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Jamaica (jəmāˈkə), independent state within the Commonwealth (2015 est. pop. 2,872,000), 4,232 sq mi (10,962 sq km), coextensive with the island of Jamaica, West Indies, S of Cuba and W of Haiti. Jamaica is the largest island in the Caribbean after Cuba and Hispaniola. The capital and largest city is Kingston.

Land and People

Although largely a limestone plateau more than 3,000 ft (914 m) above sea level, Jamaica has a mountainous backbone that extends across the island from the west and rises to the Blue Mts. in the east; Blue Mt. (7,402 ft/2,256 m) is the highest point. Rainfall is heavy in this region (where there are extensive timber reserves) but diminishes westward across the plateau, which is a rugged area deeply dissected by streams and underlain by subterranean rivers. The heart of the plateau, known as the Cockpits, is used mostly for livestock grazing. A narrow plain along the northern coast and several larger plains near the south shore are Jamaica's major agricultural zones. The north coast also has fine beaches and is the focus of the tourist industry. The Rio Grande and the Black River are the country's chief waterways, but neither is navigable for long distances. The coastal bands widened by broad river valleys, as well as the mountain slopes, support the bulk of Jamaica's export crops.

In addition to Kingston, important cities are Spanish Town and Montego Bay. Slightly more than one half of the population is urban, and migration to the cities continues; the greatest urban concentration is around Kingston. People of African descent predominate in Jamaica. The small upper class is largely of European descent. Afro-Europeans and such Middle Eastern and Asian groups as Lebanese, Syrians, Chinese, and Indians, make up the rest of the population. Although English is the official language, most Jamaicans also speak a creole English. The chief religion is Protestantism, although there is considerable religious variety (including Roman Catholic and spiritualist minorities) on the island.


Jamaica's most important export crop is sugarcane, from which rum and molasses are also made. The nation's other agricultural exports include the famed Blue Mt. coffee, bananas, citrus fruits, and yams. Most of these crops are grown on large plantations. Small farms also produce ginger, cocoa, pimento, ackee, chickens, and goats. Mining is a major source of wealth; since large, easily accessible deposits of bauxite were discovered in 1942, Jamaica has become one of the world's leading suppliers of this ore. Along with the alumina made from it, bauxite accounts for almost half of Jamaica's foreign exchange.

Tourism, centered on the north coast, is the biggest earner of exchange. Among Jamaica's internationally known resort areas are Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Negril. Clothing constitutes the chief export item of the manufacturing sector. Jamaica's other industries (mainly concentrated in the Kingston area) include oil refining, sugar and tobacco processing, flour milling, and the production of rum, metal, paper, chemicals, and telecommunications equipment. Since the late 1960s industry has generated a greater share of the national income than agriculture. Remittances from Jamaicans working abroad are also a major source of income. The United States and Canada, Jamaica's top trading partners, also provide much-needed capital for economic development.


Jamaica is a parliamentary democracy governed under the constitution of 1962. It has a bicameral Parliament made up of a 21-member Senate and a 60-member House of Representatives. The prime minister is the head of government. The head of state is the British monarch, as represented by the governor-general. The country has two main political parties: the Jamaica Labor party (JLP) generally favors private enterprise, while the People's National party (PNP) advocates a moderate socialism. Administratively, the country is divided into 14 parishes.


History to Independence

Sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1494, Jamaica was conquered and settled in 1509 by Spaniards under a license from Columbus's son. Spanish exploitation decimated the native Arawaks. The island remained Spanish until 1655, when Admiral William Penn and Robert Venables captured it; it was formally ceded to England in 1670, but the local European population obtained a degree of autonomy. Jamaica prospered from the wealth brought by buccaneers, notably Sir Henry Morgan, to Port Royal, the capital; in 1692, however, much of the city sank into the sea during an earthquake, and Spanish Town became the new capital.

