Saltfish – Salted Cod Fish

Ever wondered about the history of saltfish in the Caribbean and why Jamaican Products only offers dried salted cod fish from Norway? 

Origins

Fishermen on both sides of the Atlantic have been eating cod since the earliest times. Recent archaeological research reveals that:

  • it was an important part of the Native Americans’ diet; and
  • it was probably caught in Scandinavia’s coastal waters ‘from time in memorial’.

Although the drying of food is the world’s oldest known preservation method, the practice of preserving cod is much more recent.  The production of salted cod dates back at least 1000 years, to the time of the Vikings.

Saltfish – Dry Salted Cod Fish

Many countries, especially ones that share a coast with the Atlantic, have some culinary connection with salted cod.  Salted cod is called: saltfish in the Caribbean; baccalà in Italy; bacalao in Spain; morue in France; bacalhau in Portuguese; bakaliaro in Greece; and klippfisk in Scandinavian countries. 

To bring the Caribbean view to this blog, salted codfish will be referred to as saltfish. 

Drying / Storage

Traditionally, saltfish was dried only by the wind and the sun, hanging on wooden scaffolding or lying on clean cliffs or rocks near the seaside.  The Norwegian term klippfisk literally means ‘cliff-fish’. 

It is believed that the salting of cod began in the late eighth or early ninth century, when Viking shipbuilders began constructing the first craft with keels.  These early longships allowed the Vikings to roam further with the challenge of having to feed themselves during these longer journeys.  With no guarantee of catching cod on demand en route, they found preserving and having it in store resulted in a more reliable meal at sea.

Viking Ship

Salt has strong antibacterial properties which allows the fish to be stored for long periods of time, even at warm temperatures.

Salting became economically feasible during the 17th century, when cheap salt from southern Europe became available to the maritime nations of northern Europe.  The method was cheap and the work could be done by the fisherman or his family. The resulting product was easily transported to market, and saltfish became a staple item. 

After 1945 (World War ll), modern fish dryers were installed in many fish plants, replacing the traditional sun drying method.  Dryers have several advantages. They leave the fishermen free to spend more time fishing and less time tending the fish during the curing and drying process. The dryers also ensure a more uniform product and supply, free from the vagaries of the weather to which sun-dried fish is subject.  In addition, the introduction of refrigerators and freezers made it possible to store the saltfish for even longer while maintaining its quality. 

Other white fish such as pollock, hake, cusk, and haddock are offered salted and dried at a lower cost than saltfish (salted cod fish). Demand for these cheaper dried fish is now quite strong. 

Trade

Sugar transformed saltfish from a valuable commodity into an economic sensation.

Jamaica Sugar Plantation

By the late 17th century, much of the Caribbean agriculture was converted to sugar cane production.  Growing sugar cane on large plantations was labour-intensive. To keep costs down, plantation owners relied increasingly on slaves, brought over mainly from Africa.  Providing food for large number of slaves required large areas of land for planting crops and/or the rearing of animals.  Of course, plantation owners were unwilling to make such an investment.  Instead, their solution was to give the slaves saltfish.

Although saltfish was relatively easy to produce, the salting and drying process could go wrong in any one of a number of ways.  Europeans had become rather particular about the quality of their saltfish, so defective produce had previously been thrown away.  Needless to say, the plantation owners were not so picky.  Concerned only to feed their slaves cheaply, they would take whatever the New Englanders could supply, provided the price was right. This meant that the New Englanders could turn waste into profit, and a profitable new trade was born.  Before long, producers abandoned European markets to concentrate on making low-grade saltfish for the Caribbean. 

Triangular Trade Route

Soon saltfish became part of the triangular slave trade.  By the 1640s, New England ships would cross the Atlantic with saltfish and other products, buy slaves in the Cape Verde islands or West Africa, feed the slaves saltfish on journey to Caribbean, sell the slaves and saltfish in the Caribbean, then take cargo-loads of sugar, salt, spices and fibres back to New England.  By the early 18th century, saltfish was so central to the economy of New England that Boston Town Hall even had a golden cod hanging from its ceiling.  

Saltfish fed not only the Caribbean plantation slaves, but also the Union Army in the United States of America. 

The suspension of the Atlantic slave trade and the ultimate abolition of slavery brought an end to the triangular trade, but saltfish continued to flourish.  

Cuisine

Why would we eat saltfish when we can have fresh fish?  The answer, because of its flavour!

Saltfish Balls

When white fish is saturated with salt and dried, amino acids and other chemical changes occur in the fish.  This produces a chewier texture and milder, almost sweet, yet still fishy taste than its fresh counterpart.  It is not unlike how fresh pork can be transformed into ham. It is the same but different and both are wonderful. 

Saltfish remained popular not only in the Caribbean, with dishes such as ackee and saltfish in Jamaica and bacalaitos in Puerto Rico, but also in Scandinavia, Spain, Italy, south France and Portugal.  Saltfish is important in the diet of the populations of Catholic countries on ‘meatless’ Fridays and during Lent. 

