History of Jamaica

Flag of Jamaica. Image thanks to en.wikipedia

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The history of Jamaica clearly shows that Jamaica was the first to stand against the Apartheid in South Africa by implementing a trade embargo with the country even as it was still a colony of Britain.

In fact when Jamaica was accepted as a member to the United Nations in 1962, the country worked hard to bring attention to the plight of human right crimes especially in South Africa. By 1967, the UN accepted the proposal of Jamaica for an international conference to be held on human rights. It took place in Iran and was called the International Conference on Human Rights which is held every year since then.

In 1977, with the help of Jamaica and other countries, the UN also adopted the ban against South Africa in international sport events because of the Apartheid. When South Africa held its first free election after the Apartheid and elected Nelson Mandela to be its new president, it was a Jamaican who led the UN team that observed the process.

Who Is Jamaica?

The history of Jamaica will reveal why the country fought hard against the Apartheid and other countries that committed crimes against human rights. When Christopher Columbus arrived in Jamaica in 1494, he found the Arawaks. These are indigenous tribes from the West Indies that came originally from South America. They were peaceful agriculturists who made pottery and textiles. The Columbus named the island Santiago but the name was never used by anyone else. It kept its original name of Xaymaca which is an Arawak word and from where Jamaica comes from.

Jamaica was used by powerful countries like Spain and England as a source for slaves. However, the slaves would die from infectious diseases. With the sale population depleted, African were brought in to take their place and by 1665 the Africans had replaced the Arawaks who all died or left the island. Spain used the Jamaica as a supply base while Britain used Jamaica as a convenient base in their attacks against Spain. Eventually Jamaica became a colony of Britain. A small group of locals fought the British invasion and were given the name “Maroons” which means “wild.”

This was also the period when pirates in the island grew as they used Jamaica as well as their place of rest and leisure. A company called Royal Africa Company was formed that engaged in slave trade with Jamaica as its main market. Nonetheless, the Maroons kept fighting and in 1740 succeeded in being recognized by the British and given the right to own property and enjoy their freedom.

Jamaica did very well economically from 1792 up to 1814 but sugar prices began to drop after and led to dire situations in the island. With the growing poverty and discontent with the government, uprising began to occur and some Europeans died. Martial law was declared with executions taking place randomly and led to the island being placed under direct Crown colony rule.

It was in 1938 that the move towards independence began with the formation of the political party, the People’s National Party and then another in 1943, the Jamaica Labour Party. The island finally got its freedom back when independence was proclaimed in 1962. It also heralded a new beginning with goods like bananas and bauxite being traded with other countries giving Jamaica a good economic start.