Westmoreland Parish

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For the Canadian Parish see Westmorland Parish, New Brunswick

Westmoreland
Westmoreland in Jamaica.svg
Location 18°14′N 78°09′W / 18.233°N 78.150°W / 18.233; -78.150Coordinates: 18°14′N 78°09′W / 18.233°N 78.150°W / 18.233; -78.150
Capital Town Savanna-la-Mar
Bordering Parishes Saint Elizabeth, Saint James, Hanover
County Cornwall
Official language English
Recognised parish language English
Area 807 square km
Rank Jamaica's eighth largest parish
Population 141,000 in 2001
Commerce Tourism, Agriculture
Manufacturing

Westmoreland is the westernmost parish in Jamaica, located on the south side of the island. It is situated to the south of Hanover, the southwest of Saint James, and the northwest of Saint Elizabeth, in the county of Cornwall. The chief town and capital is Savanna-la-Mar. Negril, a famous tourist destination, is also situated in the parish.

Brief history[edit]

The earliest inhabitants of Westmoreland were the Arawak and Ciboney Indians. [1] The Ciboney were first to arrive from the coast of South America around 500 B.C.[2] Known as “cave dwellers,” they lived along the cliffs of Negril. The labyrinth of caves and passageways beneath what is now the Xtabi Hotel in Negril are one of the first known settlements of Ciboney Indians in Jamaica.

Christopher Columbus stopped at what became Westmoreland on his second voyage when he landed in Jamaica. One of the first Spanish settlements was also built at present-day Bluefields in this parish.

The English took over the island from Spanish rule in 1665. Colonists named the parish Westmoreland in 1703, as it was the most westerly point of the island. In 1730, Savanna-la-Mar, a coastal port, was designated to replace Banbury as the capital of the parish. A fort was built in the 1700s to defend the port against pirates. Today it is one of the historic sites of the parish.

In 1938, riots at the Frome sugar estate, changed the course of Jamaica's history. In the wake of these riots, the legislature passed universal adult suffrage in 1944, as well as a new constitution, which was approved by the Crown. This put Jamaica on the road to self government and eventually independence. The two national heroes, Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Washington Manley, emerged as political leaders during this time.

Geography[edit]

Westmoreland has an area of 807 square kilometres (312 sq mi), making it Jamaica's eighth largest parish. Westmoreland's population of 141,000 is made up of a large percentage of ethnic East Indians, descendants of Indentured laborers who came to Jamaica from India to work after Britain abolished slavery in 1833 and the demand for labor remained high. Many intermarried with people of African descent, and the multi-racial descendants are known locally as "half indian."

There are over 10,000 acres (40 km2) of morass land, the largest part of which is called the Great Morass. This contains plant and animal material collected over centuries. The morass can be mined as peat, an excellent source of energy. The marsh serves as a natural and unique sanctuary for a wide variety of Jamaican wildlife and birds. The remaining area consists of several hills of moderate elevation, and alluvial plains along the coast.

Numerous rivers run through the parish. The Cabaritta River, which is 39.7 kilometres long, drains the George's Plain and can accommodate ships weighing up to eight tons. Other rivers include the Negril, New Savanna, Morgan's, Gut, Smithfield, Bowens, Bluefields, Robins, Roaring, Great and Dean.

The westernmost tip of the island, Negril Point, is the site of the Negril Lighthouse.

Commerce[edit]

As a result of the fertile plains, the parish thrives on agriculture, mainly sugarcane, which offers direct employment. Other agricultural products include bananas, coffee, ginger, cocoa, pimento, honey, rice, and breadfruit. Pastoralism is also practised; the rearing of cattle, horses, and mules, as well as fishing —there are 19 fishing beaches with over 90 boats engaged in the industry. Manufacturing is the third largest sector. Manufactured items include food and drink, tobacco, animal feeds, textile and textile products.

Negril is one of the main tourist destinations in Jamaica. Since the 1950s tourism has been the single fastest growing sector. The major hotels are Couples Swept Away (the northern half of which is technically in Hanover),[3] Poinciana Beach Resort and Negril Beach Club.[4] There are another 200+ resorts and 200+ bars and restaurants.

Attractions

References[edit]

  1. ^ Article on History of Jamaica
  2. ^ History of Ciboney Indians
  3. ^ UK Directorate of Overseas Surveys 1:50,000 map of Jamaica sheet A, 1959
  4. ^ Southern Negril on Wikimapia

External links[edit]