Nutrition

Bet you did not know there are health benefits to saltfish! 

Saltfish (salted cod fish) offers the following nutritional and health benefits:

  1. Lowers blood pressure
  2. Sharpens memory
  3. Encourages healthier skin
  4. Lubricates joints
  5. Source of essential fatty acids
  6. Source of vitamins and minerals

Something to remember the next time you enjoy that meal with saltfish. 

Now you know the history of saltfish in the Caribbean.  So why does Jamaican Products only offer dried salted cod fish from Norway?  Norwegian saltfish is among the best on the market and we at Jamaican Products pride ourselves in offering customers the very best!!

Master Of My Fate … by Sienna Brown

I was born in Jamaica and spent my early childhood in Kingston, before my family migrated to Toronto Canada. There the bitter cold shattered any illusions I had about enjoying the romance of a ‘white Christmas.’ It would be several more years before I met my Australian husband-to-be in New York, and travelled with him to Sydney. There further shocks awaited me, including destruction wrought by drought, flood and bush fires. But this blog isn’t about the environment, it’s about finding your passion later in life and being rewarded for sticking with it.

Sienna Brown – Author

After completing grade 13 in Toronto, from the outside my choices seemed right. I was on a creative path of my own choosing and success of a kind followed. First as a contemporary, professional dancer with Toronto Dance Theatre. Then on arrival in Sydney, I gained entry to the Australian Film Television and Radio School. This helped me to shift into documentary filmmaking as a producer, director, writer. I was disciplined, persistent and good at what I did, but through it all, there seemed to be something missing. And gnawing away underneath was the relentless sense of un-belonging. Who was I in these vast landscapes of others? Where did I fit in?

Master Of My Fate

It was during the process of writing my debut novel Master Of My Fate that my sense of self began to change. Recognising that although I thought I had been living my passion, my choices had left me feeling unfulfilled. And ironically enough, the title of the book reflected not only my main protagonist William Buchanan’s journey, but my own.

My research for the novel started accidentally while I was a guide at the UNESCO World Heritage listed Hyde Park Barracks: https://hydeparkbarracks.sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/

It’s where male convicts were housed after being transported from all the far-flung parts of the British empire. During that period, I dived deep into Australia’s Colonial past. It felt like even the walls whispered stories about the men housed there. But the stories were always about European convicts. So, one day, I idle typed the words ‘West Indies’ into the convict data base. To my total surprise the names of 18 men flashed across the screen. They had arrived in the colony on 31st August, 1836, on the convict ship the Moffatt. I was covered in goosebumps.  What excitement to know that my fellow countrymen had stood, lived, breathed in the very room I was standing in. And, I was bearing witness to this, 170 years later to the day!

Hyde Park Barracks

One of the men was William Buchanan whose convict indent listed him as a rebel. I would later discover, William was born into slavery in 1800, on a plantation called Rock Pleasant, in the parish of Saint James. He was transported for participating in the Christmas Day Rebellion that took place in 1831-32, led by the legendary Baptist Preacher, Sam Sharpe. Although not an ancestor, the research was providing me with a direct channel to a shared collective dreaming. It felt like I was bringing the past, into my living present: echoes of which I believe surrounds us, lives on inside us.

Christmas Day Rebellion – Depiction

A new awareness started to unfold about myself and a history of Jamaica, that I should have known about, but didn’t. It helped me to understand, in a very visceral and intimate way, what life may have been like in the early 19th century. It was only then that I was able to empathise as to why people behaved the way they did. Gained a deeper understanding of the society, within which our ‘past selves’, dressed up as our characters lived in. And how, a ‘perfect storm’ of events could give rise to ordinary people doing exceptional things.  

Historical Novel Prize 2020 Shortlist

While I was writing Master Of My Fate, I was driven by the questions – how does a mother explain to her child, they are born into slavery? How does the culture shape that child to accept the lack of freedom for the rest of their life? And how even within that terrible landscape of bondage can there still be joy, love, shared community and the resilience of the human heart to shine through. So, while I spent a great deal of time making sure all the factual historical details where right, ultimately my goal was to embody what it felt like to be in bondage. What it felt like to long for freedom. And I tried to articulate those states using the written word.

It took about seven years of research and writing early in the morning and late at night, after my event management day job, before I was not only able to finish the novel and lucky enough, to have it published in May 2019, by Penguin Random House: https://www.penguin.com.au/books/master-of-his-fate-9780143787532

Sienna Book Signing

It was a huge journey and one in retrospect, I now realise was the beginning of a profound, transformative cycle. One that moved me out of the feeling of un-belonging, into a place of being at one with myself. The inner reward was to discover that ultimately writing was the craft I had been pursuing all along, underneath my other careers. It allowed me to bring together all the skills I had acquired and pour them into my passion for the written word.

I was humbled and grateful when I gained outward recognition. At the beginning of this year – Master of My Fate – won the MUD Literary Prize for best debut novel written by an Australian author in 2020. And later in October, out of an entry of 185 novels, was not only longlisted for the inaugural Historical Fiction Prize:  https://hnsa.org.au/2020-ara-historical-novel-prize-longlist/ but also shortlisted: https://hnsa.org.au/2020-ara-historical-novel-prize-shortlist/ .

