History of Jamaican People

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Jamaica Today: With independence in 1962, Jamaica’s national motto – “ Out of Many One People” – from Taino to Rasta-reflects our rich heritage drawn primarily from the Tainos, Spanish, Africans, British, Indians and Chinese. Others who came in smaller numbers were the Jews, Germans and Lebanese (Syrians). This melting pot helped shape the modern Jamaica Today.

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The Africans: The Africans were first brought to Jamaica by the Spanish and later by the British in larger numbers to work as slaves on the sugar plantations. Due to very harsh living and working conditions, many escaped to the mountains becoming known as Maroons. Their language, dance, music, food, social activities and religious traditions remain dominant in today’s Jamaica.

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The Chinese: They were brought to Jamaica with the second wave of indentured labourers between 1854 and 1860. They have left an indelible mark on Jamaican society in the areas of cuisine, the modern supermarket and retail networks as well as every aspect of Jamaican industrial life including bakeries, bottling, hardware and catering.

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The English: They captured the island from the Spanish in 1655, soon making it one of the richest islands in the Caribbean. They left behind a legacy of notorious pirates and buccaneers. They also left their mark with beautiful greathouses on once flourishing plantations as well as our modern legal, political, educational and religious traditions. Some of which have been fused with those of the majority Africans

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The Indians: East Indians were among the first indentured labourers along with the free-Africans to be brought to the Island between 1845 -1917 to work on the plantations after Emancipation in 1838. Their primarily Hindu traditions persist with their foods, festivals like the Hosay, love of jewellery, fruits like mangoes, plums, jackfruits and tamarind as well as the “holy weed” or marijuana being incorporated into the fabric of Jamaican society.

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The Spaniards: The first of Europeans to colonize Jamaica in the 16th century and bring Christianity to the New World. They introduced a number of crops like sugar cane, citrus, avocado and banana as well as a wide range of animals to the island leaving behind a rich legacy of Spanish architecture, place-names, flora and fauna.

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The Tainos: A proud peaceful people of Amerindian Indian origin, are the first known inhabitants of Jamaica. Many of them escaped the Spanish invasion by fleeing to the mountains, they left us with the methods of cultivating and smoking tobacco, building hammocks and canoes and the of barbecuing meat –now commonly called “jerking”.

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