Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea, comprising the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles. The island, 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi) in area, lies about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba. Jamaica is a mixed economy with both state enterprises and private sector businesses. Major sectors of the Jamaican economy include agriculture, mining, manufacturing, tourism, and financial and insurance services. Tourism and mining are the leading earners of foreign exchange.
Coming in third on the list of the Caribbean's most sizable islands, Jamaica is still comparatively small: spanning just 4,411 square feet with a population nearing three million. Located near both Cuba and the Hispaniola island, Jamaica is positioned to the southeast of the United States. The picturesque island, originally named "Xaymaca" or "Land of Wood and Water," by its indigenous inhabitants, offers over 625 miles of gorgeous coastline. Combined with a warm tropical climate and a well-planned tourist infrastructure, Jamaica holds a place as of the world's most popular vacation spots for tourists from all over the globe.
Jamaica's geography is a study in rare beauty, thanks to pristine white sand beaches, glorious waterfalls and a diverse topography featuring an assortment of vibrant flora and fauna. There's no shortage of opportunities for outdoor explanation on this captivating island.
Because of its immense popularity as a tourist destination, Jamaica's economy relies on the service sector, which accounts for a full half of the island's GDP. The bustling tourist industry is heavily centered around the island's north coast, including the popular towns of Montego Bay, Port Royal, and Kingston, visited by over 1.3 million foreign tourists annually. Jamaica's other significant economic sectors include agriculture, mining, financial and insurance services, while agricultural products are typically tropical: sugarcane, yams, coffee, citrus, rum, and bananas.
Originally settled by the Spanish, Jamaica was under British rule until its emancipation in 1834, following a number of rebellions by African-American slaves forced to work on sugar plantations. A member of the British commonwealth, Jamaica is now a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. Administratively, the island is sectored into fourteen different parishes among three counties: Surrey, Middlesex and Cornwall.
Jamaica's dynamic culture has been heavily influenced by the combination of its strong Africa roots and contemporary Caribbean setting. Celebrated as the birthplace of both reggae music and Rastafarianism, Jamaica is marked by its rich yet troubled history; generations of strife have led to the development of a cultural identity that is uniquely commited to ideas of hope and prevailng. Bob Marley is a national icon, and a museum in his honor celebrates his life and musical influence. The National Art Gallery, Castleton Gardens and Rockfort Mineral Bath are all appealing attractions, not to mention the multitude of scenic spots, art galleries, sporting venues and museums that abound in this cultural hotspot.
Essential Facts about Jamaica
- Jamaica's capital and largest city is Kingston, which covers 190 square miles and has a population of just under a million. Other significant cities in Jamaica include Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Port Antonio and Negril.
- The diversity of the races and culture of its people is widely reflected in Jamaican language. While English is the island's official language, the English-African language of Creole, also known as patois, is widely spoken by many Jamaicans. Due to immigration from Spain, Ireland and Scotland, these native languages are also represented, as well as Taino and Arawak, two regional Jamaican languages.
- Jamaica's national bird, the swallow-tail hummingbird, can be found only on the island.
- In addition to being known for its great reggae tradition, Jamaica is also celebrated for its track and field prowess, numbering sprinting stars like Usain Bolt and Veronica Campbell-Brown.
- The Jamaican national flag was adopted following its emanipation, and features the common African colors of green, black, and gold: green symbolizes hope and prosperity; gold stands for the sun; and black represents the country's historical strife and prevailing strength.
Jamaica is known for its idyllic tropical climate featuring hot, humid weather in the inland regions with cool ocean breezes along its celebrated coast. Summer is known as the wet season.
Jamaica's official currency has been the Jamaican dollar, abbreviated as JA$, since 1969. However, the U.S. dollar is also widely accepted in typical tourist destinations.
Christianity is Jamaica's most widely practiced religion, including a number of different denominations such as Pentecostal, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, and Church of God of Prophecy. Taking influence from African spirituality, Rastafarian is also one of Jamaica's most practiced faiths. Additionally, Jamaicans practice Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and a number of other regional cults.