Culture in Jamaica
Culture in Jamaica
The culture in Jamaica can be defined as the activities of Jamaica that the individuals do in their everyday lives that relate to the traditions of Jamaica. Most Jamaicans live in the Greater Antilles Island whose original settlers were the Taino. The British and the Spanish made major contributions to the history and culture of the Jamaican people. The blacks and the slaves underwent harsh conditions of forced labour. The suffering by these blacks and the slaves led to their resistance to forced labour and their victory led to their cultural dominance. The national language of the people of Jamaica is English and the local language that is primary is Jamaican Creole. The current population in Jamaica is composed of several nations and people which is as a result of the many nations that dwelt in the place in its history. Many ethnic groups live together to form the different societies in the region. Most of the individuals are Africans followed by the Indians and the Chinese and some minority European. In Jamaica, there are some ritualistic acts that are performed at specific events or performed over a specific period of time. Some holidays such as pudding at Christmas time, Christmas cake, lent at Easter, Sorrel, etc. There also existed some rituals such as the famed one night after the death of a loved one. Foods such as the jerk pork, red stripe beer, jerk chicken help a lot in defining Jamaican culture. The Rastafarian religion is the secondary religion that resulted from a combination of the western Christianity and the African religious practices. This paper will seek to analyze the cultural perspectives from the country of Jamaica.
History, Culture, and Lifestyle in Jamaica
The first inhabitants of Jamaica were the Arawaks who lived in some simple communities. The simple communities lived on hunting, fishing, and cultivation of cassava in small scale. The Spanish later came and settled on the same island and their interruptions forced this indigenous community to disappear. The Spanish came in small populations and their expectations to trace gold on the island didn’t materialize. The Spanish were later conquered by the British and the
Culture in Jamaica
British occupied the island in 1655. The settlement of the British was followed by slavery on the residents of the island where these individuals underwent harsh conditions under forced labour. Some of the slaves went away while others were emancipated when sugar market went down. Those who were emancipated started farming in the mountains and hill slopes that were far away from the plantations. Agriculture farming started developing in the area that was followed by industrialisation within the country. The contributions of the Jamaicans to the present economy and their cultural activities such as music cannot be ignored (Sean & Angela, 2004).
The family life in Jamaica doesn’t dwell much on the father-mother relationship but on the mother-child relationship whereby the father is not viewed as an integral member of the family. In this land, passage to adulthood in a woman is determined by the bearing of a child and not marriage (Sean & Angela, 2004). Even after the abolishment of slavery a long time ago, some patterns of family life that developed during the time of slavery still influence today’s families in Jamaica. The mother has the obligation of keeping the children if the father happens to leave. It is also the responsibility of the woman to know when to bear a child and when not to. The females are allowed by the tradition to work in any areas of interest and earn some money to sustain themselves. The men can also move to different parts of the country to look for better jobs that will pay well. Rural-urban migration is quite common in Jamaica individuals move from the rural areas where there are no better paying jobs to urban areas where they secure some better ones.
The religions of the people who live in the island were greatly influenced by historical events that took place from the first settlers to the events of the present day. Whenever the European settled in the world, they used to tolerate Europeans religions only and none other. The case was not different in Jamaica when the Europeans settled in the island. The Europeans who settled in the plantations were totally against the African religions as they felt that these religions could help unite the African slaves and help them to rise against them. This argument kept the African religions and their practice away. Churches that are based in the U.S have traced their way into the island since the island acquired independence. Most of the plantation owners were members of the Church of England which dominated the island for a long period of time. Many people in the island were transformed to this faith and practiced the faith of this church in early periods. Other churches that have entered the island recently and grown substantially include the Baptist church and the church of god. Though the African religious beliefs were not practiced for quite sometime, they still remained in the minds of the Jamaicans (Sean & Angela,
Culture in Jamaica
2004). These African beliefs combined with the Christian beliefs to form some other religions that are practiced today. Revivalism was one of the religions that resulted form the combination the African religion and the Myal.
