For a tiny island in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica has had a massive impact on the world in a number of ways. But there’s much more to Jamaica than Bob Marley and Cool Runnings and that doesn’t always get represented. That’s why I’ll be giving you 28 facts about Jamaican culture to broaden your scope and show you just how influential the nation has been.
The history of Jamaica
- The name ‘Jamaica’ comes from the Arawakan ‘Xaymaca’ meaning ‘Land of Wood and Water’.
- Before the island was colonised, a group known as the “Redware people” arrived in Jamaica in 600 AD and then the Arawak–Taíno around 200 years later. Known as Yamaye, some of the natives still remain on the island.
- Jamaica gained independence from the British on 6th August 1962 and was the first English-speaking Caribbean island to do so.
- Jamaica’s motto is ‘Out of Many, One People’.
- Jamaica is a member of CARICOM, the Commonwealth, IMF (International Monetary Fund), the UN, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and WHO (World Health Organization).
- Kingston is capital of Jamaica but it’s in the smallest parish on the island by area (25km²).
- The yellow (or gold), black and green of the Jamaican flag represent the shining sun, the strength and creativity of the people, and the land.
- While the official language of Jamaica is ‘Jamaican Standard English’, Jamaican patois is widely used and arguably the most well-known language spoken on the island. There have been many calls for it be classed as an official language.
- Jamaica is the third-most populous English-speaking country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada.
- Christianity is the largest religion on the island and has played a major role in Jamaican culture, as with many Black communities from the diaspora.
- The most notable derivative of that is the Rastafari movement, with its strong connections to Africa. Originating in the 1930s, Rastafarians follow teachings from the Old and New Testament but the movement is distinct in its belief that Ethiopia’s former Emperor, Haile Selassie, was the human embodiment of God.
- Besides Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism, Jamaica also has a congregation of Baha’i followers. In 2003, the then-Governor General of Jamaica, Sir Howard Cooke, made the 25th July ‘National Bahá’í Day’.
- Tony-Award-winning choreographer Garth Fagan was born in Kingston, Jamaica.
- A dance known as Bruckins is performed during Emancipation Day.
- Nobel prize laureate Derek Walcott, attended college in Jamaica.
- James Bond writer Ian Fleming wrote his Bond novels while living in Jamaica.
- 2015 Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James was born in Kingston.
- Nine-Nights is a funeral tradition practised in Caribbean nations including Jamaica where people take part in an extended wake that lasts for several days. In that time, friends and family share anecdotes, eat food and sing hymns together.
- Some Jamaican believe burying the umbilical cord of a newborn under a tree is said to give the child a permanent connection to the island.
- In 2019, Jamaica reported its lowest unemployment rate in 50 years.
- Every August, the Pushcart derby takes place, involving races between push carts, similar to American soap box races. The finals take place in the parish of St Elizabeth.
- Jamaican has won 78 medals at the Olympics, including 1 bronze medal in the men’s cycling 1 km time trial at Moscow 1980.
- The Kariba suit is a two-piece suit for men, popularised by former Prime Minister, Michael Manley. Designed in Jamaica in the early 1970s, the suit was made as a form of businesswear to replace standard European suits. When Manley and the People’s National Party came to power in 1972, Parliament passed a law making the Kariba suit the official outfit for formal government functions.
- The Quadrille dress is worn in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries but the quadrille dance, for which it is worn, is only danced in Jamaica and Trinidad today.
- Jamaica’s national flower is the lignum vitae while the national bird is the red-billed streamertail or ‘doctor bird‘.
- The Jamaican boa is the largest snake on the island but none of the eight species of snakes on the island are venomous.
- Jamaica’s exports include sugar, bananas, cocoa, coconut, grapefruit, rum, yams, and Blue Mountain Coffee.
- The Jamaican slider is a species of turtle that’s only found in Jamaica and on a few islands in the Bahamas.