Christopher Columbus discovered Jamaica in 1494; the Spanish later colonized the island in the 16th century. The Taino people, who were the indigenous inhabitants of the island, were slowly exterminated over time, and African slaves replaced them. The English colonized the island in 1655, and they established a plantation economy, which produced cocoa, sugar and coffee. Slavery was eventually abolished in 1834, freeing millions of slaves.
Jamaica slowly weaned itself from British rule and became a fully independent nation in 1962. Jamaica remains a commonwealth nation, and Elizabeth II is the head of state, with a Governor-General of Jamaica representing Britain. Jamaica is a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral parliamentary system.
Violence and crime plagues the nation, but the country has thriving industries and valuable goods. The nation's agricultural products include coffee, bananas, citrus, sugarcane and yams. Jamaica's primary industries are tourism, manufacturing, rum, cement, paper and metal. The nation's natural resources include limestone, bauxite and gypsum.
Jamaica has a 92 percent black population, with 6 percent of mixed race, 0.8 percent East Indian and 0.4 percent of other ethnic groups. English and English patois are the two primary languages of the nation.Learn more about Maps & Cartography