Top 10 AMAZING Facts About JAMAICA
Nestled amidst Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and South America is a tropical paradise visited by over one million tourists annually. Beyond its tourism, the Caribbean island of Jamaica has no shortage of fascinating culture and history that we just can't wait to explore.
On August 6th of each year, Jamaica celebrates its own Independence Day; but an independence from whom, you ask? Prior to becoming its own sovereign state after a series of rebellions and the formation of the local political parties of the People’s National Party and Jamaica Labour Party, the island was colonized by the British. Actually, the Spanish Empire took it first from the indigenous people, but after 146 years of Spanish rule, the British were sure to snatch it and add it to its collection of colonies. Ultimately, Jamaica owes its independence partially to World War II, which created the decolonization movement. In 1962, the Jamaica Independence Act was passed by the United Kingdom, though it remained within the Commonwealth.
Jamaican World Records
As mentioned previously, Jamaica takes its sprinting seriously, which is why it currently holds the men’s record for the 100, 150, and 200 meters. Of course, that record goes to Usain Bolt, but he’s far from the only impressive Jamaican out there! In fact, local Christopher Taylor took the 400-meter dash record for the under-18-boys age group, beating out 15-year-old Kirani James’ prior record by .01 seconds. Beyond sports, Jamaicans also hold the record for the most books donated to charity in a week with over 65,700 books. In September of 2016, Isaiah “TriForce” Johnson broke the record for most wins against Tetribot in Tetris Ultimate in a 24-hour time period, earning 614 wins.
Jamaica in Sports
We briefly mentioned Jamaica’s claim to athletic fame, Usain Bolt, but there’s more to the country’s athletics than the award-winning sprinter! Many sports make up Jamaica’s most popular, but among them, you’ll likely hear most about track and field, football, cricket, and, in most recent years, basketball. As eight-time Olympic gold medalist Bolt proved, the country is serious about its sprinting, but the Jamaican national football team has also proven to be a prolific team of athletes. In 1991, 1998, 2005, 2008, and 2010, Jamaica’s football team won the Caribbean Cup. Also in 1998, they reigned over Japan in that year’s FIFA World Cup. A bit more successful than its football team is the national Cricket team, which has pulled ahead in ten Regional Four Day Competitions and seven WCB Cups. Maybe more surprising than all of this is the Jamaican bobsled team, which competed in the 1988, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2014 Winter Olympics.
Prehistoric People of Jamaica
Before pirates and slaves inhabited the lands of this Caribbean tropical beauty, Jamaica was home to a series of indigenous colonies dating as far back as 4,000 BC. Long before the Arawakan people were known to inhabit the Caribbean island, Jamaica was occupied by the cave-dwelling Guanahatabey. The Guanahatabey, or Ciboney, were a Caribbean tribe believed to have stemmed from the Taino people and were inhabitants of western Cuba. At around 300 AD, Jamaica saw the arrival of a second group of prehistoric people, the Saladoid or Igneris. Later found to be an early wave of the Arawakan from South America, the Saladoids brought a skill for ceramics. By 650 AD, the Taino traveled from Venezuela to Jamaica and absorbed and enslaved the Saladoid before eventually assimilating into Arawakan culture themselves.
Depicted in the Pirates of the Caribbean series as a riotous and seemingly lawless place for the Caribbean’s undesirables to converge, Port Royal was, well, exactly that! Nicknamed the “most wicked and sinful city in the world,” Port Royal was once a way station for pirates and the largest city in the Caribbean. Though it survived years of piracy – even serving as a place of execution for the brigands – it proved no match for Mother Nature. In June of 1692, after the city had experienced a growth in population and construction, an earthquake collapsed much of the northern section. A second destructive earthquake in January of 1907 demolished much of the rebuilt city, liquefying more of the unstable sand. Port Royal stands today as a redeveloped tourist attraction, complete with 17th-century elements of the once bustling port.
Religion of Jamaica
Outside of Vatican City, Jamaica is known for having the most churches per square mile, typically averaging about 2.75 religious establishments to cater to the majority of Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians. The country is comprised of approximately 64% Christian followers and while that far surpasses the 29,000-plus Rastafarians. Rastafarianism is the largest indigenous religion to Jamaica. Hidden beneath all of this religious faith, however, is the history of Obeah, a form of alleged sorcery and witchcraft initially developed by West African slaves. Obeah spread to Jamaica during the 18th century and wasn’t really frowned upon until Tacky’s War, during which an obeahman, or Obeah witch doctor, was caught providing the rebels with information. Obeah was made illegal and anyone caught practicing it would be jailed or flogged - although the archaic laws that limited practice of the voodoo-like religion were since repealed in 2013.
Ahead of its Time
No, it’s not some delicious French dessert! Patois is actually the local dialect heard throughout Jamaica, also known locally as Jamaican Creole. Derived from English, Patois bears heavy influence from West Africa, specifically from African slaves that were brought to Jamaica during the 17th century. Though you’ll recognize some standard English words in Patois, the language is vastly different, featuring only 21 phonemes compared to English’s 44 and between nine and 16 different vowel sounds. Also unlike English, Patois doesn’t offer the benefit of tense indicators like -ed, instead using invariant particles like “en” and “a,” which are unable to stand on their own. While much of Patois vocabulary is African in origin and some is pulled from English, small portions were borrowed from Spanish, Hindi, Arawak, and Portuguese vocabulary as well as Irish and Scottish dialects.
Cuisine of Jamaica
When a country’s local cuisine has been influenced by a mess of different cultures, you’re often left with a crazy selection of different foods that, somehow, all fuse together nicely. That’s Jamaican cuisine in a nutshell as you can go from enjoying something as spiced as curry-seasoned goat to sweeter, tropical fruits like jackfruit. Early Spanish settlement introduced dishes like escovitch fish before the Chinese influence crept in and introduced more Asian flavors. Some common cuisines to Jamaica include ackee and saltfish, jerk chicken, and corned beef. You may also come across Jamaican patties made from beef, chicken, or saltfish; run down, or a salt mackerel in coconut milk or cream; or a selection of bread and pastries like grater cake, spiced bun, or bulla cakes.
Fame of Jamaica
If you had to choose just a handful of famous names to represent your nation, would you include the athlete known for his incredible speed? Maybe the “freedom fighting” musician that favored peace, happiness, and marijuana? How about the boombastic reggae fusion singer? Usain Bolt, Bob Marley, and Shaggy aside, there are many notable names that hail from Jamaica, including proponent of the Pan-Africanism movement, Marcus Garvey; folklorist and writer, Louise Bennett-Coverley, or Miss Lou; one of the top 5 fastest female sprinters, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce; and retired basketball Hall-of-Famer, Patrick Ewing. And who can overlook football stars like Rolando Aarons and Raheem Sterling? For those seeking a taste of some Jamaican YouTubers, be sure to check out the soccer-centric JavierNathaniel, Majorlazer, and Akam Entertainment.