A Brief History of Jamaica

The history of Jamaica is a long and vibrant one. The original inhabitants of Jamaica were the Arawak Indians. It is alleged that they arrived in the island about 2500 years ago from South America. They named the island Xaymaca which means “Land of Wood and Water.” They were a peaceful people who lived all over the island but mainly along the coast. Fish was a major part of their diet and being close to the coastline enabled them to fish on a regular basis. They also grew cassava, corn, cotton, vegetables and tobacco. Smoking tobacco was one of their favorite pastimes and as a result of this tobacco was grown in abundance.

Christopher Columbus arrived in Jamaica in 1494, on his second voyage to the West Indies. The natives could hardly put up a fight against Columbus and his crew and he soon claimed the island for Spain. However, ill treatment,being overworked, and exposed to diseases for which they had no resistance annihilated the Arawak population. Xaymaca remained a Spanish colony and mainly served as a supply base for the Spanish. About 15 year later the first Spanish settlement called Seville or Sevilla la Nueva was established.

The land of wood and water remained under Spanish rule until the Spanish were ousted by the British in 1654. However, even today some places in Jamaica still have Spanish names Ocho Rios (eight rivers) – a very popular tourist attraction and Rio Cobre (Copper River) come to mind. There is also Spanish Town which was once the capital of the island; however, it has been replaced by Kingston. Jamaica remained under British rule until she gained her independence on August 6, 1962.