Category Archives: General Information

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.

Jamaican Patties

A Jamaican patty is a golden coloured flaky pastry that contains a spicy filling, the most popular of which is ground beef.  Other fillings which may be offered include: chicken; goat; pork; lobster; shrimp; vegetable and even Jamaica’s national fruit, ackee

Regular Jamaican Patties

Originating in Jamaica, it is the most popular convenience food in Jamaica.  Served hot from the patty shop oven in a paper bag, Jamaican patties are usually eaten on the go straight from the paper bag.  For most busy Jamaicans the patty is most popular at lunch time, eaten one or two for lunch while in school or at work.  Being affordable and available everywhere in Jamaica, the patty is more than a snack: it’s a filling breakfast or lunch and can even be eaten for dinner.  This Jamaican staple can also be made as bite-sized portions called cocktail patties. 

The patty is a product of colonialism and migration developed after the introduction of the Cornish pasty, mixed with cumin and curry seasonings from Indian indentured labourers and the Scotch bonnet, a hot pepper indigenous to Jamaica.  From these multicultural roots, Jamaicans made the patty their own.

Almost every nationality has a form of patty.  South Asians have the samosa, Puerto Ricans the pastelillos, the Greeks the spanakopita, and the English the Cornish pasty.  What they all have in common is that they’re filling, compact and easy to eat, a sort of traditional fast food. Across the Caribbean, patties are considered the ultimate street food.

In the 1960s and 1970s Jamaicans brought recipes for the patties with them when many went to the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom (UK) as hospital orderlies, home health aides and nurses.  This led to patties being offered at restaurants in areas of the New York Metropolitan Area with high Caribbean populations.  Patties are equally popular in UK cities with large Caribbean populations, such as Birmingham, Manchester and London. Their popularity is spreading in the UK and they are becoming available in many mainstream outlets.

Cocktail Patties

The humble patty was forever introduced to the world and can now be found wherever there is a Caribbean community.  In Australia patties with beef, chicken or vegetable fillings are offered frozen by Jamaican Products.

In this unprecedented time in our history Jamaican Products is aware of challenges faced by many households.  It can be difficult working from home as well as having to home school the kids.  For others they may be tired of seeing the same 4 walls, or cooking and eating what is the pantry.

Jamaican Products Regular Patties

Why not try something different?  Crank up Bob Marley or your favourite Jamaican music artist to accompany your meal.  Get into the Caribbean grove while cooking and eating our delicious Take & Bake range of jerk seasoned chicken wings and patties.  These Jamaican Party Food are suitable for any occasion, snack, lunch or dinner.

We offer a Special on patties and discounted no contact weekly home delivery to our Sydney customers, so place your order.  To view the delivery fee and Sydney postcodes to which the offer applies, read the Take & Bake Special.

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Making Bun Boxes

Can you remember how Jamaican Easter buns were packaged?

For some of you those memories may be fading while for others it is still current.  Most times it was in a box. 

Bun Box from Jamaica

Wanting to relive this memory I decided that the Jamaican Products Easter buns should be packaged in a box.  Fortunately I brought a few Easter bun boxes from Jamaica, so I could well use those boxes.  But wait, I have to buy the bun tins in the shape of a bread loaf.

So off I went looking at the hospitality equipment shops.  Asking for bun tins got me a quizzical look, so I quickly asked for bread loaf tins instead.  Something I thought would be easy was turning into a challenge.  Back to the large department stores and I found a loaf tin that I was happy with.  It boasted a heavy duty seamless loaf tin with a double non-stick coating, ideal for making bread, meat/fruit loaf and pate.  Above all it could easily be used to make a 1.2kg loaf.

I bought 16 tins and went home pleased with myself.  But I only bought 10 bun boxes in Jamaica!  Are they large enough?  Alas the tins were about twice as wide as the boxes. 

Tin too large for Box

Now I need some 20 bun boxes.  I measured the newly purchased tins and started my Google search.  I was looking for food grade boxes to store buns baked in the tins.  I saw many square boxes but no rectangular boxes the shape I was interested in.  After over 3 hours searching, I started calling companies in Sydney that sold boxes. 

They were interested in making these boxes for me until I told them I only needed 20.  Do you mean 20,000 they asked?  No, I replied, I only need 20.  I know I could not afford a one off order when they quoted me the price while others  said they could not do such a small run.

Designing a Box

After spending the day searching and talking to various packaging firms I decided to produce a custom made box myself.  Now the search was on to find material to make this customised bun box.

Again I was googling and calling various shops, asking if they had necessary material or could advise where to obtain the material.  My search led me to Arts and Craft stores.  I needed material sturdy enough to hold the bun, a box design and glue to hold everything together. 

By the third day I was going home with cardboard sheets and glue to start the building process.  I was in my element as an engineer designing and later constructing bun boxes.   

The Pro Forma Design

It was out with my ruler, set square and drafting pens to draw my box to scale.  I did my measurements and drew up the box shape for cutting out as the pro forma.  Now it was time to consult my business cohort, Jean Kropper, on how to fold the cardboard.  Jean owns Paper and Pixel, making ingenious promotions in paper that excite the senses and inspire response. 

A Finished Box

Using the pro forma created as a guide I soon had 20 box frames marked and cut from the cardboard sheets.  Then it was folding and pasting to make each box.  To add that business touch I added the Jamaican Products logo.  After many hours the 20 Jamaican Products bun boxes were complete. 

Next job, to make the Easter buns for packing in these custom made bun boxes.  So wish me luck. 

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Gordon Gill – Architect

The architect Gordon Gill FAIA was born in Jamaica.  At age 11 he moved to Canada with his family.  He completed his undergraduate studies in Canada and gained 2 Master degrees in the United States of America.  In 2019 he was awarded a Doctorate of Technology from the University Of Technology, Jamaica.