A huge, mostly African, slave population grew up around the sugarcane plantations in the 18th cent., when Jamaica was a leading world sugar producer. Freed and escaped slaves, sometimes aided by the maroons (slaves who had escaped to remote areas after Spain lost control of Jamaica), succeeded in organizing frequent uprisings against the European landowners. The sugar industry declined in the 19th cent., partly because of the abolition of slavery in 1833 (effective 1838) and partly because of the elimination in 1846 of the imperial preference tariff for colonial products entering the British market. Economic hardship was the prime motive behind the Morant Bay rebellion by freedmen in 1865. The British ruthlessly quelled the uprising and also forced the frightened legislature to surrender its powers; Jamaica became a crown colony.

Poverty and economic decline led many blacks to seek temporary work in neighboring Caribbean areas and in the United States; many left the island permanently, emigrating to England, Canada, and the United States. Indians were imported to meet the labor shortage on the plantations after the slaves were freed, and agriculture was diversified to lessen dependence on sugar exports. A new constitution in 1884 marked the initial revival of local autonomy for Jamaica.

Despite labor and other reforms, black riots recurred, notably those of 1938, which were caused mainly by unemployment and resentment against British racial policies. Jamaican blacks had been considerably influenced by the theories of black nationalism promulgated by the American expatriate Marcus Garvey. A royal commission investigating the 1938 riots recommended an increase of economic development funds and a faster restoration of representative government for Jamaica. In 1944 universal adult suffrage was introduced, and a new constitution provided for a popularly elected house of representatives.

An Independent Nation

By 1958, Jamaica became a key member of the British-sponsored West Indies Federation. The fact that Jamaica received only one third of the representation in the federation, despite its having more than half the land area and population of the grouping, bred resentment; a campaign by the nationalist labor leader Sir Alexander Bustamante led to a 1961 decision, by popular referendum, to withdraw from the federation. The following year Jamaica became an independent member of the Commonwealth. Bustamante, leader of the JLP, became the first prime minister of independent Jamaica. The party continued in power under Donald B. Sangster after the 1967 elections; he died in office and was succeeded by Hugh Shearer.

In 1972 the PNP won an impressive victory, and Michael Manley became prime minister. Although the PNP administration worked effectively to promote civil liberties and reduce illiteracy, economic problems proved more difficult. In 1976 the PNP won decisively after a violent election contest between the two parties. The PNP continued to promote socialist policies, nationalizing businesses and strengthening ties to Cuba. Lack of foreign investment and aid continued to hurt the economy.

In 1980 the JLP returned to power, with the moderate Edward Seaga as prime minister. Seaga's administration favored privatization, distanced itself from Cuba, attracted foreign investment, stimulated tourism, and won substantial U.S. aid. However, two major hurricanes (1980, 1988) during Seaga's tenure set back prospects for substantial economic progress. In the 1989 elections the PNP ousted the JLP, and Manley returned as prime minister; he chose to continue the policy directions taken by Seaga. Manley was replaced by P. J. Patterson in 1992. The following year Patterson and the PNP were returned to office in a landslide. Patterson led his PNP government to a third term in 1997 and a fourth term in 2002, although the PNP majority was reduced in 2002.

Patterson retired as prime minister in 2006 and was succeeded by the PNP's Portia Simpson-Miller, who became the first woman to hold the office. In the Sept., 2007, parliamentary elections, the PNP narrowly lost to the JLP, now led by Bruce Golding, who became prime minister. An attempt in May, 2010, to arrest Christopher “Dudus” Coke, an alleged drug gang leader wanted by the United States, led to a week of fighting in Kingston between security forces and gang members in which scores died; he was ultimately arrested and extradited in June.

