History, Language & Culture Jamaïque

Histoire, langue et culture Jamaïque

The Caribbean island of Jamaica was initially inhabited in approximately 600 CE or 650 CE by the Redware people, often associated with redware pottery. By roughly 800 CE, a second wave of inhabitance occurred by the Arawak tribes, including the Tainos, prior to the arrival of Columbus in 1494. Early inhabitants of Jamaica named the land "Xaymaca", meaning "land of wood and water". The Spanish enslaved the Arawak, who were ravaged further by diseases that the Spanish brought with them. Early historians believe that by 1602, the Arawak-speaking Taino tribes were extinct. However, some of the Taino escaped into the forested mountains of the interior, where they mixed with runaway African slaves, and survived free from first Spanish, and then English, rule. The Spanish also transported hundreds of West African people to the island. However, the majority of Africans were brought into Jamaica by the English.


In 1655, the English invaded Jamaica, and defeated the Spanish. Some African slaves took advantage of the political turmoil and escaped to the island's interior mountains, forming independent communities which became known as the Maroons. Meanwhile, on the coast, the English built the settlement of Port Royal, a base of operations where piracy flourished as so many European rebels had been rejected from their countries to serve sentences on the seas. Captain Henry Morgan, a plantation owner and Welsh privateer, raided settlements and shipping bases in Port Royal, earning him his reputation as one of the richest Pirates in the Caribbean.


In the 18th century, sugar cane replaced piracy as British Jamaica's main source of income. The sugar industry was labour-intensive and the British brought hundreds of thousands of enslaved black Africans to the island. By 1850, the black Jamaican population outnumbered the white population by a ratio of twenty to one. Enslaved Jamaicans mounted over a dozen major uprisings during the 18th century, including Tacky's Revolt in 1760. There were also periodic skirmishes between the British and the mountain communities of the Jamaican Maroons, culminating in the First Maroon War of the 1730s and the Second Maroon War of 1795–1796.


Jamaican culture consists of the religion, norms, values, and lifestyle that define the people of Jamaica. The culture is mixed, with an ethnically diverse society, stemming from a history of inhabitants beginning with the original Taino people. The Spaniards originally brought slavery to Jamaica. Then they were overthrown by the English. Jamaica later gained emancipation on August 1, 1838, and independence from the British on August 6, 1962. Black slaves became the dominant cultural force as they suffered and resisted the harsh conditions of forced labour. After the abolition of slavery, Chinese and Indian migrants were transported to the island as indentured workers, bringing with them ideas from the Far East. These contributions resulted in a diversity that affected the language, music, dance, religion, and social norms and practices of the Jamaicans.

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