Jamaica the rhythm of freedom

This Caribbean island offers the perfect vacation mix of relaxation and history. Whether you enjoy playing pirates in Montego Bay, looking for crocodiles in Black River, rafting along the Great River, diving among many-colored fish, shaking your hips all night long, or visiting the Bob Marley museum, the island offers a unique experience, filled with rhythm and soul.

By: Julia Henríquez
Photos: Cortesía

For many people, thinking of Jamaica brings to mind the gentle rhythm of reggae playing on incredible beaches and this is not far off the mark. This island in the middle of the Antilles has rhythm at its heart and its songs have crossed unimaginable borders. But Jamaica is much more than Bob Marley dreadlocks and a transparent sea.

The history of the Jamaican people is one of resilience, hope, and dreams of freedom. After its conquest, first by the Spanish and then by the English, with an intermediate period in which the pirate Henry Morgan acted as deputy governor, the island was an obligatory stopover for the exchange of enslaved Africans between the new colonies. Many of these slaves were gradually retained on the island to work in the sugar cane fields. But the Caribbean soul has always sought freedom and, as other colonies of escaped slaves grew up around the Caribbean, in Jamaica the Maroons, a group of rebel slaves, founded mountain villages and gradually managed to make freedom everyone’s motto.

Out of this dark era came Jamaica’s traditional music, which mixes African drum rhythms with small wind instruments to accompany forced labor, as well as entertainment, dancing, and religion. Although the original people referred to the island as “Xaymaca,” the Spaniards modified the name until it became “Jamaica,” which in the Arawak language means “land of wood and water.”

While the winds of freedom never stopped blowing, skin, culture, language, and of course, music melded with samba, calypso, and tango rhythms to create something new called mento: a musical genre that uses banjos, drums, and guitars to unite the Jamaican people, who grew stronger during the process. It is therefore unsurprising that the national motto continues to be “Out of Many, One People.”

The optimism inspired by national independence in 1960 caused the rhythms to accelerate. Blues and jazz musicians blew their horns harder and ska music took over the new, free, and independent island, which now had even more reasons to dance. But independence brought internal problems that young people were keen to express. The music grew softer and the lyrics more powerful. Reggae emerged as a platform for social and political expression and Rastafarian Bob Marley conquered the world, flooding radio stations with songs of peace and revolution.

These days, the island moves to the sensual beat of dance hall and the cultural life knows no rest. The artistic expressions of these Antillean people span the length and breadth of the island, filling every corner with color. But music is not the only thing the island has to offer. Its white sand beaches and transparent waters are lined with accommodations ranging from all-inclusive five-star hotels to adventures in small homes and spiritual retreats. The island is as varied and fascinating as its people.

Today, the mountains where the Maroon rebellions led to freedom are the perfect setting for enjoying nature. Beach days alternate with visits to the tropical forest where you can hike, take a canopy tour, and even bobsled on Mystic Mountain; like the Olympic team in the film Cool Runnings.

Movie buffs who enjoy visiting iconic film settings will want to swim in Blue Lagoon, the incredible setting where the shipwrecked Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins struggled to survive.

visit to Windsor Caves, Blue Mountain Peak, or any of the world famous waterfalls on the island is the best way to learn about the island’s flora and fauna, as landscapes change drastically without having to travel far at all.

This Caribbean island offers the perfect vacation mix of relaxation and history. Whether you prefer to play pirates in Montego Bay, look for crocodiles in Black River, go rafting in the Great River or diving amidst colorful fish, shake your hips all night, or visit the Bob Marley museum and learn more about the Rastafarian culture, the island has what you’re looking for. Little by little you’ll come to understand the unity that makes all of us one in this unique experience, full of rhythm and flavor.


How to Get There

Copa Airlines offers 4 weekly flights to Kingston’s airport and 7 weekly flights to Montego Bay’s airport from North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean through its Hub of the Americas in Panama City.

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