Criticism of Golding's handling of the arrest and extradition led the prime minister to step down in Oct., 2011; Andrew Holness succeeded him as JLP leader and prime minister. A snap election called in hopes of winning support for Holness led (Dec., 2011) to a PNP victory, and returned Simpson-Miller to the prime minister's office in Jan., 2012. In 2013 the government agreed to adopt austerity measures in return for IMF aid that decreased Jamaica's high debt burden. The Feb., 2016, parliamentary elections resulted in a win for the JLP, and Holness again became prime minister in March. The JLP won additional seats in the Sept., 2020, elections, but turnout was low amid the the COVID-19 pandemic.


See E. Brathwaite, The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770–1820 (1971); F. Cundall, Historic Jamaica (1915, repr. 1971); R. M. Nettleford, Identity, Race and Protest in Jamaica (1972); E. H. Stephens, Democratic Socialism in Jamaica (1986); R. E. Looney, The Jamaican Economy in the 1980s: Economic Decline and Structural Adjustment (1987); O. Patterson, The Confounding Island (2019).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a state in the West Indies, in the Caribbean Sea. Comprises Jamaica Island and nearby small islands. Member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Area, 11,500 sq km. Population, 2.09 million (1977). The capital is Kingston. Jamaica is divided into three counties, which comprise 14 parishes.

Constitution and government. Jamaica, a constitutional monarchy, has a parliamentary system of government. Under the present constitution, which went into effect on Aug. 6, 1962, the head of state is the British monarch, who appoints a governor-general as a representative. The six-member Privy Council serves as the governor-general’s advisory body. Legislative power is vested in Parliament, which, under the constitution, consists of the governor-general and two chambers. The House of Representatives is made up of a maximum of 60 members popularly elected to five-year terms. The Senate is made up of 21 senators appointed by the governor-general—13 in accordance with the advice of the prime minister and eight in accordance with the advice of the leader of the opposition. All citizens 18 years of age or older are eligible to vote. The cabinet, which is led by the prime minister, is approved by Parliament. The judicature is made up of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, and courts of lower instance.

Natural features. Jamaica’s southern coast, which is highly indented, has good harbors but is enclosed by reefs. The northern coast is rocky and has few indentations; its central area is occupied by a narrow band of sandy beaches known as the Jamaican Riviera. The greater part of Jamaica is occupied by a limestone plateau with elevations ranging from 500 m to 1,000 m or more. The Blue Mountains, which rise to an elevation of 2,256 m, are in the east. Karst is widespread. Alluvial lowlands are found along the southern and western coasts. Catastrophic earthquakes occurred in 1692 and 1907.

Jamaica has more than 100 bauxite deposits; the largest is located at Williamsfield. The deposits formed as redeposited residuals of the weathered sedimentary mantle. The island’s bauxite reserves, which totaled 1 billion tons in 1976, are the fifth-largest in the world!

Jamaica has a tropical maritime climate that is influenced by trade winds. The mean January temperature is 24°–25°C, and the mean July temperature is 26°–27°C. The average annual precipitation is about 800 mm in the south and as much as 5,000 mm on the northern windward mountain slopes. The island is often struck by hurricanes that cause widespread devastation. The soils are mainly mountain cinnamon-red and red-brown soils of the savannas and dry forests. The center of the island and the northwestern mountain slopes are covered by seasonally wet evergreen tropical rain forests that contain valuable wood species. Savanna vegetation prevails in the west and in the southern lowlands. The fauna, represented by relatively few species, includes birds, small rodents, reptiles, and bats.

Population. More than 90 percent of the population are Jamaicans, chiefly Negroes and mulattoes. The next largest population group is Asian: Indians account for about 3.5 percent of the population, and Chinese for 1.3 percent. The remainder of the population is made up of immigrants from various countries, notably Great Britain and Syria. The national language is English. Most religious believers are Protestants. Jamaica uses the Gregorian calendar. Between 1965 and 1975 the population grew at an average annual rate of 1.3 percent.

