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The Indian Diaspora in Jamaica

Jamaica, situated in the Caribbean Sea, is ranked high in terms of maintaining the Indian culture

By Pashchiema    

History of Indian Diaspora in Jamaica

  • Jamaica is an island nation in the West Indies.
  • The Indian connection with Jamaica is 170 years old. The history of Indian Diaspora started with the arrival of over 36,000 Indians as indentured workers to Jamaica between 1845 and 1917. As the Indian labourers had proved their worth in Mauritius where the conditions were very similar, they were brought to Jamaica to work, mainly in sugarcane plantations as there was unavailability of workers after the end of slavery in 1830.
  • On May 10, 1845, the first ship, Maidstone, arrived at Old Harbour Bay carrying the first group of workers from India.
  • Although, many Indians were planning to return to India but the planters and the Indian government did not encourage the return of Indian workers. During a period of time they were not allowed to leave the plantations, on pain of fines or even imprisonment
  • Even though, majority of immigrants were Hindus but Non-Christian unions were not recognised until 1956 and hence many had to adopt Christianity.
  • The final group of workers landed in Jamaica in 1914 and over half of the Indians who had arrived till 1917 settled in Jamaica and gradually the Indian community began to develop.
  • The Indo-Jamaicans went into trading and setting up their small enterprises and over the decades accountants and managers were recruited from India to work in these enterprises.
  • The Indian community grew further as they started taking up jobs as Indian expatriates such as professors, managers, supervisors, doctors and many other professionals.

 

Jamaica is located in the West Indies. Wikimedia Commons
Jamaica is located in the West Indies. Wikimedia Commons

 Indians in Jamaica today

  • As most of the Indians are descendants of indentured workers, it has largely influenced the facets of farming, medicine, cuisine and politics.
  • Diwali is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the same way as it is celebrated in India. Every year in the month of October and November, houses are cleaned and brightly lit.
  • Today, 81,500 Indians live in Jamaica which constitutes about 3 per cent of its population of 2.7 million.
  • The Indian influence on Jamaican life can be seen in the traditional Indian foods such as goat curry, rice, roti and a variety of spinach called callaloo dishes which have a become part of the national cuisine.
  • Indian workers also introduced ‘Marijuana’ and chillum pipe into the island.
  • Indian jewellery, in the form of tortuously shaped gold bangles, have become common in Jamaica.
  • 10 May is now celebrated in the country as ‘Indian Heritage Day’ or ‘The Indian Arrival Day’ and ‘The Roti festival’ which accidently coincides with Mother’s Day and is engraved in the hearts of Indo-Jamaicans.

Pashchiema is an intern at NewsGram and a student of journalism and mass communication. Twitter: @pashchiema5

 

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