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Coordinates: 18°10′57″N 77°19′18″W / 18.1823878°N 77.3217773°W / 18.1823878; -77.3217773


Flag of Jamaica

Location of Jamaica
and largest city
Official languages English
Ethnic groups
97% Black or Mixed, 1.3% Indian, 0.2 Chinese, 0.2 % White, 0.6% Other
Demonym(s) Jamaican
Government Parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy
• Monarch
Elizabeth II
Patrick Allen
Portia Simpson-Miller
• from the United Kingdom
6 August 1962
• Total
10,991 km2 (4,244 sq mi) (168th)
• Water (%)
• 2013 estimate
2,909,714[1] (139th)
• Density
252/km2 (652.7/sq mi) (49th)

Jamaica is an island country in the Caribbean; it is part of the Greater Antilles. The island, 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi) in area, lies about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 kilometres (119 mi) west of Hispaniola. Its capital is Kingston; other towns include Montego Bay, St. Ann's Bay and Spanish Town.

Jamaica is the third-largest island country in the Greater Antilles. Its Taíno name was Xaymaca, meaning "Land of Springs".[5] The island is known for the Rastafarian movement, as well as reggae artist Bob Marley. The popular sprinter Usain Bolt is also an asset from the country.



The Taino indigenous people, originating in South America, settled on the island between 4000 and 1000 BC.[6] When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1494, there were more than 200 villages ruled by caciques (chiefs of villages). The south coast of Jamaica was the most populated, especially around the area now known as Old Harbour.[6]

Spanish rule

Christopher Columbus, during his second voyage to the Americas, claimed Jamaica for Spain after landing there on 5 May 1494 and his probable landing point was Dry Harbour, now called Discovery Bay. There is some debate as to whether he landed in St. Ann's Bay or in Discovery Bay. St. Ann's Bay was named "Saint Gloria" by Columbus, as the first sighting of the land.[7]

In 1503, during his fourth voyage, Columbus had to spend one year on the northern coast of the island, and he named the island Isla de Santiago (by Sant Iago Apostol, in Spanish Santiago).

In 1509, the new Governor of the Hispaniola, Diego Columbus, sent Juan de Esquivel, a Conquistador born in Seville, Spain, with 70 men to Jamaica to complete the conquest of that island. They first lived in the St. Ann's Bay area and soon Esquivel founded a town, Sevilla La Nueva (in English, "The New Seville") on the north coast, one mile to the west of St. Ann's Bay.[8]

Sevilla was abandoned around 1524 because it was deemed unhealthy.[7] The capital was moved to Spanish Town, then called Saint Jago de la Vega, in the south around 1534.[9]

British rule

In 1654 Oliver Cromwell decided to break the Spanish control of the West Indies and he sent a fleet in an expedition) led by William Penn and General Robert Venables. The fleet arrived to the Santo Domingo island on 13 April 1655 but the British lost in two battles on 17 and 25 April and they decided to move to Jamaica.[10]

On 10 May 1655, Penn and Venables led a successful attack on Jamaica. The Spanish surrendered to the English, freed their slaves and then fled to Cuba. It was this set of freed slaves and their descendants living in the Jamaican mountains who became known as the Maroons.[8]


After a long period of direct British colonial rule, Jamaica gained a degree of local political control in the late 1930s, and held its first election under full universal adult suffrage in 1944. Jamaica joined nine other U.K. territories in the West Indies Federation in 1958 but withdrew after Jamaican voters rejected membership in 1961. Jamaica got its independence in 1962, remaining a member of the Commonwealth.[11]

Government and politics

Jamaica is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II serving as the monarch.[12] However, as Elizabeth II is shared as head of state of fifteen other countries (the Commonwealth realm) in addition to the United Kingdom[13] and resides mostly in the United Kingdom, she is thus often represented as Queen of Jamaica in Jamaica and abroad by the Governor-General of Jamaica.[14] The governor-general is nominated by the Prime Minister of Jamaica and appointed by the monarch. All the members of the Cabinet are appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister. The monarch and the governor-general serve largely ceremonial roles.