Gordon Gill FAIA

Gordon held positions of Associate Partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and Director of Design at VOA Associates.  In 2006 three senior SOM Chicago practice members, namely Adrian Smith, Gordon Gill and Robert Forest formed Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG). 

Gordon’s architectural works include:

  • Design of the world’s first net zero-energy skyscraper, the Pearl River Tower, Guangzhou, China (designed at SOM Chicago),
  • World’s first large-scale positive energy building, Masdar Headquarters, Abu Dhabi
  • World’s tallest tower, Kingdom Tower in Jeddah Saudi Arabia
  • Design of Astana Expo 2017 and its sustainable legacy community for Astana, Kazakhstan
  • Performing arts centres, museums, strategic carbon planning and urban master plans across the globe. 
Kingdom Tower, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

His landmark projects pursue energy independence by harnessing the power of natural forces on site and striking a balance with their environmental contexts.

Gordon is one of the world’s foremost exponents of performance based architecture.  His approach is based on an ecologically conscious philosophy that sets new standards for the relationships between the built and natural environment. His buildings and urban projects have transformed cityscapes and defined as well as restored city centers around the world.

Gordon explains that his firm will work on almost any scale project if it has a challenge and a quality to it.  They look for the intellectual challenge behind the design.

Gordon says that AS+GG has won bids simply by saying that a site should remain empty.  He comments that clients have a preconception that as architects, if they touch something they are going to put a building there.  AS+GG are problem-solvers who are architects, so they approach problems a little differently from most.  They reason that if the solution is physical, they express themselves through architecture.  Sometimes the solution is not physical, or if it is physical it’s not a building.  So the solution can be a park.

Gordon views a commission as an invitation to a dialogue.  Just as the client has a brief, so does he, with a set of expectations for his own work.  He feels that his job is to take the client to a place they never expected, within the context of the brief.

AS+GG tell people all the time, they are not sales people.  They are not trying to sell or convince the client of anything.  What they try to do is present the client a set of rational analyses, that speak to problems or issues that the client has as it relates to their brief.  Then they tell the client how they think the problem could be solved within the context of the client’s needs.  With this approach they offer the client something that is hopefully superior to what the client expected from the brief.  If there is agree, then they have a project.

On the other hand if the client does not agree as they go through the analyses, then AS+GG can adjust how they think about the client’s problem.  But in the end it is a conversation about the client’s expectations.

Jamaica New Houses of Parliament

With this approach, no wonder Gordon was selected by Jamaica as the competition patron for the Jamaica Houses of Parliament design submissions.

Jamaica launched the competition in May 2018 to find a firm of architects to design the 160,000-square-foot building that will house both the legislative and executive branches of government.  Described as the most significant structure to be built in the history of Jamaica, the new Houses of Parliament building will occupy a place of prominence at National Heroes Park in Kingston.

To be eligible for consideration to design the structure, applying firms had to:

  • Be led by a citizen of Jamaica, residing locally or abroad, who is also a registered and licensed Jamaican architect and capable of being the project’s architect of record;
  • Comprise of at least 50 percent Jamaican citizens or persons of Jamaican heritage. 

In March 2019 the winning design for the structure, aptly named ‘Out of Many, One People,’ was announced.  Construction is expected to start in 2021. 

Listen to Gordon as he tells his story in his own words.

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Jamaican Christmas Traditions

A bit of nostalgia for those of you who can remember, while for others a chance to learn, about some of our Jamaican Christmas traditions.

“Grand Market” and “Jamaican Sorrel” are two important elements of a Jamaican Christmas.

Grand Market Downtown Kingston

Christmas is the most celebrated holiday season in Jamaica.  Children especially look forward to this time of the year.  Not all because of Santa Claus.  It is the season when most Jamaican parents treat their kids to new clothes.  Thus the kids usually get to dress up in these new clothes and attend Grand Market and other events throughout the season.

Grand Market is held on Christmas Eve in all major towns across Jamaica.  It is considered by many Jamaicans as the highlight of the Christmas season. It is also the liveliest day of the year; as vendors and stores usually operate for the entire day and night.  From as early as 6 am on Christmas Eve most businesses are open.  The streets are lined with vendors selling clothing, household items, decorations, ground provisions and items not available all year round.

Grand Market provides an opportunity for parents and their smartly dressed children to complete their last minute Christmas shopping.  Festivities and music go hand in hand in Jamaica.  So sound boxes playing music are set up to entertain.  After a certain time of the night, a lot Jamaicans usually gather in a “street dance fashion” to dance, drink and enjoy themselves until Christmas morning.

Sorrel Drink with Pods

Christmas Day usually begins with the playing of Christmas Carols.  However Christmas dinner is what most Jamaicans look forward to.  It is a Jamaican tradition to have Jamaican Sorrel with Christmas dinner.

Jamaican Sorrel is a drink made from the Hibiscus Sabdariffa flower (Sorrel).  In Mexico this Christmas drink is called ‘Agua de Jamaica’ (Jamaican water).  The Hibiscus Sabdariffa plant is harvested and the dried flowers pods are boiled and used to make this famous and refreshing drink.  Ginger is added for flavor and it is sweetened with sugar and a splash of white over proof rum is usually added to give it a kick.

Jamaican Christmas cake

Jamaica Sorrel is not only tasty but has numerous nutritional benefits you may not be aware of.  Sorrel is an excellent source of Vitamin C.  It is also rich in iron, calcium, copper, magnesium and phosphorus. It helps to lower blood pressure, high cholesterol and it enhances liver function.

If you want to have a taste of Jamaica this Christmas just head to our website to purchase a bottle of Christmas Sorrel cordial or Contact Us for one of our delectable Christmas Cakes.

Thanks Jhana Dunbar for this informative post.

