species of freshwater turtleis the place property, endemic. There are many species of freshwater and saltwater fish and a large number of insect species , including the western hemisphere’s largest butterfly. The world’s largest school opener also lives here. On the coast are many species of crustaceans and corals.
People and society
Large parts of the population are of African or partly African descent, others are of Asian and European origin. Black Jamaicans make up 92.1 percent of the population and people of mixed origin 6.1 percent (2011). 52 percent of the population is urban. Luxury hotels are in stark contrast to densely populated and poor ghettos.
The country’s official language is English. Most Jamaicans speak the English-African Creole Jamaican patois.
64.8 percent of the population are Protestants. About 25,000 Jamaicans parish for the rastafari movement. Muslims , Hindus , Buddhists and Jews form other small groups (2011).
Life expectancy at birth is 75.17 years for women and 71.87 years for men (2014).
State and politics
Jamaica is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is a monarch and is represented by a Governor General. Parliament has two chambers : an appointed Senate, the upper house , with 21 members, and a directly elected House of Representatives, the lower house , with 60 members elected for five years.
Jamaica traditionally has a two-party system , where the government has switched between the Social Democratic People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP). The country is divided into 14 local areas governed by elected councils.
The Jamaica Defense Force (JDF) is the country’s small but professional military force. It consists of an infantry regiment and a reserve corps , a flight , a coast guard fleet and an engineering unit. Military service is optional for both genders.
Jamaica is a member of the UN and its specialized organizations, the World Health Organization , the World Trade Organization and CARICOM.
Arawak and Taino people from South America settled in Jamaica about 1000-400 BCE. When Kristoffer Columbus came to Jamaica in 1494, the south coast was most densely populated. The natives succumbed to the ill treatment of Europeans and the smallpox virus. The first Spanish settlement, Seville, was established in 1509, but entered in 1524. The settlement was moved around 1534 to St. Jago de la Vega, later Spanish Town. From the 1520s, sugarcane plantations were created that slaves imported from Africa worked on.
In 1565, the British conquered Jamaica while a small group of escaped slaves, the Marons , continued a free life in the mountains. By 1660, Jamaica had become a haven for Jews and pirates. Coffee , cocoa and sugar cane gave the British great profits. The piracy got a crack a few years before the earthquake in 1692 that killed about 2000 people and caused large portions of Port Royal to sink into the sea. There were a number of slave rebellions and the British had to give escaped slaves and descendants of the Marons autonomy in 1739. After the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, the British imported Indian and Chinese workers, but some slaves were smuggled in.
In 1872 Kingston became the capital. The economy based on banana plantations ended abruptly during the downturn in the 1930s. In 1944, Jamaica was hit by a famine disaster. The island gained full internal autonomy in 1947. After a referendum, Jamaica withdrew from the West Indies Federation in 1962, and the country became independent that same year.
Democratic socialism from the mid-1970s led to massive emigration to the United Kingdom , the United States and Canada, among others. The economy was severely broken, and there was great political turmoil and much violence in the 1970s. About 700 people were killed in a civil war-like state before the 1980 election. Edward Seaga of the JLP won the election and restored Jamaica’s economy and relations with the United States.
The country’s independence is contested; A 2011 survey found that about 60 percent of residents want Jamaica restored as a British territory.
Economy and business
Jamaica is a developing country with tourism , extraction of bauxite and sugarcane cultivation as economic cornerstones. About 44 percent of the area is cultivated; most of them are plantations. Much sugar cane is grown on the coastal plains. It also exported bananas , citrus fruits , coffee, cocoa and allspice as well as much room. Corn , root vegetables , tobacco and coconuts are produced for the domestic market. Important livestock are cattle , goats and pigs. Forestry andfishing is modest.
The country is the world’s third-largest producer of bauxite, accounting for three-quarters of export revenue. Limestone , plaster , marble and gold are mined. Production of foodstuffs constituting about 70 percent of industrial production. Economic fronts have been set up at Kingston, Montego Bay and Spanish Town.
Jamaica’s main trading partners are the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. There are no Norwegian companies on the island.
Tourism makes a significant contribution to the economy. Most tourist destinations are on the north coast. About 70 percent of tourists are from the United States.
High unemployment promotes drug trafficking and other crime.
Knowledge and culture
The elementary school is six years old. Two out of three schools offer nine-year schooling. There are three-year secondary schools and two-year high schools as well as two universities. 13 percent of the population is illiterate.
Three daily newspapers are published. Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) has nationwide radio channels and advertising-funded television. There are three private television channels.
White colonists wrote the earliest literature, except that the black free man Francis Williams (1700-1771) wrote poetry in Latin and English. Herbert George de Lisser (1878-1944) wrote, among other things, the novel ‘The White Witch of Rosehall’. Feminist Una Marson (1905-1965) is considered the Caribbean’s first significant female lyricist. The British Ian Fleming (1908-1964), who lived in Jamaica, added several James Bond novels.
Jamaica’s music has European and African traditions. Internationally famous is the socially critical reggae musician and lyricist Bob Marley (1945-1981). The music genres reggae , ska , mento and rocksteady originated in Jamaica.
In recent years, Jamaican athletes have become very prominent in athletics with names such as Usain Bolt (1986–) who is Olympic champion, world champion and has world records of 100 and 200 meters sprint. Merlene Ottey (1960–) was a significant female sprinter. Several amateur and professional boxers are either born in Jamaica or have Jamaican parents.