Pink Ting

Pink Ting – what comes to mind when you say these words?

If you are Jamaican, then immediately you are back home with the dialect.  The Jamaican word “Ting” translates into English as “Thing”.  If you are not Jamaican, you are probably at a loss.  So what is Pink Ting?

Pink Ting

Ting is a Grapefruit Crush soft drink made with concentrated grapefruit juice and pulp.  It was launched by Jamaica’s main brewer and beverage producer, Desnoes and Geddes (D&G), in 1976.  Then Ting was made with locally sourced Jamaican grapefruit.  Now Ting is made from grapefruit sourced mainly within the Caribbean. 

The grapefruit flesh is segmented and acidic, varying in colours that include white, pink, and red pulps.  Generally, the redder varieties are the sweetest.  This tart and tangy fruit with its underlying sweetness has a juiciness that rivals that of the orange. 

Ting is available in two colours, the regular Ting in a green bottle or can and Pink Ting in a clear bottle. 

Regular Ting

After its launch, Ting was soon being exported to more than 20 other countries, beginning with Barbados.  Interestingly there is debate about the origins of the grapefruit.  Some say it originated in Jamaica while others site Barbados.  One story of the fruit’s origin is that a certain “Captain Shaddock” brought pummelo seeds to Jamaica and bred the first fruit, which were then called shaddocks.  The name Captain Shaddock apparently referred to Captain Chaddock who traded in the West Indies in the 17th century.  So grapefruit probably originated as a naturally occurring hybrid between the two citrus plants. 

The demand for Ting creates a cycle of events which culminates in the growing of grapefruit plants to create the delicious refreshing grapefruit juice.  Since 2000 the demand for Ting doubled resulting in doubled demand for the grapefruit juice.  However, the Jamaican grapefruit trees were becoming old and diseased as little re-planting took place.  So the citrus farmers were supplied with propagated grapefruit seedlings in exchange for all their available grapefruit guaranteed at world grapefruit price.  The trees take 4 years to grow and mature in the rich Jamaican soil and fruit in the Jamaican sunshine.  

Red Grapefruit

This is why “Ting Grapefruit Soda” is promoted as a little island sunshine in a bottle.

In Jamaica I remember eating half a grapefruit most mornings as a breakfast fruit.  The grapefruit would be cut in half, the sections loosened from the peel and each other by a paring knife.  We got rid of the sour taste by adding brown sugar and at times condensed milk. 

With Condensed Milk

Ting has also been known to be mixed with citrus vodka to create Ving, an alcoholic version of the drink.  The drink consists of approximately 1 part Citrus Vodka and 2 parts Ting, but you can create your special drink with your own mix ratio.  There are other recipes for mixes such as Risky Ting, Ginger Ting and Likkle Ting.  Have a look around. 

So what is Pink Ting?  Pink Ting is a Jamaican beverage created with concentrated Caribbean grapefruit juices, pink grapefruit juice and pulp. 

Never tasted Pink Ting or used it in your cocktail mix? Then time for a little adventure.  

Try these mixes or create your own cocktail mix and share with us.  Buy and Try: 

Trinidad and Tobago …. by Dr. William Milne-Home

Every year in August the folks at Jamaican Products organise a celebration of the independence of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. This timing relates to the actual days in August when the respective countries became independent: 6th for Jamaica, and 31st for Trinidad and Tobago. The celebrations are inclusive of the wider Caribbean community in Sydney and Caribbean food, music, dance, culture and history are featured. Unfortunately in 2020 a physical gathering is not possible because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but hopefully in 2021 it’s back on!

Map of Trinidad and Tobago

In the meantime we will reflect on aspects of the culture and history of the Caribbean starting long before the independence of Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago in 1962.

August is a significant month in history for our two countries and some other Caribbean islands. The first day of August 1834 marked the bill in the British House of Commons which abolished slavery in most parts of the British empire. Some historians consider the slave uprising in the French colony of Saint Domingue which began on August 22nd and 23rd, 1791 and which resulted eventually in the creation of the independent state of Haiti, also influenced the abolition. August 23rd is the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition (UNESCO). Finally, in passing, we remember that Marcus Garvey was born on August 17th.

These events in Augusts past continue to leave their mark. Since 1962 in Jamaica celebrations of August 1st (Emancipation Day) and 6th have merged and in Trinidad and Tobago, after it became a republic on August 1st 1976, Emancipation Day was declared a public holiday in 1985. It is also a public holiday in Jamaica and Barbados since 1997. In Trinidad and Tobago Emancipation Day formerly was called Discovery Day because Christopher Columbus reportedly landed on the south coast of Trinidad at Moruga on July 31st 1498 when he “discovered” the island. Columbus is commemorated by a municipal square and statue in Port-of-Spain. Although the statue has been there since 1881 its future may not be secure, as there are echoes of the debate in Australia over Captain Cook statues.

