Saint Catherine Parish
|Location||latitude 18°08' N
|Other towns||Portmore, Old Harbour,
|Bordering Parishes||Saint Andrew, Saint Mary, Saint Ann, Clarendon|
|Area||1,192 km2 (460 sq mi)|
|Rank||Jamaica's second largest parish (see below)|
|Population||615,560 ( November 2008)|
St Catherine (capital Spanish Town) is a parish in the south east of Jamaica. It is located in the county of Middlesex, and is one of the island's largest and most economically valued parishes because of its many resources. It includes the first capital of Jamaica, Spanish Town, originally known as San Jago de la Vega or Santiago de la Vega (St. James of the Plain).
Geography and People
St Catherine is located at St Andrew in the east, Clarendon in the west, and by St Mary and St Ann in the north. It has an area of 1,192 km², making it one of Jamaica's largest parishes and it is one of the fastest growing parishes in the nation and has the largest economy out of all fourteen parishes. Except for the Hellshire Hills near the coast, the south of the parish is virtually flat. The central and northern sections are very mountainous, however; the northern border is on Mount Diablo, which crosses over into St Ann, the highest point being 686 metres (2,700 ft).. It is bordered by
A plain of approximately 57,000 acres (230 km²) occupies the southern part of the Rio Cobre basin. The Rio Cobre is the only river that runs along the southern plain. It provides water to irrigate over 18,000 acres (73 km²) on the plain.
Out of all the parishes (with the exception of Kingston Parish and Saint Andrew Parish) Saint Catherine shows the most potential for urban development. With its good water resources, virtually flat landscape, and nearness to the capital, it could possibly be one of the caribbean's major urban areas in the next few years.
Agriculture remains the main source of employment in the parish. There are many small farmers who practise mixed farming; crops such as bananas, coconuts, pineapple, citrus, pumpkins, peppers, coffee and calaloo are planted for both domestic and commercial purposes. The larger properties produce sugar cane, bananas and citrus mainly for export. Dairy farms are also found in the parish. One of these is a 1,000 acre (4 km²) farm in Old Harbour. The Salt Ponds District between Spanish Town, Port Henderson and Passage Fort is noted for the fine fish especially calipera.
St Catherine is second only to Kingston as an industrial centre. Industrial plants are some of the biggest employers in the parish. Spanish Town has the largest salt producing plant in the Caribbean, while Jamaica Milk Products, an affiliate of the Nestle organization, has a factory in Bog Walk, another major town in the parish. The largest power plant in the island and several factories are located in Old Harbour. Twickenham Park, near Spanish Town, is another industrial estate with mainly light industries including cigarettes, carpets, batteries, plastic items, medical and pharmaceutical products.
- Jamaica's emancipation Square can be found in Spanish Town. This is the only Georgian square in Jamaica. Kings House and the House of Assembly on the west and east sides, respectively, were erected in 1762. The Courthouse was built in 1819 and used as a chapel and armory with the Town Hall upstairs.
- The Rio Cobre River and Gorge is one of the largest in the island. Sinking at a place called River Sink at Worthy Park, it runs underground for nearly six kilometres, then surfaces at River Head Grand Cave in St Thomas-in-the-Vale. Before entering the gorge it is joined by a number of tributaries, such as the Thomas River, the Rio D'Oro and the Rio Pedro. In the early 1770s, a road was opened through the gorge. The Flat Bridge was originally constructed of logs, which were washed away in a flood. The present bridge was built and it has withstood countless floods. A marker can be found, which shows where the water rose to over 25 feet (7.6 m) above the bridge in 1933. An apocryphal story is that at noon, on every Good Friday, for a short period of time the ghosts of all the slaves who drowned in the river can be seen.
- Caymanas Race Track, Jamaica's most famous race track, is in St Catherine.
- St Clair Cave, one of Jamaica's more famous caves, is found in the parish. This large, complex cave contains one of the most notable bat roosts on the island, and is one of the few known historical sites for the possibly extinct bat, Phyllonycteris aphylla. Because of the biological importance of the system, and the inherent dangers involved in exploring it (i.e. noxious gases, histoplasmosis, Cutaneous larva migrans, difficult footing), casual visitation is discouraged.
Government and infrastructure
- The title of largest parish in Jamaica has caused some confusion. The parishes of St. Catherine, Saint Elizabeth or St. Ann are usually ranked as the largest, depending on the source. The Gleaner, one of the nations most reputable newspapers, lists St. Catherine as the largest with an area of 1,260 sq km, St. Ann as the second largest with 1200 sq km, and St. Elizabeth third with 1,185 sq km (Geography and History of Jamaica. The Jamaica Gleaner. Accessed 09-04-2009). However, The Jamaica Library Service database ranks St Ann the largest with an area of 1212.6 sq km (Saint Ann. Jamaica Library Services. Accessed 09-04-2009), St. Elizabeth second with 1212.4 sq km (St. Elizabeth. Jamaica Library Services. Accessed 09-04-2009), and St. Catherine third with 1192.4 sq km (Saint Catherine. Jamaica Library Services. Accessed 09-04-2009).
- "JUVENILE CORRECTIONAL CENTRES." Department of Correctional Services, Jamaica. Retrieved on 2 October 2010.
- Parish Information
- Statistical Institute of Jamaica
- Robertson, James, 2005, Gone is the Ancient Glory, Spanish Town Jamaica 1534-2000, Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers, ISBN 976-637-197-0
- St. Catherine
- The Political Geography of Jamaica
- Jamaican Caves Organisation (JCO) explorations at St Clair Cave - The Acheron River
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