In 1975 the economically active population totaled 869,000. In 1974, 29 percent of the economically active population was employed in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining, 10.4 percent in manufacturing, 6.5 percent in construction, 11 percent in trade, 4.1 percent in transportation and communications, and 32 percent in other areas of the service sector. In that year about 15 percent of those able to work were unemployed, and 20 percent were employed part-time. Considerable numbers of peasants with little or no land have migrated to the cities, and some Jamaicans have emigrated, primarily to Great Britain, the USA, and Canada. The population density is greatest in the coastal areas. In 1975 the urban population constituted 53 percent of the total. The most important cities are Kingston (582,000, including suburbs, in 1974), Montego Bay, Spanish Town, and May Pen.

Historical survey. Jamaica was inhabited in ancient times by Arawak-speaking Indians who engaged in hunting, fishing, and land cultivation. The island was discovered by C. Columbus in 1494. The indigenous population was almost completely exterminated during the Spanish colonization. The first African slaves were brought to Jamaica in 1513. The British captured the island in 1655, and Spain officially recognized their title to Jamaica in 1670. The British turned Jamaica into a huge slave market, through which about 1 million slaves passed in a century and a half. By the 18th century, Negroes constituted the overwhelming majority of the population.

The use of slave labor gave rise to the greatly increased cultivation of sugarcane; as a result, Jamaica became a one-crop island and a major supplier of raw sugar on the world market. Brutal exploitation led to frequent slave revolts, the largest of which took place in 1760 and 1823–24. At the same time, several independent communities of fugitive slaves, who were called Maroons, existed in the central part of the island for almost 100 years and defended their freedom with arms in hand. The liberation movement in Jamaica was influenced by the revolution in Haiti and the war of independence of the Spanish colonies that developed on the American continent. In 1831 and 1832 an uprising of at least 20,000 slaves (50,000, according to some data) in the north and west of the island accelerated the emancipation of the slaves which was announced in 1833 and fully implemented in 1838. The departure of former slaves from the plantations led to a crisis in the sugar industry. The attempt of the colonists to resolve the crisis at the expense of the working people led to a major uprising at Morant Bay in October 1865.

Capital from the USA penetrated the Jamaican economy in the second half of the 19th century and became dominant by the beginning of World War I. Under the influence of the Great October Revolution in Russia, the national liberation movement developed in Jamaica and throughout the West Indies. There were strikes in 1919 and 1923, and trade unions were founded, such as the railroad workers’ union (1919) and dockworkers’ union (1926). In May and June 1938 a general strike took place in Kingston, and strikes were organized on plantations. In 1938, restrictions on trade union activity were lifted, and, under the pressure of the protest movement, it became legal to found political parties. The struggle of the Jamaican people led to the introduction of universal franchise in 1943 and to the establishment of an elected House of Representatives in 1944.

In 1958, Jamaica joined the West Indies Federation, created by Great Britain in an attempt to slow down the people’s struggle for independence. In a referendum held in 1961, Jamaicans voted to leave the federation. The country became independent on Aug. 6, 1962, and was admitted to the UN that year. The late 1960’s witnessed strikes by workers, who put forth economic and social demands, and by students, who demanded the democratization of education. In the early 1970’s economic difficulties led to an increase in political activity among all strata of society, primarily among the working class but also among the intelligentsia and students. The general upsurge of the movement led to the victory of the People’s National Party in 1972. Jamaica established diplomatic relations with Cuba in December 1972 and with the USSR in 1975. In 1974 the government began carrying out measures designed to establish state control over the bauxite industry (the main branch of the national economy), implement agrarian reform, and to raise the standard of living. In 1980, the Labour Party, headed by E. Seaga, came to power.


Political parties and trade unions. The Jamaica Labour Party, founded in 1943, represents the interests of the commercial, industrial, and agricultural bourgeoisie. The People’s National Party, founded in 1938, unites representatives of the petite bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia and some agricultural and industrial workers. It is a member of the Socialist International. The Communist Party of Jamaica was founded in 1975. The Workers’ Party of Jamaica was founded in 1978.

