Close your eyes and picture a beautiful sunset meeting far away on the shimmering clear blue water in front of you. You feel a cool breeze and a hot sun against your skin and the feeling of the warm sand beneath your feet. You walk forward and feel the refreshing water wet your legs and you are tickled as a school of tropical fish passes you by. You spot the palm trees and wild plants off the shore. Are you in an unreal paradise? Yes I have. It is Jamaica.
Jamaica is blessed with superb geographical location and resources that makes it a great vacation spot. It is an island country south of Cuba and north of South America. So you must fly or sail there. Its short distance from the United States makes it a short distance from here and that is great for fliers. It is probably a four -hour flight. Jamaica is only about 17 degrees above the equator so it is very warm all year round. (Grab your sunglasses and tanning oil!)
Land and Resources
Everyone sees the commercials for the white-sanded beaches and the clear blue water but Jamaica’s terrain is mountainous except for those several tracts of lowlands that you see on TV. In fact Blue Mountain’s, that is the highest mountain in Jamaica, is 7402 ft. There are many smaller mountains with many traverse spurs that extend west to the extremity of the island making a gigantic plateau. So if you plan on going to Jamaica you had better think of bringing your hiking boots. Lead and Salt deposits can be found on the island and rich soils can be found on the coastal plains. The island is also equipped with excellent natural harbors, including those at Kingston, Saint Ann’s Bay, Montego Bay, and Port Maria. There is no volcanic activity in Jamaica but it is subject to severe earthquakes.
Plants and Animals
Jamaica is filled with luxurious and diverse vegetation. More than 200 species have been identified. The indigenous tree include such as the cedar, mahogany, rosewood, ebony, coconut palm, and pimento. Introduced varieties such as the mango, breadfruit, banana, and plantain also flourish the island.
Jamaica is not only blessed with great plenty of natural wonders but it’s people and their culture are probably it’s greatest resource, and that is what draws the people to the island. Jamaica’s great dependency on Great Britain form the past 300 years shows in the language they speak and in their customs, which are combined with African influences. Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, made Reggae, a distinctively syncopated style of Jamaican music popular in the 20th century. It was a great influence on rock in the middle of the 80’s, especially in Britain.
The Jamaica constitution, promulgated in 1962, established a parliamentary system of government patterned after that of Great Britain. The Prime Minister is the head of the government. The British monarch is the head of the state and is represented by a governor general, who is appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister. There is an Executive branch, a Legislative branch, and a Judiciary branch. Their government is quite like ours. The Prime Minister has a lot of power, kind of like our president.
Jamaica has two political parties. The People’s National Party (PNP) is one. It is socialist in orientation. The other is the Jamaica Labour Group (JLP) which supports free enterprise in a mixed economy. A minor party is the Jamaica American Party, which favors U.S. statehood for Jamaica.
Language and Religion
In Jamaica, the principle language spoken by the people is English. It is spoken with a local dialect that includes African, Spanish, and French elements. Christianity is the main religion practiced in Jamaica. Other religious groups are Baptists, Anglicans, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostalists, and Roman Catholic. In addition several Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu communities exist.
A number of popular groups, such as Pocomania and Rastafarianism, are significant and famous in the Jamaican religious life.
Members of the Arawak tribe were the aboriginal inhabitants of the island. They named it Xaymaca. Christopher Columbus sighted the island during his second voyage, and Xaymaca became a Spanish Colony in 1509. The Arawak quickly died out due to disease and harsh treatment. African slaves were imported to overcome the resultant labor shortage.
An English naval force under Sir William Penn captured Jamaica in 1655. The island was formally transferred to England in 1670 after the Treaty of Madrid. During the final decades of the 17th century, great numbers of English immigrants arrived; the sugar, cacao, and other agricultural and forest industries were rapidly expanded, and the great demand for plantation labor led to enormous amounts of slaves to be brought in. In 1682 Port Royal, the chief Jamaican slave market, was destroyed by and earthquake. Kingston was soon established and Parliament abolished slavery on August 1, 1838.
Large numbers of freed blacks abandoned the plantations following emancipation and took possession of occupied lands, gravely disrupting the economy. Labor shortages bankrupt plantations, and declining trade resulted in a delayed economic crisis. Jamaica was made a crown colony thus losing the large degree of self-government it had since the late 17th century. Representative government was partly restored in 1884. Jamaica gained Independence when it united with the Federation of the West Indies.
The PNP won large parliamentary majority in 1989, returning Manley to power. He introduced moderate free-market policies before resigning in March 1992 because of poor health. Percival J. Patterson, his successor as Prime Minister and PNP leader, easily won reelection a year later.
Jamaica is a jewel. It is a great place with great people, and you can go there and see the beautiful beaches and swim in the beautiful clear blue water, or go hiking in the mountains, or listen to a band play on the street, or go sightseeing in the beautiful cities. They have great culture, and a unique style of living.