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History Of Spanish In Jamaica

It is believed that Christopher Columbus missed his course and was far off the coast of Africa, when the north east winds blow him into the West Indies.

The arrival of the Spanish was May, 1494, when Christopher Columbus arrived in Jamaica on his second voyage to the West Indies. Christopher Colon (Italian) before his name was changed to Columbus which is Spanish; he was an explorer from Europe. When his ships arrived in Jamaica he met indigenous people who were the Tainos (earlier called the Arawaks).

Christopher Columbus heard about “Xaymaca” when he was in Cuba, he was told there was gold in Jamaica, “the land of the blessed gold”, but there was none to be found on his arrival. When he first landed in Jamaica, he attempted to land in St. Ann’s Bay but ended up in a bay called Puerto Seco instead. There was no fresh water there, so he went further and found Good River – now called Rio Bueno, he settled down in Seville or New Seville but it was not conducive to living as it was pure swamp lands. He finally moved to St. Catherine to a place called St. Jago de la Vega – Spanish Town.

The Spaniards brought slaves from Europe and Africa and they also enslaved some of the Tainos as laborers. This was not the only thing that was done to get rid of the Tainos, they were also tortured, overworked and killed, and the introduction of European diseases by the Spanish also aided this elimination process. It did not take a long time for the Spanish to overpower the Tainos and capture the “land of wood and water”.

Jamaica was said to be poor under the Spanish reign as few Spaniards remained on the islands. They used the islands as a supply base for men, arms, food and horse that were being shipped here.

The main activities that the Spanish partake in were cattle rearing, pigs for export (they got a lot of lard- Manteca) and goats. The majority of pig farming was done from Manteca Bay (Montego Bay). They did some farming in the form of sugar cane, citrus, banana and plantain.

In the year 1509, this was fifteen years after their arrival; the first Spanish settlement was established by the first Governor of Jamaica Juan de Esquivel. This first town was Sevilla Nueva (New Seville) which is near to St. Ann’s Bay. The first church was built at Seville, but this settlement was later abandoned due to unhealthy conditions at the site. The church was moved to St. Jago de la Vega, now Spanish Town.

Jamaica has a lot of areas with Spanish names and this was a legacy from the Spaniards. There are places such as Oracabesa, Rio Bueno, Savanna-la-mar, Mt. Diablo, Don Figuero and various other places especially starting with “Rio”. It was believed the Spanish placed more emphasis on places like Cuba and Hispaniola and that is why they are Spanish speaking countries today.

The Spanish reign came an end when the English chased them from the islands in 1655. However, they did not leave entirely until after the last stand at Rio Nuevo, St. Mary and the English defeated the Spanish. Jamaica was then handed over to the English in 1670.

 
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