The Rastafarianism is a common religion in Jamaica that is practiced by the Rastas. Rastafarianism developed as an African influenced religion that began in the slums in Jamaica. The believers of the Rastafarian faith believe in the teachings of the bible especially the teachings of King James Bible. However, this bible is read with an Africanist view. Among the Rastafarians, there is the belief that Ethiopia is heaven on earth and that Haile Selassie- the former Ethiopian emperor is their religious leader. Recent research done in Jamaica show that Christianity is the dominant religion in Jamaica. A few other residents of the island practice other faiths but these faiths are not as immense as Christianity (Sean & Angela, 2004). Although Rastafarianism contains some elements of the Christian faith, Rastafarianism cannot be considered a standard Christian denomination.
Type of Society
As stated earlier, the rockaway and canarsie tribes that occupied Jamaica were farmers, fishermen, and hunters. The main occupation of these tribes was however farming. By this time, there were no bridges, defined roads, railway, etc. to carry commodities since the residents were not farming for business purposes. The mid nineteenth century brought some changes in the region when modernization and industrialization were introduced. Industrialization began with the introduction of fertilizer and fish oil industry on the barren island (Daniel, 2000). The Jamaica bay became a place where waste substances were disposed. Another industry that began in the region was the fishing industry which began fir business. Better avenues were developed and developers started building houses in the eastern and northern shores of Jamaica. Among the developments that ushered in many changes include the construction of the rockaway and Brooklyn railroad. This led to the growth of canarsie into a resort. The century was also marked by development of ferry services that connected different ports and enhanced efficiency. Industrialization in Jamaica didn’t begin until the mid nineteenth century which was marked by intense industrialization and modernization. In this very century, agricultural sector was revived.
Culture in Jamaica
Imports, Exports, and Types of Employment in Jamaica
Jamaica is one of the countries in the world that depend on trade. Trade is very common within the island and it plays a major role in the economic activity of Jamaica. Jamaica has participated in international; trade whereby it imports commodities and exports commodities that it produces in excess. The major Jamaica imports were: fuels which accounted for thirty six percent of all the imports, machinery and transport equipment, food, chemicals, and manufactured goods. About forty percent of the goods and services that Jamaica imported were supplied by the United States. Other suppliers of imports to Jamaica include: Canada, Britain, Venezuela, Netherlands, etc (Photius, 2005).
The Jamaican exports were categorized into traditional, non-traditional, and reexports. Under traditional exports fall items such as bananas, coffee, sugar, bauxite, cocoa, gypsum, alumina, etc. Reexports as the name suggests is the exportation of the goods that one had received as imports. The exportation of such goods or services can only be as a result of profit that is likely to be realised when the goods are sold. Most of the goods that were reexported were transhipments. All the exports that do not fall under the traditional or the reexported goods are categorized as nontraditional. These are commodities such as mineral fuels and lubricants, nontraditional agriculture, garment and apparel manufacturing, etc. All the exports were mostly taken to the countries that imports were taken (Photius, 2005).
Since the early days, employment existed in Jamaica. The women were allowed to work not only as secretaries and clerks but could look for jobs in tourism and other areas so as to get money to cater for their needs. Men also worked in different areas and could even move from rural to urban areas to look for better paying jobs (Photius, 2005).
Significant Holiday Celebrations
The most festive time of the year in Jamaica is the Christmas season. The Jamaicans engage in non-stop celebrations and take special meals such as the Jamaican Christmas cake and the
Culture in Jamaica
sorrel drinks. During this season, parties, gatherings of friends, festivals, entertainment, etc. are at climax. The Christmas season is the longest season that that brings members of the family together and they actively engage in celebrations in Jamaica. The season begins in mid December to the New Year’s Day and during this season, people gather in churches, hold gatherings for large meals, and exchange gifts with family members (Dave, 2005). Compared with the United States, Christmas is at the climax only during the Christmas day. All other days are normal and the activities are carried out the usual way.
