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Jamaica Information


I. Pre-Colombian Jamaica
Prior to the arrival of Columbus in 1494, Jamaica was inhabited by Arawaks, living in simple communities based on fishing, hunting, and small scale cultivation of cassava. The impact of the contact with the Spanish was traumatic, and these communities disappeared in 70-80 years. Plunder, disruption of economic activities, new diseases, and migration decimated the indigenous population. Only a few artifacts-facts, examples of which are on display at the small museum at White Marl, and a few Spanish corruptions of place names (such as Ocho Rios) remain from this period. Otherwise, there is no Arawak influence on the subsequent development of life on the island.

II. The Spanish Occupation, 1494-1655
Disappointed by the absence of gold on the island, the Spanish used Jamaica as a base for supporting the conquest of the Americas, particularly Mexico with its treasures of gold and silver. The population of the Spanish settlement, including their slaves, was never large. It was administered from the Town of Santiago de la Vega, now called Spanish Town, and much of the architecture of the original buildings is still evident today in the town square. Economic activity consisted primarily of production for domestic consumption, and to a lesser extent the supply of Spanish ships.

In 1655, it was captured by the British expedition led by Admirals Penn and Venables, following their unsuccessful invasion of Hispaniola. By this time, the island was of little significance to the Spanish crown, and accordingly, very little was done to defend it against the British. As with the previous period, the influence of the Spanish settlement on the subsequent social, economic and political life of the island was marginal. Apart from remnants of buildings with the distinct
Spanish colonial architectural styles, and names of places, there is very little visible evidence of the Spanish occupation.

III. The Slave Economy, 1655-1838
After a brief period of experimenting with indentured European labor, the British turned to large scale importation of Africans to be used as slaves on the sugar plantations. In its hey-day, Jamaica was one of "the jewels in the English crown" because of the fabulous prosperity it brought to the English plantation owners directly, and indirectly to those cities, such as Liverpool and Bristol, which serviced the trade with Jamaica and the rest of the British Caribbean (West Indies). Plantation slavery was based on the Triangular trade among England (manufactured goods), Africa (slaves), and the Caribbean (sugar), which itself was the basis for what later emerged as the international economy. International trade was so important to the Jamaican economy that when the American war of independence disrupted trade between what was then the "North American colonies" and the Caribbean, 15,000 thousands of slaves died of starvation in Jamaica alone.

The plantation dominated economic life in every sense. It occupied the best lands, the laws supported the slave system, and in general all commercial and other economic activity depended on the rhythm of activity of the plantation. Some slaves inevitably ran away from the estates to live in small bands in the mountains as Maroons.
In recognition of her leadership in the Maroon wars against the British, Nanny was eventually named a national hero. Except for the Maroons, all agricultural activity took place on the plantations. The towns served as the commercial sites for the export of sugar and the importation of the inputs for production.

The political system consisted of a governor and his executive council, and an assembly of representatives elected on a limited franchise determined by property ownership. The politics of this period was characterized by an uneasy alliance between the governor as the representative of the crown, and the Assembly of planters, against the slaves. Frequently, the alliance broke down, invariably over taxation of the plantations.

By the close of the 18th century, sugar was losing its economic preeminence because of competition from beet sugar as well as rising production costs. In 1838, the slaves were Emancipated and the plantations had to begin paying wages to its workers. One of Jamaica's national heroes, Rev.Sam Sharpe, after whom Montego Bay's city square is named, is celebrated for his leadership role in the famous Christmas rebellion of slaves in 1831, a few years before Emancipation.

IV. The Development of the Peasantry. 1838-1938
After Emancipation, many of the ex-slaves settled down as small farmers in the mountains, cultivating steep hill slopes far away from the plantations. Still others settled on marginal lands in the plains nearby the plantations on land leased or bought in various land settlement schemes organized and sponsored by Christian groups such as the Baptists.

Struggles over land were central themes in the history of this period, culminating in the Morant Bay rebellion, for which two of Jamaica's national heroes, George William Gordon and Paul Bogle paid with their lives.

In this period, sugar continued its secular decline, but peasant exports of logwood, coffee, and eventually bananas grew steadily. In this way, the economy began to be diversified away from its traditional dependence on sugar alone.

