The East Indians and Chinese arrived as indentured laborers. The official language is English, reflecting the British colonial heritage, but even in official contexts a number of creole dialects that reflect class, place, and social context are spoken. The national motto, which was adopted after independence from Great Britain in 1962, is "Out of many, one people." In the national flag, the two black triangles represent historical struggles and hardship, green triangles represent agricultural wealth and hope, and yellow cross-stripes represent sunshine and mineral resources. Jamaica was a Spanish colony from 1494 to 1655 and a British colony from 1655 to 1962.
Divided into fourteen parishes, it is 4,244 square miles (10,990 square kilometers) in area. Fifty-three percent of the population resides in urban areas.
The Spanish wrote the name used by the native Taino, "Yamaye," as "Xaymaca." The Taino word is purported to mean "many springs." The abbreviated name, "Ja" and the Rastafarian term "Jamdung" (Jamdown) are used by some residents, along with "Yaahd" (Yard), used mainly by Jamaicans abroad, in reference to the deterritorialization of the national culture. Jamaica, one of the Greater Antilles, is situated south of Cuba.
Traces of pre-Columbian can be seen in the use of palm fronds thatch and mud walls (daub).
Styles, materials, size, and furnishings differ more by class than by ethnicity.
Since much of Caribbean life takes place outdoors, this has influenced the design and size of buildings, particularly among the rural poor.
The Spanish style is reflected in the use of balconies, wrought iron, plaster and brick facades, arched windows and doors, and high ceilings.
The achievement of black majority rule has led to an emphasis on class relations, shades of skin color, and cultural prejudices, rather than on racial divisions.
Jamaica has never experienced entrenched ethnic conflict between blacks and Indians or Chinese.
These dwellings are starting to disappear, as they are being replaced by more modern dwellings with cinder block walls and a corrugated metal roof. A "country" morning meal, called "drinking tea," includes boiled bananas or roasted breadfruit, sauteed callaloo with "saal fish" (salted cod), and "bush" (herbal) or "chaklit" (chocolate) tea.
Afro-Jamaicans eat a midafternoon lunch as the main meal of the day.
Settlement patterns were initiated by plantation activities.