Jamaicans – Out of Many

Perhaps the most startling claim in that video Janice provided a couple of blogs ago is the assertion that there’s no such thing as a Jamaican.

Really? I must be a figment of my own imagination then, because I am certainly a Jamaican.

I don’t have dreadlocks, can’t carry a tune and don’t smoke ganja. But I am Jamaican, born and bred.

Actually, a lot of Jamaicans don’t look like Bob Marley on those album covers, either.

We really are “out of many, one people.”

The original Jamaicans were thought to be Arawaks but more recent scholarship established that “Arawak” was their language, and their tribal name was Taino.

Anyway, Arawak or Taino, they were wiped out by the Spanish colonists who followed Columbus and promptly enslaved them.

I suspect the Taino DNA survives today in many Jamaicans as their extinction was a gradual process, probably allowing for racial intermingling.

You and I might even have some of that Taino DNA, Janice. Who knows?

Jamaica has attracted a wide variety of “races” through the centuries.

After wiping out the Taino, the Spanish imported slaves from Africa. And when the English warships arrived in the mid-1600s, those slaves were released to go and hide in the mountains.

You probably know about them.  They became known as the Maroons and their habitat survives in legend as “the Land of Look Behind.”  The English never did manage to subjugate them.

And of course you know the British plantation owners also imported African slaves.

You probably know, too, that Jamaica recruited “indentured servants” from India after Queen Victoria freed the slaves.  I understand the Indians were promised a parcel of land in exchange for several years of free labor.

You may know less about the Chinese indentured servants…. Or the Irish, German and other Europeans recruited under similar arrangements…

Or the prisoners shipped out of England and Ireland by Oliver Cromwell…

Or the Sephardi Jews who fled persecution in Spain and Portugal centuries earlier…

Or the Chinese, Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians who came as visiting traders and stayed as Jamaican merchants…

Or British and American missionaries and other clergy (like some of my family) who came to save souls and never went home…

So, Janice, don’t believe that guy in your video. We are Jamaicans, you and I, whether you can tell by looking at us or not.

And as Jamaicans our heritage includes all kinds of ethnic strains, including strains of which we may not even be aware. Our forbears tended to marry those they loved – without bothering to check their racial credentials.

And I hope that’s the way it will always be on our island in the sun.

Jamaican history

Jamaica’s people

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

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