V. The National Movement and Decolonization, 1938-1962
The roots of the national movement for independence reach back into the struggles for land in the 19th century. More immediately, it was inspired by the political ideas and agitation of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, one of Jamaica's national heroes, and precipitated by the reaction of the sugar and dock workers to the economic crisis spawned by the Great Depression. It emerged as a political force in the context of the rebellion in 1938. Its most enduring political institutions, are the two major political parties, and the labor unions affiliated to them. Both the founder of the Jamaica Labor Party (JLP) and the Bustamante Industrial Trades Union (BITU), Alexander Bustamante, and the founder of the People's National Party (PNP) and the National Workers Union (NWU), Norman Manley, have been declared national heroes for their individual and combined efforts in securing political independence from England. The constitutional change that facilitated the emergence of these parties was the granting of adult suffrage and a measure of self-government in 1944.

The period 1944- 1962 not only saw major political changes, but also major transformations of the structure of the economy. From a monocrop export economy, the economy became diversified around the export of sugar, bananas and other agricultural commodities, the export of bauxite and alumina, and the tourist industry. These in turn, stimulated a vibrant construction industry, and an import substituting manufacturing sector. The USA displaced the UK as Jamaica's principal trading partner. There was also a tremendous migration of labor to the UK and the USA which needed labor for the post-war reconstruction and expansion of their economies.

VI. The First Decade of Political Independence, 1962-1972
Political Independence was granted in 1962, following Jamaica's rejection, by referendum, of membership in the Federation of the West Indies. Jamaica was given a Westminister style constitution, with a Governor-general as the representative of the British Crown, and a bicameral Parliament. There is a House of Representatives consisting of elected representatives and a Senate appointed by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The government is headed by a Prime Minister, who is required to consult with the Governor General and the Leader of the Opposition on certain matters. The first two governments were formed by the JLP, which had opposed membership in the Federation.
The post-war boom in the economy continued through the 60's, though it gradually slowed down, with the completion of the investment cycle of the bauxite/alumina industry. By the end of the decade, there were well established mining, tourism, manufacturing, and construction sectors, alongside the traditional agricultural and distribution sectors.

VII. The Second Decade of Political Independence
Between 1972 and 1980, the PNP, the other major political party, held political office and initiated a shift in major economic policies. Most notable was the imposition of the Bauxite Levy in 1974, in order to increase Jamaica's share of the income in that industry. The government positioned the state in the leadership role within the process of economic development, with a view to attenuating and rectifying the inherited economic inequalities.
Related to this was an ideology of social reform to protect the weakest sections of the population, and to promote the welfare of the poor through subsidized food, housing, education, health, and other important social services. In international affairs, Jamaica opened up relations with many non-capitalist countries, and promoted the solidarity of the Third World in international negotiations with the advanced countries.

The international economy was quite unfavorable for a number of reasons. The main ones were the weakness of the aluminum market, and hence, the bauxite industry, the inflation of oil and food prices, and the decline and reversal of capital inflows for private investment.
All of this contributed to the decline in the economy, with the attendant problems of unemployment, inflation, and growing external indebtedness. By the end of the decade, the government sought assistance from the IMF and the World Bank, and since then these two institutions, along with the USAID, have determined the policy framework of the government.

VIII. The Third Decade of Political Independence.
From 1980 to 1989, the JLP held political office. They were committed to the same free market development policies as the IMF, the World Bank, and the USAID. Because of a special political relationship with the Reagan administration, Jamaica benefited from generous USA assistance in the first half of the decade. The economy was substantially deregulated, the currency was devalued, and many public enterprises were divested in the process of adjustment, which has now been on-going for some 14 years.

The eighties saw the development of Free Zone manufacturing especially of garments for export to the USA, the gradual recovery of bauxite/alumina production, and the rapid growth of tourism from North America. In the process, the traditional international economic relations, particularly with the USA, were strengthened at the expense of regional relations, such as Caricom trade.

The eighties also saw large volumes of emigrants, primarily to the USA, swelling the ranks of established overseas Jamaican communities, and creating new ones. Jamaicans are contributing in every sphere of human activity, and distinguishing themselves in cultural activities, such as music, and sports. In addition, Jamaicans have been accumulating significant quantities of wealth in assets in the USA and other countries.

Jamaica Activities

Jamaica is so large and offers to much that visitors are seldom able to fully explore the island in one visit!

Doctor's Cave Beach:
Therapeutic mineral spring water and saltwater bathing.

Fort Montego:
Ruins of this 17th century fort overlook the harbor.

Georgian Town Houses:
Used to be the residences of wealthy merchants and planters, now occupied by restaurants (Town House and Georgian House).