Statue of Columbus in Port of Spain

Reverberations from the Black Lives Matter and cancel culture movements in the USA, UK and Australia are manifest in demands to remove Columbus and rename the square. The statue itself was daubed with red paint and a banner reading “murderer” was draped around it in June 2020.  

The current uproar about whether Columbus should be removed highlights the resurgence of the long-suppressed and ignored First Peoples (Amerindians) of Trinidad and Tobago. They were lumped by the Spanish into Caribs ( tagged as fierce, warlike cannibals and therefore legally could be enslaved) and “peaceful” Arawaks. But there are many other First Peoples within the Carib/Arawak nations: Carib (Kalinago) who can be Chaima, Nepuyo, Suppoyo or Yao; Arawak (Taino/Lakono) and Warao.

After the landing of Columbus, as no gold was discovered, the export of Amerindian slaves was the next resort. The First Peoples resisted fiercely and achieved some success. A chief named Boucanar defeated the attempt of the Conquistador, Antonio Sedeño, to settle in Mucurapo (west of Port of Spain) in a war lasting three years. Eventually Sedeño’s army left Trinidad on August 27th 1534. 

Warao Nation Queen and Delegation with Port of Spain Mayor

A century later in 1637, a Nepuyo chief –Hyarima- allied with the Dutch from Tobago to burn down the Spanish capital San José (now St. Joseph) and caused the Spanish settlers to abandon Trinidad completely. Of course, the Spanish returned in force and Trinidad was firmly incorporated into Spain’s Latin American empire. Tobago was left to be fought over by Dutch, French, Latvian (Courlander) and British colonisers. The Carib and Galibi First Peoples in Tobago were gradually replaced by the sugar-producing estates like in the rest of the Caribbean.

Some of the remaining First Peoples in Trinidad lived in encomiendas (estates worked by indigenous labour); the most prominent of these were at San Juan, Caura, Tacarigua and Arouca, which today are part of the urban sprawl eastwards along the southern foothills of the Northern Range from Port-of-Spain towards Arima. This town gradually became a centre for First Peoples as the last Spanish governor closed the encomiendas and moved the First Peoples to the mission in Arima between 1784 and 1786 to make way for the influx of French settlers and their slaves  and the post 1789 refugees from the French Revolution in the islands. Today Arima is where the Santa Rosa Carib Festival is held each August (except 2020!) by the revitalised Santa Rosa First Peoples Community.

The Festival incorporates a church procession, smoke ceremonies, parang music and  heritage foods, like cassava bread. It has become more prominent since the Government of Trinidad and Tobago granted a lease of 25 acres to the Community on August 9th 2018 to establish a First Peoples Heritage Village and Living Museum.

Now, back to the statue of Columbus and Columbus Square. The queen of the Warao Nation, Donna Bermudez-Bovell and Shabaka Kambon, the director of the Cross Rhodes Freedom Project (part of the Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad & Tobago) met with the Mayor of Port-of-Spain on June 12th 2020 to request the removal of Columbus and renaming Columbus square – shown in the Warao delegation photo. However, at about the same time, the Chief of the Santa Rosa First Peoples Community, Ricardo Bharath-Hernandez stated that replacement and renaming were pointless unless some tangible measures could be put in place which would benefit the indigenous peoples of Trinidad and Tobago. These conflicting opinions sparked a vigorous debate which continues to rumble along.

The Spanish ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago joined in the fray arguing strongly against removal of the statue and renaming the square. Even the Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley, felt compelled to calm down the debate and is quoted  by Newsday on 11th July 2020 as saying:

Trinidad and Tobago Coat of Arms

“Columbus has gone a long time ago; let’s not fight over a statue. If we are no longer prepared to accept a colonial relic or anything that’s in our midst then let’s just look at it civilly and decide on whether he should be on a pedestal in Port of Spain or in a museum.”

Rowley promised to have a community discussion about it after the election. Well, his Peoples National Movement (PNM) has just won the election with a small but working majority so there may be some resolution soon. However, enthusiasm for change may well be tempered by the Columban symbolism embedded in Trinbagonian heraldry.

The Coat of Arms of Trinidad and Tobago, as shown above includes the three ships of Columbus’ fleet on the central shield. The three peaks of the Southern Range from which Trinidad was named by Columbus are also in the design below the shield. The Amerindian name is Iere or Ka-iri, but Trinidad and Tobago is the country’s formal, official and internationally recognised name.

Every country has so-called contested heritage in which historical commemorations compete to be the preferred view of the past. The statue of Columbus in Columbus Square can be compared with Hyarima’s statue near the Arima velodrome since 1993. Moruga also has a statue of Columbus and celebrates Discovery Day with a pageant of the landing of Columbus. He and his crew disembark from his three ships in the Columbus Channel and are welcomed by Tainos and Caribs. (By the way, Morugans also celebrate Emancipation Day).

But let’s leave the last word to Marcus Garvey:

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

Jamaica’s Road to Independence – Part 4

The story of Jamaica’s road to Independence concludes with Part 4.  If you have not already done so, please read Parts 1, 2 and 3 in previous blogs. 

