Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea. Spanning 10,990 sqkm in area, it is the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and the fourth-largest island country in the Caribbean. Jamaica lies about 145 km south of Cuba, and 191 km west of Hispaniola (the island containing the countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic).
Previously inhabited by the indigenous Arawak and Taíno peoples, the island came under Spanish rule following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1494. Many of the indigenous people died of disease, and the Spanish transplanted African slaves to Jamaica as labourers. The island remained a possession of Spain until 1655, when England (later Great Britain) conquered it and renamed it Jamaica. Under British colonial rule Jamaica became a leading sugar exporter, with its plantation economy highly dependent on African slaves. The British fully emancipated all slaves in 1838, and many freedmen chose to have subsistence farms rather than to work on plantations. Beginning in the 1840s, the British utilized Chinese and Indian indentured labour to work on plantations. The island achieved independence from the United Kingdom on 6 August 1962.
With million people, Jamaica is the third-most populous Anglophone country in the Americas (after the United States and Canada), and the fourth-most populous country in the Caribbean. Kingston is the country's capital and largest city, with a population of 937,700. Jamaicans mainly have African ancestry, with significant European, Chinese, Indian, Lebanese, and mixed-race minorities. Due to a high rate of emigration for work since the 1960s, Jamaica has a large diaspora, particularly in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Jamaica is an upper-middle income country with an average of 4.3 million tourists a year.
Jamaica is a Commonwealth realm, with Elizabeth II as its queen. Her appointed representative in the country is the Governor-General of Jamaica, an office held by Sir Patrick Allen since 2009. Andrew Holness has served as Prime Minister of Jamaica since March 2016. Jamaica is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with legislative power vested in the bicameral Parliament of Jamaica, consisting of an appointed Senate and a directly elected House of Representatives.
The indigenous people, the Taíno, called the island Xaymaca in Arawakan, meaning the "Land of Wood and Water" or the "Land of Springs".
Colloquially Jamaicans refer to their home island as the "Rock." Slang names such as "Jamrock", "Jamdown" ("Jamdung" in Jamaican Patois), or briefly "Ja", have derived from this.