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Am I An Entrepreneur?

Who comes to mind when you hear the word entrepreneur?

Any women you can think of?  What about Lady Gaga or my favourite Oprah Winfrey? 

Lady Gaga

Some of the common characteristics of an entrepreneur are passion, perseverance and learning.  Can you see these features in your favourite entrepreneur?

As I sit updating my resume I contemplate writing Entrepreneur as my current role. But do I display these features in my Jamaican Products business?

My vision is to bring you an authentic Jamaican Patty through a marriage of local Australian beef and imported Jamaican products.  A patty contains various fillings and spices baked inside a golden yellow flaky pastry shell.  As the name suggests Jamaican Patties are commonly found in Jamaica and often eaten as a full meal.

Oprah Winfrey

With my superannuation to fund the scheme I established a bakery at home.  Now that is passion!

Initially I made the pastry by hand, but was faced with sore arms and uneven pastry thickness.  The Rondo benchtop dough sheeter in my bakery put an end to these problems. 

Manning the dough sheeter with a hit of the knobs I control dough movement from left belt to right belt and back, as the dough got thinner and longer.  Before you knew it the dough was falling off the sheeter arm onto the bench and then handing in the air.  I moved away from the controls and tried rolling the dough onto a rolling pin.  The machine was too quick for me and in this position my arms could not reach the stop button.

Jamaican Patties

The weight of the dough hanging off the machine caused the sheet of dough to break as I tried moving it to the other side.  There was dough everywhere, on the floor, ceiling, all over me and it was 1am.  I sat looked at the mess and wondered how seasoned bakers do it.  The photos show a rolling pin, which I had acquired, as there is no rolling pin attached to my machine.  Probably I can leave the rolling pin on the machine and use its speed to my advantage.  Two containers storing ingredients should do the trick. 

By 2am I had cleaned up and with new dough and the pair of containers I was ready to start again.  I watched with joy as the dough rolled onto the rolling pin with the containers on either side to hold the rolling pin in place.  But that was the left side and the dough needs to be thinner.  3am I had the strips of dough in the freezer.  Surely that shows perseverance.

Dough Sheeter

I drew a sketch of what I needed for the machine, rolling pin holders for each end.  I contacted the local machine distributor but they were neither interested in my suggestion nor shared with me what other bakers do.  I contacted the manufacturer in Switzerland.  They replied within 2 minutes and organised for the distributor to visit me and discuss the issue.  With each interaction I learn more about baking techniques and the machine.

As I reflect on the term entrepreneur I reply, yes I have what it takes to use the term.  I showed commitment, passion and faith to fund the scheme from my superannuation.  Yes, I persevered moving from rolling the dough by hand to become a novice baker using a dough sheeter.  I encountered challenges but enjoyed finding solutions with a desire to learn.

So there on my resume I describe myself as an entrepreneur.

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Jamaica’s Road to Independence – Part 3

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

Kingston

Kingston and Spanish Town – Jamaica

Kingston was founded in July 1692 on then agricultural land for survivors of the 1692 Port Royal earthquake.  The town did not begin to grow until after the further destruction of Port Royal by fire in 1703.  By 1716 Kingston had become Jamaica’s largest town and the centre of trade.  The government sold land to people with the regulation that they purchase no more than the amount of the land that they owned in Port Royal and only land on the sea front. Gradually wealthy merchants began to move their residences from above their businesses to the farm lands north on the plains of Liguanea. 

Wolmer’s Girls School Insignia

Kingston’s boom included establishment in 1729 of the first free school, Wolmers’, my alma mater.  By 1755 there was a push by the then governor Sir Charles Knowles to transfer the government offices from Spanish Town to Kingston.  Some thought Kingston an unsuitable location for the Assembly due to its proximity to the former decadent Port Royal.  Not until 1872 did government pass an act to transfer the government offices from Spanish Town to Kingston. 

The 1907 Kingston earthquake, considered by many of that time as one of the world’s deadliest earthquakes, destroyed much of Kingston.  It resulted in the death of over eight hundred Jamaicans and destroyed the homes of over ten thousand more.  This catastrophe provided the opportunity to redesign and rebuild Kingston.  

Showing Kingston Harbour
Kingston Harbour

Kingston Harbour is the seventh-largest natural harbour in the world.  It is an almost landlocked area of water approximately with most of it is deep enough to accommodate large ships, even close to shore.

From Sugar to Banana

Jamaica’s chief economic crops are sugarcane, bananas, citrus, cocoa and coconuts, none of which are indigenous. 

Sugar – Byproducts of sugarcane include cane sugar, cane syrup, molasses, wax, rum (for which Jamaica is world famous) and bagasse. 

Cutting Sugar Cane

In the 1740s, Jamaica and Haiti became the world’s main sugar producers, replacing piracy as Jamaica’s main source of income.  In 1770 sugar and rum made up 87.7% of the value of all exports from Jamaica to Great Britain, Ireland, and North America.  Jamaica’s high point of sugar production was from 1801 to 1805, with number of sugar plantations reaching a peak of 859 in 1804, prior to the abolition of slavery. 

Sugar production increased in Haiti due to French engineered irrigation systems as well as cane variety selection.  After the Haitian Revolution from 1791 to 1804, Cuba became the most substantial sugar plantation colony in the Caribbean, outperforming the British islands.

British sugar planters met with growing competition in United Kingdom (UK) markets, especially beginning in 1874 when sugar duties were completely removed.  With no cheap labour force and no preferential tariff protection, the plantation-owners in the British West Indies could not compete with Cuba and Brazil, where slavery had not been abolished.  To make matters worse, the European sugar beet was a cheap alternative to sugarcane.  These factors caused genuine distress as the price of sugar declined below the cost of production on many estates.  Fortunately sugar prices in the United States of America (USA) and Canada fell less severely, attracting increased quantities of sugar and other products from the British Caribbean colonies.

