Jamaica is a Caribbean island nation comprised of the Greater Antilles’ third-largest island. The island, which has an area of 10,990 square kilometers (4,240 square miles), is located about 145 kilometers (90 miles) south of Cuba and 191 kilometers (119 miles) west of Hispaniola (the island containing the nation-states of Haitiand the Dominican Republic). Jamaica is the Caribbean’s fourth-largest island nation in terms of land area.
The indigenous Arawak and Tano peoples inhabited the island, which fell under Spanish control after Christopher Columbus’ arrival in 1494. Numerous indigenous people perished of illness, and the Spanish brought African slaves to work on their fields. The island, originally called Santiago, remained a Spanish property until 1655, when it was captured by England (later Great Britain) and renamed Jamaica. Jamaica became a major sugar exporter under British colonial control, with its plantation economy heavily reliant on imported slaves from Africa. In 1838, the British abolished slavery completely, and many freedmen opted to establish subsistence farms rather than labor on plantations. The British began importing Chinese and Indian indentured labor to work on plantations in the 1840s. On 6 August 1962, the island declared independence from the United Kingdom.
Jamaica is the third-most populated Anglophone nation in the Americas (after the United States and Canada) and the fourth-most populous in the Caribbean, with 2.8 million inhabitants. Kingston, with a population of 937,700, is the country’s capital and biggest city. Jamaicans are mostly of African origin, with sizable minority of European, Chinese, Hakka, Indian, and mixed ancestry. Jamaica has a sizable diaspora worldwide, especially in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, owing to a high rate of emigration for employment since the 1960s.
Jamaica is a Commonwealth country ruled by Queen Elizabeth II. Her designated representative in the nation is Sir Patrick Allen, the Governor-General of Jamaica, a position he has held since 2009. Since March 2016, Andrew Holness has served as Jamaica’s head of government and Prime Minister. Jamaica is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with legislative authority devolved to the bicameral Jamaican Parliament, which is composed of an appointed Senate and a directly elected House of Representatives.