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| Official languages
|Jamaican English, Jamaican Patois|
| 10,991 km2 (4,244 mi2)|
parliamentary constitutional monarchy
| 2,890,299 (as of 2017)|
| Time zone
Jamaica is an island country in the Caribbean. It has a population of about 2.9 million and an area of nearly 11,000 square kilometers (over 4,200 square miles). Cuba is located to the north, the island of Hispaniola (which is divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic) is located to the east, and Mexico and the countries of Central America are located to the west.
Jamaica's capital is Kingston. The country was a British colony until becoming independent in 1962. Because of this, Jamaica is a member of the Commonwealth and still has the British monarch, Elizabeth II, as queen.
History[edit | edit source]
Before Europeans came to the Americas, Jamaica's population was mostly from the native Arawak and Taino peoples. Christopher Columbus came to the island in 1494, and claimed it as a colony for Spain. Many of the natives died from the diseases that European settlers brought with them to Jamaica and the rest of the Americas.
Like in many other colonial empires, Spain practiced slavery, with black people from Africa being sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and then forced to work on sugar cane plantations. This turned Jamaica into one of the largest exporters of sugar in the world. England (which later became Great Britain) conquered the island from Spain in 1655. During the early 1800s, black slaves outnumbered white people by about 20 to 1, and because of this most people in Jamaica even today are black people. Slavery continued under British rule until 1838, when the last slaves were freed. Beginning around this time, Chinese and Indian people came to the islands to work on the plantations, but they were freemen and not slaves.
Jamaica and other British colonies in the Caribbean merged together to become the West Indies Federation in 1958, but this union was ended in 1962, and Jamaica became an independent country.
Government[edit | edit source]
As a former British colony, Jamaica has the British monarch, Elizabeth II, as queen, and uses a system of government similar to the United Kingdom's. The queen is represented by a governor-general. Jamaica has a Parliament, divided into a House of Representatives with 63 members and a Senate with 21 members. The House is elected by the people, while the Senate is appointed (see below).
Jamaica has two main political parties, the Labour Party (JLP, which is conservative) and the People's National Party (PNP, which is social democratic). These two parties usually hold all the seats in the House. The party that has a majority of the seats (32 or more) gets to form a government, with its leader becoming Prime Minister. The other party is in the opposition, and its leader is called the Leader of the Opposition. The Senate is appointed, with the governor-general picking 13 people suggested by the prime minister and 8 suggested by the leader of the opposition.
Culture[edit | edit source]
The main languages of Jamaica are English (which has its own Jamaican dialect) and Jamaican Patois. Jamaican Patois is a creole language, meaning that it developed naturally as a mix of various languages, in this case English and various West African languages. The Africans who were brought to Jamaica as slaves didn't speak English, and the white people who enslaved them only spoke English, meaning there was a language barrier. When the slaves tried to learn English so they could understand their slave masters, they didn't have anyone to teach them, so the slaves didn't learn English well. The flaws they introduced to their English merged with their native African languages, which influenced it and made it into its own separate language, the Jamaican Patois that is spoken today. Nearly everyone in the country has Jamaican English or Jamaican Patois as their native language.
About 70% of Jamaicans are Protestants, and other Christians make up most of the rest of the population. There are also small numbers of Muslims and Jews. Jamaica is also the origin country of one religion, Rastafari, though Rastafaris only make up about 1% of the country's population. Rastafaris believe that Haile Selassie, who was emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974, was the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Jamaica is the home country of many musical genres, most famously reggae but also ska and dancehall. Many reggae musicians, including Bob Marley and his band Bob Marley and the Wailers, are from the country.
Jamaica is home to the sprinter Usain Bolt, who in 2009 beat the world record for running 100 meters the fastest, at 9.58 seconds. Bolt also holds several other running records. Cricket is a popular sport in the country.