About Montego Bay and Jamaica
Montego Bay is the second largest city in Jamaica, after the capital, Kingston. Located on the northern shore of the island-country, it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Caribbean. The original resort area is around 'Doctor's Beach' - a stretch of hotels, restaurants and tourist shops known as the 'hip strip'. More recently, large resorts have been built both to the east and the west of the town of Montego Bay. An international airport links Montego Bay to major air routes.
Click on map for larger image.
The main town of Montego Bay is built around a quaint colonial square, Sam Sharpe Square, named after one of Jamaica's heroes, the leader of a nineteenth century slave rebellion. Jamaica's historical legacy of slavery and colonial rule is more visible in the town of Montego Bay than it is in the tourist parts of town, in a positive sense in the form of its charming central square, museum and markets. However, the visitor cannot help being struck by the incongruity of two Montego Bays, the upmarket tourist Montego Bay and the Montego Bay of the locals with its evident poverty and social problems. Although Learning Conference participants will be staying in the 'hip strip' or resort accommodation available to international visitors, the conference will be held in the town itself, at the Montego Bay Community College. The juxtaposition of tourist affluence and local poverty is something which is tragically replicated in many places in today's world. The disjuncture of affluence and poverty is something that, as educators, we have to address as a fundamental issue where-ever we are.
As in many such situations, tourism provides an essential economic base for the people in the town. Visitors to Montego Bay can enjoy beautiful beaches and the warm spectacularly blue-green colours of the Caribbean. Glass bottom boat tours are available of the nearby Marine Park. Visits can also tour local historical sites including the Great House of the former Rose Hall plantation (built in 1770, and with some haunting stories from the slave era), and the Greenwood Great House, once owned by the family of the English poet, Robert Browning. On a more contemporary note, there's a Bob Marley centre containing an exhibition and showing films of the great reggae singer and songwriter.
With a population of 2.5 million and a land mass of 4,400 square miles, Jamaica is the third largest country in the Caribbean. Its largest industry is tourism - more than 1.2 million visitors travel to Jamaica each year. As well as pristine beaches, Jamaica has high mountain ranges in which its famous Jamaican coffee is grown. The Blue Mountains rise to 7,400 feet and abound in trails for hiking and rivers for rafting.
As well as tourism, Jamaica still exports sugar (once, it was the world's largest producer). Its other main export products are bananas and bauxite.
The original inhabitants of Jamaica were the Taino indigenous people. They practiced a form of agriculture based on growing conuco tubas. They also fished and hunted.
The lives of the Tainos were forever disrupted by the arrival of explorer Christopher Columbus in 1494, who proclaimed that the island now known as Jamaica was 'the fairest isle mine eyes ever beheld'. Columbus himself lived in Jamaica for a year in 1503, near a Taino village called Maima, while his crew repaired their damaged ships.
In 1508, Columbus' son became the Governor of the Indies. So began the period of Spanish colonial rule, with the first permanent Spanish settlement being established in 1510 at Sevilla la Nueva. The Spanish forced the Tainos into servitude. Many died of introduced diseases to which they had no resistance. By the end of the sixteenth century, less than half of the Taino population at the beginning of the century, had survived.
The Spanish were driven from Jamaica by the English in 1655. As they left, they freed their slaves who fled to the hills and became a force of rebellion and resistance against the English. After Ireland, Jamaica was the British Empire's second colony. In fact, the English establishment of a colony in Jamaica marked the beginning of the first large scale slavery since classical Europe.
English immigrants began to settle in Jamaica from the second half of the sixteenth century. Some made their fortunes from buccaneering, plundering Spanish ships taking gold from Central and South America. Others became rich from the hard labour of slaves brought from West Africa to work in the sugar plantations.
The British slave trade lasted for several hundred years and was finally abolished in 1807. Slavery was abolished in the West Indies in 1833. However, social and economic conditions for ex-slaves in Jamaica did not change a great deal in the decades immediately following abolition.
In the twentieth century, demands for independence grew, along with a sense of racial pride led by prominent Jamaican intellectual, Marcus Garvey. Adults were granted the right to vote by the right by the British colonial government, and Jamaica became independent in 1962.
Internationally, Jamaica is known as the home of reggae. Its most famous son was Bob Marley, regarded as the first global music superstar to come from the third world. With a career that spanned over twenty years until his untimely death in 1981, his songs of justice and peace made a mark on the whole world. For more background, visit the Bob Marley Foundation website.
For more information on Montego Bay and Jamaica, visit:The Official Visitor's Guide to Montego Bay
The Jamaica Guide
Directory of 'About Jamaica' Websites
History and Heritage - Jamaica National Heritage Trust
Museums: The Institute of Jamaica
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