Sharon Lorenzo visits the island country of Jamaica.

Map of Jamaica

Jamaica is part of a group of islands that separate the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea called the West Indies.

Ninety miles south of Cuba is a lovely island named by its indigenous Taino people who occupied this space of 4240 square miles from 600 A.D. as Xaymaca, the land of wood and water.  Today its population of  2.8 million people host over 4.3 million tourists each year which creates the financial basis of their economy. With its initial conquest by Christopher Columbus in 1494 and later surrender to British occupancy in 1655, the island is now divided into 14 parishes with a House of Representatives including people from each region led by its Prime Minister Andrew Holness. Today 92% of the local population is of mixed race of Afro-Jamaican heritage with free education for all on island in three languages: English, Spanish and Patois, their native dialect. Their flag and national emblem embrace the unity of their people with Out of Many, One People as their motto. The flag of yellow for its glorious sun, green for the rich local vegetation and black for the many years it took to unify their natives into one country makes sense.

National Flag
National Emblem

Jamaica became independent from the United Kingdom in 1962 but remains a member of the Commonwealth.   Jamaican culture still shows the deep influence of British traditions.  The island is proud of its cultural life.  There are many local artists, some are known internationally like Edna Manley, Albert Huie and Barrington Watson. They boast a Nobel Prize winning author, Derek Walcott, and many well known Reggae performers like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Lee Perry.

Cricket is very popular and played throughout the island, with football (what we know as soccer) a close second in popularity.  They have had success in the Olympics with the hurdler Deon Hemmings winning a gold medal, the first in a women’s event.  Sprinter Usain Bolt won a gold medal  in 2008 and again in 2012 and 2016.

As a vacation destination, it was a treat for our family of many grandchildren and adults to revel in the warm 80 degree salt water, while walking the lovely beaches and playing tennis.  We enjoyed the local food specialties like curried goat, spicy jerk chicken and cod fish, and luscious local fruits like the guava and ackee palm. Three thousand species of fruits and plants make the local diet a very healthy option for all.

Local goats and ackee fruit

One of the local highlights is the author, Ian Fleming, who made the exploits of James Bond famous with his stories of graphic  love affairs and dangerous island entanglements in his movies of Dr. No, Goldfinger, From Russia with Love and more.

James Bond in Dr. No
Fleming Resort in Oracabessa, Jamaica

In addition to many hotels from the big chains like Hyatt and Hilton, there are areas of private villas for rent that come with local staff for cooking and childcare.  Included is the first hotel known as The Jamaica Inn from 1750 which still survives today. Lucky visitors have many choices for a quiet family retreat or a roaring multi-generational vacation in the sweet sunshine and blue waters surrounding Jamaica, the land of wood and water.

Tryall Beach on a quiet morning

 

Sources consulted:  Wikipedia, Travel and Leisure Magazine, The Guardian Newspaper.