With the declined importance of sugar, the character of landholding in Jamaica changed substantially between 1865 and 1930.  As many former sugar plantations went bankrupt, some land was sold to Jamaican peasants under the Crown Lands Settlement while other cane fields were consolidated by dominant British producers such as Tate and Lyle, a sugar refining business.  Small scale agriculture in Jamaica survived the consolidation of land by sugar powers with the number of small holdings tripling between 1865 and 1930.

Banana – In 1804 bananas brought from Cuba were the first to be marketed in the United States of America (USA).  For many years bananas were regarded as a novelty.  Then in 1870 Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker made an experimental import of bananas he bought in Jamaica for a shilling and sold them in Jersey City for $2 a bunch.  After this success, Baker joined Bostonian entrepreneur Andrew Preston and created the Boston Fruit Company. This company owned a large fleet of steamships that, with time, became the largest private fleet in the world. 

Showing typical banana plantation
Banana Plantation

By 1890 bananas had replaced sugar as Jamaica’s principal export for small farmers as well as for large estates.  This shift was influenced by the British demand for Jamaican bananas rather than the country’s sugar.  Expansion of banana production was hampered by serious labour shortages, with the general exodus of up to 11,000 Jamaicans a year.  Interestingly sugar is ideally suited to the climatic conditions of the Caribbean, being far less vulnerable to the high winds from hurricanes that readily devastate banana plantations.

In 1899, the Boston Fruit Company merged with other companies to become the United Fruit Company (UFC).  UFC first experimented with refrigerated cargo holds in 1903, a technology that along with steam propulsion made the traffic in highly perishable bananas possible and profitable.  

In 1924, the Rev. A.A. Barclay of Lucky Hill in St. Mary espoused ideas that resulted in formation of the Jamaica Producers Association (JPA).  By 1929 the Jamaica Banana Producers Association (JBPA) was established as an independent cooperative under the JPA.  Soon the JBPA owned a steamship line consisting of four refrigerated ships, the first shipping line ever to be 100% Jamaican owned.  By 1937 the JBPA relentless marketing with government support resulted in banana representing 50% of the value of Jamaica’s total exports.

In 1939 the Second World War had a devastating effect on the banana industry as commercial banana sales to the UK ceased.  In 1940 the JBPA shipping fleet were pressed into war service.  By the end of the war in 1945, only one of the JBPA’s four ships survived the war, earning notoriety of having shot down a German Stuka Bomber in the English Channel while under attack.  In 1953 commercial banana exports to the UK resumed.

Citrus – Citrus fruits consists of oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, limes, and lemons.  Citrus production is not a large industry in Jamaica, but yields enough for local consumption and export. 

Coconut – Records indicate that in 1681 coconut plants flourished near harbours and coastal settlements, then later with the expansion of plantation agriculture, the crop was grown inland.  By 1869 coconut oil became the cheap raw material used worldwide for the manufacture of soap, explosives and margarine.  In 1930 the Jamaica Coconut Producers Association Ltd was manufacturing oil and by 1937 soaps.

With the end of the Second World War in 1945, the demand for coconuts decreased with advent of synthetic detergents and fibres.  The export of dry coconuts declined and ceased when the 1944 and 1951 hurricanes destroyed over 40% of all bearing palms.  Formerly coconuts constituted a major part of Jamaica’s export produce but with development of the edible oil and soap industry most of the annual crop is used in local factories.

Coffee – In 1723 King Louis XV sent three coffee plants to the French colony of Martinique.  Five years later in 1728 the Governor of Jamaica, Sir Nicholas Lawes, received a gift of one coffee plant from the Governor of Martinique.  From that one Arabica coffee plant, an exquisite coffee was introduced to the world.  

Some 85% of Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee is purchased by Japan. This has driven up the price of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee to a level that many people consider excessive in comparison to other premium gourmet coffees on the world market.

Tourism

UFC tourist destination in Port Antonio, Jamaica - Titchfield Hotel
Titchfield Hotel , Port Antonio

Prior to 1891 there was no such thing as a hotel industry.  Visitor numbers were small and the accommodations were, large, squalid, consisting primarily of taverns in the towns and inns in the rural areas.  The only decent accommodation available was the hospitality freely offered by the country gentleman to those who were fortunate enough to obtain introductions.  The 100 room Constant Spring Hotel was built in 1888, but the real spur to development was the Jamaica International Exhibition planned for 1891.  In order to house the visitors who were expected to come to the Exhibition, the Jamaica Hotels Law was passed in 1890 to encourage hotel construction.

With its vertical integration approach including plantations, railway, shipping and telecommunications assets UFC became a major economic and political force in the region, influencing the rise and fall of governments in the ‘banana republics’.  By 1902 UFC controlled Jamaica’s entire banana trade. 

The UFC used their banana transport ships for passenger traffic and for a long time were the only form of travel between Jamaica and other countries.  In addition guesthouses built for UFC workers and officers were also used to house their early Portland visitors.  The Titchfield Hotel, initially built by UFC in 1895 was demolished and rebuilt in 1905.  When in 1910 the Titchfield was destroyed by fire, UFC again rebuilt, expanding that hotel’s capacity and gaining reputation as one of the grandest hotels in the Western Hemisphere.

The Jamaican Government purchased the Myrtle Bank Hotel in 1889/90 and totally rebuilt it as a first class hotel in time for the 1891 World’s Fair in Kingston.  Before 1920 UFC purchased controlling interest in Myrtle Bank, Kingston and with Titchfield both hotels provided a reliable revenue stream until the 1930s.  During its peak year of 1927, UFC moved nearly 70,000 tourists on its steamships to various banana enclaves.  The shipping safety legislation of 1936 eliminated many company vessels from passenger service.  The temporary nationalisation of the fleet during the Second World War and the rise of affordable air travel after the war further distanced the UFC from tourist cruises.

