Jamaican culture … unique and vibrant

Whether you have visited Jamaica or not, you will probably know that it has a dynamic and vibrant culture from its music, dance and food to its arts and crafts all derived from its rich heritage.  This cultural diversity probably stems from the many different nationalities that have landed on the island’s shores over the past several centuries each bringing something to add to the mix.

Located south of Cuba, Jamaica is divided into fourteen parishes and it is 4,244 square miles in area. In 1872, Kingston, with a quarter of the population, was made the capital.  It is located on the South Eastern coast of the island and it is considered the cultural capital, and like many cities it is large and noisy.  It is also quite modern compared to some of the other parts of Jamaica that still remain traditional, sleepy towns and villages where life moves at a different pace.

Whether they are the descendants of the colonists or recent immigrants people of many different nationalities live and work together in Jamaica. Each culture has added something to the way Jamaicans live their lives.

The Jamaican language is another way in which the blending of mixed cultures is illustrated.   The language is a mixture of English, Spanish and African. Although Jamaica’s official language is English, many of its residents speak with their own linguistic style and this can be different from village to village. Most of the language comes from Spanish, African, English and Rastafarian.  For example, you might hear shoes called “zapatos,” – the Spanish word and people might use the African word “nyam,” meaning “eat.”

Jamaican culture is also enriched by its flavoursome, spicy and unique food.  Using the aromatic spices of the Caribbean the dishes are an unusual fusion of flavours in the world. Most popular on the menu is jerk, a spicy marinade that is added to meat, fish and chicken. However, it is the yams, bananas, plantains, corn bread, salt fish and ackee (a fruit) as well as goat curry that make up some of the most traditional dishes although seafood, which is in plentiful supply is always popular cooked fresh or in a curry.

Religion or spirituality is also important to Jamaicans and  the island has churches of many different Christian denominations including Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Seventh Day Adventists, and Presbyterians but there are also Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Bahai’s, and Rastafarians who live comfortably in Jamaica.

Music, dance and crafts are a huge area of importance to Jamaicans.  The Jamaicans love to express themselves through their music and to celebrate with dance. The most popular form of Jamaican music is reggae, which has a laid back sound that has become popular worldwide. Many reggae musicians have grown to international fame, including Bob Marley… The popularity of reggae continues and has evolved into Dancehall, a variation of reggae.  Jamaican dancing is unique and has changed over time from the styles of Europeans and Africans.

Jamaica is also home to many artisans who make products out of local and natural materials by hand.  These can be found at local craft fairs and stalls on the street, and include glazed pottery animals, straw hats made of palm leaves, embroidered linens and batik clothing, and shell jewellery or Rastafarian wood carvings that are usually made of red hard woods.

Every country has its own style and its own culture and Jamaica is no different, however, Jamaican culture is much like its cuisine, an infusion of many different flavours and cultures evolved from its rich heritage.

Green Castle Estate … steeped in history, dates back to the very early beginnings of Jamaica

Jamaica and the other islands of the Antilles evolved from an arc of ancient volcanoes named rikitiki that rose from the sea millions of years ago.  Green Castle history begins with Jamaica’s first inhabitants, the Taino. …  While knowledge of the Jamaican Tainos is still far from complete there have been archaeological explorations that have taken place at Davey Hill on Green Castle Estate revealing our Estate dates back to the very beginnings of life on the island. It has revealed a people that lived on a wide variety of animal sources as well as cassava root.  Early inhabitants of Jamaica named the land “Xaymaca”, meaning “Land of wood and water” and this evolved or changed into Jamaica over time.

However, it was on May 5, 1494 that Christopher Columbus, the European explorer, who sailed west to get to the East Indies and landed in Jamaica and officially put it on the world map. Shortly after Colombus’s discovery, the Spanish colonised the island and took the Tainos as slaves. By 1600 the Tainos were largely extinct through ill treatment and disease, and many West Africans were brought to the island as slaves.

Spanish settlement of the north side scarcely outlived the Tainos but unfortunately, very little remains of these earliest traces of European culture.  We do know that the Spanish built a coastal road that would have run through Green Castle.  But that road had disappeared by the time of the English settlement in the 1660s, to be re-established when the trade in sugar began on the north side in the 1730s. There has also been speculation that the Spanish town of Melilla, never precisely located, might have been in the area of Green Castle.

