Jamaica Independence celebrated in Cayman

Jamaica and the Cayman Islands share strong historical ties and with many Jamaicans presently resident here, it is not surprising that a day of celebration has been organised to recognise the 6 August anniversary of Jamaica’s independence from Britain.  


Director of Research and Publication at the University College of the Cayman Islands, Livingston Smith, has written a number of pieces on the subject of the Jamaica-Cayman relationship. From the pineapple on both islands’ coat of arms to many Caymanians tracing their roots back to Jamaican parishes, the link is strong and undeniable. 


The history  

According to Smith: “The Jamaica-Cayman ties run deep. These ties are both explicit and submarine, cemented by blood and in history. Sighted by Columbus [on] 10 May, 1503, the Cayman Islands, in the era of European rivalry, was used as a calling station to replenish meats. In 1660, the British ruler Oliver Cromwell hankered for a piece of the Spanish Empire and so in his Western Design set sights on a British presence in the ‘New World’. Cromwell’s army thereupon pounced upon Hispaniola in an attempt to wrestle it from Spain. Failing, it took the more poorly defended Jamaica as a consolation prize.  

“From this relatively short-lived Spanish affiliation, the relationship between Jamaica and Cayman sprang in the dawn of 1661. When Spain gave up on Jamaica, the Treaty of Madrid was signed in 1670, and Jamaica officially became British, with Cayman being ceded as part of Jamaica. In 1863, Britain passed legislation making the Cayman Islands a dependency of Jamaica.  

“This formal attachment to Jamaica saw Cayman becoming more like a parish of Jamaica, with locally nominated Justices of the Peace and elected Vestrymen. A Commissioner was appointed by the Governor of Jamaica to administer the islands. 

“Today, this long and interesting history between Jamaica and Cayman measures almost 300 years. Although all administrative links were broken in 1962 with the demise of the West Indian Federation, the strength of the Jamaica-Cayman relationship continues. To wit, while separated in the legal sense of administration of the territories, the two territories continue to share many links and experiences. 

“From a familial level, in 1999, 38-40 per cent of the population of the Cayman Islands was of Jamaican origin. Many Caymanians can trace a Jamaican link among family members, so the blood links between the two islands are strong. With increased migration and travel between the two territories and intermarriages, linkages continue to strengthen. 

“In the early days, there was considerable trade between the two islands. The business/economic links are still very strong, with many Jamaicans who having come to Cayman for one reason or the other and at different times, established businesses of various sorts. It was not until 1972 that the Cayman Islands stopped using the Jamaican currency. 

“The prosperity of Cayman in the financial sector has provided employment for many Jamaicans. The economic boom experienced by the Cayman Islands fostered an even closer relationship between the territories. Jamaicans make up the largest single group of foreign workers, numbering nearly 10,000. They are to be found as domestics in private homes, in the hotels, as manual workers, tradesmen, and in the professions at the very highest levels – teaching, healthcare, law, etcetera.  

“Further, the last century has seen an increase in trade and travel, migration and assimilation of cultures. The two islands share deep cultural links. Cayman’s culture is hugely impacted by that of Jamaica, which is not surprising given the historical ties, the geographical proximity, and the sheer number of Jamaicans in Cayman combined with the fact of the vibrancy of Jamaica’s culture on the world stage. Jamaican music, from ska, to rocksteady, reggae, dancehall and gospel are readily consumed as much as such culinary delights as curry goat and mannish water, ackee and salt-fish, jerk, Jamaican patties, various pastries and breads, fruit beverages and the Jamaica rum. 

“There is even a common united church – the United Church of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. 

“Jamaica’s withdrawal from the Federation meant that she would opt for independence by herself. Instead of becoming independent with Jamaica, Caymanians opted to remain a dependent of Britain. Just a week or so after Jamaica celebrated its independence; the Jamaica Gleaner reported on August 16, 1962, that a Jamaica Coat of Arm was presented to Jack Rose the Administrator of the Cayman Islands. Mr. Singh, a representative from Jamaica, expressed the hope that the close association, which existed between the peoples of Cayman Islands and Jamaica would be strengthened in the future. This hope has indeed been a reality. 

“The nature of the relationship between the two territories is reminiscent of the pineapple fruit, which is very sweet, though it itches the mouth at times. Yet it remains one we should all be proud of because it is more than pineapples- in fact it is one cemented by history, blood, culture and economics.” 


Jamaica Independence celebrations  

The official date of Jamaica Independence is 6 August, but the celebrations in the Cayman Islands have been slated for Friday, 2 August, starting in the early morning and carrying on until late at night. 

There should be something for all age groups to enjoy. Events will include traditional dance, music, speech, crafts and, of course, the mouthwatering food for which Jamaica is revered. It will be an excellent way for members of the public to learn more about the cultural diversity of our geographic neighbours and join in the fun. 

All festivities are free to attend. 


Day activities 7am to 4pm  

Food stalls featuring traditional Jamaican meals will be set up along Cardinall Avenue, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, so residents and visitors are invited to come and partake of the many favourites listed on the menu. Expect to find roast yam and saltfish, rundown, jerk chicken and pork, mannish water, ackee and saltfish and cornmeal pudding amongst the dishes on offer. 

The food stalls will be given names of places in Jamaica famous for their food such as Faith’s Pen, Little Ochi, Devon House and Hellshire and all personnel involved in the activities will be dressed in the official Jamaican costume to get people into the spirit. 

Along with the food there will be a lunch hour cultural presentation and an artist showcase. 


Night activities 6pm until late  

All roads lead to the parking lot of Reflections on Godfrey Nixon Way, where the evening’s activities begin with gospel music followed by the Prime Minister of Jamaica’s Independence Message, presented by the Honorary Jamaican Consul. 

Again, there will be food stalls aplenty lined up, selling a variety of jerk meats with familiar accompaniments like festival, bammy and roast corn. 

The entertainment schedule is packed with a variety of video presentations, dance performances, poetry readings and local cultural groups. It culminates with two well-known headliners – Admiral Bailey and Tinga Stewart – a hit-making DJ and songwriter respectively. VJ Slaughter Rich from Vibe FM will keep the music going late into the night, so the expected thousands of attendees can dance until the wee hours. 


Admiral Bailey  

He has been one of Jamaica most consistent hit making DJs from the late 80s to the late 90s, with a string of hits. Songs Like “Big belly man”, “Kill them with it”, “No way no better than yard”, “Horse tonic”, “Think me did done” and “Jump up” all went straight to the top of the charts. Admiral Bailey continues to perform to his large fan base all over the world. 


Tinga Stewart  

A three-time winner of the Jamaica festival song competition, he won the 1974 Festival Song Contest with “Play de music”, which went on to become a hit on both the Jamaican and the UK reggae charts. 

The following year, Tinga wrote “Hooray festival” the entry sung by his brother Roman Stewart, which also won. He went on to win the Festival Song Contest again in 1981 with “Nuh wey nuh better dan yard”, and the same year was voted the most popular reggae artist in Jamaica. 


Jamaican nationals are proud of flag and country.


Traditional dress will feature strongly during Jamaican celebrations.