Jamaica is an obvious travel destination for people who love surf, sand, and sun. But there’s a lot more to this island than just natural beauty. Sadly, a great many people who visit Jamaica know nothing about Jamaican culture. Well, in this article, we’re going to change all of that.
Below, you’ll find some of the most fascinating Jamaican culture facts. We can guarantee that after reading this interesting article you’ll be scouring this website for even more incredible Jamaican culture facts.
1. Obeah And Voodoo Sorcery
We’ll start this list of Jamaican culture facts with a short exploration of the island’s most mysterious, and most misunderstood, religion: voodoo. The real history of this practice, of course, is far more complex than movies like Pirates of the Caribbean would have us believe.
Most historians believe African slaves brought a specific kind of African spirituality with them to Jamaica called Obeahism. This type of sorcery probably originated from the Igbo tribe in what we now call Nigeria. Practitioners of this religion often use amulets, spells, and witchcraft to influence the spiritual dimensions.
Although there are a few Obeahism worshipers in Jamaica, they often operate underground. The Jamaican government has made the practice of Obeahism punishable by death. In addition to Jamaica, Obeah practitioners still exist in many Caribbean nations.
2. Jamaica’s National Drink
On any list of Jamaican culture facts, you have to mention rum. Rum isn’t only important to the Jamaican economy, it’s also considered the national drink. Jamaica has the second oldest rum distillery in the world: Appleton Estate in Cockpit Country. This rum producer, second only to Barbados’ Mount Gay Rum, has been making the sacred drink since 1749.
Today, there are so many distilleries in Jamaica that the country makes enough rum to fill 20 Olympic-sized pools annually. If you want to drink like a local, you should add a little bit of coconut water to your rum.
And don’t just drink it – use it for your cooking as well! The Jamaican rum cake is a must-try when it comes to Caribbean delicacies!
3. The World’s Most Expensive Rum
If you’re a multi-millionaire, you may actually be able to use these next Jamaican culture facts. Did you know that Jamaica has the most expensive rum in the world? The story behind these highly coveted bottles of booze goes back to the start of the 20th century. Jamaican rum experienced a huge boom in the 1930s when the company Wray and Nephew popularized Mai Tai cocktails across the Caribbean.
For years, people thought all of those vintage rum bottles disappeared. In 2004, however, workers discovered 12 bottles of Wray & Nephew rum from the 1940s. Today there are only four of these bottles left, and you’ll have to shell out around $54,000 for just one bottle (or almost $3,000 for a shot).
4. Jamaica’s National Dish
In addition to rum, Jamaica is well known for its cuisine. But do you know what the national dish of this tiny nation is? If you guessed ackee and saltfish, congrats! In case you don’t know, ackee is a kind of fruit that was brought to Jamaica from West Africa in 1778.
Although ackee is Jamaica’s national fruit, it is extremely dangerous to eat if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you eat an unripe ackee, the best-case scenario is that you get Jamaican Vomiting Sickness. The worst-case scenario, however, is death.
People who try a well-prepared ackee for the first time often describe the taste as mild and buttery. Most Jamaicans eat ackee with saltfish mixed with dumplings, oil, onions, and peppers.
5. The Cultural Importance of the Olympics
The Olympic Games are very important in modern Jamaican culture. Of course, the most decorated Jamaican Olympian right now is sprinter Usain Bolt. There is, however, one interesting sport Jamaicans are well respected for, despite the fact that they haven’t even won a single medal for it. That sport is bobsledding.
People who were around in 1988 probably remember the dramatic debut of the Jamaican bobsleigh team. The Jamaican team, led by Dudley Stokes and Michael White, shocked the world when they qualified for these games. This was the first time a Caribbean nation had ever competed in this winter sport event.
Sadly, the four-man Jamaican bobsled team crashed in the Alberta Winter Games. This inspiring story led Walt Disney Company to produce the hit film Cool Runnings.
Jamaica is currently in 36th place for the most Olympic medals of all time.
6. Jamaica’s Impressive Industrialization
Some people are shocked when they hear about Jamaica’s early industrialization. Amazingly, Jamaica had a fully functioning railroad before the USA and the UK. Jamaica also had such a phenomenal telephone infrastructure that the company AT&T used the nation’s system design.
Jamaica even entered the “Information Age” with style. In 1994, the Government of Jamaica became the first Caribbean nation to create a professional website.
7. James in Jamaica…James Bond, That Is
OK, although these last tidbits might not technically qualify as Jamaican culture facts, they’re still pretty cool. Did you know that world-famous author Ian Fleming, the man that gave the world Agent 007 (aka James Bond), spent a great deal of his vacation time on Jamaica?
It’s true; Fleming wrote ten of his fourteen Bond novels in sunny Jamaica. Fleming, who worked as a naval intelligence officer during World War II, first fell in love with Jamaica’s scenery when he visited in 1942. After the war, Fleming decided to build his own home, which he called GoldenEye, in the secluded Oracabessa Bay area.
While in his private retreat, Fleming used inspiration from his former spy days to create the suave 007 we all know and love today. Today, visitors can stay in Fleming’s GoldenEye, which is now called the Fleming Villa.
We hope this list of Jamaican culture facts has inspired you to learn more about this fascinating island. Anyone interested in a more detailed look at Caribbean history should check out well-researched texts like A Concise History of the Caribbean by Dr. B. W. Higman.
Or, of course, you could just book a flight to Jamaica and tour the island for yourself! The best areas for history buffs are the capital city of Kingston and nearby Port Royal. Wherever you end up visiting, always remember that Jamaica has a lot more cultural richness than beaches and rum.