Sunday, November 8, 2009
A visit to jamaica the , third largest island of the Greater Antilles of the West Indies, situated south of Cuba. Jamaica has a maximum length, from east to west, of about 235 km (about 146 mi); the maximum width is approximately 80 km (about 50 mi). The total area of the country is 10,991 sq km (4244 sq mi). Kingston is the capital and largest city of Jamaica, and also a large commercial seaport.
Land and Resources
The terrain is mountainous, except for several tracts of lowlands in the southern coastal area. The principal range, situated in the eastern section of the island, is the Blue Mountains, of which Blue Mountain Peak (2256 m/7402 ft) is the highest summit in the West Indies. A series of lesser mountains, with many transverse spurs, extends generally west to the extremity of the island, surmounting an extensive plateau. The coastline, about 800 km (about 500 mi) long, is irregular, particularly in the south, and the island has a number of excellent natural harbors, including those at Kingston, Saint Ann's Bay, Montego Bay, and Port Maria.
Thermal springs occur in various areas. No other volcanic phenomena are apparent, but the island is subject to severe earthquakes. Many small unnavigable rivers traverse the island.
Tropical climatic conditions prevail in the coastal lowlands of Jamaica. The mean annual temperature in this region is about 26.7° C (about 80° F), but northeastern trade winds frequently moderate the extremes of heat and humidity. Mean annual temperatures in the plateau and mountain areas average about 22.2° C (about 72° F) at elevations of 900 m (about 2950 ft), and are considerably less at higher levels. Annual precipitation is characterized by wide regional variations. More than 5080 mm (more than 200 in) of rain are deposited annually in the mountains of the northeast; in the vicinity of Kingston the annual average is 813 mm (32 in). The months of maximum precipitation are May, June, October, and November. The island is subject to hurricanes in late summer and early autumn.
Mineral deposits in Jamaica include gypsum, lead, and salt. The bauxite deposits, in the central section of the island, are among the richest in the world. Rich soils are found on the coastal plains.
Plants and Animals
Luxuriant and remarkably diversified vegetation characterize Jamaica's plant life. More than 200 species of flowering plants have been classified. Among indigenous trees are cedar, mahoe, mahogany, logwood, rosewood, ebony, palmetto palm, coconut palm, and pimento (allspice). Introduced varieties, such as the mango, breadfruit, banana, and plantain, also flourish on the island and are widely cultivated.
The Jamaican animal life, as that of the West Indies generally, includes highly diversified bird life. Parrots, hummingbirds, cuckoos, and green todies are especially abundant. No large indigenous quadrupeds or venomous reptiles exist.
The population of Jamaica is primarily of African or mixed African-European origin, descended from slaves brought to the island between the 17th and 19th centuries. Among the established minorities are East Indians, Europeans, and Chinese. About half the population lives in rural areas.
The population of Jamaica (1990 estimate) was 2,391,000, giving the country an overall population density of about 218 persons per sq km (about 563 per sq mi). The annual rate of population increase, formerly high, declined to 1.1 percent in the late 1980s. Emigration, primarily to the United States, Great Britain, and Latin America, has been substantial.
Political Divisions and Principal Cities
Jamaica is divided into 14 parishes. Of these, 12 parishes are administered by popularly elected councils, and the remaining parishes are administered by elected commissions.
The population of greater Kingston, according to the 1991 census, was 587,798. Other important communities are Montego Bay (83,446) and Spanish Town (92,383).
Language and Religion
English is the official language, although many Jamaicans speak a local dialect of English that incorporates African, Spanish, and French elements. Among the Christian majority, the Church of God, Baptists, Anglicans, Seventh-day Adventists, Pentecostalists, and Roman Catholics predominate. Several well-established Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu communities exist. A number of popular sects, such as Pocomania and Rastafarianism, are a significant and famous feature of the national religious life.
