Fast Facts

Kingston; 575,000
10,991 square kilometers (4,244 square miles)
English, patois English
Protestant, Roman Catholic, other spiritual beliefs
Jamaican dollar
Life Expectancy:
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $3,800
Literacy Percent:
Flag: Jamaica
Map: Jamaica

Jamaica is a mountainous Caribbean island just south of Cuba. Columbus landed here in 1494, and the Spanish soon brought in slaves as the native Arawak Indians died out—today more than 90 percent of the population is of African descent. The British seized the island in 1655, granting independence in 1962. Tourism is a steady earner, but reliance on unpredictably priced commodities, such as bauxite, causes uneven growth. The island is a major transit point for South American cocaine enroute to the U.S. and Europe. Other problems include illicit cultivation of marijuana and heavy deforestation.


  • Industry: Tourism, bauxite, textiles, food processing
  • Agriculture: Sugarcane, bananas, coffee, citrus; poultry
  • Exports: Alumina, bauxite; sugar, bananas, rum

—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition

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