The songs that are sung in Jamaica are not very different from the ones that are sung in other parts of the world. On the Christmas day, different makes of food are prepared for the Jamaicans to choose. Among them are: chicken, oxtail, rice and gungo peas, roast ham, curry goat, etc. Sorrel is the drink of choice for many Jamaicans during this special period. In Jamaica, there are some activities that are associated with this season alone such as the Jonkanoo (Dave, 2005). The night preceding the Christmas day is characterized by street dancing, music, crafts, food, etc. The Christmas celebrations in Jamaica are very vibrant than they are in any other country. In the United States, there are no national; events that are practiced by everyone like it is in Jamaica.
Typical Foods, Dress, and Customs
The typical foods to the Jamaican people included papayas, spinach-like callaloo, maize, potatoes, peanuts, peppers, beans, etc. The Jamaicans also roasted meat and seafood. A typical dress for a woman would include a top, a skirt, and a headscarf made of calico- a cotton cloth. The dresses are also colourful. In the beaches, the individuals wear light coloured and light weight shirts and shorts, sunglasses, brimmed heart, etc (Pamela, 2000). The custom in Jamaica includes the original language which was the Creole, a family that is extended and that provides economic and emotional support.
Jamaica versus United Status
Culture in Jamaica
The Jamaican culture hasn’t had very big influences on the culture the United States. However, some individuals from the United States have been traced whereby some citizens from the United States have been traced with dreadlocks on their heads. Some other individuals are identifying with the Rasta colours.
The culture of Jamaica is begins with the very first group that occupied the island before the arrival of the Spanish. The Spanish occupied the island but they did not trace any gold as they anticipated as they were invading the island. The British later came and conquered the Spanish who didn’t resist a lot. When the British came, they started large sugar plantations and acquired blacks for forced labour. Some of the slaves went away while others were emancipated when sugar market went down. Those who were emancipated started farming in the mountains and hill slopes that were far away from the plantations. Agriculture farming started developing in the area that was followed by industrialisation within the country. The family life in Jamaica concentrates on mother-child relationship and not more on father-mother relationship as it is in most parts of the world. Also, passage to adulthood in a woman is determined by the bearing of a child and not marriage. Christianity is known to be the dominant faith in Jamaica although some other faiths also do exist. The Rastafarianism is an African influenced religion that began in the slums in Jamaica. The believers of the Rastafarian faith believe in the teachings of the bible especially the teachings of King James Bible but the reading is given an African perspective. Jamaicans used to participate in international trade where it imported commodities such as fuels which accounted for thirty six percent of all the imports, machinery and transport equipment, food, chemicals, and manufactured goods from the United States, Canada, Britain, Venezuela, Netherlands, etc. Exports include bananas, coffee, sugar, bauxite, cocoa, gypsum, alumina, lubricants, nontraditional agriculture, garment and apparel manufacturing to United States, Canada, Britain, Venezuela, Netherlands, etc. Employment in Jamaica existed for both men and women. The most festive time of the year in Jamaica is the Christmas season that is celebrated from mid December to first of January. The members of the families gather together and exchange presents, people meet in churches, and gather for big meals.
Sean, S & Angela, B. (2004). Jamaica. London : Marshall Cavendish ltd, 66-68.
Culture in Jamaica
Daniel, H. (2000). Jamaica Bay. UK : Arcadia Publishing, 24.
Photius, C. (2005). Jamaica economy- External Trade. Retrieved on 01-Sep-09 from http://ww w.photius.com/countries/jamaica/economy/jamaica_economy_trade.html
Dave, S. (2005). Jamaica Holiday Traditions. Retrieved on 02-Sep-09 from http://www.travellad y.com/Issues/December04/1105JamaicaHolidayTraditions.htm
Pamela, M. (2000). Culture and Customs in Jamaica. New York : Greenwood Publishing, 23-25.
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