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DESTINATION PROFILE: JAMAICA

Fast Facts:

  • Capital City: Kingston
  • Population: over 2.8 million
  • Largest English-speaking country in the Caribbean
  • Third-largest Caribbean island
  • 146 miles long and 51 miles at its widest point
  • Located 500 miles south of Florida
  • Average temperature: 80˚F / 27˚C

Travel to Jamaica:

  • Jamaica is a 1.5 hour flight from Florida, and is served by major international airlines with daily flights.
  • There are two international airports - Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston on the southern shore of the island and Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay on the northern shore of the island.
  • There is also the international IAM Private Jet Centre in Montego Bay.

Geography

Jamaica is blessed with some of the most picturesque land and seascapes in the world. Here, you can experience a wealth of natural wonders, from intricate coral reefs, to miles of white beach, cascading waterfalls, coastal plains and the famous Blue Mountains - home to the best coffee in the world.

 

Government

Constitutional parliamentary democracy.  Jamaica is a constitutional monarchy with the monarch being represented by a Governor General.  The Governor-General is nominated by the Prime Minister and the entire Cabinet and appointed by the monarch. All the members of the Cabinet are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister. The monarch and the Governor-General serve largely ceremonial roles, apart from their potent reserve power to dismiss the Prime Minister or Parliament.

Jamaica’s current Constitution was drafted in 1962 by a bipartisan joint committee of the Jamaican legislature. It came into force with the Jamaica Independence Act, 1962 of the United Kingdom Parliament, which gave Jamaica political independence. This was followed by a reformation of the island’s flag.

Jamaica is an independent country, completely self-governed since 1962 when the island ceased to be a British colony. After Independence, Jamaica chose to be a part of the British Commonwealth, and kept the Queen of the United Kingdom as the titular head of the country. Today, Jamaica is a democratic country with two major political parties represented in Parliament.

 

People and Culture

Jamaica’s people are very welcoming and friendly. They truly personify Jamaica’s motto “out of many, one people” with a rich mix of cultural backgrounds. The island is the birthplace of reggae and ska music, and plays host to world-famous annual music festivals such as Reggae Sunsplash and Sunfest

Food lovers will find a range of international and original cuisine, and can attend annual food festivals celebrating jerk, chicken, seafood and yam dishes.

Some of the world’s notable athletes, scientists, musicians and politicians hail from Jamaica. In the world of music, Jamaica has produced Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Toots and the Maytals. In theatre, there is Louise Bennett (Miss Lou), Trevor Rhone, Leonie Forbes, Oliver Samuels and Sheryl Lee Ralph. In athletics, Jamaica’s own include Courtney Walsh and Michael Holding for Cricket, the Reggae Boys of football and the famous Jamaican Bobsledders. Jamaicans Marcus Garvey and Michael Manley are noted for their political largesse.

Jamaican culture is uniquely woven from the many traditions of music, African culture, old British colonial influences, and American styles.

 

History

The original inhabitants of Jamaica were the Arawaks. They were a gentle Indian race who failed to survive the impact of Spanish colonialism. These Indians named the island "Xaymaca," which was said to mean "land of wood and water." This name was subsequently changed by the Spanish to its present name.

Picture In 1494, Christopher Columbus landed at what is now Discovery Bay, and claimed the isle for Spain. The Spanish, being disappointed that there was no gold, paid little attention to their colony, and were easily defeated by the British explorers Admiral Penn and General Venables, who landed here in 1655.

During the ensuing years, privatizing and piracy helped make Jamaica prosperous, and certainly one of the most notorious islands. The eighteenth century saw sugar taking over. African slaves were imported to cultivate the cane fields, and Jamaica also became a huge trans-shipment port for slaves destined for other colonies. Many slaves escaped into surrounding hills and became known as maroons, who constantly terrorized the plantations.

Picture. Jamaica remained a British colony until 1962 when she was granted independence. The island remains a member of British Commonwealth of Nations, and maintains a British parliamentary system, with the Queen of England as titular head of state. She is represented locally by the Governor General. There is a well-established democratic system and elections are held every five years.

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