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10 Fun Facts You Never Knew About Jamaica

I was born and raised in Jamaica, and I love sharing all kinds of things about my country with my readers.


1. Jamaica Has the Fastest Runners on Earth

The United States and China are the only two countries with more Olympic medals than Jamaica. The United States and the UK have also naturalized Jamaican sprinters like Sanya Richards and Linford Christie because our government does not pay our sprinters.

Why Are Jamaicans So Fast?

  1. They come from a genetic pool of Africans that are naturally athletic*
  2. Jamaicans mostly feed on ground provisions such as yams and a lot of fruits.
  3. Sprinting is the most popular sport there, and the coaches are brutal.
  4. Jamaicans have huge egos and think they are better than everyone. (Just kidding.)

Furthermore, most Jamaican sprinters are from a rural section of Jamaica called Trelawny (Usain Bolt is one such example). It is no coincidence that this is where the most yams are grown and consumed on the island.

*Most of the sprinters are descendants of the Maroons. A Maroon is a free man or woman that escaped slavery. Based on the accounts of colonial slave masters, the Maroons would run away from the slave plantations, and by the time the slave masters would load their guns, the Maroons would already be out of sight.

2. Jamaica Produces the Most Music per Capita

Jamaica is the undisputed authority on reggae music, but that is not the only form of music indigenous to the island. There is also ska, rocksteady, one drop, mento, Nyahbinghi, folk, drum and bass, soca, reggae-gospel, dub, festival, rubba-dub, roots reggae, calypso, and dancehall. Dancehall music is the most popular in Jamaica.

There are also other types of music produced in Jamaica that are not native to the island, for example, pop, western, rock 'n' roll, soul, hip-hop, jazz, rap, and R&B. And yes, there are Jamaicans who only produce rock 'n' roll or country-western as a full-time career.

A lot of the music produced in Jamaica is made by foreigners. Record companies often launch a new artist in Jamaica before they launch them internationally because if the song is a hit in Jamaica, the rest of world will catch on. This was done with Rihanna, UB40, Harry Belafonte, and Steel Pulse.

Capleton is a Jamaican reggae and dancehall musician

Capleton is a Jamaican reggae and dancehall musician

3. Jamaica Has the Most Churches per Square Mile

In my small suburban beach community of fewer than 1,000 residents, there are four churches within a half-mile radius of my house. According to the National Library of Jamaica, there are approximately 2.75 churches per square mile, a fact recognized by the Guinness World Book of Records. There are also churches in people's backyards and living rooms that haven't been taken into consideration.

Jamaica is a very Christian country, which heavily influences its educational, political, and social systems. All schools in Jamaica have a Christian devotion in the morning before classes begin.

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There are over 100 different Christian denominations in Jamaica. The most popular ones being Baptist, Catholic, Anglican, Jehovah's Witness, Seventh Day Adventist, New Testament, Church of God, and Pentecostal. You also have the less popular religions, such as Mormon and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

There are also churches that still incorporate elements of African culture, such as the Poco and Revival churches. No matter what faith they belong to, almost every Jamaican believes in spirituality, the continuance of life after death, and a final judgment day.

Bethabara Moravian Church in Jamaica 1979

Bethabara Moravian Church in Jamaica 1979

This small town is home to well over 30 established churches!

4. The Most Rum Bars per Square Mile

This fact about Jamaica is very hard to measure because most rum bars may not be registered with the government. However, where there is a church, there are two bars down the road. Jamaica was the first island to produce rum commercially for export in the days before piracy. Rum here is also widely used in the kitchen (mmm, rum cake!) and for first aid purposes.

At any local bar, you can order "Jancrow batty," which translates to English as "vulture's ass." It is the strongest form of rum. This is a favorite amongst hardcore alcoholics and avoided by social drinkers. Available on the black market at any rum bar but not displayed on the shelf, it is illegally distilled by professionals at the sugar cane factories. The strongest variation originates from Trelawny (the same place the top sprinters are from). Rum has been deemed the strongest drug on the island.

Did you know that tourists on the island are more likely to get rum-induced alcohol poisoning than an injury from a water sport accident? You've been warned; the rum in Jamaica is indeed potent and even banned in some countries.

For those who prefer sipping to gulping, Jamaica has the most expensive rum in the world—Appleton Estate 50-Year Rum—which clocks in at over $4,000.00 for 750ml.

Jamaica produces the most expensive rum in the world (but this is not it).

Jamaica produces the most expensive rum in the world (but this is not it).

5. Jamaica Is the Top Consumer of Cranberries per Capita

Cranberries are very popular in Jamaica. Since cranberries do not grow in Jamaica, they have to be imported and is perceived as a luxury item. Cranberry water is the most popular derivative of the fruit. It is an amazing thirst-quencher, especially during the island's regular heat waves. It has even become more popular than coconut water for surviving the hot environment.

Cranberry juice is also popular because it is used to chase rum. If you tell the bartender that you want a chaser, they may automatically assume you are referring to cranberry juice.

