Jamaica is a country found in the Caribbean and covers an area of 4,240 square miles, making it the Greater Antilles’ third-largest island country and the fourth largest in the whole of the Caribbean. Some of the closest countries to Jamaica include Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. The population of Jamaica is about 2.9 million inhabitants, ranking the country as the third-most-populous Anglophone nation in the Americas after the US and Canada. Jamaica is also the fourth most populous nation in the Caribbean. The country's capital city is Kingston, which is also the country’s largest city having 937,700 inhabitants. As a result of the high rate of emigration since the 1960s, most Jamaicans are in the diaspora, particularly in the UK, Canada, and the US.
The Indigenous Arawak and Taino people were the initial inhabitants of Jamaica. Following the 1494 expeditions of Christopher Columbus, the island became a Spanish colony. The natives of the island died in large numbers from diseases, and as a result, the Spanish brought African slaves over to provide labor. The island remained as a colony of Spain until 1655 when the British took over the Island and gave the name Jamaica. As a British colony, Jamaica became one of the leading exporters of sugar, and it was heavily reliant on African slave labor. In 1838, slavery was banned in the British Empire, and the freed blacks chose to engage in subsistence farms in Jamaica as opposed to working in the plantations. From the early 1840s, the British used the Indian and Chinese indentured labor to work on sugar cane plantations. In 1962 Jamaica obtained its independence from the British.
The afro-Jamaicans or black Jamaicans refer to the citizens of Jamaica who are descendants of black Africans or partially black Africa. The first black Africans were brought to Jamaica in 1513, and they were from the Iberian Peninsula. When Jamaica became a British colony in 1655, many of them fought with the Spanish who gave them their freedom. For many years they resisted the British to maintain their freedom, and some fled to the mountains and they were referred to as the Maroons. The British came with Akan slaves, and some of them ran away to join the Maroons. By 1700, Jamaica had large plantations of sugarcane, and the population consisted of about 7,000 British and about 40,000 enslaved Africans. In 1800 there were about 21,000 British and about 300,000 slaves of African origin.
Indo-Jamaicans are the citizens of Jamaica who are descendants of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent. The Indo-Jamaicans form the third largest ethnic group in the country after the afro-Jamaicans and African multiracials. They account for 0.8% of the country's population. The African mixed Jamaicans identify themselves as black and therefore, the population of Jamaicans with Indian ancestry is believed to be much higher than what is reported. Between 1845 and 1917, more than 36,000 Indians came from British India to British Jamaica because of the deteriorating socio-economic conditions in India at the time. The majority of Indians originated from the northern part of India in the Hindi belt, particularly in Awadhi and Bhojpuri regions. The minority of Indians also came from the southern part of India. It is estimated that about two-thirds of the laborers who came from India remained on the island of Jamaica.
Chinese Jamaicans refer to the citizens of Jamaica of Chinese ancestry, and they include people who trace their lineage to the descendants of migrants from China. There were different waves of migrations to Jamaica, the first one was in the early 19th century, and the second wave was between the 1980s and 1990s. Most of the descendants of the early migrants to Jamaica have since moved to other countries such as the US and Canada. The majority of Chinese Jamaicans are Hakka (Whose ancestral origin are traced to the provincial regions of Guizhou, Hainan, Zhejiang, Hunan, Sichuan, Guangxi, Jiangxi, Fujian, and Guangdong), who had come to Jamaica as laborers and coolies between the mid 19th century and early 20th century. The earliest arrival of Chinese in Jamaica was in 1854 from China, and the second one was the migrants from Panama who had been contracted for plantations in Panama. In 1870, another group of 200 Chinese arrived in Jamaica mainly from other Caribbean islands. The increase of the Chinese population in Jamaica was to replace the black slavery, which had been outlawed in all the British Empire. It involved signing a five-year contract that bound the laborer to a specific planter.
White Jamaicans refer to Jamaican citizens who trace their ancestry to Europe, particularly to England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Spain, and Portugal. According to the 2011 census in Jamaica, the white population was 4,365 people, which represented about 0.16% of the total population. In the past, the white Jamaicans accounted for the larger portion of the country's population, particularly in the 17th century. In 1662, immediately after Jamaica became a British colony, the population of the white people was about 3,653, which accounted for 87% of the population in the country. The population of white people would increase to 7,768 in 1673, which accounted for about 45% of the population in the country because the population of black slaves had increased significantly. By 1960 the population of the white ethnic group accounted for 0.77% of the country's population, and by 1970 they accounted for 0.66% of the population, while in 2001 they accounted for 0.18% of the population in Jamaica.
Jamaican citizens have migrated to different countries in the world and particularly to the United States, the UK, and Canada. Every year the US grants permanent residence to about 20,000 Jamaicans, and this constitutes some of Jamaicans in the diaspora. Other Jamaicans have migrated to Cuba in the recent past, and the rate of emigration has increased in the country which has also been witnessed in other Caribbean countries such as the Bahamas, Guyana, and Puerto Rico. In 2004, it was estimated that about 2.5 million Jamaicans and Jamaican descendants were living in different countries abroad. The UK alone is home to about 800,000 Jamaicans, making them the largest African Caribbean group in the country. Between the 1950s and 1960s Jamaica experience huge emigration to the UK and during this time the country was still a colony of the British.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
Your MLA Citation
Your APA Citation
Your Chicago Citation
Your Harvard CitationRemember to italicize the title of this article in your Harvard citation.