Jamaica is the third largest of the Caribbean islands, and the largest English-speaking island in the Caribbean Sea. Situated 90 miles south of Cuba, 600 miles south of Florida, USA, and 100 miles south-west of Haiti, Jamaica is approximately 146 miles long, 51 miles wide, and has an area of 4,411 square miles. The capital, Kingston, is the largest city and is located in the south-eastern part of the island.
The island's name, Jamaica, is derived from the Arawak word Xaymaca, which probably means "land of wood and water" or "land of springs".
Although the official language is English, most Jamaicans speak an English-based dialect which is known as patois.
Jamaica's multi-racial population of approximately 2.5 million, is predominantly of African, European, East Indian and Chinese heritage, and Jamaica's motto - "Out of Many, One People" is based on these multi-racial roots.
Jamaica has a parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster model of Government.
The country gained independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain on 1962 August 6. At Independence, Jamaica became a member of the Commonwealth, with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. The Queen is represented in Jamaica by the Governor-General, the Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen, ON, GCMG, CD.
A member of the United Nations since 1962 along with its Specialized and Related Agencies, Jamaica is also a member of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Association of Caribbean States (ACS), and NAM.
More detailed general information on Jamaica may be obtained from the New York office of the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), the official information agency of the Jamaican Government.
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