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Jamaica has come a long way since its settlement days. Early evidence suggests that the island was settled by South American Taino tribes, around 1,000 BCE. Life revolved around agriculture and fishing, although the seafaring culture retained contact with it ancestral relatives on the South American mainland.

When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1494 and claimed the island for Spain, the island became known as Santiago. The Spanish began extensive settlement efforts. The Taino tribes were all but exterminated. Curiously enough, by 1517, the Spanish settlers had begun bringing slaves from as far away as Africa to the island.

In 1534, the Spanish settlers established the village of Villa de la Vega, now known as Spanish Town, as the capital of their new colony.

IN 1655, English settlers took control of the island and Villa de la Vega became known as Spanish Town. Heavy fighting between Spanish and English settlers resulted in the destruction of much of the city, and for a short time the harbor city of Port Royal was used as the capital.

Founded by the Spanish but taken over by the English in 1655, Port Royal became an important center for economic growth, and by 1659 had experienced substantial growth.

The island proved an ideal location for the cultivation of sugar cane and coffee, and the use of slave labor began to climb. Modern estimates claim that within one hundred years, the Jamaican slave population would exceed European settlers by 20 to 1.

During the 17th century, Jamaica was besieged by seafaring pirates. The ideal location, and wealthy cities, made the island a target for notorious bandits like Henry Morgan.

English defenses were poor, and b y the end of the 1600s, Port Royal suffered from one of the worst reputations in the colonies. The “Sodom of the New World”, by then one of the largest and wealthiest colonies in the Caribbean, began to enlist the aid of successful pirates in defending the island, no doubt drawn to Jamaica by the lure of the newly minted coins that began to replace the barter system of commerce.

Anti-piracy laws came into effect, and Port Royal turned from pirate safe haven to pirate execution ground.

Tragedy struck in 1692, when a massive earthquake leveled much of Port Royal. Much of the land was washed into sea, leaving half the city dead. The devastation led to the founding of Kingston, a new city that would become the capital in 1872.

Kingston was founded in 1693, by residents of Port Royal displaced by the earthquake. By the early 1700s, the city had become the largest on the island and the commercial center. Over the next few years, several wealthy merchants relocated to Kingston, attracted by its serene beauty and commercial potential.

By the mid 18th century, Kingston saw the relocation of government offices, and the population began to grow. Within a few years, the city officially become the new capital.

During the 1800s, the slave population began to rise up against its oppressors. Several slave revolts resulted in many escaping capture, and establishing their own colonies around the island, often in areas the English found difficult or not worth settling. Unfortunately, some escaped slaves would take work in English employ, hunting down other escaped slaves.

During the ensuing Great Jamaican Slave Revolt of the 1830s, more than 500 slaves lost their lives. By the end of the decade, an unconditional emancipation was enforced, bringing island slavery to an end.

Newly won freedom was difficult for the former slaves, many of whom found themselves contractually obligated to their former “owners”. The short lived Morant Bay Rebellion did little to help their cause, and was brutally put down.

Fortunately, former cash crops like sugar cane began to lose importance, and new markets (such as the growing of bananas) began to open up, offering new life to the disenfranchised.

Still seen as a commercial bounty, Jamaica became a Crown Colony in the mid 1800s.

In 1907, Jamaica suffered another massive earthquake, and nearly all of the cities of Kingston and Port Royal were destroyed. To make matters worse, the post war recession and subsequent Great Depression left little money for the more expensive imported goods that Jamaica was known for, and the economy suffered. A short lived revolt, however, led to radical social and political restructuring, resulting in the first organized labor movement in the colony.

While power changed hands continually for the next few years, a new national identity began to emerge. Jamaica was granted independence in 1962, but remained a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

The changing times brought back some of the unsavory elements of Jamaica’s early years, and the island began to suffer a reputation for violence and crime not seen since the days of piracy. The resultant emigration boom led to many residents resettling in the Americas, in particular the east coast of the United States.

Modern Jamaica enjoys a reputation as a popular tourist destination, in part for its long and colorful history, in part for its idyllic setting. Jamaica supports a unique culture which continues to enjoy a small share of the international limelight. The island produces many world renowned international acts, from the legendary Bob Marley to modern reggae artist Shaggy, and continues to inspire big budget entertainment. The popular Tom Cruise film Cocktail is set here, and no less that six James Bond productions stop by Jamaica. The historic city of Port Royal was even chosen as the central location for the Disney blockbuster franchise Pirates of the Caribbean.

As such, Jamaica continues to enjoy a reputation as one of the top leisure vacation destinations in the world.

Cities in Jamaica

Kingston? Montego Bay? Negril? Ocho Rios? Port Antonio? Port Royal? Run-Away Bay? Spanish Town?

There are plenty more things to see and do in Jamaica.

Activities | Sights? | Shopping? | Events? | Business Index?

Jamaica is a fun place to visit if you remember a few simple rules. Stay as close to the hotel as possible, travel in groups, and always let someone known where you are going. Jamaica does have a problem with crime, so the best idea is to stay close to the cruise ship or resort. Many resorts are guarded areas almost impossible for criminals to get in.

If you do decide to leave and head to a shopping area, travel in groups and let your resort or a friend know you are heading out. Jamaica is known for it's jewelery and handmade goods.

Jamaica is a great tourist destination. You can climb up a waterfall in Ocho Rios, where water pours down as you head up the waterfall, but don't worry, it is a guided tour.


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