In 1962, Jamaica became independent. Jamaica, the 3rd largest Caribbean island, was inhabited by Arawak natives when it was first sighted by the 2nd voyage of Christopher Colombus on 5th May 1494. Columbus himself was stranded on Jamaica from 1503 to 1504 during his 4th voyage. The Spanish settled Jamaica in 1509 and held the island against many privateer raids from their main city, now called Spanish Town, which served as capital of Jamaica from its founding in 1534 until 1872. In 1655 Jamaica was conquered by the English, although the Spanish did not relinquish their claim to the island until 1670.
"From slavery, through emancipation, self-rule,...the journey continued in earnest, and today we celebrate Independence as the seminal outcome of their vision for Jamaica."
Governor-General, Sir Patrick Allen.
Jamaica became a base of operations for privateers, including Captain Henry Morgan, operating from the main English settlement Port Royal. In return these privateers kept the other colonial powers from attacking the island. Following the destruction of Port Royal in the great earthquake of 1692 refugees settled across the bay in Kingston which by 1716 had become the biggest town in Jamaica and became the capital city in 1872. Until the early nineteenth century Africans were captured, kidnapped, and forced into slavery to work on plantations when sugarcane became the most important export of the island.
Many slaves arrived in Jamaica via the Atlantic slave trade during the same time enslaved Africans arrived in North America. During this time there were many racial tensions, and Jamaica had one of the highest instances of slave uprisings of any Caribbean island. After the British crown abolished slavery in 1834, the Jamaicans began working toward independence. Since independence in 1962 there have been political and economic disturbances, as well as a number of strong political leaders.
"Today, we celebrate the 49th anniversary of our independence. Next year, God's willing, we will celebrate our golden jubilee – 50 years as an independent nation...As we begin our 50th year of independence, we are thankful for the blessings that God has given us, for, despite all our challenges, we have been blessed. We are thankful for all that we have achieved for, although there is so much more that we must strive for, there is much of which we can be proud.Small though we are, we have made a significant impact on the world. Our music, our prowess in sports, our cuisine, our attractiveness to visitors, the respect we have earned in the important councils of the world, are among the attributes that make us a proud nation."
Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding