“The biggest little country in the world” Interesting facts about the Island of Jamaica
Jamaica is a small island located in the Caribbean. In total, the island is only 4, 244 square miles (*10,991 km) and has a population of approximately 2.7 million people. It is also broken up into 14 parishes, listed here is no particular order – Hanover, St. Elizabeth, St. James, Trelawney, Westmoreland, Clarendon, Manchester, St. Ann, St. Mary, Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Catherine, St. Mary, Portland and St. Thomas. St. Ann is the largest parish on the island measuring 1,213 square kilometers, while Kingston is the smallest measuring 25 square kilometers. Sevilla de la nueva, St. Ann was Jamaica’s first capital, followed by Spanish Town, St. Catherine between 1662 and 1872, the current capital of Jamaica is Kingston.
These fourteen parishes are grouped into three counties, Cornwall, Middlesex, and Surrey. Note however that these counties have no administrative relevance to the island. The counties were established in 1758 to facilitate the holding of courts of the British County court system.
The Island was first named “Xaymaca” (meaning “Land of Wood and Water” or “Land of Springs”) by the indigenous Tainos. It was known as “Santiago” after the Spanish possession and then named “Jamaica” after it became an English colony. Today it is also called the Commonwealth of Jamaica.
Things you probably did not know about this great little island………………….
1. Jamaica is the largest English-speaking Island in the Caribbean and the third largest island in the Caribbean, behind Cuba and Hispaniola.
2. Jamaica was the first colony England acquired by conquest in 1655 and the first British Colony in the Caribbean to gain independence, August 6th, 1962.
3. Jamaica was the first British colonial territory to establish a postal service (1688).
4. Black River in St. Elizabeth, then an extremely important port, got electricity in 1893, before New York.
5. Jamaica was the first country in the Western world to construct a railway, even before the United States. This was only 18 years after Britain.
6. The Manchester Golf Club in Jamaica, established in 1868, is the oldest in the western hemisphere.
7. We have one of the largest natural harbors in the world known as the Kingston Harbor. Located in Kingston, this is the 7th largest natural harbor in the world and is a well placed transshipment point between South America and Europe. This harbor is approximately 16 kilometers or 9.9 miles long and 3.2 kilometers or 2.0 miles wide.
8. Jamaica has numerous mineral baths and hot springs believed to have therapeutic properties. These natural spas are often referred to as “the healing waters of Jamaica.” Go and soak your troubles away. Dunn’s River Falls, is by far the number one tourist attraction in the entire Caribbean. It has been visited by millions of tourists from all over the world since the 1950’s.
9. The Jamaican flag is the only flag in the world that does not share the color of the US flag (white, blue and red). The Jamaican flag colors symbolize the motto: “Times are difficult, but the land is green and the sun is shining”.
10. Port Royal, which is now a part of Kingston, and was one of the most famous cities in the new world before its demise by an earthquake in 1692. The city was so important that in 1688, 213 ships visited Port Royal. It was the home of the many pirates that ruled and plundered the seas of the new world, it was the place where they reveled and stored their loots and as a result was thought the be one of the wickedest and richest places in the world. Today that loot and a portion of the land are deep underwater where it sank into the depths during the earthquake.
11. Jamaica was the first country to impose economic sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa.
12. Jamaica was the founder of the International Bauxite Association and spearheaded the International Seabed Authority, which both now have their headquarters in Kingston. The authority organizes and controls all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans.
13. Jamaica was the first Caribbean island to enact legislation, “The Motion Picture Industry (Encouragement) Act” to promote the making of films.
14. Jamaica is the first country to sign a Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria grant agreement.
15. Jamaica has the second largest butterfly in the world -The Giant Swallowtail.
16. The words barbecue, canoe, hurricane, potato and tobacco come from the language of the first colonists of Jamaica, the Arawak Indians.
17. Jamaica’s telephone system was so well developed its model was copied by AT&T.
18. Jamaica was the first commercial producer of bananas in the Western Hemisphere.
19. Jamaica was the first island in the Caribbean to produce rum on a commercial basis.
Jamaican People “Wi just run tings”
The island’s population is ethnically diverse, according to the University of the West Indies, Jamaica’s ethnic make-up consists of 76.3 per cent of people of African descent, 15.1 per cent Afro-European, 3.4 per cent East Indian and Afro-East-Indian, 3.2 per cent Caucasian, 1.2 per cent Chinese.
More or less twice as many Jamaicans live outside Jamaica than reside in their native land. The official count is 2.7 million residents on the island, and it is estimated the Jamaican Diaspora is estimated to be between 3 million and 5 million people. These are immigrants or descendants of immigrants, living mainly in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, but also, in increasing numbers, in other parts of Europe and in Africa.
The official language spoken here is English, though we primarily speak the Creole language, which is an English-African language. This language we call the Jamaican Patois, pronounced “patwa.” Jamaican Patois has become a worldwide recognized language through our reggae music.