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Vacation hut in Silver Sands

North America

 
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, 240 kilometers (150 mi) in length and as much as 85 kilometers (50 mi) in width situated in the Caribbean Sea. It is 635 kilometers (391 mi) east of the Central American mainland, 150 kilometers (93 mi) south of Cuba, and 180 kilometers (112 mi) west of the island of Hispaniola, on which Haiti and the Dominican Republic are situated. Its indigenous Arawakan-speaking Taíno inhabitants named the island Xaymaca, meaning either the "land of springs," or the "Land of wood and water." Formerly a Spanish possession known as Santiago, then the British West Indies Crown colony of Jamaica, the country's population is composed mainly of the descendants of former African slaves. It is the third most populous Anglophone country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada.
Background Information
The original Arawak or Taino people from South America first settled on the island between 1000 and 400 BC. Although some claim they became virtually extinct following contact with Europeans, others claim that some survived.

Jamaica was claimed for Spain after Christopher Columbus first landed there in 1494. Columbus used it as his family's private estate. The British Admiral William Penn (father of William Penn of Pennsylvania) and General Venables seized the island in 1655. During its first 200 years of British rule, Jamaica became the world's largest sugar exporting nation and produced over 77,000 tons of sugar annually between 1820 and 1824, which was achieved through the massive use of imported African slave labor.

By the beginning of the 19th century, the United Kingdom's heavy reliance on slavery resulted in blacks outnumbering whites by a ratio of almost 20 to one, leading to constant threat of revolt. Following a series of rebellions, slavery was formally abolished in 1834, with full emancipation from chattel slavery declared in 1838.

Jamaica slowly gained increasing independence from the United Kingdom, and in 1958 Jamaica became a province in the Federation of the West Indies, a federation between all the British West Indies. Jamaica attained full independence by leaving the federations in 1962.

However, the initial optimism following Jamaican independence for the next decade or so vanished as Jamaica lagged economically. Rising foreign debt under the government of Michael Manley, who was determined to alleviate Jamaica's severe economic inequality, led to the imposition of IMF austerity measures. Deteriorating economic conditions and the involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency due to Manley's international socialism and friendship with Fidel Castro, led to a desperately fought re-election campaign between Manley's People's National Party and the main opposition, the Jamaican Labour Party. Both political parties became linked with rival gangs in Kingston which were duly armed. This policy, along with the increasing emergence of Jamaica as a smuggling point for cocaine during the 1980s, led to recurrent violence and only served to increase the impoverishment of a large section of the Jamaican populace. The ultimate result of this cycle of violence, drugs and poverty has been the brutal gun warfare seen on Kingston's streets from the mid-1990s onwards. The Jamaican police force has also been accused of complicity in this murderous side of the island. It must be noted however that the rural sections of the island, especially in and around the resort towns of Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, remain relatively safe.

The former capital of Jamaica was Spanish Town, in St. Catherine parish, the site of the old Spanish colonial capital. The Spanish named the town Santiago de la Vega. In 1655 when the British captured the island, much of the old Spanish capital was burned by the invading British troops. The town was rebuilt by the British and renamed Spanish Town. It remained the capital until 1825, when the city of Kingston was named capital under questionable circumstances.
Climate
Two types of climate are found on Jamaica. An upland tropical climate prevails on the windward side of the mountains, whereas a semiarid climate predominates on the leeward side. Warm trade winds from the east and northeast bring rainfall throughout the year. The rainfall is heaviest from May to October, with peaks in those two months. The average rainfall is 196 centimeters per year. Rainfall is much greater in the mountain areas facing the north and east, however. Where the higher elevations of the John Crow Mountains and the Blue Mountains catch the rain from the moisture-laden winds, rainfall exceeds 508 centimeters per year. Since the southwestern half of the island lies in the rain shadow of the mountains, it has a semiarid climate and receives fewer than 762 millimeters of rainfall annually.

Temperatures are fairly constant throughout the year, averaging 25C to 30C in the lowlands and 15C to 22C at higher elevations. Temperatures may dip to below 10C at the peaks of the Blue Mountains. The island receives, in addition to the northeast trade winds, refreshing onshore breezes during the day and cooling offshore breezes at night. These are known on Jamaica as the "Doctor Breeze" and the "Undertaker's Breeze," respectively.

Jamaica lies at the edge of the hurricane track; as a result, the island usually experiences only indirect storm damage. Hurricanes occasionally score direct hits on the islands, however. In 1980, for example, Hurricane Allen destroyed nearly all Jamaica's banana crop.
Rainbow over bay, Saint Ann
Dunn River Falls
Map of Jamaica