Jamaican Culture Overview
The first inhabitants of Jamaica were the Tainos, also known as the Arawaks. They were said to be chased away or enslaved by Spaniards that came after them. There is no trace of the Tainos on the island today, but sites once considered to be their communities can be found. The Tainos were said to be descendants of the Indians and are mild, peaceful and pleasure loving people.
When Christopher Columbus arrived on the island, the Tainos were found scattered all over the coastline, where they mostly settled. On his arrival, the largest Tainos community was said to be consisted of more than three thousand people. One of the important reasons for settling on the coastline was to look out for the Caribs, who were their enemies and neighbors; they were considered fierce and were also from the South America.
It was believed that the Tainos culture was actually developed on the islands and they were from the Hispaniola Mountains where they use to live in the caves
Jamaica will be celebrating her 50th Anniversary of National Independence referred to as Jamaica50. This half a century of forging her own path will be specially observed by her people in a kaleidoscope of activities, shows and artistic expressions. Jamaica has achieved international fame through its world renowned cuisine, athletes, musicians and cultural icons. The island will be having numerous celebrations with a crescendo around the Emancipation / Independence Week – August 1-6th. Several concerts, galas, festivals and sport events will be open to the public throughout the celebrations – Jamaica style!
Jamaican jerk is a method of seasoning and grilling meat that has its origins with the Tainos and later the Jamaican Maroons. Its special blend of spices used to season meat. The three main ingredients are pepper, pimento (allspice) and thyme. Other spices and herbs could include Scotch Bonnet pepper, escallion (green onion), garlic, cloves, salt, cinnamon and ginger.
Jerk was applied to wild hogs found in the Blue Mountain region of Portland. The meat was cleaned and dressed with spices and seasonings found around the area, then wrapped in pimento leaves for flavour. The pig would be lowered into a pit with hot coals with additional coals added on top. The pit was covered for 6 – 8 hours to allow the heat to cook through the meat. It is then grilled. Absolutely delicious!
This spicy soup is reportedly an aphrodisiac (along with many other Jamaican specialties). Mannish water is sometimes called power water, and is made from goats’ heads (some cooks include tripe and feet as well), garlic, scallions, cho-cho, green bananas, Scotch bonnet peppers and spinners. White rum is an optional ingredient. Often, men enjoy mannish water before drinking rum, but this item is a rarity on restaurant menus – it’s usually sold at roadside stands, along with roasted yam.
Duckanoo (Blue Drawers)
The recipe for duckanoo was brought from Africa. This delicious dessert is made with cornmeal, coconut, spices and brown sugar, all of which are tied up in a banana leaf (hence its other names, Blue Drawers and Tie-A-Leaf) and slowly cooked in boiling water.
The music of Jamaica includes Jamaican folk music and many popular genres, such as mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub music, dancehall, reggae fusion and related styles. Jamaica’s music culture is a fusion of elements from the United States (rhythm and blues and soul), Africa, and neighboring Caribbean islands such as Trinidad and Tobago (calypso and soca). Reggae is especially popular through the international fame of Bob Marley. Jamaican music’s influence on music styles in other countries includes the practice of toasting, which was brought to New York City and evolved into rapping. British genres as Lovers rock and jungle music are also influenced by Jamaican music.
In the Jamaican culture, the dance is a very predominant force in almost every activity that takes place on the island. This has been evident from the days of the ancestors to present times. The early Christians traditions are a big influence on the movements and rhythms, this folklore could be seen at the holidays and religious celebrations of the Christians. If you trace the Jamaican cultural heritage there is so much evidence that points to movements that were present from earlier times. However, today the dances seem to extend only to the music now, especially the dancehall styles that are very popular worldwide.
The Jamaicans are known for their eagerness to dance. Some of dances found in Jamaica combine the techniques of the Africans and Europeans to make one of kind art forms. The Jamaican dances includes the “bruckins”, “jonkonnu”, “gerreh”, “ettu” and the “dinki mini”. All of which represents some form of celebration before and after independence.
Jamaica’s Cultural Icon, the Honourable Louise Bennett-Coverley, “Miss Lou”, as she was affectionately called by the Jamaican people, was a household name in Jamaica. Her contribution to Jamaica’s cultural development was second to none. She was a Culture Preserver and earned the title Jamaica’s Cultural Ambassador. She was a Jamaican Poet and the country’s leading Comedienne. Her poems (which were in Patois) brought out all the various facets of the Jamaican culture.
At first, Louise Bennett used to be ‘out of favour’ with educated Jamaicans who looked down at Patois since they believed in speaking Oxford English.
Miss Lou made Jamaicans proud of their Patois and was instrumental in helping them to recognize that this unique dialect will always remain a part of their cultural heritage.
Louise Bennett-Coverley passed away in Toronto, Canada on Thursday, July 27, 2006. She was a Poet, Storyteller, Actress and Broadcaster who devoted her life to the study of Jamaican folklore.
Jamaica has 14 parishes which are divided into 3 Counties as follows:
- Cornwall – St. Elizabeth, Trelawny, St. James, Hanover and Westmoreland
- Middlesex – St. Catherine, St. Mary, Clarendon, St. Ann and Manchester
- Surrey – Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Thomas and Portland
Each parish has its own parish council which is given limited powers. Each parish has a capital town.
