A Brief History of Jamaica

Jamaica is an island country located in the Caribbean Sea, the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles chain. The country has a total area of 4,240 square miles (10,990 sq. km) and is situated about 90 miles (145 km) south of the island of Cuba, and 119 miles (191 km) west of the island of Hispaniola, which is home to the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Jamaica is the fifth-largest island country in the Caribbean region. Its indigenous people, the Taino Indians, named the island Xaymaca (Arawakan language), meaning the “Land of Wood and Water” or the “Land of Springs.”

Jamaica, which was once a Spanish possession known as Santiago, came under the rule of England (later Great Britain) in 1655, at which time it was renamed Jamaica. The country received its full independence and sovereignty from the United Kingdom in the summer of 1962 and has remained independent to this day. With a permanent population of 2.8 million inhabitants, Jamaica is the third-most populous English-speaking country in the Americas (after the United States and Canada). Its capital and largest city is Kingston, with a population of 937,700 (34 percent of the total population). Jamaica has a large Diaspora around the world, due to emigration from the country.

Jamaica is a Commonwealth realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch and serving as the head of state. Her appointed representative in the country is the Governor-General of Jamaica, currently Sir Patrick Allen. The head of government and Prime Minister of Jamaica is Portia Simpson-Miller. Jamaica is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with legislative power vested in the bicameral Parliament of Jamaica, consisting of an appointed Senate and a directly elected House of Representatives.


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