Greenwood and Rose Hall Great Houses:
These restored plantation houses are over 200 years old. Daily guided tours provide a glimpse of life on a sugar plantation.

Rocklands Feeding Station:
Watch the birds feed daily in the mid-afternoon. Bird enthusiasts will also want to visit the Bird Sanctuary at Anchovy.

Sam Sharpe Square
Named for the gentleman who led the 1831 slave rebellion.

St. James Parish Church
Over 200 years old, this church was completely restored after being destroyed by an earthquake.

Martha Brae River Rafting:
This river is one of the most popular for a gentle rafting excursion through tropical vegetation.

Booby Cay:
Island offshore where Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" was filmed - nude sunning and snorkeling are enjoyed here.

Long Bay:
5 miles of sand, majority of hotels are here.

Negril Point Lighthouse:
There is no admission charge to visit this landmark.

Drax Hall:
Weekend polo matches are held here or at Chukka Cove.

Harmony Hall:
One of the island's finest art galleries housed in a 19th century Victorian mansion.

Dunn's River Falls:
These cascading 600-foot waterfalls are one of areas most popular attractions. Enjoy a guided walk up the Falls.

Fern Gully:
500 species of ferns grow along this three-mile stretch of road through rain forest.

Port Maria:
Firefly, once home of Noel Coward, sits on a mountain top. This restored estate is open to the public.

Prospect Plantation:
Take a tour of this 1000 acre working plantation on horseback or by jitney.

Rio Nuevo:
Spanish and English fought their last battle here. Site is preserved by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.

Shaw Park Garden:
Enjoy the spectacular views of the Caribbean and Ocho Rios from here. The botanical garden features tropical plants, streams, and tropical birds.

St. Ann's Bay:
A statue of Columbus commemorates his being marooned in Jamaica for a year. National hero Marcus Garvey was born in St. Ann's Bay.

The Seville Great House:
Looks over the site of the first Spanish settlement.

Submarine Rides:
Visitors who are not divers can still dive deep under the ocean surface on two submarines. One of these submarines recently searched for the Loch Ness monster in Scotland.

Columbus Park Museum:
This outdoor museum displays artifacts of old Jamaica including cannons, carved canoes and farm implements.

Green Grotto Lake:
Explore the caves leading to the lake 120 feet underground and take a boat ride.

Here you can see the remains of an old sugar factory where rum was produced for about 300 years.

Rio Bueno:
Christopher Columbus' first landing place in Jamaica in 1494.

Blue Lagoon:
A popular beach and swimming area, the water here is a deep blue due to its 180-foot depth. There is an admission fee charged. The amount of the fee is deducted from your refreshment tab.

Crystal Springs:
This 16-acre recreational area is a popular site for concerts and other events. The gardens are filled with orchids.

An American built this mansion for his wife, utilizing sea water for the cement. Because of this, the building quickly deteriorated and very little remains.

Navy Island
Errol Flynn once came here to hide away. It was also a naval station, but is now a resort and marina.

Nonsuch Caves and Athenry Gardens
See the caves and flowers. The caves have been linked with the Arawaks, Jamaica's early inhabitants.

Reich Falls
Spectacular water falls.

Rio Grande
The largest river in Jamaica. Raft excursions are very popular and can be easily arranged.

Somerset Falls
The Daniels River pours down a deep gorge forming Somerset Falls. The pools attract swimmers.

Gordon House
Jamaica's Parliament meets here - visits for tourists can be arranged.

Institute of Jamaica
National Library, National History Museum. Jamaica's history and island life is explored at these national museums.

Kingston Parish Church
Building began around 1699.

National Gallery
Houses the world's largest collection of Jamaican art - air conditioned.

Bob Marley Museum
Bob Marley's home and recording studio is now a museum.

Celebrity Park
Contains Bob Marley's statue by Alvin Marriott.

Devon House
A Jamaican millionaire built Devon House in 1881. The restoration is excellent. Here you will also find restaurants, gardens and craft shops.

Hope Gardens
Open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Botanical gardens also known as the Royal, these fabulous gardens were created by Sir Daniel Morris who imported over 800 species of plants from Asia and Africa.

Kings House
The home of the Governor General. You may visit 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

National Stadium and National Arena
Major sporting events are held here as well as the Independence celebrations each August.

St. Andrew Parish Church
This church is said to be the oldest church in Jamaica. It has many interesting tombs.

Vale Royal
Official residence of the Prime Minister. A wealthy merchant resided here during the early 18th century.

