JAMAICA - History



The arrival of the Spaniards in 1494 marked the beginning of drastic changes in the lifestyle of the Tainos as they were forced into servitude. On Columbus' fourth voyage to the New World in 1503, he sought refuge near a Taino village called Maima in Jamaica. This was due to his ships being in a state of disrepair. He remained on the island for a year before returning to Spain.

In 1508, Colombus' son Diego was appointed Governor of the Indies. Diego later appointed Juan de Esquivel, Governor of Jamaica.

The first Spanish settlement was called Sevilla la Nueva, New Seville. The town was built in 1510. Among the structures erected were a fort, a fortified castle and a Catholic Church. The site was abandoned in about 1524 as it was deemed unhealthy, and a new town, Villa de la Vega was built. The Spaniards also set up a number of towns across the island. Some of these were Liguanea, Guanaboa, Esquivel (Old Harbour), Passage Fort, Oristan (Bluefields) and Ayala (Yallahs). Although there are very few Spanish structures remaining, there are a number of areas including rivers which maintain Spanish names such as the Rio Minho and the Rio Cobre.

The colony relied on passing ships for the trade of hides, and fruits. The colonists were involved in ship building and repairs. However, Jamaica never prospered as a Spanish colony. In fact it was viewed as a burden and in 1512 there was a movement towards relocating the colony in Cuba.

Under the rule of the Spaniards the Taino population dramatically declined as a result of the combination of new diseases such as smallpox, and the ill treatment meted out to them by the colonists. By 1598, less than half of the Taino population remained

Since the arrival of the Spaniards in the New World other European countries constantly vied for control of their holdings. In addition, Spanish ships were constantly under attack by the French, Dutch and English. Jamaica was not without its share. As early as 1555 the French attacked the island, then the English, in 1597 under the leadership of Sir Anthony Shirley.


Ever since the capture of Jamaica by the English from the Spanish in 1655, the need for fortification became immediate because of the...



The Morant Bay Courthouse, which was destroyed by fire on Monday, February 19, 2007, is an important part of St. Thomas's history.



Built in 1885 of masonry and timber, the Simms building exhibits a combination of Gothic and Georgian features; the projecting...