The Bustamante Industrial Trade Union, founded in 1938, had about 100,000 members in 1980, and in 1980 came under Jamaica Labour Party control. The Trade Union Congress, founded in 1938, is a member of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions; it had 20,000 members in 1980. The National Workers’ Union of Jamaica, founded in 1952, had about 102,000 members in 1980; it is a member of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions and of the Inter-American Regional Labor Organization. The Independent Trade Union Action Council, founded in 1968, affiliates nine trade unions and is a member of the World Federation of Trade Unions.

Economic geography. Jamaica is an agricultural and industrial country. The mining of bauxites for export is the leading branch of the economy. In 1976 the mining industry accounted for 9 percent of the gross domestic product; the manufacturing industry for 20 percent, construction for 9 percent, agriculture, forestry, and fishing for 8 percent, the service sector for 16 percent, and transportation for 6 percent. Foreign capital plays a major role in the Jamaican economy: it controls communications, part of the mining industry, a substantial part of the electric power industry, and most of the branches of the manufacturing industry and of the production of export crops. The policy of the Jamaican government is aimed at limiting the activity of foreign capital.

INDUSTRY. Jamaica is surpassed only by Australia in the extraction (11.4 million tons in 1977) and export of bauxite. Until 1974, American monopolies played the leading role in the extraction of bauxite and the production of alumina. By the end of March 1977, the Jamaican government had bought, over a period beginning in 1974, 51 percent of the shares of the bauxite-mining subsidiaries of the Reynolds Metals Company, Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation, and Alcoa. In 1979 it gained a controlling interest in the alumina-production subsidiary of the Aluminum Company of Canada, Ltd. by buying up 51 percent of the company’s stock. Pursuant to an agreement between the Jamaican government and the board of the American company Reynolds Metals, a new firm—Jamaica Reynolds Bauxite Partners—was founded in early 1977.

Most of the country’s bauxite is exported to the USA. The output of Jamaica’s four smelting plants, which produce alumina for export to Canada, the USA, and Europe, totaled 2.05 million tons in 1977. Other minerals that are extracted include gypsum (236,000 tons in 1975), silica sand, marble, limestone, and salt. In 1975, 2.3 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity were produced.

The sugar industry occupies the leading position in Jamaica’s food-processing industry: in 1975, 380,000 tons of raw sugar were produced. The largest sugar factories are owned by the West Indies Sugar Company, Ltd., a subsidiary of the British monopoly Tate and Lyle. The production of rum, fruit juices, and tobacco products is also important. The principal centers of the food-processing industry are Kingston, Spanish Town, Montego Bay, and May Pen. Textile and clothing enterprises are located in Kingston and Spanish Town. Jamaica also has leather and footwear, wood-products, and pharmaceutical enterprises.

Various types of equipment are assembled from imported parts; a plant for the assembly of electronics equipment is located in Old Harbour. Part of Jamaica’s industrial output, particularly equipment and clothing, is exported to the USA and Great Britain. Located in Kingston, Jamaica’s principal industrial center, are metalworking and cement enterprises; the city’s petroleum refineries produced 1.3 million tons of petroleum products in 1976.

AGRICULTURE. Jamaica’s agriculture is characterized by the coexistence of tiny peasant farms with large plantations and latifundia; considerable use is made of the labor of agricultural workers and tenant farmers. Plantations and latifundia account for only 1 percent of the total number of holdings but occupy 56 percent of the cultivated land; peasant farms of less than 2 hectares (ha) account for 71 percent of the number of holdings but take up only 15 percent of the plowland. Agrarian reform, which entails the government purchase of land from foreign companies and the establishment of cooperatives, is being implemented very slowly. Of the 510,000 ha set aside for agricultural use, half is under cultivation, and half is used as natural pasture.

