On May 4, 1494, Christopher Columbus arrived at the island of Jamaica. This was his second voyage to the New World, which later became known as America. Columbus claimed the island in the name of his master and mistress, the King and Queen of Spain.
Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, Jamaica was inhabited by a gentle race of people called the Arawaks or Tainos. It is assumed that they came from the country now known as Guyana, where Arawak Indians are still found.
Jamaica was not occupied by Spaniards until Juan de Esquivel came from Santo Domingo in 1509. After the Spanish settled in Jamaica, they turned the Arawaks into slaves. After many years of working them harshly, the Arawaks were depleted almost entirely. Jamaica remained a Spanish colony for 146 years
Christopher Columbus's thoughts as he first set eyes on Jamaica while his fleet steered for St. Ann's Bay on his second voyage of discovery to the New World in 1494, are communicated to us by the Spanish historian Andres Bernaldez in the following description:
"It is the fairest island eyes have beheld; mountainous and the land seems to touch the sky; very large; bigger than Sicily, has a circumference of 800 leagues (I mean miles), and all full of valleys and fields and plains; it is very strong and extraordinarily populous; even on the edge of the sea as well as inland it is full of very big villages, very near together, about four leagues apart."
The Spaniards first settled on that part of the northern coast of Jamaica which is now known as the parish of St. Ann. There they built a town called Sevilla Nueva, or New Seville. Soon after they moved to the southern part of the island and built the town of St. Jago de la Vega (St. James of the Plain), which is still called Spanish Town.
The island was given to the Columbus family as a personal estate in 1540, but they did nothing to develop it. The Spanish colony in Jamaica was never a very large or very flourishing one.
On May 10, 1655, a body of English sailors and soldiers landed at Passage Fort, in Kingston harbor, and marched towards Spanish Town. They were commanded by Admiral Penn and General Venables, who had been sent by Oliver Cromwell to capture the island of Hispaniola. Penn and Venables failed to take the city of Santo Domingo and sailed on to Jamaica.
Copyright ©: 2003 Cherise James
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