Jamaica is an island country found in the Caribbean Sea amidst the Greater Antilles. Although Jamaica has gained autonomy from its former colonial masters, the nation continues to be a part of the British Commonwealth. Jamaica is one of the larger islands in the Caribbean Sea, covering a total area of more than four thousand, two hundred square miles. Jamaica has a total population of nearly three million residents, and has one of the most easily recognizable flags in the Caribbean. Jamaica takes its name from an Arawakan term for the “Land of Springs” or “Land of Wood and Water,” although the temporary Spanish colonial masters of Jamaica referred to the island as Santiago. Jamaica was originally inhabited by the Taino Indians, who arrived on Jamaica from continental South America as long as three thousand years ago. Upon the arrival of Spanish explorers such as Christopher Columbus, Jamaica was politically fragmented into a series of small villages, mostly concentrated to the south of the island. The Spanish first settled the island about fifteen years after Columbus’ first expedition to the area, although they were expelled by British armed forced in the middle of the seventeenth century.
Jamaica under British rule was defined by the wide use of slave labor and the dominance of sugar cultivation as a primary economic force. Eventually, after slaves gained increased measures of legal protection and were gradually emancipated, Jamaica became more and more autonomous. By the year 1962, Jamaica was an independent nation within the Commonwealth. Jamaica’s largest city is the capital, Kingston, and other notable settlements include Montego Bay, Spanish Town (the island’s oldest European town), Negril, Portmore, Mandeville, and Ocho Rios. Jamaica has a mostly tropical climate, with consistently warm temperatures throughout the year. Jamaica’s economy is more diverse than many other Caribbean nations. Although Jamaica does have a strong tourism sector, the country’s economy is also driven by agriculture, manufacturing, finance, and mining. Jamaica’s culture is, in a sense, its most important and best known export. The nation’s culture is perhaps best represented by its musical styles, such as reggae, ska, mento, and dancehall, as well as by artists such as Bares Hammond, Millie Small, Super Cat, Sean Paul, and Jimmy Cliff.
Jamaica’s athletes consistently perform at a high level on the international stage, including the Olympic Games. Jamaica has a strong cricket team, and most notably an outstanding track and field squad that has captured several Olympic medals. The island nation has also produced outstanding rugby squads, soccer teams, and bobsled racers. Jamaica provides free education for children, and the island also boasts a number of post secondary institutions, such as the University of the West Indies, the Shortwood Teachers’ College, and the University College of the Caribbean. In addition to several large harbors, the most common way to access Jamaica is by three international airports – Ian Fleming International Airport, Norm Manley International Airport, and Sir Donald Sangster International Airport. The last airport, Sir Donald Sangster, is the busiest as it serves the popular resort community of Montego Bay, the center of Jamaica’s tourist industry.