File:Prime Minister of Jamaica and Parliament.jpg
Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller walks to Parliament while her team follows.

The Parliament of Jamaica is bicameral. This means that it consists of two Houses, the Senate, also called the Upper House, and the House of Representatives, also known as the Lower House. The members of the House (known as Members of Parliament or MPs) are elected by the people of Jamaica. The leader of the political party with most members in the House of Representatives is appointed by the governor-general to be the prime minister. Senators are nominated jointly by the prime minister and the parliamentary leader of the opposition and are then appointed by the governor-general.[15]

The current prime minister of Jamaica is Portia Simpson-Miller, having been inaugurated on 5 January 2012. Prime Minister Simpson-Miller acts as the head of government of Jamaica.

Jamaica has traditionally had a system of two parties, with power often alternating between the People's National Party and Jamaica Labour Party (JLP). The party with current administrative and legislative power is the People's National Party, with a two-thirds Parliamentary majority as of 2012.


Jamaica is divided into 14 parishes, which are grouped into three historic counties that have no administrative relevance.

Parishes of Jamaica


Cornwall County Capital km2 Middlesex County Capital km2 Surrey County Capital km2
1 Hanover Lucea   453 6 Clarendon May Pen 1,196 11 Kingston Kingston 25
2 Saint Elizabeth Black River 1,212 7 Manchester Mandeville    830 12 Portland Port Antonio 814
3 Saint James Montego Bay   595 8 Saint Ann St. Ann's Bay 1,213 13 Saint Andrew Half Way Tree 453
4 Trelawny Falmouth   879 9 Saint Catherine Spanish Town 1,192 19 Saint Thomas Morant Bay 743
5 Westmoreland Savanna-la-Mar   807 10 Saint Mary Port Maria    611



In 2011 (last national census), there were 2,697,983 people living in Jamaica: 1,334,533 men and 1,363,450 women. There were 1,453,438 (53.9%) living in towns and cities. The population density was 245.5 persons/km².[16]

The following table shows the parishes with their populations in the 2011 census.[16]

Parish Total
Kingston &&&&&&&&&&089057.&&&&&089,057 &&&&&&&&&&089057.&&&&&089,057 &&&&&&&&&&&&&0-2.1000000-
Saint Andrew &&&&&&&&&0573369.&&&&&0573,369 &&&&&&&&&0495771.&&&&&0495,771 &&&&&&&&&&077598.&&&&&077,598
Saint Thomas &&&&&&&&&&093902.&&&&&093,902 &&&&&&&&&&026907.&&&&&026,907 &&&&&&&&&&066995.&&&&&066,995
Portland &&&&&&&&&&081744.&&&&&081,744 &&&&&&&&&&019509.&&&&&019,509 &&&&&&&&&&062235.&&&&&062,235
Saint Mary &&&&&&&&&0113615.&&&&&0113,615 &&&&&&&&&&027533.&&&&&027,533 &&&&&&&&&&086082.&&&&&086,082
Saint Ann &&&&&&&&&0172362.&&&&&0172,362 &&&&&&&&&&049812.&&&&&049,812 &&&&&&&&&0122550.&&&&&0122,550
Saint James &&&&&&&&&0183811.&&&&&0183,811 &&&&&&&&&0110207.&&&&&0110,207 &&&&&&&&&&073604.&&&&&073,604
Hanover &&&&&&&&&&069533.&&&&&069,533 &&&&&&&&&&&07282.&&&&&07,282 &&&&&&&&&&062251.&&&&&062,251
Westmoreland &&&&&&&&&0144103.&&&&&0144,103 &&&&&&&&&&039591.&&&&&039,591 &&&&&&&&&0104512.&&&&&0104,512
Saint Elizabeth &&&&&&&&&0150205.&&&&&0150,205 &&&&&&&&&&022585.&&&&&022,585 &&&&&&&&&0127620.&&&&&0127,620
Manchester &&&&&&&&&0189797.&&&&&0189,797 &&&&&&&&&&066390.&&&&&066,390 &&&&&&&&&0123407.&&&&&0123,407
Trelawny &&&&&&&&&&075164.&&&&&075,164 &&&&&&&&&&014378.&&&&&014,378 &&&&&&&&&&060786.&&&&&060,786
Clarendon &&&&&&&&&0245103.&&&&&0245,103 &&&&&&&&&&085861.&&&&&085,861 &&&&&&&&&0159242.&&&&&0159,242
Saint Catherine &&&&&&&&&0516218.&&&&&0516,218 &&&&&&&&&0398555.&&&&&0398,555 &&&&&&&&&0117663.&&&&&0117,663
Jamaica &&&&&&&&02697983.&&&&&02,697,983 &&&&&&&&01453438.&&&&&01,453,438 &&&&&&&&01244545.&&&&&01,244,545