Travel to Jamaica on UFC ships
UFC Tourist Advertisement

The Jamaica Tourist Association was established in 1910 to enhance the claims of the Jamaica as a health and pleasure resort at home and abroad and to give “reliable” information to both prospective visitors and those already holidaying in the island.  Undoubtedly the World Wars affected tourism, but Jamaica was increasingly viewing tourism as a tool of economic development and one way of diversifying a predominantly agricultural economy.

The mid 1950s saw Jamaica being serviced by eight international airlines with unprecedented growth in international tourist arrivals.  The Jamaica Tourist Board was established in 1955 with sales offices in the USA and London.  Jamaica gained some reputation as an exclusive resort attracting mainly a wealthy and famous clientele.  Between 1961 and 1963 however, the industry declined and the Government of newly independent Jamaica realised the necessity to revive and expand what had become an important sector of the economy.

The Crown Colony

The Jamaican assembly had effectively voted its own extinction by yielding power to the Governor, Edward John Eyre and in 1866 the British Parliament declared Jamaica a crown colony.  Its newly appointed governor, Sir John Peter Grant, wielded the only real executive or legislative power.  He completely reorganised the colony, establishing a police force, reformed judicial system, medical service, public works department, and government savings bank.  He also appointed local magistrates, improved the schools and irrigated the fertile but drought-stricken plain between Spanish Town and Kingston.

Transport and communication became essential for economic development.  The railways became government owned in 1845 and cable communication with Europe was established in 1859. 

Out of Many

So who are Jamaicans?

In 1494 Columbus and his Spanish crew invaded Jamaica with its Arawakan-speaking Tainos, bringing European domesticated animals such as pigs, horses, and cattle.  Few Spaniards settled here, with Jamaica serving mainly as a supply base to help in conquering the American mainland.

Out of Many One People crest
Jamaican Coat of Arms

The first Jews came to Jamaica from Spain and Portugal during the Spanish occupation from 1494 to 1655.  Fleeing the Spanish inquisition they concealed their identity, referring to themselves as ‘Portuguese’ while secretly practicing their religion.  With the British conquest in 1655, General Venables recorded the presence of many ‘Portuguese’ in Jamaica.  They were allowed to remain and began to practice their religion openly.

The Jews were granted British citizenship by Cromwell, which was confirmed in 1660 by King Charles, enabling ownership of property.  The Jews attained full political rights in 1831.   Jamaica’s Jewish population was never large.  However, their contribution to the economic and commercial life of the nation outstripped that of any other group of comparable size in Jamaica.

Different faces of Jamaica
Reflecting Out Of Many One People Motto

The first enslaved Africans to Jamaica arrived in 1513 from the Iberian Peninsula.  The 1833 Slavery Abolition Act did not mean that people of African origin no longer came to Jamaica.  In fact during the apprenticeship period (1834 – 1838) and in 1839 a number of persons of African descent came to Jamaica as free labourers.  In the following 25 years about 10, 000 free labourers of African origin came to Jamaica.  Jamaicans of African ancestry form the largest ethnic group.

With the British conquest Cromwell increased Jamaica’s white population by sending indentured servants and prisoners captured in battles with the Irish and Scots, as well as some common criminals.  This practice was continued under Charles II, and the white population was also augmented by immigrants from the North American mainland and other islands such as Barbados.

The Irish were accustomed to hard work, but they were unacquainted with the hot Caribbean climate.  Though their bondage was often a death sentence, enough of the Irish survived that by 1670 they already accounted for a significant part of Jamaica’s population.  The Irish is Jamaica’s second-most predominant ethnicity. 

The Germans came as indentured labourers with the hope they would create a thriving settlement and act as a model for the ex-slaves.  In 1835, Lord Seaford gave 500 acres of his 10, 000 acre estate in Westmoreland for the Seaford Town German settlement of 200 Germans.  Needless to say the programme was never a success.

Jamaica – Out of Many One People

Between 1834 and 1838 about 1, 210 German immigrants arrived in Jamaica.  They were small-trades people, a few farmers and disbanded soldiers of light Calvary regiment.  Their previous occupation meant they had to learn how to plant ground provisions and speak patois. 

East Indians are the largest ethnic minority in Jamaica.  They arrived as indentured labourers between 1845 and 1917 to work on sugar estates.  The intention was to earn a ‘fortune’ for starting a better life back in India, but for many that did not materialise.  At the end of the indentureship contract, many Indians reverted to their ancestral occupations, some became farmers or fishermen, while others returned to the trades of barber, goldsmith or ironsmith.  Others became money lenders.

The Indians introduced several plants and trees in Jamaica, the most common being betel leaves, betel nut, coolie plum, mango, jackfruit, and tamarind.

The Chinese started arriving in 1849, brought as indentured labourers to work on the sugar estates.  However they disliked the nature of the work and soon left the estates to set up small grocery shops all across the island.  Eventually they were able to develop their businesses until the small grocery shops grew into large enterprises embracing not only retailing, but also wholesaling and other types of activities.

A few hundred Chinese who worked on the Panama Canal ended up settling in Jamaica.  Establishing a migration corridor from China, by 1930 there were some 6,000 Chinese settlers in Jamaica.  In 1931 the Jamaican government issued a decree limiting the inflow of Chinese to students under the age of 14.  The restriction was in response to the demands of the Jamaican business community, which feared the rapid expansion of Chinese retail trade on the island.   

The Out of Many One
Showing the Differences

Although some Chinese went back home to marry Chinese wives who they brought back to Jamaica, others inter-married with non-Chinese Jamaicans contributing to the island’s racial mixture.  The popularity of Chinese food among Jamaicans is their lasting contribution to the island.

