Jamaica: History, Government, People, Religion Jamaica is a tropical island, located in the heart of the Caribbean Sea. Around the coastlines are beautiful beaches with crystal clear blue-green water. In some respects, this is the majority of what people know about Jamaica. In this orientation text you will better understand Jamaica's history, the people who live there, the many different religions, geography, and governments that have ruled the land. The land of Jamaica is very small. The total land mass area of the island is 4, 243 square miles.
Stretching 146 miles from east to west and at its furthest points north to south, approximately 51 miles (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, P 670). Within this area, the land is largely mountainous with an average elevation of 15, 000 feet (Encyclopedia Americana, 200, P 670). These mountains mainly consist of limestone, where in the middle of the country the terrain is extreme and mostly inaccessible. Within this extreme area are high plateaus, underground caverns, and deep circular basins. This area is what the local people call "cockpits" (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, P 670). The highest point in Jamaica is Blue Mountain Peak which stands 7, 402 feet.
Jamaican climate is tropical, with average temperatures ranging from 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit. The capital of Jamaica is Kingston. The history of Jamaica is extremely jaded with disease, buccaneering, and slavery. First discovered by Europeans in 1494, Columbus stopped on Jamaica on his second trip to the "New World" and encountered the indigenous Arawaks (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, P 672). Later colonized by Spain in 1509, the land was abandoned when the lack of abundance of silver and gold was discovered. The indigenous Arawaks were overwhelmed with European disease and died out (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, 672).
These times will be some of the most peaceful times in Jamaican history. Buccaneers used Jamaica as a trade center for booty seized from different galleons. Soon following, England will seize as much of Spain's Caribbean land as possible. The English captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655. With the indigenous people gone, and Spain being overthrown, all the imported African slaves revolted.
Renegade slaves were called "Maroons." The Maroons waged war against there new governing country for nearly 100 years until a peace treaty was signed in 1738 (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, P 671). This era in Jamaican history is arguably the worst of all times of turmoil in Jamaican history. By the early 18 th century, with the peace treaty in place, Jamaica began to build vast amounts of sugar plantations. Sugar became the main export to England.
Second, and not far behind, was slave trade. Jamaica's location in the heart of the Caribbean Sea made it an ideal port for harboring slaves until they were needed to sell. This enabled Jamaica to be one of the British crown's most lucrative assets (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, P 673). Things changed with the British Parliament's abolishment of the slave trade in 1833.
Freed slaves became independent farmers or employees of surviving sugar plantations. The government also changed from an elected British assembly to a governor-controlled crown colony enacted in 1866 and run for 75 years. During this political change, sugar industry slowed and the emergence of the banana industry became Jamaica's main export (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, P 673). Jamaica formed a two party system in its changes. The People's National Party (PNP) and Jamaican Labor Party (JLP) would alternate rule for the 40 years. In 1953, Jamaica inaugurated a ministerial system of government.
Within this system the Federation of the West Indies was created in 1958, with Jamaica as its largest member. Jamaica's true independence came four years later with its withdrawal from the federation. The people of Jamaica consist of 90% black African descent. (Academic American Encyclopedia, 1998, P 352). In 2003, the population of Jamaica was 2, 633, 600; with a birth rate of 12.
9/1000 people (Stat, 2003). Roughly 65% of Jamaica's people are between the ages of 15-65. The life expectancy of males in Jamaica is 73 years and for females, slightly longer of 77 years (Stat, 2003). Education has become a very important part of Jamaican life. Jamaica boasts a literacy rate of 85% and education is free at schools receiving government grants. Most young Jamaicans attend primary school and more than half attend high school.
College is available at technical schools, and universities. The main institution of higher education is the University of the West Indies, in the Kingston (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, P 671). Students who graduate from a form of higher education have found that it is hard to find a job in Jamaica because of its low technological advancement. Religion is a subject in Jamaica that has many different groups. Popular lore has it that there are more churches per capita in Jamaica than anywhere else in the world (Culture and Customs, 2001, P 39). The major religions of Jamaica are Anglicanism, Roman Catholic, other protestant sects, and Rastafarianism (Encyclopedia Americana, 2001, P 670).
For our purposes, I would like to focus on the most unique in the country, Rastafarianism. Rastafari could be said to have begun as a religion with the coronation of Ras Tahari, the crown prince of Ethiopia. The crowning is too many black people in Jamaica as the fulfillment of several biblical prophesies. Rastafari believe in a supreme creator God, Jah. They also believe that God is black.
The "God-ness" of Jah inheres in each person, making each man divine. Rastafari treasure their freedom to act as they feel justified in the spirit. The beliefs in Rastafarianism are deeply rooted in the return to Africa as a spiritual home (Culture and Customs, 2001, P 48-49). It is no surprise that Jamaica has become the center of Rastafarianism due to the majority of African blacks that have found Jamaica their home. It is important to note however, that Rastafarianism is not the majority religion. Christianity and its many different sects dominate Jamaica's affiliated religious majority, including 17.
8% Baptist, 17. 0% Church of God, 7. 9% Roman Catholic, and 6% Methodist, (Culture and Customs, 2001, P 41). In conclusion of the subjects outlined previously, Jamaica is a country rich in diverse history, government, religion and people.
The struggles that Jamaica has endured politically and socially make it an extremely admirable nation. Writing this text has given me a greater appreciation of the many different aspects of culture that Jamaica has and made me want to research deeper into some of the topics covered so I may better understand the complex construction of Jamaica. 1. Cooper, Carolyn. Noises in the Blood.
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