About Jamaica

Described by Christopher Columbus as “The Fairest Isle mine eyes ever beheld” – Jamaica is blessed with natural beauty, wonderful tropical climate, and charming people. Located among over 30 territories in the West Indies, Jamaica has many breath-taking sceneries that are known to be some of nature’s finest sights.

Jamaica is the third-largest island in the Caribbean and is located south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles.

Cities of Jamaica: Kingston and Montego Bay
Other Names for Jamaica: Jamaica is also referred to as: “JA”, “Jam Rock”, “Rock”, “Yard”, and “Jam Down”
Official Language of Jamaica: English
Jamaica’s Native Language: Jamaican Creole or Patois (Patwah)
Time Zone for Jamaica: GMT -5 hours (no Daylight Saving Time)
Jamaica’s Climate: Tropical . . . warm to hot temperatures all year round with hurricane season from June 1 – November 30.
Planting Zone for Jamaica: Jamaica’s plant hardiness zone or gardening/planting zone is Zone 13 (view link for plant zone map)
The National Holidays of Jamaica: New Year’s Day (Jan 1) :: Ash Wednesday :: Good Friday :: Easter Sunday :: Easter Monday :: Labour Day (May 23rd) :: Emancipation Day (Aug 1) :: Independence Day (Aug 6) :: National Heroes’ Day (3rd Monday in Oct) :: Christmas Day (Dec 25) :: Boxing Day (Dec 26)

Please note that in Jamaica, the holidays with dates given in brackets are usually observed on a Monday should that day fall on a Sunday. For example, Emancipation Day – Sunday 1st Aug. 2010 was observed on Monday 2nd Aug. 2010.

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The island of Jamaica is divided into three counties that consist of 14 parishes.

The county of CORNWALL consists of five parishes: Hanover, Westmoreland, St. James, Trelawny, and St. Elizabeth
The county MIDDLESEX consists of five parishes: St. Ann, St. Mary, Manchester, Clarendon, and St. Catherine.
The county of SURREY consists of four parishes: Kingston, St. Andrew, Portland, and St. Thomas.
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1. National Symbols

National Flag
The Jamaican National Flag was first raised on August 6, 1962 – Independence Day. Each colour on the flag is symbolic: “The sun shineth, the land is green and the people are strong and creative.”
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BLACK represents the strength and creativity of the people (which has allowed them to overcome difficulties).
GOLD represents the wealth of the country and the natural beauty of the golden sunshine.
GREEN represents hope and our agricultural resources –  the lush vegetation of the island.

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Coat Of Arms

The Jamaican Coat of Arms or the State Arms of Jamaica is considered a legacy from the British (granted in 1661). After slight modifications, the Coat of Arms shows a female and male member of the Taino tribe (the first inhabitants) standing on either side of a shield which bears a red cross with five golden pineapples.
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The crest shows a Jamaican crocodile mounted on the Royal Helmet of the British Monarchy & mantling, and its emblem reads – “Out of Many, One People”.

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National Bird

The National Bird of Jamaica is the Red-billed Streamertail (Trochilus Polytmus).
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This bird, which is also known as the Doctor Bird, is a hummingbird that is endemic to Jamaica.
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Read more

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National Flower

The National Flower of Jamaica is the Lignum Vitae (Guaiacum officinale).
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Its Latin name, which means “Wood of Life“, is fitting because this flowering tree has medicinal properties. The Lignum Vitae is indigenous to Jamaica.
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Read more

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National Tree

The National Tree of Jamaica is the Blue Mahoe (Hibiscus elatus) – a flowering tree that grows to heights of 20m (66ft) and more. Its bright yellow hibiscus-like flowers change colour to orange-red and finally to crimson as they mature.
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The Blue Mahoe is endemic to Jamaica and Cuba.

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National Fruit

The National Fruit of Jamaica is the Ackee (Blighia Sapida); and although this fruit is not endemic to the island, in the past, Jamaica was the only place where the Ackee was recognised as an edible crop.
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The Ackee is the main component of Jamaica’s National Dish, which is Ackee and Saltfish (i.e. salted codfish).

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2. A General Run-Down On Jamaica

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BRIEF HISTORY

Jamaica was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1494, and was inhabited by the Spanish in the early 16th century. England seized the island in 1655 and established many sugar plantations. The native Taino Indians (Arawaks), who had inhabited Jamaica for centuries, were gradually diminished and were replaced by African slaves. By the early 1820’s, Jamaica became known as one of the world’s leading sugar exporting and slave-dependent nation.

The abolition of slavery in Jamaica on 1st August 1834, and full emancipation on the same day in 1838, resulted in the freedom of over 300,000 slaves. Jamaica gradually obtained increasing independence from Britain, when in 1958, it joined other British Caribbean colonies to become a province in the Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica gained its full independence when it left the Federation in 1962.