Cubans fled to Jamaica as political refugees during their Wars for Independence, from 1868 to 1878 and 1895 to 1898.  Despite the official position of neutrality, white and brown elites, anxious to increase the number of Europeans, welcomed the Cubans who were mainly white.  Similarities in the socio-economic structures in both Jamaica and Cuba facilitated the integration of the newcomers.  Although most refugees left Jamaica after 1898, the long-term economic impact of their fleeting presence was the establishment of tobacco as a viable export staple and the modernisation of the island’s sugar industry.

The first Lebanese/Syrian immigrants arrived by their own free will in the 1860s and 1870s fleeing religious persecution.  Britain was seen as the country of freedom and Jamaica under British rule fell into that category.  Then there was ‘chain’ migration as many of the later arrivals were joining relatives and friends rather than striking out for entirely new territory.

Stories recount that many Lebanese/Syrians first heard of Jamaica as a result of the Great Exhibition of 1891.  This exhibition drew over 300,000 visitors from around the world including some from the Middle East.  The opportunities identified in Jamaica soon attracted middle easterners from Lebanon and Palestine.  They decided to journey to Jamaica and try their luck at selling dry goods.  With no Greek Orthodox Church in Jamaica they adapted and turned to the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches.

Despite being a small percentage of the Jamaican population, the Lebanese/Syrian group has played a significant role in the commercial and industrial development of the economy.  Through their influence as well, Syrian bread has become very popular among Jamaicans.

Religion

Christianity was introduced by Spanish settlers who arrived in Jamaica in 1509, making Roman Catholicism the first Christian denomination to be established.  Later Protestant missions were very active, especially the Baptists, and played a key role in the abolition of slavery.

Church building
Church in Jamaica

Anglicanism was introduced by the British in 1664.  The first church was built on the spot of the Spanish Church of the Red Cross in Spanish Town.  It is the oldest Anglican cathedral outside of the British Isles and the oldest place of continuous worship in the western hemisphere.

By the early nineteenth century, abolitionism had propelled other denominations to the forefront, and threatened the established Anglican Church.  Thus, in 1824, the Diocese of Jamaica, which also included Belize and the Bahamas, was established.  In 1861 the Bahamas became a separate diocese, and in 1891, the same happened to Belize.  During the 1960s the Cayman Islands were added.

Emperor Hail Selassie

The Rastafari movement, an Abrahamic religion, was developed in Jamaica in the 1930s following the coronation of Haile Selassie I as Emperor of Ethiopia.  Haile Selassie I was crowned as Emperor of Ethiopia in November 1930.  This was a significant event in that Ethiopia was the only African country other than Liberia to be independent from colonialism and Haile Selassie was the only African leader accepted among the kings and queens of Europe.

Three Jamaicans who all happened to be overseas at the time of the coronation each returned home and independently began, as street preachers, to proclaim the divinity of the newly crowned Emperor as the returned Christ.

Rastafarian Bob Marley
World Renowned Rasta- Bob Marley

In December 1930 Archibald Dunkley, formerly a seaman, landed at Port Antonio and soon began his ministry.  In 1933 he relocated to Kingston where the King of Kings Ethiopian Mission was founded.  Joseph Hibbert returned from Costa Rica in 1931 and started spreading his own conviction of the Emperor’s divinity in Benoah district, Saint Andrew Parish.  His ministry, called Ethiopian Coptic Faith; moved to Kingston in 1932 to find Leonard Howell already teaching many of these same doctrines.  Howell had returned to Jamaica around the same time as Hibbert.  With the addition of Robert Hinds, himself a Garveyite and former Bedwardite, these four preachers soon began to attract a following among Jamaica’s poor.

Other popular religions in Jamaica include Islam, Bahá’í Faith Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Judaism.  

Representatives of the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities in Jamaica have described Jamaican as being tolerant of religious diversity, and identified the high level of interfaith dialogue as evidence to support this claim.

The story finalises in Part 4.

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Jamaica’s Road to Independence – Part 2

Showing Showing Kingston and Spanish Town

The story continues.  So if you have not already done so, please read Part 1.

The Maroons

Maroons intermittently used guerrilla tactics against Jamaican militia and British troops, who had destroyed many Maroon settlements in 1686.  The British tried to capture them because they occasionally raided plantations, making expansion into the interior more difficult.  An increase in armed confrontations over decades led to the First Maroon War in the 1730s.

Jamaican Maroon

Edward Trelawny was appointed Governor of Jamaica in April 1738, at a time when the colonial authorities on the island were in the midst of waging an unsuccessful war against the Maroons.  This was the first of the great Maroon wars.  Trelawny quickly realised that the colonial militia, fighting on two fronts against the Leeward Maroons in the west and the Windward Maroons in the east, were unable to defeat the Maroons.  So he offered the Maroons of Cudjoe’s Town a peace agreement in 1739.  Cudjoe’s Town was later renamed Trelawny Town. 

Once Cudjoe signed this treaty, Trelawny offered a similar treaty to the Windward Maroons in 1740.  This overture was supported by the British settlers and the treaty officially recognised.  The treaty accepted the freedom of the Maroons and allowed them to have autonomy in their communities in exchange for agreeing to be called to military service with the colonists if needed.  This military service agreement resulted in the Maroons tracking and returning runaway slaves and assisting with quelling slave uprisings and rebellions.  This would later cause a rift between the Maroons and other Jamaicans.