The position of Jamaica as a dependency of Great Britain for more than 300 years is reflected in both language and customs, which are combined with African influences. Reggae, a distinctively syncopated style of Jamaican music, much of it highly political, was popularized in the 20th century by Bob Marley and others. It was a pervasive influence on rock music in the 1980s, especially in Great Britain.
The economy of Jamaica is primarily agricultural, but gains in mining, manufacturing, and tourism have diversified the economy. Annual budget figures for the late 1980s showed about $914 million for revenue and $973 million for expenditure.A visit to jamaica in the late 1980s about 2.4 billion kwh of electricity was produced annually.
More than 20 percent of the total Jamaican labor force is engaged in agricultural production. The chief crop is sugarcane; from the annual harvest in the late 1980s, some 190,000 metric tons of sugar were produced yearly. Other leading agricultural products are bananas, citrus fruits, tobacco, cacao, coffee, coconuts, corn, hay, peppers, ginger, mangoes, potatoes, and arrowroot. Jamaica grows nearly the entire world supply of allspice. In the late 1980s the livestock population included some 290,000 cattle, 440,000 goats, and 250,000 pigs.
Mining and Manufacturing
The bauxite and alumina (enriched bauxite ore) industries are a mainstay of the Jamaican economy and account for about 60 percent of the total annual exports. In the late 1980s, annual production of alumina amounted to some 1.6 million metric tons.
Manufacturing is becoming increasingly important to the Jamaican economy; in the late 1980s factories employed about 133,800 people. The government has granted concessions, such as duty-free importation and tax-relief programs, to further industrialization. Along with established food and beverage industries, plants manufacturing such products as printed fabrics, clothing, footwear, paints, agricultural machinery, cement, transistor radios, and fertilizers have been set up. A petroleum refinery in Kingston produces fuel sufficient to meet about half the national demand.
Banking and Foreign Trade
The unit of currency is the dollar, consisting of 100 cents (7.82 dollars equal U.S.$1; 1991). The Bank of Jamaica, established in 1960, is the central bank and bank of issue. Several commercial banks are also in operation.
Foreign trade is primarily with the United States, Great Britain, Venezuela, and Canada. In the late 1980s the chief exports were alumina, bauxite, sugar, rum, clothing, and coffee, and all exports were valued at $833.5 million annually. Food and animal products, chemicals, textiles, machinery, and petroleum were the major imports; the value of all imports amounted to about $1.2 billion annually.
Tourism is vital to the economy and provides a large portion of foreign-exchange earnings. In the late 1980s more than 1 million people visited the island each year, contributing more than $600 million to the economy.
Transportation and Communications
Jamaica has 340 km (210 mi) of railroads. In the late 1980s Jamaica had about 15,000 km (9320 mi) of roads; of these, about one-fourth were paved. Numerous international airlines and Air Jamaica serve the island, and internal flights are provided by Trans-Jamaican Airlines.
Jamaica has two broadcasting companies, one public and one privately owned. In the late 1980s the country had some 925,000 radio receivers, 400,000 television sets, and 177,800 telephones.
In the late 1980s the employed labor force exceeded 1 million. The main trade unions included the National Workers' Union of Jamaica (NWU) and the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU). The NWU had 102,000 members; the BITU more than 100,000. Each union was closely identified with one of the two main political parties: the NWU with the People's National party and the BITU with the Jamaica Labour party.
The Jamaican constitution, promulgated in 1962, established a parliamentary system of government patterned after that of Great Britain. The prime minister is the head of the government. The British monarch is the head of state and is represented by a governor-general, who is appointed on the advice of the prime minister.
Executive power in Jamaica is vested in a cabinet. The cabinet consists of some 20 ministers and is headed by the prime minister. The prime minister is the leader of the majority party and is appointed from the House of Representatives by the governor-general. The prime minister appoints the ministers of the cabinet.