The official language of Jamaica is English and the population also speaks Jamaican Creole English.[17]


The people of Jamaica is 62.5% Protestant (10.8% Seventh-day Adventist Church, 9.5% Pentecostal, 8.3 Other Church of God, 7.2% Baptist, 6.3% New Testament Church of God, 4.8% Church of God in Jamaica, 4.3% Church of God of Prophecy, 3.6% Anglicans, 7.7% other Christian), 2.6% Catholics, 14.2% other or unspecified, 20.9% none.[1]


Topographic map of Jamaica

Jamaica is between latitudes 17° 42"N and 18° 31"N and longitudes 78° 22"W and 76° 11", that is between the equator and the Tropic of Cancer. It has an area of 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi).[1]

Jamaica is the third-largest island country in the Greater Antilles, after Cuba and the Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic); it is larger than Puerto Rico. The island is 235 kilometres (146 mi) from east to west; the width, from north to south, varies between 35 kilometres (22 mi) to 82 kilometres (51 mi). The country is composed mainly of the mainland, but near the coast there are a few isolated small islands.[18]

The Blue Mountains are the longest mountain range in Jamaica. They include the island's highest point, Blue Mountain Peak, at (2,256 metres (7,402 ft).[18]


The Rio Minho is the longest river in Jamaica at 92.8 kilometres (57.7 mi).[19] It rises close to the island's geographic centre, flows generally south-southwest and reaches the Caribbean Sea at Carlisle Bay in the central south coast, to the west of the island's southernmost point, Portland Point.

The Black River is one of the longest rivers in Jamaica. At a length of 53.4 km (33.2 mi), it was believed to be the longest until it was discovered that the Rio Minho was longer. It was originally called Rio Caobana.[19]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "CIA World Factbook". Central Intelligence Agency. 10 April 2013. Retrieved 14 April 2013.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Jamaica". The World Factbook. CIA. Retrieved 2014-09-13.
  3. "Human Development Report 2014". United Nations. 2014. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  5. "Taíno Dictionary" (in Spanish). The United Confederation of Taíno People. Archived from the original on 16 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-18.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Glenn Woodley (1 April 2001). "The Taino of Jamaica (Jamaica)". Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Jamaica History: Columbian/Spanish". Jamaica National Heritage Trust. Retrieved 15 April 1913.
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Government of Jamaica - History of Jamaica". Jamaica Information Service. Retrieved 15 April 1913.
  9. "Spanish Town". Jamaica National Heritage Trust. Retrieved 15 April 1913.
  10. William Penn: Narrative of the Expedition to San Domingo.
  11. "Jamaica". Encyclopedia of Earth. 23 May 2012. Retrieved 17 April 1913.
  12. "Queen and Jamaica". The British Monarchy. Retrieved 15 April 1913.
  13. "The Queen and the Commonwealth". The British Monarchy. Retrieved 15 April 1913.
  14. "The role of the Governor-General in Jamaica". The British Monarchy. Retrieved 15 April 1913.
  15. "About Government". Jamaica Information Service. Retrieved 15 April 1913.
  16. 16.0 16.1 "2011 Census of Population & Housing" (pdf). Statistical Institute of Jamaica. Retrieved 15 April 1913.
  17. "Jamaica". Ethnologue. 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Geography Caribbean Islands: A Country Study. Library of Congress, 1987
  19. 19.0 19.1 Jamaica National Heritage Trust – Black River