Agriculture is oriented primarily toward the cultivation of such export crops as sugarcane, bananas, and citrus fruits. Sugarcane is Jamaica’s main crop. Most of the sugarcane plantations, which occupy 65,000 ha and harvested 4 million tons in 1976, are located in the irrigation-farming region west of Kingston, in the eastern and western areas of the island, and to the east of Montego Bay. Most of the banana plantations, which produced 146,000 tons in 1977, are located on the northern coast and on the irrigated lands of the south. In 1976, Jamaica’s harvest of export crops was 97,000 tons of citrus fruits, 2,000 tons of cocoa, and 1,000 tons of coffee. Most of the banana trade is controlled by the monopolies United Brands (USA) and Tate and Lyle. The main food crops cultivated for domestic consumption are sweet potatoes (16,000 tons in 1976), cassava (19,000 tons), and maize (13,000 tons).

TRANSPORTATION. Jamaica has 15,500 km of main roads, of which about 4,000 km are asphalted; in 1974 there were 151,900 motor vehicles. There are 389 km of railroads on the islands, of which 328 km are operated by the state-owned Jamaica Railway Corporation. The main rail line, which is owned by the state, runs from Kingston to Montego Bay. The principal port, Kingston, handles most import cargoes and one-fourth of export cargoes. The other ports—Port Kaiser, Ocho Rios, Port Esquivel, Montego Bay, Port Antonio, and Savanna-la-Mar—specialize in the export of a particular product, such as bauxite, alumina, raw sugar, or bananas. Jamaica’s two international airports are located in Palisadoes, a suburb of Kingston, and in Montego Bay.

FOREIGN TRADE. In 1976, exports totaled J$547.5 million, and imports totaled JS849.9 million. The foreign trade deficit is covered primarily by foreign tourism, which brought in US $123 million in 1974. In 1976, 328,000 tourists visited Jamaica. The country’s principal exports are alumina, which accounted for 50 percent of all exports in 1975, bauxites (16 percent), raw sugar (19 percent), bananas (2 percent), and rum. The main imports are manufactured goods (20 percent), mineral fuels and lubricants (19 percent), machinery and transport equipment (22 percent), and food (17 percent). Jamaica’s principal trading partners are the USA, which accounted for 59 percent of exports and 54 percent of imports in 1975, Great Britain (23 percent and 13 percent), the countries of the Caribbean Common Market (5 percent and 7 percent), and Venezuela (1 percent and 14 percent).

The monetary unit is the Jamaican dollar.


Medicine and public health. In 1975, according to data of the World Health Organization, Jamaica’s birthrate was 30.1 per 1,000 population, and the death rate 6.9 per 1,000 population; infant mortality was 23.2 per 1,000 live births. The average life expectancy is 65 years. Infectious diseases, including gastrointestinal diseases and tuberculosis, are common; there is a high incidence of venereal diseases. In 1974 there were 34 hospitals, with 7,800 beds (3.9 beds per 1,000 population); 29 hospitals, with a total of 7,500 beds, were owned by the state. In the same year there were 570 physicians (one physician per 3,500 inhabitants), 107 dentists, 305 pharmacists, and more than 4,000 secondary medical personnel. Physicians are trained at the faculty of medicine of the University of the West Indies, in Kingston. Public health expenditures amounted to 11.9 percent of the state budget in fiscal year 1974–75.

VETERINARY SERVICES. In 1975, 293 cases of brucellosis of cattle were registered, 150 cases of tuberculosis of cattle, 478 cases of anaplasmosis, 92 cases of blackleg, 16 cases of leptospirosis, seven cases of canine distemper, 12 cases of paratuberculosis, 277 cases of bovine piroplasmosis, three cases of equine piroplasmosis, and 73 cases of swine erysipelas. Other common animal diseases include fascioliasis, infectious mastitis, foot rot, contagious ecthyma, diseases of the mucous membranes, filariasis, Newcastle disease, fowl pox, infectious bronchitis, infectious rhinitis, mycoplasmosis, Marek’s disease, coccidiosis, pullorum disease, fowl cholera, and fowl leukosis. Veterinarians must go abroad to receive their training; no research in veterinary medicine is carried on in Jamaica. In 1976 the country had 41 veterinarians.