Jamaica has a two-party political system. The People's National party (PNP) is socialist in orientation, and the Jamaica Labour party (JLP) supports free enterprise in a mixed economy. Minor parties include the Workers' Party of Jamaica, a Marxist group, and the Jamaica American party, which favors U.S. statehood for Jamaica.
Legislative authority is vested in the bicameral Parliament. The 60 members of the House of Representatives are popularly elected to terms of up to five years. The 21 members of the Senate are appointed by the governor-general, 13 in accordance with suggestions by the prime minister, and the remaining 8 on the advice of the leader of the minority party.
The legal and judicial system is based on English common law and practice. The judicature comprises the supreme court, a court of appeals, resident magistrates' courts, petty sessional courts, and other courts.
Members of the Arawak tribe, an important group of the Arawakan linguistic stock of Native North Americans, were the aboriginal inhabitants of Jamaica (the Arawakan word Xaymaca, meaning “isle of springs”). Christopher Columbus sighted the island during his second voyage, and it became a Spanish colony in 1509. Saint Iago de la Vega (now Spanish Town), the first settlement and, for the ensuing 350 years, the capital, was founded about 1523. Colonization was slow under Spanish rule. The Arawak quickly died out as a result of harsh treatment and diseases. African slaves were imported to overcome the resultant labor shortage.
Jamaica was captured by an English naval force under Sir William Penn in 1655. The island was formally transferred to England in 1670 under the provisions of the Treaty of Madrid. During the final decades of the 17th century, growing numbers of English immigrants arrived; the sugar, cacao, and other agricultural and forest industries were rapidly expanded; and the consequent demand for plantation labor led to large-scale importation of black slaves. Jamaica soon became one of the principal slave-trading centers in the world. In 1692 Port Royal, the chief Jamaican slave market, was destroyed by an earthquake. Kingston was established nearby shortly thereafter. By parliamentary legislation, slavery was abolished on August 1, 1838. The act made available $30 million as compensation to the owners of the nearly 310,000 liberated slaves.
Large numbers of the freed blacks abandoned the plantations following emancipation and took possession of unoccupied lands in the interior, gravely disrupting the economy. Labor shortages, bankrupt plantations, and declining trade resulted in a protracted economic crisis. Oppressive taxation, discriminatory acts by the courts, and land-exclusion measures ultimately caused widespread unrest among the blacks. In October 1865 an insurrection occurred at Port Morant. Imposing martial law, the government speedily quelled the uprising and inflicted brutal reprisals. Jamaica was made a crown colony, thus losing the large degree of self-government it had enjoyed since the late 17th century. Representative government was partly restored in 1884.
Jamaica was one of the British colonies that, on January 3, 1958, was united in the Federation of the West Indies. Disagreement over the role Jamaica would play led to the breakup of the federation, and on August 6, 1962, the island gained independence. The JLP won the elections of April 1962, and its leader, Sir Alexander Bustamante, became prime minister. In 1967 he retired and was succeeded by Hugh Lawson Shearer. In 1968 Jamaica was a founding member of the Caribbean Free Trade Area (CARIFTA). Elections in 1972 brought the PNP to power under Michael N. Manley, a labor leader who promised a regime of economic growth. His leftist policies and open friendship with the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, however, violently polarized the population, and when he proved unable to revitalize the economy, he was voted out in 1980. Edward Seaga of the JLP, a former finance minister, then formed a government. Repudiating socialism, he severed relations with Cuba, established close ties with the United States, and tried hard to attract foreign capital; however, weak prices for Jamaica's mineral exports impeded economic recovery. In September 1988, Hurricane Gilbert caused an estimated $8 billion in property damage and left some 500,000 Jamaicans homeless. The PNP won a large parliamentary majority in 1989, returning Manley to power. He introduced moderate free-market policies before resigning in March 1992 because of poor health. P(ercival) J. Patterson, his successor as prime minister and PNP leader, easily won reelection a year later.Many people from around the world now are planning to take a visit to jamaica.