On 6th August 1962, Jamaica became independent after three centuries of British rule. On that day, the union flag was lowered, and the Jamaicans hoisted up a new banner that had been selected following a public contest. Jamaica was officially recognized as an independent nation.

Jamaica is now a constitutional parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as the Head of State.
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GEOGRAPHY

Jamaica is an island country in the Caribbean Sea, it is located near the continent of North America.

Coordinates: 18o15’N, 77o30’W
Area (Total): 10, 991 sq km
Area (Land): 10, 831 sq km
Area (Water): 160 sq km
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Length: 235 km or 146 miles long
Width: 34-84 km or 21-52 miles wide
Elevation Extremes
– Lowest point:
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Caribbean Sea . . . . . . . 0m
– Highest point: Blue Mountain Peak . . 2,256m
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Topographical
Features:
Mountains, plains, forests, caves, waterfalls, springs, rivers, bays, and beaches.

Jamaica’s territory extends beyond its coastline to comprise some 66 islands, rocks, and cays [See Ref.]

Natural Resources: Bauxite, gypsum, limestone
Avg Temperature: 27oC or 80.6oF
Average Rainfall: 198cm

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POPULATION
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Jamaicans are warm, friendly people of various ethnicity. They create a society of multiracial persons having multicultural traditions that live together harmoniously. This unity is best described by Jamaica’s motto: “Out of Many, One People“.
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The Jamaican population is made up mainly of persons who are descendants of freed African slaves. A breakdown of other ethnic groups making up the population can be viewed in the pie chart above.
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Population Estimate (2085): 3,244,840
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Official Language: English, although 99% of the population speak Jamaican creole (Patois)
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Religion: There is freedom of Religion in Jamaica. Religious groups consist of:
Christians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84% est.
Rastafarian/Spiritualists . . . 10% est.
Other . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6% est.

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GOVERNMENT
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Jamaica has a Parliamentary Democracy modelled after the Westminister System of the UK and governed under the Jamaican Constitution of 1962.

Executive Branch
– Head of State:
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British Monarch – Queen Elizabeth II represented by an appointed Governor General
(Currently – Sir Patrick Allen)
– Head of Government: Prime Minister
(Currently – The Hon. Andrew Michael Holness)
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Legislative Branch: Jamaica has a bicameral Parliament made up of a 21-member Senate and a 60-member House of Representatives
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Judicial Branch: Supreme Court; Court of Appeal; Privy Council in the UK; and member of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)

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3. Jamaica’s National Pledge And Songs

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Jamaica National Pledge

Before God and all mankind, I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart, the wisdom and courage of my mind, the strength and vigour of my body in the service of my fellow citizens; I promise to stand up for justice, brotherhood and peace, to work diligently and creatively, to think generously and honestly, so that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.
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Jamaica National Anthem: “Jamaica Land We Love

Eternal Father bless our land,
Guard us with Thy mighty hand,
Keep us free from evil powers,
Be our light through countless hours.
To our leaders, Great Defender,
Grant true wisdom from above.
Justice, truth be ours forever,
Jamaica, land we love.
Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love.

Teach us true respect for all,
Stir response to duty’s call,
Strengthen us the weak to cherish,
Give us vision lest we perish.
Knowledge send us Heavenly Father,
Grant true wisdom from above.
Justice, truth be ours forever,
Jamaica, land we love.
Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica land we love.

Words by: Rev. Hugh Sherlock
Music by: Robert Lightbourne

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Jamaica National Song: “I Pledge My Heart
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I pledge my heart forever
To serve with humble pride
This shining homeland, ever
So long as earth abide.

I pledge my heart, this island
As God and faith shall live
My work, my strength, my love and
My loyalty to give.

O green isle of the Indies,
Jamaica, strong and free,
Our vows and loyal promises
O heartland, ‘tis to Thee.
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Words by: Victor Stafford Reid
Music by: Gustav Holst (sung to the tune of “I Vow to thee, my Country”)

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Song – “Jamaica Land of Beauty

Jamaica land of beauty, we promise faithfully
To serve thee with our talents, and bring our gifts to thee
Jamaica we will always in honour of thy name
Work steadfastly and wisely and never bring thee shame
From riverside to mountain from cane field to the sea
Our hearts salute Jamaica, triumphant, proud and free.

Together in our country, in love and brotherhood
We’ll work and play in freedom, as all God’s children should
With hearts and hands united, in thanks for everything
That God has giv’n unto us, together let us sing
From riverside to mountain from cane field to the sea
Our hearts salute Jamaica, triumphant, proud and free.
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Words by: A. L. Hendricks
Music by: Lloyd Hall

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