Education. The first schools for the local population were opened by missionaries in the 16th century. State primary and secondary schools were established in the early 20th century. In the mid-1970’s the illiteracy rate was 10 percent. School is compulsory for children between the ages of six and 15. In the 1975–76 academic year, 440,500 pupils were enrolled in primary schools, which offer a six-year course of instruction. Secondary education, which lasts six or seven years, takes place at two types of schools: the three-year junior secondary school and the high school, which offers a course of instruction lasting three or four years. In the 1972–73 academic year, 46,000 students attended junior secondary schools, and more than 35,000 students attended high schools. In the same year, 4,500 students were enrolled in vocational schools (one to three years), which admit graduates of the junior secondary schools. Teachers are trained at the country’s seven teachers’ colleges, which admit graduates of the high schools. In the 1975–76 academic year, about 2,900 students attended the teachers’ colleges.

The principal institution of higher learning is the University of the West Indies (founded 1948; acquired university status in 1962), in Mona, near Kingston; the university had 6,900 students in the 1975–76 academic year. Five of the university’s faculties are in Jamaica, and two are on Trinidad. In 1974, instruction was made free for Jamaican citizens. The College of Arts, Science, and Technology (founded 1958), located in Kingston, had 1,700 students in the 1975–76 academic year; the School of Agriculture (founded 1910), in Spanish Town, had 450 students in that year. Instruction at both institutions was made free in 1973.

The principal library is that of the University of the West Indies. Founded in 1948, it has more than 250,000 volumes. The Institute of Jamaica, a large scientific center in Kingston, has a public library (founded 1879; more than 30,000 volumes), natural history museums, museums of art and history, and an art gallery.


Press, radio, and television. As of 1980, the country’s major daily newspapers published in Kingston are the Daily Gleaner (since 1834; circulation 45,400), the Star (since 1951; circulation 45,400), and the Jamaica Daily News (since 1973; circulation 32,000). Other influential publications are the weekly Voice of Jamaica (since 1952; circulation 20,000) and the monthly journal Caribbean Challenge (since 1957; circulation 30,000).

Jamaica is served by two radio stations. One is operated by Radio Jamaica, a private company established in 1950, and the other is run by the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, a semi-commercial radio and television service founded in 1959. Television programs have been broadcast since 1963.

Literature. Jamaican literature has been written in English and Creole. The folklore of the Jamaican Negroes has preserved, mainly in folktales, elements of African culture. The Creole poems of Louise Bennett are popular. Literature in English emerged in the 18th century and initially imitated English models. National subject matter was treated for the first time in the anonymous novel Marley, or the Life of Planters in Jamaica (1828), in the poems and plays of T. Redcam (T. H. MacDermot; 1870–1933), and in the novels of H. J. de Lisser (1878–1944).

After World War II, the rise of the national liberation movement led an upsurge in literary activity. Social novels about the working people were written by R. Mais (1905–55), author of Brother Man (1954) and Black Lightning. The national liberation struggle was reflected in the novels New Day (1949) and The Leopard (1958) by V. Reid (born 1913). Contemporary life in the West Indies was dealt with in the novels Stranger at the Gate (1956), Autumn Equinox (1959), and Land of the Living (1961) by the renowned prose writer J. Hearne (born 1925); in the novels The Children of Sisyphus (1964) and An Absence of Ruins (1967) and the historical novel Die the Long Day (1972) by O. Patterson (born 1940); and in short stories by various writers.

