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You may think you know Jamaica, but here are 13 facts that will change what you think about the tropical paradise. Jamaica has contributed greatly to the culture of the Caribbean and the world at large. Read these historical and cultural facts about Jamaica that will blow your mind.
The two most popular genres of music in Jamaica, reggae and dancehall were created by locals. In the 1960s, reggae evolved out of ska, rocksteady and traditional mento folk music. Dancehall, a more hardcore, vibrant and aggressive genre of music, originated later in the 1980s. Today, these two genres are among the most popular musical styles in the world.
Jamaica was the first country under British rule in the Caribbean to gain independence. The country was captured by England in 1655 and under British rule, it became one of the leading exporters of sugar. Slaves in Jamaica were fully emancipated in 1838, but the island gained independence from Britain on August 6, 1962, becoming the first English-speaking Caribbean island to do so.
The indigenous people that first inhabited Jamaica were the Tainos. They called the island Xaymaca, an Arawakan word which means “the land of wood and water” or “land of springs”. When the English captured Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655, they renamed the island Jamaica.
No one ever believed that a country like Jamaica, situated in the tropics, would have any interest in participating in the Winter Olympics. That was until the Jamaican National bobsled team represented the country for the first time, at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Alberta. The team gained recognition for their historical efforts and subsequently, the 1993 movie Cool Runnings was made, inspired by their story.
Jamaica is the fourth largest Caribbean island, following Cuba, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. Being in this group of islands in the Greater Antilles makes Jamaica the largest English-speaking island in the Caribbean.
The Blue Moutain Coffee, one of the most sought-after and expensive coffees in the world, is grown, produced and packaged in Jamaica. The coffee brand is named after the largest mountain range in Jamaica, the Blue Mountains, where the coffee is grown.
Although the island’s ethnic make-up is predominately of African descent, Jamaica is a culturally diverse country. The population of approximately 3 million people is made up of African, European, East Indian and Chinese heritage. The island’s motto is “Out of Many, One People”, an ode to Jamaica’s multi-racial and multi-cultural history.
Following the crowning of Ras Tafari Makonnen (later known as Emperor Haile Selassie I) as Negus of Ethiopia or the “King of Kings”, the Rastafarian movement started in Jamaica in the 1930s. The religion was also influenced by one of Jamaica’s national heroes, Marcus Garvey, who created the ‘Back to Africa’ movement and was known around the world for his messages of black empowerment. Rastafarianism is now one of the prominent religions in Jamaica and has influenced a huge part of Jamaican culture.
The popularity of Jamaican Creole around the world has led many people to believe that Jamaicans only speak a “Jamaican” language. But the official language of Jamaica is actually Jamaican Standard English, a variety of British Standard English spoken by the colonizers. The Creole spoken in Jamaica is a mixture of African dialects and British Standard English. Locals tend to use Jamaican Creole more often than English.
In almost every restaurant, bar, and home across the island, you will find a bottle of rum. Rum-making is a centuries-old industry in Jamaica and the rum produced on the island is some of the best in the world. The sweet-tasting Wray & Nephew White Overproof Rum and Appleton Rum made from sugar cane are local favourites.
Renowned author Ian Fleming, famous for introducing the world to James Bond, wrote more than a dozen of his agent 007 novels and short stories while in Jamaica. After designing his dream home in 1946, the author decided to have it built in Oracabessa Bay and named it “Golden Eye”. The home now operates as the GoldenEye Resort and is adjacent to the James Bond beach.
River-rafting is of the most popular activities in the Caribbean. The relaxing pastime involves raft guides using poles to transport the man-made bamboo rafts along river streams, while the passengers kick back and watch the scenery go by. The activity was made popular by Hollywood actor Errol Flynn when he visited Jamaica in the 1950s. After seeing farmers poling their produce down the river, he wanted a similar experience and thus the idea was born.
It is a known fact that Jamaica grows some of the best marijuana you will find anywhere in the world. But for many years, people found with even small amounts marijuana in their possession were guilty of an offence. In 2015, the Jamaican government passed new laws to decriminalize the use of marijuana in small amounts.