Jamaica at a glance

  • Official Name : Jamaica.
    It is derived from the word Xaymaca which is the name given to the island by its original inhabitants, the Arawak Indians. Xaymaca means either the “Land of Springs,” or the “Land of Wood and Water.”
  • Capital City : Kingston
    Kingston is also the largest city with a population of 937,700 (2003 est.). It was named the capital in 1872. Montego Bay is Jamaica’s second city.
  • Currency : Jamaican dollar.
    One Jamaican dollar equals 100 cents. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, and 25 cents as well as 1, 5, 10 and 20 dollars. There are notes of 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 5000 dollars.
  • Population
    2.7 million (2005 estimate).
  • Ethnic Groups
    90% of Jamaicans are of West African descent. East Indian 1.3% Mixed 7.3%, White 0.2%, Chinese 0.2%, and Other 0.1%. The population is generally young, with 30 percent below the age of 14 and just 7 percent of the population older than 65.
  • Religions
    Research shows that 80.0% of Jamaica’s population is Christian. The majority of them are Protestants also known as Anglican, which is primarily due to the influence of British colonialism, and later the influence of US denominations. The top 5 denominations in Jamaica today are: Church of God, Seventh-day Adventist, Baptist, Pentecostal and Anglican.

    Non-Christian religions are numerous, the largest being the Rastafari movement which was founded on the island and reveres the late Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. Obeah is a belief system with roots in the West African Yoruba Orisha traditions Hinduism and Buddhism also appear due to immigration from India and the People’s Republic of China. Islam and Judaism are less than half a percent.
  • Natural Resources
    Bauxite, gypsum and limestone.
  • Principal exports
    Bauxite and alumina, apparel, sugar, bananas, coffee, citrus and citrus products, rum, cocoa.
  • Head of State
    The head of state is the Governor-General. The Governor- General is appointed by the monarch of England on the advice of the Prime Minister.
  • Head of Government
    The head of government in Jamaica is the Prime Minister who is elected by the Jamaican people. The prime minister is the leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives.
  • Principal exports
    Bauxite and alumina, apparel, sugar, bananas, coffee, citrus and citrus products, rum, cocoa.
Flag

The Jamaican flag has 3 colors, Black, green, and gold. Black stands for hardships overcome and to be faced; Gold, for natural wealth and beauty of sunlight; and Green stands for hope and agricultural resources.

Click here for a flag you can color.

Coat of arms

The crest shows a crocodile, the indigenous reptile in Jamaica, mounted on the Royal Helmet of the British Monarchy. A male and female member of the Arawak tribe stand on either side of a shield which bears a red cross with five pineapples. The pineapples represent a fruit considered indigenous, to the Arawaks. Also represented on the Coat of Arms is the Jamaican national motto “Out of Many One People”, based on the population’s multi-racial roots.

National Bird – Doctor bird (Green-and-black Streamertail, Trochilus polytmus)

The doctor bird or swallow tail humming bird, is one of the most outstanding of the 320 species of hummingbirds. It lives only in Jamaica. These birds’ beautiful feathers have no counterpart in the entire bird population and they produce iridescent colors characteristics only of that family. In addition to these beautiful feathers, the mature male has long tails which stream behind him when he flies.

National Flower – Lignum vitae (Guaiacum officinale)

The Lignum Vitae was found in Jamaica by Christopher Columbus. Its name, when translated from Latin, means “wood of life” – probably adopted because of its medicinal qualities. The wood was once used as propeller shaft bearings in nearly all the ships sailing the ‘Seven Seas’. Because of this, Lignum Vitae and Jamaica are closely associated in shipyards worldwide.

National Tree – Blue Mahoe (Hibiscus elatus)

The Blue Mahoe is indigenous to the island. It is so beautiful and durable that it is widely used for cabinet making and also for making decorative objects such as picture frames, bowls and carving.

National Dish – Ackee and Saltfish (dried salted Cod)

Ackee is derived from the original name Ankye which comes from the Twi language of Ghana. It bears large red and yellow fruit. When ripe these fruits burst into sections revealing shiny black round seeds on top of a yellow aril which is partially edible. Jamaica is the only place where the fruit is widely eaten.

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