A Political and Cultural History of Jamaica Essay

2589 Words 11 Pages
Situated just south of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica is well known as a popular tourist spot and the birthplace of reggae music. Populated initially by native Arawak Indians, who gave the island its name, “land of wood and water (Jamaica).” However, this beautiful land’s almost pristine beauty was shattered by outbursts of violence surrounding the 1980 political elections. This fighting was sparked by the people’s mistrust of the ruling socialist party at the time. The reasons for this fighting and this mistrust are not simple, they are intrinsically tied to the island nation’s history from the beginning of its colonial period five hundred years before.
The island was first discovered by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in
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These freed slaves left the plantations and took control of the empty lands in the interior of the country. This move had a noted negative effect on the economy, creating labor shortages, declining trade, and widespread bankruptcy. The leadership soon began to oppress the former slaves in the forms of unfair taxation, prejudiced rulings by judges, and limiting land ownership rights. This new oppression caused the blacks to riot and lead an insurrection at the city of Port Morant in 1865. Because of this and the growing economic crisis, Jamaica was made a “crown colony” which meant that the colony was stripped of much of its representation and self-governing abilities (Jamaica). The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a vast increase in the importance of exporting bananas to the US. This increase, however, was not enough to create an effective and stable workforce, causing many Jamaicans to leave the island and search for work elsewhere. The worldwide depression in the 1930s put an end to this outflow of workers, and brought many of those who had left back to the island, thus putting further strain on the workforce. This combined with the depression led to vast economic hardships culminating in riots in1938 (Jamaica). It was out of this economic depression and its subsequent unrest that the modern Jamaican
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