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Jamaica Essay, Research Paper

The country of Jamaica has an ideal location. Located just south of Cuba, it is the third largest island in the Caribbean Sea with 10,990 km?. Although the capital is Kingston, there are many other important centers of trade and business. The official language is English and the major religion is Protestantism. Transportation in Jamaica connects the entire country and movement thought out the island is very easy. There is a coastal highway traveling the whole coast. Air Jamaica and cruise ships make traveling to and from the island very easy. But despite all of the joys, there are very serious human-environmental interactions present. Mining on the island causes serve pollution and soil erosion. Most of the natural rainforest is destroyed. But the many beautiful beaches seem to make all of the worries disappear.

I. History

The history of Jamaica starts at about 1000 AD when a Tiano tribe called the Arawaks crossed the Caribbean Sea in canoes to settle on the island. The Arawaks lived in simple villages, relying on fishing and hunting for substance. They lived there peacefully for 500 years until Columbus landed at Discovery Bay in 1494.

The contact with the Spanish was very traumatic to the Arawaks. Within 70 to 100 years of first contact, the entire Arawaks population was eliminated, leaving only a few artifacts behind. With the natural inhabitants gone, the Spanish had unlimited control over the island. Since the island had no rich abundant gold sources, it meant little to the Spanish Crown. Instead, Jamaica was used as a base in which to launch attacks on the rest of the Americas. The population of Jamaica, even its capital Santiago de la Vega (now Spanish Town) never grew very large and was easy to capture.

The British, after failed to capture Hispaniola, needed a solid base in the Caribbean. So in 1655, Admirals Penn and Venables attacked the sparsely defended island of Jamaica. Having little importance to the Spanish at this point, the British had no trouble seizing the island and establishing Port Royal (near modern day Kingston) as the capital. This would turn out to be a pivotal moment in Jamaica?s history.

The British brought in large numbers of slaves to the area, needing thousands of hands to work the newly developing sugar plantations. In a short time, Jamaica turned into the “?jewels of the English crown?” (Essix). Many port cities back in England that serviced trade to Jamaica, as well as the slave traders and plantation owners all prospered during this time. The capital city of Jamaica was moved to modern day Kingston in 1703 when Port Royal was burned down

1838 saw great changes in Jamaica. That year the slaves were emancipated and the whole structure of society began to crumble. The slaves soon left the plantations to do substance farming. The tension between the plantations owners and the representatives from England began to grow. Several riots broke out and many plantations struggled to pay the wages of the workers.

The riots continued until 1962 when Jamaica was granted political independence. A socialist government was soon elected, which led to immediate U.S. blockades. However, the 1980?s began a period of a more conservative government for Jamaica.

II. Population

Jamaica is a sparsely populated country of 2,600,000 people. These 2.6 million people live on 10,990 km?, for a population density of about 1 acre per person. This gives Jamaica the distinction of being a developed countries and being not being overpopulated. However, in some places of Jamaica, especially along the coast, the cities are overcrowded.

The largest city is Kingston with a population of 600,000 followed by Spanish Town, Portmore, Montego Bay and others (see graph 6). Still the largest percentage of people live in rural areas. However, many rural farmers are moving to the cities in search of work.

Jamaica has many ethnic groups living with its boundaries. The largest group, about 75% of the population, are descendants of the slaves brought to Jamaica in the 1800?s. Another large percentage of the population is composed of descendants of the European settlers from around the same time period. Over time, small percentages of people from East India and China have settled in Jamaica.

The 1940?s to 1970?s saw a large emigration pattern out of Jamaica to the United States. As many as 465,000 Jamaicans left to help in the reconstruction of the States? economy after World War II. Since that time, no large scale immigration or emigration has occurred within the Jamaican population.