The poetry and prose of C. McKay (1890–1948) expressed the suffering and anger of the Jamaican Negro. The Jamaican countryside and national history are dealt with in the poetry of W. Roberts (1866–1962), P. Sherlock (born 1902), G. Campbell (born 1917), and H. Carberry (born 1928). The plays of T. Rohn have become widely known.


Architecture and art. Jamaican art is characterized by a mixture of European, mainly British, influence with African traditions. One-story stone and brick structures of the 17th and 18th centuries have been preserved, mainly in Spanish Town, the former capital. Since the mid-19th century the predominant structures have been two-story wooden houses with porches and iron ornamentation. Modern buildings have been erected in the 20th century, notably the University of the West Indies, near Kingston, and various hotels.

The visual arts have undergone development since the mid-20th century. The realist painters A. Huie, R. Campbell, D. Pottinger, and L. Morris and the sculptor E. Manley turned to the life of simple people and to the social contradictions in Jamaica for their subject matter. The sculpture of N. Roy is based on African folk traditions. The traditional folk crafts are wood carving and metalworking.


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Official name: Jamaica

Capital city: Kingston

Internet country code: .jm

Flag description: Diagonal yellow cross divides the flag into four triangles - green (top and bottom) and black (hoist side and outer side)

National anthem: “Eternal Father bless our land” (first line), composed by Hugh Sherlock, Robert Lightbourne, Mapletoft Poulle and Mrs. Poulle

National bird: Doctor-Bird (Trochilus polytmus) or Swal­low-Tail Hummingbird

National flower: Lignum Vitae (Guiacum officinale)

National fruit: Ackee (Blighia sapida)

National motto: “Out of Many One People”

National song: “I Pledge My Heart,” lyrics by Victor Stafford Reid, sung to tune of “I Vow to Thee My Coun­try”

National tree: Blue Mahoe (Hibiscus elatus)

Geographical description: Caribbean, island in the Caribbean Sea, south of Cuba

Total area: 4,244 sq. mi. (10,991 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical; hot, humid; temperate interior

Nationality: noun: Jamaican(s); adjective: Jamaican

Population: 2,780,132 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: African 90.9%, East Indian 1.3%, Chinese 0.2%, European 0.2%, mixed 7.3%, other 0.1%

Languages spoken: English, patois

Religions: Protestant 62.5% (Seventh-Day Adventist 10.8%, Pentecostal 9.5%, Other Church of God 8.3%, Baptist 7.2%, New Testament Church of God 6.3%, Church of God in Jamaica 4.8%, Church of God of Prophecy 4.3%, Anglican 3.6%, other Christian 7.7%), Roman Catholic 2.6%, other (including Rastafarian and Jewish) or unspeci­fied 14.2%, none 20.9%

Legal Holidays:

Boxing DayDec 26
Christmas DayDec 25
Easter MondayApr 25, 2011; Apr 9, 2012; Apr 1, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 6, 2015; Mar 28, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 2, 2018; Apr 22, 2019; Apr 13, 2020; Apr 5, 2021; Apr 18, 2022; Apr 10, 2023
Emancipation DayAug 1
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Independence DayAug 6
Labour DayMay 23
National Heroes' DayOct 17, 2011; Oct 15, 2012; Oct 21, 2013; Oct 20, 2014; Oct 19, 2015; Oct 17, 2016; Oct 16, 2017; Oct 15, 2018; Oct 21, 2019; Oct 19, 2020; Oct 18, 2021; Oct 17, 2022; Oct 16, 2023
New Year's DayJan 1
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


an island and state in the Caribbean: colonized by the Spanish from 1494 onwards, large numbers of Black slaves being imported; captured by the British in 1655 and established as a colony in 1866; gained full independence in 1962; a member of the Commonwealth. Exports: chiefly bauxite and alumina, sugar, and bananas. Official language: English. Religion: Protestant majority. Currency: Jamaican dollar. Capital: Kingston. Pop.: 2 676 000 (2004 est.). Area: 10 992 sq. km (4244 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005