A self-governing dominion in the
British Commonwealth of Nations occupying the island of Jamaica in the
West Indies, south of Cuba. Jamaica was discovered by Columbus in 1494
and was occupied by Spain until 1655, when it became a British
possession. The original Arawak inhabitants soon died out under the
Spanish, who began the importation of African slaves to work the sugar
plantations. Jamaica became an independent republic on Aug. 6, 1962.
Economic dissatisfaction brought a socialist regime to power 1972-80.
Attempts to expand Jamaican ownership in bauxite mining operations and
to expand welfare programs failed to improve the economy, and a more
conservative government came to power. This has resulted in improved
relations with the United States and in economic growth since the 1980s.