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CIA FactBook      Library of Congress Study

The  island of Jamaica was discovered by Columbus in 1494 and described as "the fairest isle that eyes have beheld".  It is located 145 kilometers south of Cuba.  Jamaica is the largest island in the English speaking Caribbean;   originally named Xaymaca, meaning "land of wood and springs."     The highest peak is that of Blue Mountain, some 2,256 meters high.    Kingston is the capital city and chief port, where the majority of the population resides.  This multiracial country is greatly known for its reggae music and is well represented in drama, the visual arts and the sports world.

Jamaica was first settled by the Spanish, but was later ruled by the British until they gained independence.  It became an independent nation in 1962, but remained part of the Commonwealth of Nations. 

The original inhabitants of the island were the Arawak-speaking Indians, who became almost non-existent during the Spanish rule. Today, the majority of the population is black, numbering almost seventy-five percent.   A smaller percentage of East Indians, Chinese, Europeans, Syrians, Lebanese and people of mixed ancestry also make up the population.  Several denominations of Christianity compose the majority of religious belief.  There are also two spiritual groups of African origin called Kumina and Rastafarianism.


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