Blue Mountain Peak
Highest mountain in Jamaica. Be sure to bring a sweater!

Army training camp, approximately 3,500 feet above sea level, affording a great view of the city.

Port Royal
Once the headquarters of the British navy in the Caribbean, and a pirate base prior to that, it is now a fishing village. Attractions include military forts, armaments and artifacts.

Rockfort Mineral Bath
Natural mineral spa.

White Marl Arawak Museum
Arawak artifacts are on display on the site of a major Arawak settlement.

The Old Court House
Former House of Assembly, Rodney Memorial and the facade of Kings House are some of the historic sites.

The Spanish Town Cathedral
St. Jago de la Vega, or Cathedral of St. James, was rebuilt in 1712 after the original 16th century building was destroyed by a hurricane.

Mandeville Courthouse
Built by slaves 170 years ago of carved limestone.

Marshall's Pen
This 200-year old great house if the centerpiece of a 300-acre cattle ranch. Guided tours showcase antiques, stamp and shell collections. The wildlife sanctuary will please "birders". Of the over 250 species of birds, 23 are unique to Jamaica.

Norman Washington Manley was born here.

Black River
Jamaica's longest river system is home to crocodies and many species of birds and fishes. Boat trips to the Great Morass, a 7,000-acre wetland, can be arranged here.

Lover's Leap
The cliff face drops 1,700 feet to the sea. The view is spectacular.

Milk River Bath
These therapeutic mineral springs are reputed to be the world's most radioactive mineral waters.


The employment of non-Jamaicans in Jamaica is governed by the Foreign Nationals and Commonwealth Citizens (Employment) Act, 1964, which seeks to ensure that qualified Jamaicans are given first consideration in employment opportunities. At the same time, it is recognized that the expertise needed for economic development is not always available because of shortage in the supply of certain special skills.

Non-Jamaicans seeking employment in Jamaica are required to obtain work permits. Work permits are granted at the discretion of the Minister of Labour, 1F North Street, Kingston, Jamaica, W.I.

Commonwealth Citizens may apply for work permits after arrival in Jamaica and for such holders of work permits their relatives over 18 years of age, with special skills, may also apply for work permits.

Non-Commonwealth citizens must apply for a work permit prior to arrival in Jamaica. United States citizens are considered non-Commonwealth citizens (i.e. foreigners or aliens) since the United States of America is not a member country of the British Commonwealth of Nations' organization. United States citizens are therefore required to ensure that work permits are obtained before applying for work visas at either a Jamaican Embassy or Consulate.

Application forms, obtainable at the Government Printing Office, must be completed, signed and submitted by the prospective employer and must be accompanied by the required documentation including proof by the prospective employer that the vacancy was advertised and did not attract any suitably qualified Jamaicans.


Work visas are issued solely on the basis of evidence of a confirmed job offer. Documentation to be presented on application in this regard are:

a) a) valid national passport;

b) original letter from organization affirming job offer;
original work permit approval signed by or on behalf of the Minister of Labour;

c) completed visa application form accompanied by one (1) passport-size photograph.


Spouses of Jamaican nationals may be exempted from Work Permits on application accompanied by:

a) certificate of marriage; in cases where a previous marriage occurred, a Decree Absolute is required to be presented;

b) proof of Jamaican citizenship enjoyed by spouse, however acquired;

c) passport of each spouse and passport-size photograph of each;

d) declaration by both spouses that they share the same matrimonial home.

The Ministry of Labour must be informed of change of residence from one parish to another by all foreigners employed in Jamaica.


All individuals are landed at the discretion of the Immigration Officer. In this connection, they are required to have on arrival, return tickets (open tickets are advisable) and valid passports with the travel documents (including airline ticket), to the Immigration Office located at 25 Constant Spring Road, Kingston 10, Jamaica, which will endorse the passport for the duration of the work permit and issue a certificate to the Ministry of Labour, on the basis of which the work permit will be released. The validity of the permit is enforced at the discretion of the Minister of Labour.

Please be advised that if the passport expires within the period for which the work permit was granted, the endorsement will cover only the period for which the passport is valid.

NB. Work permit forms are obtainable at the Jamaican High Commission appropriate Jamaican visa.

Persons who arrive in Jamaica from countries where there are no Jamaican visa-issuing authorities must also present a letter from the Minister of Labour approving the work permit application. Upon landing, all prospective employees must, prior to taking up employment, take the letter, along with.


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