As the third largest island in the Caribbean, it is 234km in length and up to 80km in width. Situated in the Caribbean Sea, it is situated approximately 145km south of Cuba and about 191km west of Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic). The word Jamaica comes from the indigenous Arawakan speaking Taino peoples that named the island “Xaymaca” which means: “Land of Wood and Water,” or “Land of Springs.”
With approximately 2.7 million people, it is the third most populous Anglophone country in the Americas; after the United States and Canada. It remains a Commonwealth realm with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. Kingston is the country’s largest city and the capital.
When Christopher Columbus arrived at the island in 1494, he claimed the land for Spain. Yet the island remained largely uninhabited aside from the native population until a few decades after Columbus’s death.
The island was a long time pirate haven and was a base of operations for enterprising buccaneers like the infamous Captain Morgan. These pirates keep the colonial forces from attacking and landing on the island to take control.
During the Spanish possession, the island was known as Santiago. The Spanish held the island from many pirate raids at the main port city of Spanish Town. In 1655 it became an English colony and later a British colony known as “Jamaica”. Spain finally rescinded their claim on the island in 1670. Jamaica achieved full independence in 1962.
When sugarcane became an important export from the island, many slaves were brought over from Africa to work the plantations on the island. Many slaves arrived in Jamaica via the Atlantic slave trade during the same time enslaved Africans arrived in North America. Due to the many racial tensions of the period, Jamaica had a very high rate of slave uprisings of any of the Caribbean Islands. After the British crown abolished slavery, the Jamaicans began a long a bitter journey towards independence.
The country’s main exports are from the mining of bauxite and alumina, which are raw materials used in the production of aluminum. The manufacturing sector is an important, though declining contributor portion of the Jamaican economy.
Beginning in the 1960s, economic prosperity in the major Western countries and declining international air fares helped make Jamaica a major tourist destination. Featuring some of the most beautiful waters and stunning white sand beaches, tourism makes up for a substantial portion of the economy Jamaica has become a tropical paradise for tourists from around the world.
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