Facts at a Glance:
Form of Government: Parliamentary Democracy in the British Commonwealth
Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor General, The Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen, ON, GCMG, CD.
Head of Government: Prime Minister, The Most Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller
Location: 18EN; 77EW – 145 km (90 miles) south of Cuba
Area: 11,000 sq. km (4,411 sq. mi) the third largest island in the Caribbean and the largest English-speaking island.
Population: 2,754,000 (2002 est.)
Ethnic Make-Up: 76.3% African descent, 15.1% Afro-European, 3.4% East Indian and Afro-East Indian, 3.2% Caucasian, 1.2% Chinese and 0.8% Other.
Adult Literacy: 75.4%
Currency: Jamaican Dollar (J$)
Exchange rate: Fluctuates. Currently US$1.00 = J$ 52.54 (Jan. 2003)
Time Zone: Eastern Standard Time; GMT -5
Phone Code: Regional code (876) plus the 7-digit local number
History: When Christopher Columbus first visited Jamaica in 1494, he found the island populated by Arawak (Taino) Indians. Jamaica remained a Spanish colony until 1655 when it was captured by the British, who imported slaves from Africa to work on the island’s sugar plantations, which became the basis of the island’s economy. Emancipation of the slaves took place in 1838, along with the importation of indentured labour from India and China.
After a long period of direct British colonial rule, Jamaica gradually began to achieve local political control in the late 1930s. This was a time of social unrest, with instances of violence, as political leaders pushed for universal adult suffrage. Out of this period came the formation of Jamaica’s leading political parties – the Jamaica Labour Party, headed by Sir Alexander Bustamante and the People’s National Party, led by Norman Manley.
In 1958 Jamaica joined the West Indies Federation but withdrew in 1961 following a referendum. Internal self-government was introduced in 1959 and complete independence from Britain was attained on August 6, 1962. Currently, the Jamaica Labour Party, headed by Prime Minister, The Hon. Orette Bruce Golding forms the government. Jamaica remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
UWI Connections: The University of the West Indies which began as the University College of the West Indies was first based in Jamaica on the Mona Campus. The Mona Campus remains the seat of the Central Administration of the University, under the Vice-Chancellor. It is also the largest campus, with a student population of approximately 11,000 - 95% of which are Jamaican nationals.