Migration

 “Where ever you travel there is a Jamaican”.  For example I was in the upper reaches of the Austrian Alps when one of my fellow students ran excitedly to tell me “The Chalet owner’s daughter is married to a Jamaican”.  Who would have thought I would be talking to another Jamaican while studying dams high up in those mountains!

So why do Jamaicans have such a migratory spirit? 

The Urge to Travel

The Caribbean has long been a migration hub, with many of its inhabitants seeking employment opportunities by moving either within the region or to a number of larger countries.  These countries include Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Cuba, the United States of America (USA), Canada, and former colonial powers such as the United Kingdom (UK) and France.

Although many of these destination countries have limited labour migration, particularly in the context of the global economic downturn, migration remains important in Jamaican society.  For despite its political stability, Jamaica is a poor country dependent on services, tourism, and remittances, with generally high unemployment levels.  Many of us remember hearing of family connections in Panama and Cuba. 

Panama Canal

After success in building the Suez Canal, French investors commenced work on the Panama Canal in 1881, but by 1894 experienced construction problems, delays, bankruptcy, and legal troubles.  This left many Jamaicans and other Caribbean labourers recruited by the French stranded in Panama, having to be repatriated at their governments’ expense. 

Working on the Panama Canal

After the French experience, Jamaica placed a tax of one pound sterling on anyone recruited by the USA to work on the Panama Canal.  Thus mostly skilled Jamaican workers were recruited as only they could afford the tax.  Thousands of Afro-Caribbean women also travelled to the zone to work as domestic servants, laundresses, or cooks. 

By February 23, 1904 Panama gave control to the USA, who completed the Panama Canal in 1914.  Working conditions were harsh with possible jail time or deportation if they failed to show up for work.  Construction of the canal exacted a high human toll, with high rates of disease and workplace accidents, and a pervasive system of racial segregation. 

United Fruit Company

Banana and sugar cane plantations in the region offered other migration opportunities for Jamaicans.  The United Fruit Company (UFC), a USA company, was a major banana and sugar multinational player in Latin America and the Caribbean.  UFC was far bigger than most national governments in the region.  It offered large numbers of Jamaicans the opportunity to travel to Panama, as well as to other Central American countries, to work on its banana and sugar plantations.

United Fruit Company Bananas

Between 1900 and 1913 some 20,000 Jamaicans migrated to Costa Rica to work on the newly established UFC banana plantations.  In 1899 UFC hired some 300 Jamaican with experience in the area of sugar production, construction of railroads, aqueducts and other facilities to work in Cuba and so guarantee the transportation of the final product to the USA.  These skilled workers were recruited with the condition “as soon as the Jamaicans should fulfill their commitments in the future sugar production crop and its requirements, they were to be sent back to their country”. 

This requirement was never accomplished by UFC, on the contrary, that agreement was violated time and time again. Using the UFC´s fleet of ships, there was a constant movement of Jamaican workers (illegally) between Jamaica and Cuba, due to the proximity of both islands.

Other Opportunities

More than 10,000 Jamaicans, a mix of skilled and unskilled laborers, were recruited along with other Caribbean soldiers for the British West Indies Regiment.  This was a strategy adopted by the USA and the UK when both countries needed labour during World Wars I and II. 

Empire Windrush Sailing to the UK

Post-World War II reconstruction in the UK also required labour, much of which came from Jamaica and Barbados.  Large numbers of skilled, semiskilled, and unskilled workers were recruited for hospital services, while others gained employment in industry and transport. The 1961 census in Great Britain recorded some 100,000 Jamaicans in England. 

The changing migration policies of traditional receiving countries in the 1960s altered the direction of Jamaican emigration.  Restrictive immigration laws in the UK coincided with the passage of legislation in the USA and Canada that made education and skills more important determinants than nationality and race.  From the late 1960s onwards, the USA became the chief destination for skilled migrants from Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean.

A Call for Change

Marcus Garvey

Between 1900 and the outbreak of World War 1 the most interesting political developments in Jamaica were not within the traditional political arenas but in the area of voluntary, non-official organisations.  One such organisation, formed in 1894, was the Jamaica Union of Teachers (JUT), with strong links with the National Union of Teachers in Britain.  Although its prime concern was the field of education, problems in that area frequently involved it in political events.

The Universal Negro Improvement Association, founded in 1914 by Jamaican Marcus Garvey, advocated black nationalism and Pan-Africanism in Jamaica and among the African diaspora.  From the 1920s the growing professional classes and people of mixed African and European ancestry agitated for more-representative government.  The 1930s saw Jamaica heading towards another crisis. The contributing factors included discontent at the slow pace of political advance, the distress caused by a world-wide economic depression, the ruin of the banana industry by the Panama industry Disease, falling sugar prices, growing unemployment aggravated by the curtailment of migration opportunities and a steeply rising population growth rate.  

Sir Alexander Bustamante

In 1938 things came to a head with widespread violence and rioting.  Jamaicans responded to the crisis by establishing their first labour unions, linking them to political parties, and increasingly demanding self-determination.

The Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU), named after the founder Sir Alexander Bustamante, was established in 1938.  In 1943 Bustamante founded and lead the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), the political party affiliated with the BITU.  The People’s National Party (PNP), founded in 1938 by the Honourable Osmond Theodore Fairclough, is the oldest political party in Jamaica.  Fairclough recruited the PNP’s first leader Norman Manley, Bustamante’s cousin.  In 1952 Norman Manley founded the National Workers’ Union, which is aligned with the PNP.

In six decades, Jamaica had moved from the derelict political conditions of 1866 to1884, to the threshold of her modern political system. During the latter decades of this period much that is characteristic of modern Jamaican politics had begun to develop. Political campaigning involved big public meetings, songs, banners and processions in support of candidates in both local and national elections.

Self-Government

Jamaica was little affected by World Wars I and II, though many of its people served overseas in the British armed forces.  After World War II the island profited greatly from the Colonial Development and Welfare Act and from outside investment.  

Norman Manley

The Jamaican branch of the University of the West Indies was established in 1948 from Colonial Development grants.  This institution became an important factor in the preparation for independence.  

A sugar refinery, citrus-processing plants, a cement factory, and other industrial projects were started.  The severe August 1951 hurricane temporarily stalled development by devastating crops and killing about 150 people.  Development of the tourist trade and bauxite (aluminum ore) mining helped increase employment opportunities in Jamaica.

Both Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley were instrumental in Jamaica’s move towards self-government.  The first general elections under Universal Adult Suffrage was held in December 1944.

The constitution of 1944 established a House of Representatives, whose members were elected by universal adult suffrage; it also called for a nominated Legislative Council as an upper house (with limited powers) and an Executive Council.  A two-party pattern soon emerged, and the constitution was modified in 1953 to allow for elected government ministers.  In 1957 the Executive Council was transformed into a cabinet under the chairmanship of a Premier.  Jamaica obtained full internal self-government two years later.

Jamaican Flag

In 1958 Jamaica became a founding member of the West Indies Federation, a group of 11 Caribbean islands that formed a unit within the Commonwealth.  Norman Manley, leader of the PNP, became Premier after the elections of July 1959.  In 1960 the JLP under Bustamante pressed for secession from the federation.  A referendum in 1961 supported their views.  The JLP was the overall winner of elections in April 1962, and Bustamante became Premier.  In May 1962 the Federation was dissolved.

Independence

On August 6, 1962, Jamaica became independent with full dominion status within the British Commonwealth.  Under the constitution the British monarch was retained as Head of State and Bustamante assumed the title of Prime Minister.

The ceremony, witnessed by Britain’s Princess Margaret and USA Vice President Lyndon Johnson, observed lowering of the British Union Jack and raising the black, gold and green Jamaican flag.

Emancipation Day

Emancipation Day is a national public holiday in Jamaica, celebrated on August 1.

Emancipation is the process of giving people social or political freedom and rights.   For the British Colonies in the 1800’s emancipation related to the abolishment of slavery, with the government granting of freedom to slaves. It is said that slavery as an institution has affected every country in the world.  Do you remember stories that the Israelites got a bad time from their Egyptian masters and that the ancient Greeks did not treat their slaves well?    

In Slavery

Slavery in Jamaica started with the island’s “discovery” on May 5, 1494 by Columbus on behalf of Spain.  The Spanish enslaved many of the Tainos, the Jamaican natives, some escaped, but most died from European diseases and overwork.  The Spaniards then introduced African slaves to Jamaica, first arriving in 1513 to cultivate the newly introduced sugar cane plantations. 

The sugar industry grew so rapidly that the 57 Jamaican sugar cane estates in 1673 grew to nearly 430 by 1739.  This growth was supported by the ongoing slave trade and transport route called the ‘Middle Passage’.  This 3-sided voyage started with England trading goods (especially ammunition) with Africa where these were exchanged for slaves.  Then the journey continued to the Caribbean where the slaves were landed and sugar, rum and molasses taken aboard for the final leg of the journey back to England. 

Morant Bay Rebellion

The Royal African Company was re-formed in 1672 creating an English slave trade monopoly that branded its initials on the slaves’ chests.  Jamaica became one of the world’s busiest slave markets with a thriving smuggling trade to Spanish America.  Jamaica’s sugar production peaked in the 18th century, dominating the local economy and depending increasingly on the slave trade as a cheap labour source. 

A slave’s life was brutal and short, because of high incidences of tropical and imported diseases and harsh working conditions.  This brutality meant the number of slave deaths was consistently larger than the number of births.  Europeans fared much better but were also susceptible to tropical diseases, such as yellow fever and malaria. 

Slaves rebelled whenever they could, with many successful in running away from the plantations to join the Maroons in the almost inaccessible mountains.  Maroons intermittently used guerrilla tactics against the Jamaican militia and English troops, who had destroyed many Maroon settlements in 1686. 

