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Map of the CaribbeanJamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, 234 kilometres (145 mi) in length, up to 80 kilometres (50 mi) in width and 10,990 square kilometres (4,243 sq mi) in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 kilometres (119 mi) west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Its indigenous Arawakan-speaking Taíno inhabitants named the island Xaymaca, meaning the "Land of Wood and Water", or the "Land of Springs".

Once a Spanish possession known as Santiago, in 1655 it became an English, and later a British, colony, known as "Jamaica". It achieved full independence on August 6, 1962. With 2.8 million people, it is the third most populous anglophone country in the Americas, after the United States and Canada. It remains a Commonwealth realm in concert with the Monarchy of Jamaica holding ultimate executive power, where Queen Elizabeth II is the current head of state and Queen of Jamaica. Kingston is the country's largest city and the capital.

The Arawak and Taino indigenous people, originating in South America, settled on the island between 4000 and 1000 BC. When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1494, there were over 200 villages ruled by caciques (chiefs of villages). The south coast of Jamaica was the most populated, especially around the area now known as Old Harbour. The Tainos were still inhabiting Jamaica when the English took control of the island. The Jamaican National Heritage Trust is attempting to locate and document any evidence of the Taino/Arawaks.

Christopher Columbus claimed Jamaica for Spain after landing there in 1494 and his probable landing point was Dry Harbour, now called Discovery Bay. There is some debate as to whether he landed in St. Ann's Bay or in Discovery Bay. St. Ann's Bay was the "Saint Gloria" of Columbus who first sighted Jamaica at this point. One mile west of St. Ann's Bay is the site of the first Spanish settlement on the island, Sevilla, which was established in 1509 and abandoned around 1524 because it was deemed unhealthy. The capital was moved to Spanish Town, then called "St. Jago de la Vega", around 1534 and is located in present day St. Catherine.

Out of all the British colonies in the Caribbean, Spanish Town has the oldest cathedral. The Spanish were forcibly evicted by the English at Ocho Rios in St. Ann. In 1655 the English, led by William Penn and General Robert Venables, took over the last Spanish fort in Jamaica. The name of Montego Bay, the capital of the parish of St. James, was derived from the Spanish name manteca bahía (or Bay of Lard) for the large quantity of boar used for the lard-making industry.

Jamaica slowly gained increasing independence from the United Kingdom and in 1958, it became a province in the Federation of the West Indies, a federation among the British West Indies. Jamaica attained full independence by leaving the federation in 1962.

Jamaica is the third largest island in the Caribbean. It lies between latitudes 17° and 19°N, and longitudes 76° and 79°W. Mountains, including the Blue Mountains, dominate the inland. They are surrounded by a narrow coastal plain. Chief towns and cities include the capital Kingston, Portmore, Spanish Town, Mandeville, Ocho Ríos, Port Antonio, Negril, and Montego Bay. Jamaica has the seventh largest natural harbour in the world, Kingston Harbour. Tourist attractions include Dunn's River Falls in St. Ann, YS Falls in St. Elizabeth, the Blue Lagoon in Portland, and Port Royal, which was the site of an earthquake that helped form the island's Palisadoes.

The climate in Jamaica is tropical, with hot and humid weather, although higher inland regions are more temperate. Some regions on the south coast, such as the Liguanea Plain and the Pedro Plains, are relatively dry rain-shadow areas. Jamaica lies in the hurricane belt of the Atlantic Ocean and because of this, the island sometimes experiences significant storm damage.

Jamaica's climate is tropical, supporting diverse ecosystems with a wealth of plants and animals.

Though a small nation, Jamaican culture has a strong global presence. The musical genres reggae, ska, mento, rocksteady, dub, and, more recently, dancehall and ragga all originated in the island's vibrant, popular urban recording industry. Jamaica also played an important role in the development of punk rock, through reggae and ska. Reggae has also influenced American rap music, as they both share their roots as rhythmic, African styles of music. Some rappers, such as The Notorious B.I.G. and Heavy D, are of Jamaican descent. Internationally known reggae musician Bob Marley was also Jamaican.

Many other internationally known artists were born in Jamaica including Damian Marley, Millie Small, Lee "Scratch" Perry, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Big Youth, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown, Desmond Dekker, Beres Hammond, Beenie Man, Shaggy, Grace Jones, Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, Buju Banton, Sean Paul, I Wayne, Mavado, Bounty Killer and many others. Band artist groups that came from Jamaica include Black Uhuru, Third World Band, Inner Circle, Chalice Reggae Band, Culture, Fab Five and Morgan Heritage.

Ian Fleming, who lived in Jamaica, repeatedly used the island as a setting in the James Bond novels, including Live and Let Die, Doctor No, For Your Eyes Only, The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy and The Living Daylights. In addition, James Bond uses a Jamaica-based cover in Casino Royale. So far, the only James Bond film adaptation to have been set in Jamaica is Doctor No. Filming for the fictional island of San Monique in Live and Let Die took place in Jamaica.

The island is famous for its Jamaican jerk spice which forms a popular part of Jamaican cuisine. Jamaica is also home to Red Stripe beer and Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee.

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