Arawaks were the first inhabitants of Jamaica, which they called
Xaymaca, meaning "isle of springs." Columbus first glimpsed the
north coast of the island in May 1494, landing in Montego Bay before
he sailed back to Cuba.
When he returned nine years later, stormy weather damaged two of
his ships, and he was forced to anchor at St. Anne's Bay, where
he and his men were marooned until the governor of Hispaniola retrieved
In 1510 a permanent Spanish settlement was finally established under
the orders of Don Diego, Columbus's son, who was then governor of
the West Indies.
The position of Jamaica as a dependency of Britain for more than
300 years is reflected in both language and customs, which are combined
with African influences.
Reggae, a distinctively syncopated style of Jamaican music, much
of it highly political, was popularized in the 20th century by Bob
Marley and others. It was a pervasive influence on rock music in
the 1980s, especially in Britain.