There were many slave rebellions of note in Jamaica, including the Easter Rebellion of 1760 led by Tacky.  Jamaica’s slave population swelled to 300,000, despite mounting civil unrest and unstable food supplies.  During the period 1780–87 about 15,000 slaves starved to death.

Depiction of Rebellion – Burning the Great House

The abolition of the slave trade and slavery was not only achieved by frequent slave uprisings and rebellions in the Caribbean but also by the work of humanitarians who were concerned about the slaves’ well-being.  Humanitarian groups such as the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) publicly protested against slavery and the slave trade.  Quaker colonists began questioning slavery in Barbados in the 1670s, but first openly denounced it in 1688.  William Wilberforce, an Evangelical Christian and parliamentarian, spear headed the campaign against the British slave trade for 18 years, finally witnessing passage of the Slave Trade Act in 1807.

Plaque Commemorating Emancipation

The Slave Trade Act of 1807 made the purchase or ownership of slaves illegal within the British Empire, with the exception of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Saint Helena.  The legislation imposed fines that did little to deter slave trade participants, so it acted to outlaw the slave trade but not slavery itself.  In 1811 the British Parliament introduced the Slave Trade Felony Act, making slavery a felony act through the British Empire.  The Royal Navy established the West Africa Squadron to suppress the Atlantic slave trade by patrolling the coast of West Africa. 

The British were, by the late eighteenth century, the biggest proponents of the abolition of slavery worldwide, having previously been the world’s largest slave dealers.  Britain used its influence to coerce other countries to agree to treaties to end their slave trade and allow the Royal Navy to seize their slave ships.  The West Africa Squadron did suppress the slave trade but did not stop it entirely.  Between 1808 and 1860 the West Africa Squadron captured 1,600 slave ships and freed 150,000 Africans.  Many of these freed captives were resettled in Jamaica and the Bahamas. 

Freedom!

During the Christmas holiday of 1831 a large-scale slave revolt in Jamaica, known as the Baptist War, broke out.  What was organised originally as a peaceful strike by the educated Baptist minister Samuel Sharpe ended up mobilising some 60,000 enslaved persons throughout the island.  The colonial government used the armed Jamaican military forces and Maroon warriors to put down the rebellion by early 1832. 

Because of the loss of property and life in the 1831 rebellion, the British Parliament held two inquiries.  The results of these inquiries and the declining British economy contributed greatly to the abolition of slavery with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.  This Act had two major parts: (1) the emancipation of all slaves throughout the British colonial empire except those held on the islands of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Saint Helena; and (2) compensating slave owners for the loss of the slaves. 

Emancipation Statue

On 1 August 1834 the Emancipation Declaration was read from the steps of the Old Kings House in Spanish Town, St Catherine, Jamaica’s then capital.  Emancipation was decreed in stages, first with the freeing of all children under six.  The other stage required that slaves work a period of six years as unpaid apprentices for their former masters.  Continuing peaceful protests resulted in full emancipation for all being legally granted ahead of schedule on 1 August 1838.  Needless to say the masters continued to ill-treat and exploit the enslaved people in the British Caribbean until they finally gained their freedom at midnight on 31 July 1838.

In 1893 Jamaica officially introduced celebration of Emancipation Day with a public holiday on August 1.  In 1962 Emancipation Day was replaced by Independence Day, then observed on the first Monday in August.  However, in 1997 Emancipation Day was re-instituted as a national holiday celebrated on August 1 while the Independence Day public holiday was celebrated on August 6.

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery … none but ourselves can free our minds!” Marcus Garvey.

My Jamaican Mom … Wayne

My Jamaican Mom is proud;
Proud of her birthplace and her heritage;
Proud of what she and her husband have accomplished;
Proud of her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren.

Hazel Bigby

My Jamaican Mom is strong;
Filled with the strength and resilience of her ancestors;
Filled with strength from her sense of place and purpose;
Filled with the strength of God.

My Jamaican Mom is beautiful;
Beautiful in flesh and in spirit;
Beautiful in personality and character;
A reflection of the natural beauty of the place she was born.

My Jamaican Mom is intelligent;
Smartly embracing the ways of her adopted nation,
While never forgetting her Jamaican roots;
Astutely adapting to a lifetime of change.

My Jamaican Mom is loved …

By Wayne Bigby, a retired lawyer and business executive who lives in Canada and loves his Jamaican Mom, Hazel Bigby.

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Our Mother … Gary

Our Mother was a short woman in height, however she stood very tall in stature, brilliance, resilience, compassion and plain human decency. Mavis Thompson was no ordinary woman. As a mother and home maker, during the early 1980s she would get up at 1am to do laundry for us as that was the only time we could have water available. Then went to work for a full 8 hours.

Mavis Thompson

She worked a full-time job yet was always able to be home to accomplish tasks as if she was a full-time housekeeper and had been home all day.

As a family we knew what good well-prepared food was and that’s because she made it happen, no matter the economic or social circumstance.  Her culinary skills and ability to satisfy hungry bellies went beyond the family to grace many a social event. Some of us (Gary) may have benefited a little bit more than others in this respect.