In 1655, the English invaded Jamaica, defeating the Spanish. The English built the settlement of Port Royal and this became a base of operations for pirates and privateers, including Captain Henry Morgan.  The waters of Green Castle Estate were part of the busy port area during this period. We also believe the waters off the Green Castle Estate private beach would have been central to the pirate operations and the caves and coastline perfect for hiding their treasure!

England gained formal possession of Jamaica from Spain in 1670 through the Treaty of Madrid.  Shortly after, in the 18th century, sugarcane replaced piracy as Jamaica’s main source of income.  Under English occupation, Green Castle carved out a distinguished place in Jamaica history. For two hundred years it was owned by a succession of three of the leading families on the island who developed it as it as plantation. During this period all trade in an out of the plantation was by sea. Another two hundred years passed before viable overland routes connected the north side to Jamaica’s major cities in the south.

Green Castle continued to grow and thrive, and it was actually named “Green Castle” during this time after a romantic ruin in Ireland by Robert Nedham.

Robert Nedham’s plantation prospered and expanded from around 1728, and he started sugar plantations at Green Castle and Orange Hill.  He occupied the great house at Green Castle until his death in 1738. Unfortunately, remains of the original great house have so far escaped discovery, in spite of concerted attempts to locate its foundations.

The coral-stone tower of Nedham’s landmark windmill still survives, and carbon dating has established that one of its largest timbers dates from a tree felled in the 15th century, suggesting salvage from a Spanish ship or some Spanish building in the vicinity. Close to the mill tower are foundations for an animal mill and associated sugar production buildings and storage buildings.

Several fragments of a cluster of warehouses and a wharf at Jack’s Bay also survived. These date back to around 1750.

Nedham’s son, also named Robert, took little interest in Jamaican life. As a Result, Green Castle and its associated properties passed to George Ellis on the elder Robert Nedham’s death in 1738.Thus Green Castle became associated with a third illustrious Jamaican family, the descendant of Captain John Ellis. The extended Ellis family was just coming into its own in Jamaica. They would be a dominant force in local politics as well as sugar cultivation until the middle of the next century.

During most of the 18th century sugarcane was Jamaica’s main export. However In the last quarter of the century, the Jamaican sugar economy declined as famines, hurricanes, colonial wars, and wars of independence disrupted trade. Producers in other countries became more competitive and production dropped significantly.   Green Castle suffered the woes of all Jamaican sugar estates in the early 1800s. Depressed sugar prices and the mandated end of slavery (to take effect in 1834) pushed all but the most successful plantations to the brink of bankruptcy.  In 1854, all three Ellis estates were put on auction.  As a result, the estate were broken up and abandoned, leaving the land to be settled by squatters.

Joseph Bravo, a London merchant, put the Green Castle parcel back together in 1871, with a new emphasis on pimento production.  When Bravo died in 1881, the land passed through several hands before clear title was finally achieved by John Pringle in 1887. Pringle was in the process of purchasing numerous north side lands and converting them to banana plantations (by now the banana trade had replaced sugar as Jamaica’s leading export). According to some estimates, by the turn of the twentieth century St. Mary parish became the leading banana producer in the world. For the next fifty years Green Castle strived as a banana plantation, however, with the onset of the Great Depression, the financial affairs of the estate and its owners once more began to crumble and it once again failed.

In 1937, Green Castle was sold to its manger, Joseph Ray Johnson. A visit by John H. MacMillan, Jnr., in 1950 led to a lease and purchase of Green Castle Estate by an American with deep roots in the agricultural industry. Macmillan immediately set about reintroducing diversity to the plantation economy.  Banana, coconut and pimento were paramount and the savannas became grazing grounds for beef cattle.

When MacMillan died Green Castle was sold to its current British owners.

Visitors wanting to learn about Green Castle History can step inside our historic windmill tower built in the 1600’s, or find shards of pottery on Davey Hill from the original Green Castle inhabitants, the Taino Indians around 900AD. The landscape is inspiring, and as you sit on the Estate House veranda looking out to sea, you can imagine tall ships coming into Jacks Bay to collect sugar, rum, cocoa and bananas to take back to European markets. Take a walk on the natural eco beach and you will see pieces of brick and English coal dropped on the natural eco beach when it was a busy port during Green Castle’s plantation days.

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If you want to enjoy our traditional Jamaican hospitality and all that Green Castle Estate has to offer, go to special offers to find about our latest offers (the ones detailed are currently for bird tours, however, we also have special prices/packages available for couples and families. To find out about these please contact the us by email: info@www.gcjamaica.com