On August 6, 1962, Jamaica gained political independence from Britain after more than 300 years of British colonial rule. Also of significance is the Jamaica Constitution, which took effect on the same day. The Constitution sets out the laws that govern the people. This legal document guarantees freedom, equality and justice for all Jamaican citizens.
Jamaica’s history is replete with a plethora of rich, vibrant and talented individuals. Jamaicans are inspired, determined and continue to advance, even if the odds are against them. Our history speaks to experiences of hardships and prosperity; and the growth and determination of a people.
Our Ancestors Fought For Our Independence
The original inhabitants of Jamaica were the mild-mannered Arawak Indians, also called Tainos. They came from South America and settled on the island which they named Xaymaca. The name Xaymaca meant “land of wood and water”. They existed in simplicity and peacefully. However, upon experiencing torture by the Spaniards, the Arawaks fought back valiantly.
Our history also stands firm on descendants of the Maroons. Though free, the British sought to wage dominance and enslavement on the Maroons. After two major wars in 1739 and 1740, treaties were signed between the Maroons and the British. In the accord of 1740, the Maroons received land and rights as free men. In return, they were to stop fighting and return runaway slaves. This treaty resulted in a rift among the Maroons.
Slave rebellions against the British frequently occurred throughout the Caribbean.
By the 1950s, there was a growing urgency and push for political independence and emergence in nationalism across the British Caribbean territories. On January 3, 1958, the turning point occurred when Jamaica joined nine other British West Indian colonies. They entered into an internal self-governing, federal state to gain Independence. The West Indian Federation was born. Jamaica subsequently withdrew its membership from the Federation in September 1961 by way of a collective vote.
Standing on Legacy
Our ancestors, including our National Heroes, are forever etched in our hearts, and we should continually strive to build on their legacy and bravery. We encourage you to stand tall on the spirits of all those that fought and lost their lives for what we enjoy today.
Regardless of how you choose to celebrate our 59th year of Jamaica’s Political Independence, the fight continues—bearing in mind that our ancestors’ sacrifice was not in vain. Our ancestors’ struggle was not in vain. How will you celebrate?