Due to tensions and repeated conflicts with Maroons from Trelawny Town, the Second Maroon War erupted in 1795.  Other Maroon communities did not join in this uprising.  Being low in ammunition and with a measles outbreak they were outgunned and outnumbered by government forces.  The Maroons agreed to a truce with the government who claimed they had not abided by the terms of their Maroon treaty.  Thus in 1796 approximately 600 captive Maroons comprising of men, women and children were deported to Nova Scotia, Canada.  Jamaica granted £25,000 to pay their travelling expenses and those of accompanying administrative and medical personnel. 

Maroons Towns in Jamaica

The story of the Maroons in Nova Scotia is brief as they arrived in 1796 and left in 1800 for Freetown, Sierra Leone, in Western Africa.  Oral history maintains that a few Maroons remained in Nova Scotia while some of the Maroon descendants in Sierra Leone returned to Jamaica in the mid-1800s.

The only Leeward Maroon settlement retaining formal autonomy on Jamaica after the Second Maroon War was Accompong, in the parish of Saint Elizabeth.  Windward Maroon communities were located in the parish of Portland and included Charles Town, on Buff Bay River; Moore Town (formerly Nanny Town); and Scott’s Hall. 

In 2005 the music of the Moore Town Maroons was declared by UNESCO as a ‘Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity’.

Resistance

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.

Medallion of Equality

During the 1740s and 50s the anti-slavery sentiment was taking a firmer global hold.  A new generation of Quakers protested against slavery, and demanded that Quaker society cut ties with the slave trade.  Beginning in the 1750s Pennsylvanian Quakers tightened their rules and by 1758 made it effectively an act of misconduct to engage in slave trading.  The London Yearly Meeting soon followed, issuing a ‘strong minute’ against slave trading in 1761.  The Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was formed in 1787 by a group of Evangelical English Protestants allied with Quakers, to unite in their shared opposition to slavery and the slave trade.

There were many slave rebellions of note, 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.

In addition Jamaica was experiencing external threats.  A large French fleet, with Spanish support, planned to invade Jamaica in 1782.  However the British admirals George Rodney and Samuel Hood thwarted the plan at the Battle of the Saintes off Dominica.  In 1806 Admiral Sir John Duckworth defeated the last French invasion force to threaten colonising Jamaica.

Slave Density in Ships on Transatlantic Voyage

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the production of sugar in Britain’s West Indian colonies saw money pouring into Britain. The sugar production came to be controlled by a small circle of wealthy planters and merchants in Britain.  They nurtured ties with members of both houses of British Parliament and eventually a number became MPs.  For example William Beckford, owner of a 22,000 acre estate in Jamaica, was twice Lord Mayor of London and over 50 MPs in parliament represented the slave plantations.  No surprise that an Abolition bill first put to parliament in 1791 would in 1805 fail to pass for the eleventh time.

The Act of Union 1801 allowed 100 Irish MPs into Parliament, most of whom supported abolition combined with the general acceptance of the evils of the slave trade enabled the law to pass both Houses.  William Wilberforce, an Evangelical Christian and parliamentarian who spear headed the campaign against the British slave trade for 18 years, finally witnessed the passage of the Slave Trade Act in 1807. 

Unrest

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.  Abolitionist Henry Brougham realised that trading had continued and as a new British MP successfully introduced the Slave Trade Felony Act 1811, 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.

William Wilberforce

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.

Abolishing the transatlantic slave trade in 1807 increased planters’ costs in Jamaica at a time when the price of sugar was already dropping.  It was not until the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 that slavery itself was eventually abolished.

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.

Some 14 whites were killed by armed slave battalions but more than 200 slaves were killed by troops.  Sharpe, other ringleaders and about 340 slaves were tried, convicted and hanged.  Whites generally blamed missionaries, who were working among the slaves, for inciting the revolt.  In the weeks that followed mobs gathered by the Colonial Church Union, an organization of white planters loyal to the Anglican church, and burned several Baptist and Methodist chapels.

Because of the loss of property and life in the 1831 rebellion, the British Parliament held two inquiries.  At that time Britain’s economy was in a flux.  A new system of international commerce had emerged.  Britain’s slaveholding Caribbean colonies, which were largely focused on sugar production, could no longer compete with larger plantation economies such as those of Cuba and Brazil.  So merchants demand an end to the market monopolies held by their Caribbean colonies and pushed instead for free trade.

Emancipation and Compensation

The results of these inquiries and the 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 would commence in stages on 1 August 1834.  The first stage was the freeing of all children under six.  Then the others would work a period of six years as unpaid apprentices for their former masters.  On 1 August 1834 the Governor at Government House in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on explaining the conditions of emancipation was drowned out with chants of ‘Pas de six ans. Point de six ans’ (‘Not six years. No six years’).  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.

Compensation to slave owners was paid for by the British government, funded by a loan not fully paid back until 2015.  The British government raised £20 million (equivalent to £16.5 billion in 2013 pounds) to pay out for the loss of the slaves as business assets to the registered owners of the freed slaves.  Not surprising the slaves themselves received no such compensation.

Morant Bay Rebellion

Post Slavery

Many former slaves left the plantations and moved to the nearby hills, where their descendants still farm small landholdings.  The planters received some compensation (£19 per slave) but generally saw their financial resources and labour forces dwindle.  The British parliament removed protective tariffs in 1846, further reducing the price of Jamaican sugar.

The immediate post slavery days were very difficult for the poorer classes. Though most of the English planters had left the islands and new owners were running the plantations, the old oligarchic system still remained. The will of the masses was not deemed important and hence ignored. To add fuel to the already burning flame, the American Civil War resulted in supplies being cut off from the island. A severe drought was also in progress and most crops were ruined.

In the economic chaos that followed emancipation the Morant Bay Rebellion of October 1865 is well remembered.  . The uprising was led by a black Baptist deacon named Paul Bogle and was supported by a wealthy Kingston businessman, George William Gordon.  Gordon was a prominent coloured legislator who was sympathetic to the problems of the poor people and later was blamed for the trouble caused by the masses.

