.The Spanish colonial period (1494–1655) and the beginning of Slave Trade

. Colony of Santiago

Santiago was a Spanish territory of the Spanish West Indies and within the Vice royalty of New Spain, in the Caribbean region. Its location is the present-day island and nation of Jamaica.  The Taíno culture developed on Jamaica around 1200 AD. They brought from South America a system of raising yuca known as "conuco."  To add nutrients to the soil, the Taíno burned local bushes and trees and heaped the ash into large mounds, into which they then planted yuca cuttings.  Most Taíno lived in large circular buildings (bohios), constructed with wooden poles, woven straw, and palm leaves. The Taino spoke an Arawakan language and did not have writing. Some of the words used by them, such as barbacoa ("barbecue"), hamaca ("hammock"), kanoa ("canoe"), tabaco ("tobacco"), yuca, batata ("sweet potato"), and juracán ("hurricane"), have been incorporated into Spanish and English.


Origin of Jamaica’s Taino Tribe

The first inhabitants of Jamaica probably came from islands to the east in two waves of migration.


The first migration took place around 600 AD when the culture known as the “Redware People” arrived. An even more primitive tribe called Ciboneys or 'Rock-Dwellers', who had made their way down from Florida was already there. Very simple fisher folk, they lived primarily on the coast.  Very little is known of these people, however, beyond the red pottery they left. Alligator Pond in Manchester Parish   and Little River in St. Ann Parish are among the earliest known sites of this Ostionoid people, who lived near the coast and extensively hunted turtles and fish.


The Redware people were followed by the Arawakan-speaking Taino, who arrived in jamaica around 800 AD. They eventually settled throughout the island . Their economy, based on fishing and the cultivation of corn (maize) and cassava, sustained as many as 60,000 people in villages led by caciques (chieftains).


Spanish Governors of “Santiago” (1510–1660) Jamaica

Jamaica was claimed for Spain in 1494 when Christopher Columbus first landed on the island. Spain began occupying the island in 1509, naming it Santiago. The second governor, Francisco de Garay, established Villa de la Vega, now known as Spanish Town, as his capital.


The Spanish Empire began its official governance of Jamaica in 1509, with formal occupation of the island by conquistador Juan de Esquivel and his men. Esquivel had accompanied Columbus in his second trip to the Americas in 1493 and participated in the invasion of Hispaniola. A decade later, Friar Bartolomé de las Casas wrote Spanish authorities about Esquivel's conduct during the Higüey massacre of the Tainos in 1503.

The first Spanish settlement was founded in 1509 near St Ann's Bay and named Seville. In 1534 the settlers moved to a new, healthier site, which they named Villa de la Vega, which the English renamed Spanish Town when they conquered the island in 1655. This settlement served as the capital of both Spanish and English Jamaica from its foundation in 1534 until 1872, after which the capital was moved to Kingston.






St. Jago de la Vega Cathedral of Spanish Town, Jamaica


Jamaica was originally inhabited by the Arawak Indians and possible the Taino from South America. The Arawak Indians were a gentle peace loving farming and fishing race. They survive mainly on a diet of maze, cassava, vegetables and fish. They grew cassava (yuca) and maize which were their main staple food which flourish in the humid, wet tropical climate.


From evidence uncovered by Jamaican National Heritage Trust we know that the Arawak Indians were great crafts men. They created intricate basket weaving, pottery, cotton weaving, stone tools, wooden and stone sculpture. There is also evidence that they grew tobacco which they made into cigars that they smoke and trade. Also produce alcohol from fermented corn which they then drank at ritual ceremonies. Jewellery was found that were made of gold, shell, bones and shell.


The demise of the Arawak Indians came shortly after Christopher Columbus landed in Jamaica from Spain 1494. They were not accustom to hard labour and were force to work by the Spaniards. They were never exposed to the European disease such as smallpox and constant attack from the Carib tribe lead to their extinction. The entire native population was extinct by 1600.


Without any labor support, the Spanish settlers found it impossible to continue and they began to bring in slaves from Africa. The Portuguese were also the first to use African slave labour in gold mines, and on sugar plantations on their parts of the colonies followed by the Spanish.


The Portuguese were also the first to use African slave labour in gold mines, and on sugar plantations on the small equatorial island of São Tomé.  By 1471, under the patronage of Prince Henry the Navigator, they had reached the area that was to become known as the Gold Coast.  In 1482 the Portuguese built their first permanent trading post on the western coast of present-day Ghana’s Cape Coast. This is the Elmina Castle. It then served all those who took over the slave trade from them.





Africa 1600 AD

In fact the African areas were referred to by such names as Slave Coast, Gold Coast, Ivory Coast etc.






Jesus of Lübeck was a large ship built in the Free City of Lübeck in the early 16th century. Around 1540 the ship, was acquired by Henry VIII, King of England.  The ship was used the French invasion of the Isle of Wight in 1545. In 1563 Queen Elizabeth used Jesus of Lübeck  in the Atlantic slave trade under John Hawkins, who organized four voyages to West Africa and the West Indies between 1562 and 1568. During the last voyage, Jesus, along with several other English ships, encountered a Spanish fleet off Mexico in  1568.  Jesus was captured by Spanish forces. And was later sold for 601 ducats .----->>


During the 1590s, the Dutch challenged the Portuguese monopoly to become the main slave trading nation. Later, Scottish, Swedish and Danish companies entered the arenat. With so many European powers on the coast, conflict was inevitable, culminating in the Anglo-Dutch war of 1665-7. Forts built by the Portuguese and Dutch on the Gold Coast (Ghana) were captured by the British in 1667.


I actually had the occasion to be in Ghana for three years as a teacher prior to going over to Jamaica in 1961-1964 and had the chance to see the elaborate arrangement with the forts and dungeons and the port holes through which to put the slaves in the ships at Elmina.