First colonized by the Spanish and then by the English, the Caribbean island of Jamaica achieved independence in 1962. It remains an influential force in Caribbean politics.
Geography: Mainly mountainous, with lush tropical vegetation. Inaccessible limestone area in the northwest. Low, irregular coastal plains are broken by hills and plateaus.
Climate: Tropical. Hot and humid at sea level, with temperate mountain areas. Hurricanes are likely June–November.
People and Society: Social tensions result from vast disparities in wealth, rather than race. Economic and political life is dominated by a few wealthy, long-established families. Many women hold senior positions in public life. Armed crime, much of it narcotics-related, is a problem. Large areas of Kingston, which have their own patois, are ruled by violent gangs. Jamaican music styles are influential worldwide.
The Economy: Major bauxite producer, though sector suffering from low world prices. Tourism and light industry. Sugar, bananas, coffee, and rum are exported. Debt burden dominates budget. High underemployment.
Insight: Jamaica’s Rastafarians revere the late emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, as their spiritual leader, and see Africa as their spiritual home
Official Name: Jamaica
Date of Formation: 1962
Population: 2.72 million
Total Area: 4243 sq. miles (10,990 sq. km)
Density: 650 people per sq. mile
Languages: English Creole, English*
Religions: Protestant 55%, other and nonreligious 45%
Ethnic Mix: Black African 92%, Mulatto 6%, European and Chinese 1%, East Indian 1%
Government: Parliamentary system
Currency: Jamaican dollar = 100 cents