Monday, June 26, 2006

History of Jamaica

History of Jamaica. This is a short essay covering the history of this Caribbean nation.

The Encyclopædia Britannica notes, "Island country, West Indies, located south of Cuba. The third largest island in the Caribbean, it is 146 mi (235 km) long and 35 mi (56 km) wide. Jamaica has three major regions: the coastal lowlands, which encircle the island and are heavily cultivated; a limestone plateau, which covers half of the island; and the interior highlands, with forested mountain ranges, including the Blue Mountains. Agriculture employs about one-fifth of the workforce, and the major agricultural export is raw sugar, with molasses and rum as by-products. Industry focuses on the production of bauxite and alumina and on the garment industry. Tourism is very important. "

From the site:

Arawaks from South America had settled in Jamaica prior to Christopher Columbus' first arrival at the island in 1494. During Spain's occupation of the island, starting in 1510, the Arawaks were exterminated by disease, slavery, and war. Spain brought the first African slaves to Jamaica in 1517. In 1655, British forces seized the island, and in 1670, Great Britain gained formal possession.

Jamaica was discovered by Columbus on 3 May, 1494. He landed probably at or near St. Ann's Bay, called by him Sancta Gloria, owing to the great beauty of the environs. Nine years later his caravels were wrecked at Puerto Bueno — the present Dry Harbour. He gave the name Santiago to the island, which was but partially colonized by the Spaniards, and was never popular with them. They first introduced horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and domestic poultry. To the Spaniards Jamaica is also indebted for the orange, lemon, lime, and other fruit trees; the coffee tree is due however to British initiative about the year 1721. From the constituents of the shell mounds throughout the island and the absence therefrom of all objects of a European character, it would appear that these accumulations represent the kitchen middens of the pre-Columban aboriginal inhabitants. These remains found principally in caves, comprise: (a) crania and other bones (human), (b) stone implements (celts, etc.), (c) objects of pottery (various), (d) ornamental beads (chalcedony), kitchen middens containing shells (principally marine), broken pottery, fish and coney bones, stone implements, and ashes. Their cottages were built on stockade posts set vertically side by side in a trench. For animal food they depended principally on the sea, and on their festivals or barbecues the entire village went out on marine or river excursions. Their gardens yielded arrow-root, beans, cassava, cucumbers, melons, maize, and yams; for fruit they cultivated the guava, mammee, papaw and star-apple. They cultivated cotton and wound it for cordage and twisted it into yarn for making garments. The only domestic animals were probably the muysea duck and the alca, a small dog. The aborigines were most probably a tribe of the Arawak Indians, and not Caribs, who were cannibals. The Arawaks were a gentle and inoffensive people as their name (meal-eaters) signifies. They believed in a Supreme Being (Jocahuna), in a future state, and had a tradition about a deluge. Their form of government was patriarchal. They smoked tobacco and played a football game called bato, in which both men and women joined.

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