The most popular reason for the consumption of cranberry, however, is due to the medicinal properties that it possesses. Jamaicans will buy anything that is organic, natural, and unprocessed, and this tangy-tasting juice fits the bill. It is used to recover from the flu, boost concentration, aid digestion, and boost the immune system.

6. Yes, Jamaica Has a Bobsled Team

Jamaica was the first tropical country to take part in the Winter Olympics. This event has always been dominated by countries that are farther away from the equator, and it was a big joke in Jamaica when the government announced that they were sending a bobsled team to the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Things have changed since then, and the Jamaicans won the gold medal at the 2000 World push championship in Monaco. This story was made into a Disney film called Cool Runnings.

Jamaican Olympic bobsled team in action

Jamaican Olympic bobsled team in action

In Jamaica, there is an equivalent to bobsled racing that is called pushcart derby. This is basically racing downhill in a handcart and requires just one driver and passenger. The driver steers while the passenger uses his body to help the driver keep the cart on track. So far it has not been recognized as an Olympics-worthy sport, but you never know.

7. The James Bond Series Was Written in Jamaica

While working for Britain's Naval Intelligence Division, Ian Fleming was in charge of a covert operation called Goldeneye, giving him real-life inspiration for his world-famous Bond series. Fleming later bought a 15-acre piece of land (which used to be a donkey racecourse!) in Jamaica and named it Goldeneye. Former British Prime Minister Anthony Eden and other celebrities were also known to spend time at GoldenEye.

Ian Fleming got the name James Bond from an American ornithologist of the same name who frequented Jamaica and was an expert on Caribbean birds.

The first James Bond novel to be completed in Jamaica was Casino Royale, and three other Bond novels (and movies)—Dr. No, Live and Let Die, and The Man with the Golden Gun—feature Jamaican scenery. Dr. No, the first James Bond movie, was filmed in Jamaica. The crocodile farm where Bond ran on top of the crocodiles is still in operation and is popular among tourists.

The late Mr. Flemming has since had a private airport named after him in Jamaica.

"I wrote every one of the Bond thrillers here."

— Ian Fleming

Sean Connery was the first actor to portray James Bond.

Sean Connery was the first actor to portray James Bond.

8. Jamaica Was Once a Spanish Speaking Country

From 1509 to 1655, Jamaica was under Spanish rule. The capital of Jamaica was Villa de la Vega, which was called Spanish Town by the English. It is still called by this name today, though there are many other towns that have kept their Spanish names, such as Ocho Rios.

The buildings constructed during this time are still standing and serve as tourist attractions. Jamaica was used by the Spanish as a launching point to send ships to destinations like Mexico and Peru.

The English were able to take Jamaica from Spain because most of the Spanish soldiers were in other colonies and did not have a strong concentration in Jamaica.

Spanish Town, Jamaica

Spanish Town, Jamaica

9. Jamaica Is the Home of Beautiful Women

Jamaica has won Miss World three times: in 1963 with Carole Crawford, in 1976 with Cindy Breakspeare, and in 1993 with Lisa Hanna. Jamaica has also made it to the semi-finals several times, the last time earning a controversial second place in 2007 with Yendi Philips. The only countries to win the Miss World competition more often are India, the UK, and Venezuela.

Unsurprisingly, Jamaica has a prominent place in the modeling industry. Many talent scouts come to Jamaica in search of their next major star. There is even a modeling agency listed on the Jamaican stock exchange! On national TV, there is always a modeling competition going on. The most popular models from Jamaica are Naomi Campbell, Grace Jones, Stacey McKenzie, and Tyson Beckford.

Jamaica also offers equal opportunities for women on the Island. The honorable Portia Simpson-Miller served two consecutive terms as Prime Minister of Jamaica.

Portia Simpson-Miller served two terms as Prime Minister of Jamaica.

Portia Simpson-Miller served two terms as Prime Minister of Jamaica.

10. Jamaica Supports Equal Rights for Humanity

Here are several instances that demonstrate Jamaica's support of equal rights for all:

  • It has been said that Jamaicans helped Haiti become the first independent black state by fighting in their revolution.
  • A woman named Nanny led the Maroons in plantation raids to free slaves. She is the only national heroine of Jamaica.
  • Marcus Garvey, the first national hero of Jamaica, traveled to New York and started the largest black movement in history—the UNIA. He also launched the first black corporate entity, The Black Star Liner, which was a fleet of ships.
  • The Rastafarian Movement was born out of Jamaica and grew to be a global powerhouse in the struggle for worldwide freedom and peace. The hippie movement bonded with the Rastafarian movement in the '60s and '70s and worked to empower one another.
  • Bob Marley became a freedom activist when he started to support various peace movements across the world. He also did free concerts in Africa, especially Zimbabwe, when they had just gained their independence.
  • Jamaica was the first country to sanction South Africa for their apartheid regime.
Bob Marley organized and performed at many free concerts in Africa.

Bob Marley organized and performed at many free concerts in Africa.

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