Let’s Talk History

A Tapestry of Jamaican Culture: From the Taino to Independence

A Tapestry of Jamaican Culture: From Taino to Independence is the theme of our display that explores the unfolding of Jamaica’s history, which is reflected through the artefacts. The story of the Tainos, Spanish, Maroons, British, Africans, and our various ancestors.

It beautifully illustrates the rich cultural diversity of Jamaica has been dramatically affected by the history and culture of the Tainos, Spanish, British, Africans, Chinese, Indians, and Lebanese. Tainos represent the first peoples and their contribution to the words we use, such as Hammock and canoe. Spanish contributed to the building of the first capital  Sevilla La Nueva and architecture. British imparted the English language, Christianity more specifically protestant denominations, chief of which was Anglicanism.  Africans were brought to Jamaica by the Spanish and British as enslaved people who made it a point of duty to keep their culture alive and we can see it in our food, music, dance, and language. Chinese immigrants brought with them trade, business, and culinary customs during the 19th century.  Indentured Indian workers contributed to the island’s cultural landscape by bringing their music, dance, and celebrations like Diwali, while the Lebanese set up shops in trade and brought their culinary traditions with them.

Yuh waan si weh wi have in-store fi Yuh?


 The Tainos are known as Jamaica’s first people who are recorded to be in the Caribbean from as early as 500 B.C. Words such as Hammock, Canoe, and Barbeque to name a few are Taino’s retention towards our culture.


On May 3, 1494, during his second voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus claimed the island for Spain and became the first European to set foot on the island. Sevilla la Nueva, or New Seville, was the name given to the first Spanish settlement.


Formerly enslaved people who managed to escape were known as Maroons. When the British captured the Caribbean island of Jamaica from Spain in 1655, they fled from their Spanish-owned farms. The Spanish word “cimarrones,” which meant “mountaineers,” is where the English word “maroon” is derived. Through negotiating a contract with the Maroons in 1739, the British finally signed on to the communities’ demands for the acknowledgment of their autonomy after years of war.


Jamaica’s history was significantly influenced by the British, especially during the colonial era. The British took control of the island from the Spanish in the middle of the 17th century.  English, Christianity, and various aspects of British culture were imported by the British, along with their legal and administrative institutions.


There was a severe labor shortage as the Sugar Revolution got begun. Thousands of enslaved Africans were imported to fill this requirement. The majority of people in Jamaica are of African heritage as a result of the slave trade. People of African descent continued to visit the island after the British slave trade was outlawed in 1807.  A number of people of African descent arrived in Jamaica as free laborers during the apprenticeship period (1834–1838) and in 1839. One of the most well-known still-existing rites is the St. Thomas Kumina Ritual.


The largest ethnic minority in Jamaica is East Indian. Indentured laborers, mainly came between 1845 and 1917. The Indians traveled to Jamaica in order to make a “fortune” and establish better lives for themselves back home.

The most prevalent plants and trees that the Indians brought to Jamaica were betel leaves, betel nuts, coolie plums, mangoes, jackfruit, and tamarind. Indian cuisine has a particular taste and flavor that is unique to India. Curried goat, roti, and pulses typically cooked with mangos, curried potato, eggplant, bitter gourd, and okra make up a classic Indian meal.


Despite making up a very small amount of Jamaica’s population, the Chinese have had a significant influence, particularly in the field of business.

In 1849, the first Chinese people arrived. Following the freeing of the slaves, the Chinese were brought in as indentured laborers to work on the sugar estates. They eventually succeeded in growing their companies to the point where the modest grocery stores included not only retailing but also wholesaling and other forms of activities. Although some Chinese returned home to marry Chinese spouses they brought back to Jamaica, others intermarried with Jamaicans who were not Chinese, adding to the racial diversity of the island.

You can view this display at the lobby of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport at  4-6 Trafalgar Rd, Kingston.