Mavis was wise!  All her 3 children (Cordia, Roger and Gary) can attest to her broad band of wisdom that she was able to apply to all areas of our lives.  And we are the better today because of it.

Mavis and Victor Thompson

Our mother was a very attractive woman who on all occasions carried herself with poise and grace. Indeed, a prize-catch for the slick and equally handsome Victor, our Dad. But be not fooled for if required she could knock heads and come out swinging strategically as required. Not one to mess with as we all realized when we received the wisdom of her punishments on crossing the line.

This woman had a heart of gold. She gave of herself to all who she came across. Stories of Her compassion and sense of giving would resonate in our lives long after her passing. Her stature and her presence today are quite vivid in the looks and mannerisms of her grandchildren.  

Our Mother, Our Friend, Our Hero, your physical presence has been gone for awhile but the fire of your spirit continues to burn in our hearts and minds. Keep smiling down on us Mother we love you.

Cordia, Gary and Roger Thompson

Written by Gary, her 1st son in coordination with Cordia and Roger

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To My Mother … Marco

This year Mother’s Day things will be very different for me.

It was one month after Mother’s Day last year 2019 that I started planning what I should give my mother for her birthday. We had already taken my mother to Cuba for Christmas 2018 and were spending an extra two weeks with her in Jamaica as we would be heading back to Australia in January 2019. 

Young Inez Breakenridge

My mother died in June 2019 – one day before her birthday. As soon as I got the news I was on my way back to Jamaica. I could not wait to get there. On arrival in Jamaica I went immediately , to the funeral parlour and saw my mother lying there, eyes closed, motionless but with a smile on her face. She had meant the world to me.  

My mother, like all mothers with average education, was a great teacher, a doctor, a health worker, a fantastic cook, you name it she did everything for her 8 children. She was never selfless, always having a kind word for everyone, always giving to those who were less fortunate than her. And even giving to those who were more fortunate than her but trying to pull a swiftie on her.

The greatest gift my mom gave me was supporting me to pursue my dream which took me to Australia. She knew that our times together would be limited to one or two visits every other year- she coming to Australia or me going to Jamaica. However, the times we shared together will always be etched in my memory.  

That Enduring Smile

She was always singing and praying to the Lord for her children, her close friends, her husband before and after he died. She even asked the Lord to bless those who wronged her. 

Everywhere I went people always said my mother was waiting for the Lord, so when he took her she smiled. She had received her goal of being with the Lord. Thus, this Mother’s Day I will sit and reminisce on you, my mother and how you lived a humble life and pray that I can emulate you, so that when I die (we all will), I will have a smile on my face as I will be ready for my Maker. Hence my message to everyone whose mother is alive I encourage you to love her and celebrate the day with her. For those who live with their mother or those who may be separated from her please remember your mum always deserves the best.

I will be celebrating this and every future Mother’s Day by reflecting on the memory of times my Mom and I had together.

By Marco Breakenridge, the honorary Consul of Jamaica in Australia

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Reflecting on Daphne … Celia

When my Mom, Daphne Innerarity, married my father it became an immediate family of 6, as they had 4 children combined, and were shortly joined by myself and younger brother. Never did any of us feel that we were not all one.

My memories of my Mom are… active. She was always doing something or on the move. As such, as kids we had no choice but to be active ourselves. Mom’s passion is sport and she was an athlete (sprinter and netballer) turned Physical Education Teacher and Lecturer. She also taught dance (until she was 8 months pregnant with me) and was a Netball Coach par excellence.

Daphne Inneraity

I have so many memories of being at Netball Matches, watching Athletics at our national stadium, cricket at Sabina Park.  In addition there was the cultural aspect, being taken to every Pantomime (back in the day), National Dance Theatre recital and Play that was on. We were dragged until we became appreciative. Mom’s other passion was singing and she had a beautiful soprano that made her very popular on the wedding scene, as she serenaded many Couples with the song Ave Maria.

You never felt unwanted or uncomfortable around my Mom, as you’re getting a hug first thing! She has a warm spirit, an infectious laugh and ever the life of the gathering.  She can fit into any situation.

I appreciate her for the legacy of all these things. She has instilled in her children a love of people, which is expressed by the strength of friendships that my family has enjoyed over decades. I even became a hugger myself. I thank her for the love of sport and appreciation of the arts, especially music and dance. But most of all, I thank her for imparting the values by which we live.

My Mother embodies the Proverbs 31 woman. She was a wife of noble character, and has lived her life with purpose, integrity, honesty and love. Because of that her children call her blessed. She speaks wisdom, she prays for us, she sacrificed much for her family and continues to so. So today I honour her for all that her hands have done. She recently had her 80th birthday and unfortunately the celebrations had to be postponed. We give thanks that she is still here and going strong.

My prayer is that she will have health and strength all the days of her life and that she will know that she is loved.

By Celia Innerarity. Celia is a dietitian, working in private practice. She assists her clients, most of which have chronic conditions such as diabetes, with lifestyle management of their condition.

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