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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Indians in Jamaica

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The first Indians known to Jamaica were the Arawak Indians or the Taíno Indians. This tribe originated along the northern coast of South America, including what is now Venezuela. Historians believe that these Indians came up through the Antilles and into Jamaica in two different waves. The first wave of inhabitants is known as the"redware people,"who probably arrived around 650 AD. The second wave arrived between 850 and 900 AD.

However, I am writing this post about the "East Indians. They arrived on the island between 1845 and 1921. They were of the Hindu faith. When slavery was abloshed in Jamaica, the Europeans used them and the Chinese as a source of labor. Indian labours were not paid as well as the slaves, and were socially at the bottom part of society.
Picture of a an Indian family, settling in Jamaica

In order to sign on for indentured labor, the indians had to appear in front of the magistrate (judge), hold a government permit and fully understand his labor agreements. Their journey was very similar to their African counterparts.

The last set of Indian indentured immigrants arrived in Jamaica in 1914. After 70 years approximately 59% of Indians who had arrived between 1845 and 1916 remained.

"Indian contributions to Jamaican culture are legion. Indian jewelery designs have made their mark especially in the form of intricately wrought thin, gold bangles. The tradition goes back to the 1860s when plantation workers began to create these pieces and organized traveling salesmen to peddle them island-wide. It was the Indians who first managed to grow rice in Jamaica, establishing the island's first successful rice mill in the 1890s. They also dominated the island's vegetable production until well into the 1940s."

"Today there is an estimated number of close to 70,000 Indians living in Jamaica. They maintain their own cultural organizations, aspiring to keep links to their roots whilst still managing to assimilate into the national scene. This is perhaps well illustrated by the fact that traditional Indian foods such as curry goat, roti and callaloo have become part of the national cuisine."

"Hosay" is the East Indian celebration. It is the annual observance of the murder of Hosein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. From its inception, it became secularized with the Hindu joining their Muslim brothers in organization and parade. There are nine days of mourning, mercia (eulogy) and meditation while people build Tazia (bamboo and paper replicas of a tomb). On the tenth day, the Tazia is taken on a street procession led by a Tasa drummer playing martial music and followed by sword-, stick- and horse-dancers and 100s of 'mourners'. Other Jamaicans would also build Tazias and the process of creolization began. Hosay is the most popular of the Indian festivals celebrated in Jamaica. The Clarendon Hosay, celebrated in August, is an attractive experience....(Adapted from: L. Mansingh, A. Mansingh, Skywritings #89)

Sources: Mansingh, L. and A. "The Indian tradition lives on" in A tapestry of Jamaica ­ The best of Skywritings, Air Jamaica's in-flight magazine. Kingston: Creative Communications Ltd. and Oxford: Macmillan Publishers. p. 364-366, Mansingh, L. and A. Indian heritage in Jamaica in The Jamaica Journal, 10, (2,3,4), 10-19, Parboosingh, I.S. An Indo-Jamaica beginning in The Jamaica Journal, 18, (3), 2-10, 12, Sherlock, P. and Bennett, H. (1998). The story of the Jamaican people. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, Shepherd, V. Transients to citizens ­ The development of a settled East Indian Community in The Jamaica Journal, 18, (3), 17-26.


MrsYFA said...

Very interesting.

iriegal said...

The East Indians are one of the richest groups now in Jamaica. Interesting indeed Mrsyfa...

Stinkypaw said...

Intersting. Didn't know that Indians (either the redware ones or the East Indies one) were present on the island.

Thank you for teaching me about history!

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