Jamaica is a land with a very distinct personality, so much so that much of its culture has filtered down to some of the smaller islands of the Caribbean; everything from the music to the fashion and lingo. Jamaican culture has also gone international, seen in the most significant way on the entertainment scene, with international musical acts being influenced by Jamaican Dancehall and Reggae. The result being an ever-evolving musical contribution that is a fusion of places, cultures, and people.

Here are Interesting Facts about Jamaica that you probably didn’t know before reading this!

 

Jamaica is a multi-racial island

Although the island’s ethnic make-up is predominately of African descent, Jamaica is a culturally diverse country. The population of approximately 3 million people is made up of African, European, East Indian and Chinese heritage. The island’s motto is “Out of Many, One People”, an ode to Jamaica’s multi-racial and multi-cultural history.

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Jamaica is the birthplace of Rastafarianism

Following the crowning of Ras Tafari Makonnen (later known as Emperor Haile Selassie I) as Negus of Ethiopia or the “King of Kings”, the Rastafarian movement started in Jamaica in the 1930s. The religion was also influenced by one of Jamaica’s national heroes, Marcus Garvey, who created the ‘Back to Africa’ movement and was known around the world for his messages of black empowerment. Rastafarianism is now one of the prominent religions in Jamaica and has influenced a huge part of Jamaican culture.

Rastafari Culture | Yes We Can(nabis)

It was the first British Caribbean territory to gain independence

Jamaica was the first country under British rule in the Caribbean to gain independence. The country was captured by England in 1655 and under British rule, it became one of the leading exporters of sugar. Slaves in Jamaica were fully emancipated in 1838, but the island gained independence from Britain on August 6, 1962, becoming the first English-speaking Caribbean island to do so.

It was the first British Caribbean territory to gain independence

Jamaica was the first country under British rule in the Caribbean to gain independence. The country was captured by England in 1655 and under British rule, it became one of the leading exporters of sugar. Slaves in Jamaica were fully emancipated in 1838, but the island gained independence from Britain on August 6, 1962, becoming the first English-speaking Caribbean island to do so.

Reggae and Dancehall were created in Jamaica

The two most popular genres of music in Jamaica, reggae and dancehall were created by locals. In the 1960s, reggae evolved out of ska, rocksteady and traditional mento folk music. Dancehall, a more hardcore, vibrant and aggressive genre of music, originated later in the 1980s. Today, these two genres are among the most popular musical styles in the world.

Jamaica is home to so many big names in Reggae including Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Greggory Issacs, Shaggy, and Sean Paul. Reggae music has always served as a tool for empowerment, and expression of political and social views. It is connected to the Rastafari movement, which began in the 1930s in Jamaica.

Bob Marley Statue Jamaica

Jamaica was the first Caribbean country to enter the Winter Olympics

No one ever believed that a country like Jamaica, situated in the tropics, would have any interest in participating in the Winter Olympics. That was until the Jamaican National bobsled team represented the country for the first time, at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Alberta. The team gained recognition for their historical efforts and subsequently, the 1993 movie Cool Runnings was made, inspired by their story.

The James Bond series was written in Jamaica

Renowned author Ian Fleming, famous for introducing the world to James Bond, wrote more than a dozen of his agent 007 novels and short stories while in Jamaica. After designing his dream home in 1946, the author decided to have it built in Oracabessa Bay and named it “Golden Eye”. The home now operates as the GoldenEye Resort and is adjacent to the James Bond beach.

Marijuana has been decriminalized

It is a known fact that Jamaica grows some of the best marijuana you will find anywhere in the world. But for many years, people found with even small amounts marijuana in their possession were guilty of an offence. In 2015, the Jamaican government passed new laws to decriminalize the use of marijuana in small amounts

Home to some of the world’s fastest sprinter

This Caribbean nation is known to be the birthplace of several world-renowned sprinters, including the fastest runner in the world, Usain Bolt. Bolt is a three-time Olympic Champion and former World Record Holder.

Other famous sprinters from Jamaica include former 200m World Champion Merlene Ottey, two-time 200m Olympic Champion and 100m World Champion Veronica Campbell, former 100m World Record Holder Asafa Powell, and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who at 21 years old in 2008 became the first Caribbean woman to win 100m gold at the Olympics. Fraser-Pryce won the 100m and 4 x 100m relay titles at the 2019 IAAF World Athletics Championships held in Doha, Qatar.

Another Jamaican sprinter to watch is Elaine Thompson who at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro won double gold, in the 100m and 200m. At this year’s Pan American Games in Lima Peru, she won first place in the 100m.

Usain Bolt Jamaica

Jamaican Rum

Rum connoisseurs will be happy to know that Jamaica has one of the highest numbers of rum bars, or rum shops as they are called in the Caribbean, per square mile.

The island is also known for being the place that refined the already established rum making process, making it into its own resulting in the creation of numerous full-bodied and rich rums.

Jamaica takes credit for having the most expensive rum in the world, in the form of Jamaican distiller J. Wray & Nephew’s product bottled in 1940. It said to be priced as high as $54,000. While a rum that pricy may not be what you’re looking to go home with, you can find lots of options of great local rums to take back home after your vacation.

Don’t forget to try out some Appleton Rum. Great as a mixer in tropical cocktailsor drink it ‘neat’ to enjoy its full flavors

Africa and the Caribbean: A Piece Of Africa In Jamaica

Ackee and saltfish

Almost every country has its own national dish, and Ackee & Saltfish is that of Jamaica. This traditional dish is made with the ackee fruit, and salted codfish, with assorted spices for added flavor. While various versions of this dish exist on the international scale, there’s no better place to try it for yourself than in Jamaica. The dish was once ranked by National Geographic as the second-best national dish in the world, directly under the United States hamburger!

Ackee and saltfish Jamaica

Historic mansions & plantation buildings

There is something truly special about a place that preserves elements of its history, in order to share that with the world – no matter how harsh this history was. Jamaica has made several efforts to do just that, with its preservation of sites like Devon House, a historic mansion which was home to Jamaica’s first black millionaire.

Other popular sites including the Rose Hall Great House (rumored to be haunted), Croydon Plantation, Seville Great House and Heritage Park, and even Sandals Royal Plantation, where the famous Tom Cruise movie ‘Cocktail’ was filmed. There are many other historic sites that are yours to explore in Jamaica, a land with a troubled, but rich history.

 

Sandals Royal Plantation Ocho Rios Jamaica
This is Sandals Royal Plantation

Wood Carvings

While in Jamaica you may be approached by vendors either on the beach or out in the city trying to sell you wood carvings, among other craft items. Some of the carvings are exceptionally done, but you may notice that prices vary depending on the vendor, and location.

Some visitors recommend negotiating for the best price, which may end up being as little as half of the original price. If you really want a good wood carving, Jamaica is a good place to buy one, just watch the size of the item you’re purchasing as you’ll have to carry it back home in your luggage, unless of course you decide to ship it separately.

It may be worth finding out whether there are restrictions in carrying these items onto your flight, especially if your carving is made of unfinished wood.Wood Carvings Jamaica

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