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Jamaica Information - Page 2
Jamaica was first inhabited by Arawak Indians who crossed from South America. Columbus landed on the island in 1494 and claimed the island for Spain.

The Arawaks suffered a similar fate to their relatives on other Caribbean islands: they were enslaved or died from disease caught from the Spanish. To replace their labour supply, the Spanish brought in slaves from Africa.

In 1655 the British took over the island. Later, in 1670 Jamaica (along with the Cayman Islands) was officially ceded to England. Henry Morgan, a buccaneer, became Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica in 1674. Rivalry in the Caribbean continued between the British, French and Spanish.

Over the years Jamaica's slaves rebelled time after time. In 1760 a rebellion was led by Tacky, an African chief who had been enslaved. There was another major rebellion in 1760 and another in 1831 led by Sam Sharpe. The Emancipation Act ended slavery in the West Indies in 1834 - however, the slaves did not gain complete freedom until four years later. As a result of this emancipation, the sugar plantations became neglected. A further rebellion, in 1865, led to Britain making Jamaica a full crown colony.

Jamaica became independent in 1962 becoming a member of the British Commonwealth. Many Jamaicans sought work in Canada, Britain and the USA.

Jamaica's first prime minister was Sir Alexander Bustamante who was succeeded by Hugh Shearer in 1967 and Michael Manley in 1972. In 1992 PJ Patterson became Jamaica's prime minister.

Traditionally reliant on agriculture, Jamaica is now dependent on the services sector which accounts for the largest percentage of the Gross Domestic Product.

Sugar is still important to the Jamaican economy. Rum, distilled from fermented cane juice, is an important byproduct of the sugar industry. Blue Mountain coffee is known worldwide.

Other produce includes bananas, coconuts, citrus fruits, ackees, yams and vegetables. Goats and chickens are farmed and fish are plentiful in the Caribbean and in Jamaica's rivers.

Bauxite mining is an important Jamaican industry. Other resources are gypsum and limestone.

Manufacturing centres on cement, light manufactures, metal, chemicals and paper.

Tourism is a major earner and increasingly important to the national economy. Remittances are also a significant source of foreign exchange. (2011)

The earliest art recorded in Jamaica is the cave art of the Arawak Indians, the island's original inhabitants. In the 1920s one of the main artistic figures was Edna Manley, who helped found the Jamaica School of Art in 1950 and carved many sculptures on display today. John Dunkley is one of the leading Jamaican artists.

Among the numbers of Caribbean authors there are many Jamaican writers living at home and abroad.

Music has been a significant artistic contribution. African music has been a major influence on Jamaican popular music. Dance helped to keep alive the traditions of Africa in the sugar plantations and drums were not only used as musical instruments but also as instruments of communication between the enslaved Africans.

The first internationally known Jamaican singer was Harry Belafonte who is remembered for Island in the Sun. Modern Jamaican popular music was influenced by American Rhythm and Blues music.

Ska (Bluebeat in the UK), and Rock Steady developed in Jamaica. Reggae has influenced American and British popular music. Bob Marley, the internationally known Jamaican singer and songwriter, was a major figure in world popular music.

In Jamaica, as in the rest of the West Indies, cricket is a major sport. Jamaica's George Headley was a significant figure in the 1930s, while more recently Michael Holding was probably the world's finest bowler.

The national football team qualified for the 1998 World Cup Finals in France.

Jamaica's athletes, especially her sprinters, have achieved major successes in international championships.

The national holidays include Easter, Christmas and New Year as well as Labour Day, Independence Day, Emancipation Day and National Heroes Day. February 6th is the annual celebration of Bob Marley's birthday.

As well as a Reggae Festival at the beginning of August there is a Jazz and Blues Festival in November. Jamaica also has various carnivals.

News from Jamaica is available from Newslink.

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