History Of Jamaica Essay

1559 words - 6 pages

History of Jamaica

Columbus discovered Jamaica on May 5, 1494, one year after he heard of the existence of the island. However, the true history of Jamaica begins with the African-Jamaican people who came to the island twenty years after the English took control from the Spaniards. The history of Jamaica can be broken up into different time periods, which were defined by watershed moments or events. Jamaican history begins with the establishment of the native islanders called the Tainos who inhabited the island for hundreds of years before the discoveries of Columbus. (JNHT 1)

The Tainos are a subgroup of the Arawak people who were first native to South America. These indigenous groups traveled by canoe to the Caribbean islands hundreds of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. The Tainos developed the first social, political, and economical systems on the island of Jamaica. Their social system followed the beliefs of their many gods who could be found in almost any material or animal. The political system constructed was similar to the hierarchy of many European countries with a Chief and nobles. The nobles acted as advisors to the Chief and every citizen in the tribe had a role in the community. Also regions were divided by geographical location and ruled by chiefdoms. The Tainos economic system was basic and simple compared with the standards of today. It was based on fishing and hunting from the surrounding environment. Large mounds were used to slow the process of erosion and to improve drainage to better the living conditions in the tropical climate.

The fourth voyage of Columbus in 1494 established a Spanish influence in Jamaica. The original people of Jamaica, the Tainos, were severely devastated by the Spanish invasion. The Taino population declined every year after the arrival of Columbus due to the spread of new diseases which they had little immunity to. Having little access to the already poor treatments and medicines available at the time furthered the decrease in Taino population. The Taino population decreased by more than half of their original population by 1598 because of Spanish presence. (Carley)

New Seville became the first settlement built by the Spanish in 1510. Nueva Sevilla was governed by Columbus' son Diego. During this period, churches, forts, and castles were built as a symbol of Spanish culture. Several towns were built in order to protect and expand the territory with forts being the center. Today Spanish names still exist in the form of rivers, family names, and towns(JNHT 2). The Spanish implemented a new form of economy on the island based on shipbuilding and repairs in order to maintain the trading post in the Caribbean. Jamaica relied heavily on the trade of fruits and animal skins in order to produce revenues for the Spanish Empire. Jamaica proved to be an unworthy colony for the...

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