The history of Kingston in Jamaica.
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Jamaican Articles - History of Kingston, Jamaica

Learn about the capital city of Jamaica.

Kingston, the capital of Jamaica is a hardy metropolis that has survived fires, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes, that have hit the embattled Jamaican capital for over a century. Kingston the Jamaican capital, survives in spite of its grossly exaggerated reputation as a dangerous city of tenuously reined-in chaos. Because of that reputation, most Jamaican tourists stick to the holiday Jamaican destinations of the north coast. Ironically, though you will undoubtedly see something of the rough edges of this Jamaican town, the hustlers who plague the Jamaican tourist centers of Ocho Rios and Montego Bay are relatively sparse in Kingston.

Kingston was founded at the end of the 17th century as a refuge for survivors of a devastating earthquake that had hit Jamaica, and that all but destroyed a popular Jamaican destination, Port Royal, a large Jamaican town on the opposite side of the harbor. Before the earthquake, the Kingston area housed little more than a few Jamaican pig farmers and Jamaican fishing shacks. Earthquake survivors set up Jamaican homesteads, and very shortly plans were drawn up for a new Jamaican town to be laid out beside the water and to be named in honor of the British king, William of Orange.

By the early 18th century, Kingston's natural harbor enabled the city to flourish as an important seaport. The Jamaican traders who grew fat on the profits built fine town houses throughout the city, and freed slaves and immigrant workers flooded in, hoping to share in the city's boom. Some hundred years later, when Kingston finally received recognition as the island's capital, the rich had gravitated towards uptown Kingston and the northern outskirts, and the poorer population huddled in shantytowns on the edges of the old town.

Calamities plagued the Jamaican city in its early years, changing the look of the city: a massive hurricane in 1784, an enormous fire in 1843, a cholera epidemic in 1850, fire again in 1862, and the devastating earthquake of 1907 that destroyed nearly all the buildings south of Jamaica’s downtown parade. The largely destitute Jamaican population of the downtown area helped swell the Jamaican Rastafarian movement during the 1920s and '30s. Major riots during the Depression '30s gave rise to the development of Jamaican trade unions and political parties set up to represent the workers and the dispossessed. But improvements in Jamaican housing and working conditions were slow in coming. Not until the 1960s did this vibrant city see any tangible change. The much needed facelift given to the old downtown area, together with the expansion and redevelopment of the Jamaican waterfront area, coincided with Kingston's growing international fame as a centre of reggae music. Jamaican shops and offices emerged during this facelift (casualties of which included the once famous Jamaican Myrtle Bank Hotel and Knutsford Jamaican Racetrack--now New Kingston--and Victoria Market, where Jamaican vendors had plied their goods every Sunday for over 100 years), as well as wide boulevards and multi-story buildings. But for the Jamaican people of West Kingston, this development was seen as primarily superficial - and the 1970s and 1980s in Jamaica proved tense times politically.

 Today, Kingston is something of a divided city. The Jamaican wealthy largely live in the smart suburbs to the north, traveling in to work in the relatively sanitized zone of New Kingston, and rarely venturing to Jamaica’s downtown. But there are hopes that Jamaica's politicians are beginning to address the problems of the Jamaican ghettos, gangs and party factions. This comes coupled with proposals for Jamaican tourist development, with the return of cruise ships to the Jamaican ports being the priority.

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