Named in honour of Elizabeth, wife of a former Governor. St. Elizabeth is known for its farming activities and is called the “feeding basket” of Jamaica. It is Jamaica’s second largest parish. St. Elizabeth is a major producer of bauxite. There are two sugar factories in the parish and a number of crops (among them cassava, peas, pimento, tobacco). This parish is also the producer of livestock. The capital town is Black River.
Named after a former Governor, St. William Trelawny. Trelawny is known for its sugar estates. Rum and sugar are Trelawny’s main products. The capital town is Falmouth.
Named after the Duke of York who became James II. St. James is known as the second city of Jamaica. It is the birthplace of our National Hero, The Rt. Excellent Samuel Sharpe. Montego Bay is the capital town. Popularly known as “Mo Bay”, it is one of the most famous tourist destinations internationally.
Named after the English Monarch, George I, from the House of Hanover in Germany. Hanover is the smallest parish in the island and is the birthplace of one of Jamaica’s National Heroes – The Right Excellent Sir Alexander Bustamante. Agriculture is its main product. The capital Town is Lucea.
Possibly named because it is the most westernmost parish in the Island. Westmoreland is Jamaica’s eighth largest parish. The parish depends on sugar cane for employment.
Negril has some of the world’s best beaches and is noted for its white sands. Negril is one of Jamaica’s main tourist destinations. The capital town is Savanna-la-mar.
Named after Queen Katherine, Charles II’s Queen, the name was changed to “Catherine”. St. Catherine is one of Jamaica’s largest parishes and is next to Kingston as an industrial center. The largest salt producing plant in the Caribbean and the Caymanas Park horse-racing track are located in this parish. The capital town is Spanish Town.
One of Jamaica’s smallest parishes. Scott’s Hall is known to be the home of the St. Mary Maroons. St. Mary has the largest number of (East) Indians in Jamaica. It is the parish with the most historic buildings, monuments and ruins. St. Mary has several Great Houses. It was named after its capital Puerto Santa Maria. It was one of the first sections of the island to be occupied by the Spanish. It produces a large variety of agricultural produce such as bananas, coconut, coffee and breadfruit. The capital town is Port Maria.
Clarendon was named in honour of St. Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon. An extensive amount of bauxite can be found in Clarendon. It is the location of the famous Milk River Bath and is Jamaica’s 3rd largest parish. The capital town is May Pen.
Named after Ann Hyde, Wife of King James II of England. It is the largest parish in Jamaica and is also known as the “Garden Parish” because of its beautiful flowers. It is the birthplace of our National Hero, The Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey and Reggae singer Bob Marley. St. Ann is one of the major tourist destinations in Jamaica. The famous Dunn’s River Falls and a number of popular beaches are situated in St. Ann. Ocho Rios, popularly known as “Ochie”, is a town in St. Ann. Ocho Rios is the second major tourist town on the north coast. The capital town is St. Ann’s Bay.
Our National Hero, The Right Excellent Norman Washington Manley was born in this Parish. It is Jamaica’s sixth largest parish. The area is mostly mountainous and the climate is usually cool. A number of Jamaica’s businesses were started in Mandeville and it is the hub of the bauxite mining industry. One of the oldest hotels in the Caribbean, the Mandeville Hotel, is located in this parish. Citrus (oranges, ortaniques and grapefruit) are grown here in abundance. Manchester was named in honour of the Duke of Manchester, the then Governor of Jamaica. The capital town is Mandeville.
This is the capital of Jamaica and also the largest city in Jamaica. It is the centre of commerce for the Island. One of Jamaica’s National Heroes, The Right Excellent George William Gordon was born in Kingston. Two airports, The Norman Manley International Airport and Tinson Pen (smaller and more domestic) are located in Kingston. The capital town is Kingston.
The University of the West Indies and The College of Arts, Science and Technology (now known as The University of Technology) are located in this parish. The capital town is Half-Way-Tree.
The local government for the parishes of Kingston and St. Andrew were merged to form the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC).
Important places that are located in St. Andrew are the Governor General’s residence at King’s House, the Prime Minister’s residence at Jamaica House, the National Stadium, Sabina Park (cricket) and the Bob Marley Museum.
Might be named after Thomas, Lord Windsor, Governor of Jamaica in 1662. Our National Hero, The Right Excellent Paul Bogle was born in that Parish. The famous Morant Bay Rebellion took place in that parish. There are many factories in St. Thomas and sugar and bananas are their main export crops. The capital town is Morant Bay.
Named after the Duke of Portland, Governor of Jamaica in 1723, Portland is known for its agricultural products. Breadfruits, bananas, coffee, coconuts and ackees are among some of the products. Portland has been known to be the host for the rich and famous many of whom own property there. The world famous Blue Lagoon is located in this parish. There is also rafting on the River Grande. Portland is also famous for its jerked food – especially its jerk pork! (Note: ‘Jerk’ food means spicy food. ) Port Antonio is the capital town.
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September 09, 2021·0 comments