Next Stop on our Cultural Journey Series: Jamaica!
The 4,244 square mile tropical island of Jamaica is about 1,000 square miles smaller than Connecticut and overflowing with beautiful beaches, comforting food, passionate music and vibrant culture. Early settlement was dependent on the location of its plantations, and today, Jamaica’s economy hinges on the exportation of bauxite, sugar, bananas, coffee and tobacco. Since its discovery, Jamaica has been many things to many different people, cultures and religions. Its multiracial population of more than 2.8 million people strive to live their national motto; “Out of many, one people.”
Junkanoo – The streets come alive every Boxing Day (December 26th) when Jamaicans parade and dance in costume to celebrate the holidays. It is believed that Junkanoo started in the 16th and 17th centuries, possibly with West African origins. It has evolved into intricate costumes and dances choreographed to goatskin drum beats and cowbells. Junkanoo parades have had cameo appearances in the Jaws the Revenge movie and the James Bond film, Thunderball.
Independence Day – At midnight on August 5, 1962, the Jamaican flag was proudly raised, showing their independence from the British. The flag symbolizes Jamaica’s hope, agriculture and abundance with green, creativity and courage with black, and natural resources and sunshine equally divide it all by yellow, diagonal, intersecting lines. You can be sure that every year, Jamaicans celebrate this historical event by wearing the colors of Jamaica, sharing traditional foods and making the music that brings it all together.
Cricket – Cherry? Peach? Fruit Salad? To some, this sounds like part of a grocery list. To cricketers, these are terms for the cricket ball and various ways to bowl the ball to the batsman. Beginning in 1895, cricket has easily become one of the most popular sports in Jamaica. American baseball and English cricket share similarities such as the use of a bat, ball, an outfield, innings, pitchers or bowlers, umpires and many other aspects. Some of the best, most popular, earlier Jamaican cricketers are George “Atlas” Headley, Lawrence Rowe and Michael Holding. Two of the more recent stars of cricketing are Courtney “Cuddy” Walsh, who is one of the best in the world, and Chris Gayle, who currently holds the record for the highest innings in a Twenty20 International.
Dunn’s River Falls – Fed by spring water, Dunn’s River Falls is so beautiful, it was worth fighting for! The English defeated the Spanish Expeditionary Force from Cuba at the Battle of Las Chorreras in 1657, near the falls. Only a few travertine waterfalls in the world fall right into the sea as Dunn’s River Falls does. Tourists flock to see this rare phenomenon near Ocho Rios. Natural and manmade steps allow visitors to interact with the falls before the water is returned to the Caribbean Sea.
Negril – Rated one of the top 10 beaches in the world! Negril is unique in that it offers miles of beaches, a lighthouse, cliff diving, watersports, family fun, nightlife, resorts and relaxing, all while keeping its simple charm. Beginning its development in the late 1950’s the small town kept its beautiful secret until the first resorts and hotels were built in the late 1960’s. Tourism really took flight when a small airport was built in 1976 near Rutland Point. There is something unforgettable for everyone in Negril.
Blue Mountains – Jamaica’s longest mountain range are the Blue Mountains. With walking paths leading to the highest peak of 7,402 feet, the north and south coasts can be seen. On very clear days, even the outline of Cuba is visible. The mountains house more than 500 species of flowering plants and more than 200 species of birds. The climate and rainfall on the mountains provide rich soil for Jamaican coffee beans. Mostly exported to Japan, Blue Mountain Coffee is one of the most expensive and coveted coffees in the world.
Usain Bolt – Currently holding the 100 meter world record, Usain Bolt continues to dominate as a sprinter. Born in Sherwood Content, Trelawney, Jamaica, in 1986, “Lightning Bolt” grew up playing cricket and football. By age twelve, his sprinting ability started to develop as he became the fastest in school for the 100 meter. Even surprising himself, Bolt broke the world record on May 31, 2008 at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York City, with a 100 meter time of 9.72 seconds. Besides earning many gold medals in the World Championships, Bolt took home three gold medals from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and three more at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. What will his next feat be in the 2016 Games?
Bob Marley – “Live for yourself and you will live in vain. Live for others, and you will live again”, Bob Marley-Passionate about music, freedom and soccer, he is the most beloved artist of the reggae genre. Born in St. Ann Parrish, Jamaica, Marley continues to be an inspiration to others worldwide. His expressive music was deeply personal, spiritual and political. Becoming widely popular after collaborating with The Wailers, his albums went platinum ten times over in the United States in 1984, though posthumously. His son Ziggy and daughter Karen were there to accept when Marley won the Grammy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. Thirty-three years after his death, Marley’s legacy is still celebrated around the world for his work to promote peace and the Rastafarian culture. “In this great future, you can’t forget your past,” Bob Marley, No Woman No Cry.
Reflecting its cultural and demographic diversity, some of the influences on Jamaican cuisine include Spanish, British, East Indian, West African, Portuguese, Chinese, French and Dutch. Using many of their natural resources, some main food staples consist of rice, breadfruit, legumes and plantain. Main entrees for special occasions can include seafood, beef and curried goat. This broad assortment proves to please all palates!
Click on any photo below to try a taste of the Jamaican island in your home!
Jamaican Au Pairs
Are you in need of affordable live-in childcare? Au Pair International is fortunate to work with some amazing Jamaican partners that help our host families to introduce the Jamaican culture to their children! Together we are currently featuring the following Jamaican au pairs who are seeking host families in the U.S.. Upon clicking on their photos you will be taken to their personal profile on our website. If you have any questions or would like more information on becoming a host family please do not hesitate to contact us!