Jamaica is a beautiful mountainous island in the Caribbean Sea that has an area of 4,244 square miles or
10.991 square kilometers. Almost oval in shape, Jamaica lies south of Cuba.
How far is
Jamaica from your place? It is the largest
island in the Caribbean Sea. Jamaica has mostly mountains, with narrow coastal plains where most
Jamaicans live; in the west and along the coasts are savannas, plains, and scattered trees.
Jamaica's climate is tropical; hot, and humid; but its interior has temperate temperatures. Temperatures
are higher along the coasts and cooler in the mountains. Rainfall changes with the region;
northeastern Jamaica gets more than 250 cm or 100 in of rainfall each year, making it one of
the wettest regions in the world. Most of the country experiences severe fluctuations of drought
and flood. Very little rain falls on the hot, dry southern and southwestern plains. The average
annual temperature in Jamaica is 26 degrees C.
During the 18th century, the English, French, and Spanish kidnapped more than 600,000 Africans
and deported them to Jamaica to force them to work as slaves on their sugar, coffee, and other
plantations. Today, Jamaica's population of 2,520,000 people consists mainly of the descendants
of those African slaves. There are also groups of East Indian, Chinese, Syrian, Lebanese and
European ancestry. More than half of Jamaica's population lives in cities.
About 25% of the people depend on farming for a living. Half of the arable land is controlled by about 1,000
large farms or estates, while the other half is divided into 185,000 small farms. The larger
farms mainly produce sugarcane, citrus fruits, coffee, bananas, pimentos, and cattle, often for
export. The small farms grow a variety of crops and raise goats and pigs for local markets and
The official language of Jamaica is English, but many people speak a popular Creole dialect.
Originally developed as a means of communication between the African slaves, it contains parts
from African languages as well as from English, French, and Spanish. Education is theoretically
free, but illiteracy is still a problem. Near Kingston, the capital and chief port, is the
main campus of the University of the West Indies, and a technical college.
Jamaica is a parliamentary democracy, with a lower house elected by universal suffrage and an appointed
senate. It belongs to the Commonwealth, and the head of state is the governor-general, who is
appointed by the monarch of England. The prime minister is the leader of the majority party in
the House of Representatives.
By Ryan Hicken