The average male in Jamaica has a life expectancy of 73 years, compared to his female counterpart of 77 years. The birth rate of Jamaica is 20/1,000, compared to its death rate of 5/1,000. This gives Jamaica a .7% growth rate. Jamaica has a high literacy rate of 98%, but a malnourished children rate of 7% and an infant mortality rate of 14 deaths to 1,000 births.

Jamaica has a regressive population pyramid. About 33% of the population is under 15, while 7% of it is over 65. This leaves 60% between the ages of 16 and 64. Some 16% of this ideal work force (about 1.5 million Jamaicans) is unemployed, while Jamaica?s debt continues to grow. Not helped by this fact is that the per capita income in Jamaica is only US $1,340.

III. Culture

The national motto of Jamaica “Out of many, one people” has never been more true in any point in its history than it is now. Almost every creed and religion of people live somewhere on the island country. These people all speak the national language of English, but several variations can be found on the island.

Protestantism is the predominant religion on the island. However, most Christian religions can be found on this island “which has more churches per square mile than any other country in the world” (Caribbean 209). Recently, small groups of Muslims, Jews, Hindu and Bahai have immigrated into the country.

The Rastafarians are a unique and original cult based in Jamaica. These people follow the teachings of Ras Tafari, once a leader of Ethiopia. Many members of this cult keep their hair in long dreadlocks and have strict rules for dress, work and religion. They often make a living selling goods at market, including ganja, a potent form of marijuana, that is important in their religious ceremonies.

Jamaican?s are very proud of their artistic abilities. Such music stars as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Ernie Smith all hail from Jamaica. Edna Manley and Kapo have brought Jamaica great attention with their fine artistic abilities. Most of these people, with more planned in the future, are being aided by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission. Set up in the 1930?s, the commission and the government have worked hard to promote cultural expression and pride within the Jamaican population.

Aside from being attracted to Jamaica by all of its culture, many tourists flock to the island?s many beaches. A large number of fine resorts can be found along the northern coast between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Negril and Port Antonio are also hot spots for college spring-breakers. All of these cities are frequently visited by the many cruise ships that tour the Caribbean.

The city of Kingston is Jamaica?s cultural center. The African Caribbean Institute and the Institute of Jamaica are leaders in historical and cultural research. Jamaica?s National Library and National Gallery also call Kingston home. The National Dance Theater attracts people in and to Kingston to watch its nightly summer shows.

In addition to all of its fine cultural experiences, Jamaica is well known for its many water sports. Tourists and inhabitants alike enjoy water skiing on the Caribbean Sea. Jamaica also hosts the International Marlin Tournament in Port Antonio. The best fishermen in the world come to compete in this yearly event. Many fine year-round golf course add beauty to Jamaica?s many resorts. Cricket is a popular sport in Jamaica as is winter bobsledding.

Jamaica?s government is classified as a Parliamentary Democracy. The citizens elect a prime minister and a sixty-seat House of Representatives and a 21-seat Senate. The prime minister has the power to elect his own cabinet. A Head-of-State is selected by the British Crown and represents England during government meeting or processes.

The mining of bauxite is Jamaica?s principal industry. The world?s third largest producer of bauxite, Jamaica depends on it because it constitutes 46% of their total exports and 33% of their Gross National Product. Along with bauxite mining is alumina mining. Alumina mining accounts for 20% of Jamaica?s GNP. Slowly developing are Jamaica?s manufacturing and agricultural industries.

Jamaica produces rum, cigarettes, beer and many cash crops. Thanks to a big government sponsored agricultural development plan, farming is once again making a come back as a major industry in Jamaica.

Education is free to all Jamaican children. Those wishing to further their education can attend the University of the West Indies or Kingston Technical College. Many students attend schools in the United States and England.

IV. Climate

Jamaica is a land with many climatic variances within a small area. Its tropical climate produces an average temperature in Kingston of 79?F. Temperatures will get warmer as you move along the coast and closer to the equator. However, as you move inward and into the mountains, the temperature will drop sharply.

