Bob Marley. Usain Bolt. Jerk chicken. Blue Mountain coffee. All things Jamaica is well known for. But there’s so much more to the world’s largest tiny island in the sun. Here are eight interesting facts about Jamaica that you probably didn’t know.
At almost 11,000 square kilometers, Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean region behind Cuba and Hispaniola. According to Wikipedia, the island is 235 km east to west, and between 34 and 84 km north to south. End to end, driving by car takes about 6-7 hours. From white sandy beaches, to cool misty mountains, and the hidden adventure spots in between, there’s a whole lot to explore on this island.
Its perfect location
With the city of Miami only 560 miles away, Jamaica is only an hour and a half flight away from the US mainland. This strategic location makes this tropical paradise a prime getaway spot for tourists from the US and Canada. And with its location in the western Caribbean, just 90 miles south of the island of Cuba, Jamaica is the perfect spot for tourists who want to take a day trip to Havana.
For many years, the language of Jamaica has been a source of intrigue for people all over the world. Although English is the country’s official language, it is Jamaican patois that is more associated with the island. Spread through the music and cultural influences of Jamaicans living abroad, patois has attracted so much interest that there are now patois courses being taught in at least one Canadian university.
Its people and ethnicity
African descendants account for more than 90% of the island’s demography but Jamaica has long been known as a multiethnic community. Generations of Europeans, Indians and Chinese descendants have lived in Jamaica for decades and their respective cultures also influence the overall Jamaican culture. The country celebrates this multiethnicity through its motto “Out of many, one people”.
Its reggae music influences
Borne out of the ska and mento beats popular in the 1960s, reggae music gained international fame with the performances of the legendary Bob Marley. Jamaican reggae and dancehall entertainers are in high demand around the world and regularly perform to sold out crowds in Europe and Asia. In addition to being known as the home of reggae, Jamaican culture has influenced several musical genres including hip hop, EDM, and Brazilian funk.
Its Rastafarian culture
Rastas may feature prominently in movies but in fact, they account for less than 2% of the Jamaican population. While Rastafarianism is a religion with a growing number of adherents, many Jamaicans who wear dreadlocks do so as a form of hairstyle and not for religious reasons. Still, many prominent reggae singers are adherents to this faith, and their celebrity status has attracted more followers.
Its track dominance
Jamaica has been winning Olympic medals since 1948, and is the most successful country per capita in track and field. Thanks to a consistent program of track and field in Jamaican schools, the country has built an impressive record ever since Dr. Arthur Wint won the first gold medal in the 400M. Before Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, there was Deon Hemmings, Merlene Ottey, Bert Cameron and many more who have stood on the Olympic podium in the Jamaican colours. And many of the country’s top athletes have their roots in the annual Boys and Girls Championships, a premier event for high school athletes from around the island.
Weed is still illegal!
The decades old association of Jamaica and weed is somewhat of an anomaly. In fact, up to 2014, possession of even small amounts of marijuana could earn prison time. Since then, the law has been amended to allow persons who carry up to two (2) ounces of ganja to pay a small fine. The government has since moved to pass legislation allowing for cultivation and processing of medical marijuana.
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