Jamaica, an island nation in the West Indies. It is part of the Greater Antilles and lies about 90 miles (145 km) south of Cuba. The island's area is 4,244 square miles (10,991 km2).
Jamaica has a mountainous interior fringed by coastal plains. The highest point, Blue Mountain Peak, reaches 7,402 feet (2,256 m) above sea level. Virtually all of the rivers are unnavigable. The island has a tropical climate and abundant plant life. At Kingston, the capital, the temperature averages 81° F. (27° C.) in July and 76° F. (24° C.) in January. Temperatures in the mountains are lower. Rainfall varies widely—Kingston has an average annual rainfall of 25 inches (635 mm), while in the Blue Mountains it averages 250 inches (6,350 mm). Hurricanes sometimes strike the island.
Agriculture is the traditional base of Jamaica's economy and is practiced mainly along the coastal plains on many small farms and on plantations. Sugarcane, bananas, citrus fruit, coffee, and sweet potatoes are among the main crops. The mining of bauxite (aluminum ore) and the production of alumina for export are of major importance to the island's economy. Also significant are petroleum refining and the making of cement, chemicals, textiles, rum, and processed foods. Tourism is a major source of income.
Jamaica's basic currency unit is the Jamaican dollar.
Jamaica has several railway lines and a network of main and secondary roads. International airports are at Kingston and Montego Bay. Kingston is the leading seaport.
Kingston is Jamaica's capital and largest city. About 95 per cent of the people are of African descent or of mixed African and European ancestry. Most of the rest are East Indians, Chinese, or Europeans. Christianity is the main religion; the leading denominations are Church of God, Baptist, and Anglican. The official language is English. Primary education is free. A branch of the University of the West Indies is in Kingston. Also there is the College of Arts, Science, and Technology.
Jamaica is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The government of Jamaica is modeled after that of Great Britain. Under the constitution of 1962, the British monarch is the monarch of Jamaica, and is represented by a governor general, who has limited governing powers. Jamaica has a two-house parliament which consists of a 21-member Senate and a 60-member House of Representatives. Members of the House of Representatives, which has functions similar to those of the British House of Commons, are elected; members of the Senate, which resembles the House of Lords, are appointed. The leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives is the prime minister. The judiciary includes a court of appeals, a supreme court, and various lesser courts.