Precipitation on the island of Jamaica can be scarce as well as abundant. Problems with both flash floods and droughts are common in some areas. The south and southwestern coasts are hot and dry. Kingston receives about 33 inches of rain a year, as a result of the orographic effect of the Blue Mountains. Some parts of Jamaica can and usually do receive upwards of 100 inches of rain. All of this rain makes Jamaica one of the wettest places on the earth.

Many of the beaches in Jamaica experience refreshing sea breezes and winds. These winds are a welcome in the summer when the humidity can become high. The sea breezes are most commonly found on the beaches near the Blue Mountains. The hot air from the water wants to move inland, while the cooler mountain air wants to move down to the ocean.

Jamaica has never had trouble with tornadoes. Unfortunately, the city lays within the major hurricane paths.

Port Royal was frequently struck by hurricanes and in 1951 a major hurricane severely damaged Kingston. Adding to this mess, earthquakes are a frequent occurrence in Jamaica. For all its beauty, Jamaica is always at risk from these extremes.

V. Landforms

Jamaica has some of the most varied terrain that can be found anywhere. The Caribbean Sea, which encircles the entire island, produces some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. This is where many tourists flock to on vacations and where many Jamaicans make their living.

On the southeastern part of the island are the Blue Mountains, with peaks rising up to 7,400 feet. One such peak, Blue Mountain Peak, is 7,402 feet. The mountains were once covered in a dense forest that provided work for many of Jamaica?s first settlers.

Located in the central part of Jamaica is an area known as the cockpit country. It is a rugged, limestone terrain, covered in some parts by mangrove swamps or ancient tar pits. Inhabited by only a small group of slave descendents, the area is cut off from most of Jamaican society. Savannas dominate the western coast.

The island of Jamaica has many rivers, but no complex river system. The Black River, Rio Minho, Cobra River and Rio Grande River all have major cities located them, but not much else. Most of the rivers start in the Blue Mountains or Cockpit Country and flow into the Caribbean Sea. Discovery Bay is an important historical landform and popular tourist attraction in the northern part of the island.

Towards the southern part of the island many unique bays and peninsulas can be found. The most noticeable peninsula, The Palisados, was the former location of Port Royal. Today it serves as an international airport and tourist attraction. Near The Palisados, he Portland Bight has many spectacular beaches and is a common cruise ship dock area.

In conclusion, Jamaica is a very interesting country. It has a vivid and adventurous history from the Arawaks, to the Spanish and finally to the British. The history is full of conquest and prosperity to reform and richness. Just as rich as the history of Jamaica is the population that lives within it. For the largest ethnic background lives peacefully with the smallest. Jamaica is not plagued by illiteracy or starvation, but by growth and prosperity.

Jamaicans also enjoy a rich culture. Their talents in art and music is undeniable. They take great pride in their the total Jamaican culture, no matter what one?s religion might be. Many sports are popular in Jamaica, from marlin fishing to bobsledding. All of these activities are possible, thanks to Jamaica?s varied climate and landforms.

Living in Jamaica would be a joy for me. The people are friendly and there are numerous sports to partake in. I would enjoy experiencing all of the cultural stimulation that is present in Jamaica.

“ABC NEWS.com Country Profile: Jamaica”. On-line. http://www.abcnews.go.com/reference/countries/JM.html.

Caribbean Islands Handbook. Chicago: Passport Books, 1995.

Fodor?s 99 – Caribbean. New York: Random House, 1998.

“Jamaica”. Online. http://comptonsv3.web.aol.com.

“Jamaica”. The 1994 Information Please? Environmental Almanac. Houghton Mifflin Co. 1993.

“Jamaica”. On-line. http://www.jamaica-netlink.com.

“Jamaica”. On-line. http://ww.jis.gov.jm.

“Jamaica”. On-line. http://www.nationalgeographic.com.

“Kingston (Jamaica)”. Collier?s Encyclopedia. 1997.

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