Bogle and his men stormed the Morant Bay Courthouse while it was in session.  A number of white people was killed including the Custos of the parish, St Thomas.  Some three decades after slavery ended, the Maroons assisted the government in putting down the peasant rebellion led by Paul Bogle.  Paul Bogle and George William Gordon were hanged, more than 430 people were executed or shot, hundreds more flogged and 1,000 dwellings destroyed.  This was the last time the Maroons were to serve in this military capacity. 

With the general emancipation of slaves in 1834, things changed drastically for the Maroons.  Since the British no longer needed their services as a tracking force, they had little interest in maintaining distinct, partially autonomous communities in the interior of their colony.  The first formal attempt to encourage the assimilation of the Maroons into the wider population was the so-called Maroon Lands Allotment Act of 1842.  This piece of legislation aimed to abrogate the treaties of 1739 and absorb the Maroons into the emergent peasantry by dividing the communally owned Maroon lands and parceling them out to individual owners.  The Maroons, however, simply refused to comply and the colonial government did not force the issue.  It soon found that its interests were not necessarily served by dissolving the Maroon communities.

The story concludes in Road to Independence -Part 3.  Read more then.

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Jamaica’s Road to Independence – Part 1

Although archaeologists suggest the Arawakan-speaking Tainos settled Jamaica about 800 CE (Common Era), there were others before who left behind red pottery.

The Tainos named the island ‘Xaymaca’, meaning ‘land of wood and water’.  Incidentally the words ‘hurricane’, ‘tobacco’ and ‘barbecue’ were also derived from their language.  The Tainos grew cassava, sweet potatoes, corn, fruits, vegetables, cotton and tobacco.  Tobacco was grown on a large scale as smoking was their most popular pastime.  The Tainos built villages throughout the island.  As fish was a major part of their diet, many of their 60,000 person settlements were along the coasts and near rivers.

Caribbean Sea (area sometimes called West Indies)

The European Invasion

The Spanish King and Queen funded Columbus, a Portuguese, to find a westerly trade route from Europe to India and the East Indies.  With his westerly travels taking him to the Caribbean, this area is sometimes termed the West Indies.  Boasting of the timid inhabitants and fertile lands, he was funded for 3 more trips to this New World.  On his second voyage he landed in Xaymaca (Jamaica) on May 5, 1494.  Having heard the Cubans describe Jamaica as ‘the land of blessed gold’, Columbus was disappointed there was no gold in Jamaica.

Christopher Columbus spent 1503–04 shipwrecked in Jamaica and it is said the Spanish crown granted the island to the Columbus family.  In 1509 the Spanish Governor Juan de Esquivel established the island’s first capital, Sevilla la Nueva (New Seville), about a mile west of St. Ann’s Bay on the north coast.  This settlement is said to be the oldest Spanish settlement in Jamaica and one of the first cities established by Europeans in the Americas.  In 1534 the capital was moved to Villa de la Vega (later Santiago de la Vega and then St Jago de la Vega), now called Spanish Town.  It was the centre of government and trade and had many churches and convents.

Under Spanish rule the island remained poor as few Spaniards settled in Jamaica.  The island served as a supply base of food, men, arms and horses shipped to aid in conquering the American mainland. 

The Spanish enslaved many of the Tainos; some escaped, but most died from European diseases and overwork.  The Spaniards also introduced African slaves to cultivate the newly introduced sugar cane plantations.  By the early 17th century the island’s population was reduced to about 3,000.

The English Rule

On May 10, 1655, Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables led a successful attack on Jamaica.  The Spaniards surrendered to the English, freed their slaves and then fled to Cuba.  It was this set of freed slaves and their descendants who became known as the Maroons.  The Maroons adapted to life in the wilderness by establishing remote defensible settlements, cultivating scattered plots of land notably with plantains and yams, hunting, and developing herbal medicines.

The English turned a blind eye to the buccaneers based in Port Royal.  The buccaneers attacked the treasure ships of Spain and France, ensuring these other Europeans were too busy to seriously attempt to capture Jamaica from the English.  Under the buccaneers’ leadership within a decade and a half Port Royal grew to become known as one of the ‘wealthiest and wickedest city in the world’.

One of the most famous buccaneer was a young indentured labourer from Wales named Henry Morgan, born abound 1635.  Arriving in Jamaica in 1655 he became a captain of a small privateering vessel in 1662.  His tactical approach to attacks in the Caribbean resulted in great financial income and an excellent reputation.  Morgan was promoted to a vice-admiral of the Jamaican fleet.  He was knighted and appointed deputy governor of Jamaica in 1673.  Morgan died in 1688 and was buried in Palisadoes cemetery which sank into the sea during the 1692 earthquake.

The English authorities began to suppress the buccaneers after signing the Treaty of Madrid in 1670, which recognised the English claim to Jamaica.

Like the Spanish, the English concerned themselves with growing crops that could easily be sold in England.  Thus tobacco, indigo and cacao were overtaken by sugar cane plantations with the term ‘as rich as a West Indian planter’ meaning the richest person around.  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. 

Map of World showing Europe, Africa and the Caribbean

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.  Small farmers diversified into coffee, cotton, and indigo production, and by the late 18th century coffee rivalled sugar as an export crop.

Fight for Emancipation

Who wants to be a slave!!

A slave’s life was brutal and short, because of high incidences of tropical and imported diseases and harsh working conditions.  In addition 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.  Despite those conditions, slave traffic and European immigration increased, and the island’s population grew from a few thousand in the mid-17th century to about 18,000 in the 1680s, with slaves accounting for more than half of the total.

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 Jamaican militia and English troops, who had destroyed many Maroon settlements in 1686.

The story continues in Road to Independence -Part 2.  Read more then.