Birth of the Caribbean -- Geologists believe that the Caribbean islands evolved from an arc of volcanoes that bubbled up from the seas billions of years ago. Born of great earthquakes that reduced mountains to rubble, the lower lands surrounding the peaks eased out of the oceans over the course of 30 million years. The land-building process climaxed about 20 million years ago when the islands emerged from the Caribbean Sea.
Primeval Jamaica -- was a rugged, rocky land until climate and soil combined
to create magnificent forests. Virtually everything that blooms on the island today was imported by human hands or birds. Sugar cane, bananas, citrus and coconuts were imported by the British, Spanish, other Europeans and the African slaves. This lush, perfumed Eden overflows with palm trees, mountains, forests and nearly 3,000 varieties of flowering plants including 800 found nowhere else in the world.
Exchange Rate -- Appx. JA $120.00-125.00 to US $1.00
Total Square Miles -- 4,244
Climate -- Temperature ranges from 80º – 90ºF on the coast; 50º – 60ºF on the highest mountains; hottest months: June – September; wettest months: May – November; hurricane: occasional; average rainfall: 77”.
Mountains -- Jamaica’s mountain range forms one east to west chain rising with peaks that kiss the clouds and rise to a cap of over 7,400 ft. with rivers twisting downward through verdant green valleys, winding their way to the Caribbean Sea.
Best Kept Secret: Blue Mountain Peak — a true hiker's delight — is the highest point on the island. Hikers can make a one or two-day ascent to the 7,402 ft. summit. A popular 1 a.m. adventure for hardy hikers leaves from the Whitfield Hall Coffee Farm and Hostel for the 4-6 hour, 7-mile trek to expreience a glorious sunrise at the top. Don't forget to view the 800 plant species, the riotous colors of exotic birds and butterflies who make the nearby Holywell Recreational Park their home. This trek through the mountain rain forest is marked with easy to moderate trails meandering through dense woods, coffee plantations, lush vegetation and scenic waterfalls.
Industries -- Bauxite mining and refining (aluminum); agriculture (sugar cane, banana, coconut, citrus, vegetables, root crops, beef, pork, poultry, fishing); shipping. Major trade partners are the US, Britain, Canada and CARICOM, a free trade partnership that includes most of the Caribbean and some Latin American countries. Western Europe has a growing demand for Jamaican products such as rum, spices and Red Stripe beer. Japan is the largest importer of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee considered a gourmet product worldwide.
Banking -- Banking and other financial institutions provide a full range of trust, merchant and commercial banking, mortgages and related financial services.
Population -- Of Jamaica’s approximately 3 million population, the racial breakdown is as follows: African: 75%; mixed races: 13%; European and Chinese: 11%; East Indian: 1%.
Indigenous People -- The aboriginal inhabitants of Jamaica, the Arawaks, were a seagoing people. Their ancestral home was in the Orinoca region of Guyana and Venezuela in South America. Forced to flee the Caribs, another group of their more warlike, cannibal brethren, the Arawaks sailed northward in dugout canoes settling in each of the Antilles Islands from Trinidad to Cuba. They may have arrived in Jamaica between 650-900 A.D. calling the land “Xaymaca” meaning “land of wood and water.” The Jamaican Arawaks were skilled artisans who left their paintings on the walls of many island caves.
The Arawaks — inventors of the hammock — lived calm and peaceful lives. They were a pleasure-loving people who passed their days dancing, singing and feasting. Theirs was an idyllic, carefree existence in partnership with nature and the fruitful land. On an expedition from Spain to find new sea routes to India, Christopher Columbus arrived at St. Ann’s Bay on May 5, 1494, immediately naming the island Santa Gloria “on account of the extreme beauty of its country,” according to Samuel Eliot Morison, Columbus’ biographer. Forced into slavery, the Arawaks soon perished and were replaced by African slaves. Jamaica was first colonized by the Spanish, then from 1655 by the British and other Europeans.
Unfortunately for the colonists, African slaves proved much too rebellious when a group of escaped slaves called the Maroons revolted and barricaded themselves in the hill country of the Cockpit region where unexplored territory still exists to this day. The Maroons fiercely fought the European slaveholders and were granted a separate independence and their own lands by treaty in 1734. Jamaica was the first of the Caribbean island countries to become independent in 1962.
Although the overwhelming majority of Jamaica's population are people of African descent, the contribution of other ethnic groups such as East Indians, Chinese, Germans, Jews, Syrians and other Middle Easterners to the social and economic development of the country is proudly depicted in Jamaica's national motto "Out of Many One People" to celebrate its rich cultural heritage.
The island remains an active force in Caribbean politics. Jamaica is also influential on the international music scene with such well received contributions as Reggae, Ska, Rocksteady, and Ragga/Dancehall — developed in the tough conditions of Kingston’s ghettos.
Coat of Arms -- Designed by William Sancroft (1617-93), the former Archbishop of Canterbury. The Banner reads: “Out of Many, One People” and depicts an Arawak couple on either side of a shield bearing a red cross with five golden pineapples. The crest depicts the Jamaican crocodile atop a royal helmet and mantlings.
National Flag -- consists of three colors: black, gold and green. The color black represents hardships overcome and yet to come; the color gold represents the natural wealth and the bountiful sunshine; the color green symbolizes hope and represents Jamaica’s abundant natural resources.
National Fruit -- Ackee: a yellow colored fruit that bears a large black seed when ripe enough for the reddish yellow pods to open. The ackee must be eaten ripe. The fruit is poisonous when the pods have not been allowed enough time to open naturally on the tree. Nevertheless, ackee is a main ingredient of one of Jamaica’s most popular national dishes, ackee and saltfish.