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Spotlight on Historic Spanish Town

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  • Spotlight on Historic Spanish Town

    St. Jago de la Vega or Spanish Town once the capital city of Jamaica in the parish of St. Catherine has the finest collection of historical buildings, and the country's archives. Built on the West Bank of the Rio Cobre the town lies thirteen miles from Kingston on the main road. As a site of historical importance, its history was shaped by its experiences within two significant colonial periods. These periods are the Spanish from 1534 -1655 and the English from 1655 -1782.

    When the first colonists arrived in 1510 to establish "Seville la Nueva" (New Seville) in St. Ann as the capital of Jamaica, the area was found to be swampy and unhealthy. According to the King of Spain,

    "Seville la Nueva was a town doomed to failure because no citizen prospered
    nor kept his health for a day ... by reason of this site"

    After staying a couple of years at this location, Pedro Mazuelo (Island Treasurer) decided to spearhead a search party in order to locate a more suitable site for the capital. While making his way across the island, he came upon a wide fertile plain on the banks of the Great River now Rio Cobre, which had long been cleared and cultivated by the indigenous Arawaks. Mazuelo realized the importance of this site and informed the King that it had "very good ports suitable for navigation to the provinces of Santa Maria, Cartegna, the mainland Peru and Honduras". Mazuelo also observed that the area was suitable for settlement hence his remarks to the King,

    "the land is plentiful in bread beef... all who reside there have a healthy and easy life because it is a land of very good water, without mountains or ranges of hills..."

    Therefore in 1534 under the direction of the King of Spain this area was declared the capital of Jamaica and named "The Villa de la Vega" (The Town on the Plain).

    From its foundation Spanish Town became the center of Jamaican life and history. A lively commercial route was organized under Spanish administration, between Jamaica, Spain and other Spanish territories. In addition to the commercial activities that went on in Spanish Town, a formal political structure was established under Spanish government.

    Despite these general advancements of the capital, there were systematic attacks on Jamaica and other Spanish territories by European nations to loosen Spain stronghold in the Caribbean. Privateers such as Captain William Jackson and Christopher Newport repeatedly plundered Jamaica. The result of the these attacks was a demoralized Spanish community, who according to a report made in 1644, which read.:

    "[They] became so nervous and terrified that if two ships are seen off the Port,
    without waiting to know where they are from, they remove the women and their
    effects to the mountain..."

    After experiencing repeated attacks the country finally fell to the English on May 10, 1655 under an expedition led by Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables. This marked the end of Spanish occupation in Jamaica.

    After conquering the Spaniards in 1655, the British renamed Villa de la Vega, Spanish Town. On arrival the English realized that the people had loosened their cattle and fled to the neighboring Cuba. The soldiers in retaliation looted and destroyed the town, which would ironically inhibit later attempts at settlement. When the English began their attempts at settlement they were unable to completely restore the structures that were previously destroyed. To worsen their situation, they were not used to the climate and tropical diseases took an early tool on the new settlers.

    They also had to contend with Maroons who were freed Negroes or slaves who had escaped from the Spaniards and had fled to the mountains. The Maroons attacked the English quarters in the capital and the other parishes consistently slaughtering soldiers and setting fire to houses occupied by the English settlers.

    It took some time for Spanish Town to recover from many unfortunate circumstances. During this time Port Royal operated as the capital. Even though Spanish town was not at the forefront the first King's house, the official residence of the Governor was built in Spanish Town in 1765. During that time many distinguished visitors were welcomed to Spanish Town. Persons such as Admiral Rodney, Horatio Nelson and William Bligh spent time in the capital. The town gradually became the island's administrative centre housing The Parish Council, The House of Assembly and The Supreme Court. After Port Royal was devastated by the earthquake of June 7, 1692 Spanish Town regained its supreme position and remained that way for nearly 180 years.

    By 1755, serious rivalry from lobbyists caused increasing speculation about the continued suitability of Spanish Town as the capital. By 1836, Governor Lionel Smith observed that "the capital was in ruins, with no commercial, manufacturing and agricultural concern in operation". To worsen the situation on the heels of The Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865, Sir John Peter Grant ordered the removal of the capital to Kingston (1872) which, with its spectacular harbors and major trade links had come to be considered the natural capital of the island. After the capital was removed Spanish Town lost much of its life and grandeur.

    To date Spanish Town is considered as a town of significant historical value in this hemisphere. It boasts the oldest iron bridge of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, which was erected in 1801 at a cost of four thousand pounds. It also had one of the first Spanish Cathedrals to be established in the new world. This was built around 1525. Most religious denominations have churches or meeting halls in the town. Besides the Anglican Cathedral, there is a Roman Catholic Church; there are Wesleyan, Baptists and Seventh-Day Adventist chapels, as well as a Moslem Mosque, the only one of its kind in the island.

    In the town standing untouched in character is an historic alms-house and a public hospital and a maximum penal institution built in the eighteenth century. There is in the town itself a factory where dyes are made from logwood, and a rice processing plant. In the neighborhood are five large sugar estates, a milk condensary and a large textile mill -- significant contributors to the changing social and economic patterns of the Old Capital.

    In acknowledgement of this town's importance the Spanish Town Historic Foundation was created to assist in the refurbishing, renovating and to further the development of the town. Although "Old St. Jago" may not be the capital it remains a source for enlightenment of the world community and a living museum of international importance.
    "I'll do anything for love, but I wont do THAT! "

  • #2
    Re: Spotlight on Historic Spanish Town

    seem like nobody interested in historical fact Babylon Bandido.
    and did you know Captain Bligh was responsible for bringing breadfruit from tahiti to Jamaica [img]/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif[/img]
    whe it mawga it a ga burst


    • #3
      Re: Spotlight on Historic Spanish Town

      Food in yu yeye Breadfruit HO
      Spain or Spanish Town older than Kingston built by the Spaniards in land as the Spaniards do their capital cities. Port Henderson and Passage Fort where the coastal villages used as access from the sea inland to Spanish Town.
      Spanish Town where Jamaicans who live in Kingston have to pass through when going westwards to May Pen, Mandeville, Black River, Savlamar, MoBay and Negril.
      Spanish Town the place we pass without knowing it, because of the by-pass road that surrounds it and keeps us from going in past the St. Catherine District Prison and the histle and bustle of the town itself.
      My Grandpa was born there in 1901.
      Hi Pappy.
      Let freedom and peace abide, the sun shine, and your love beside me with you everytime.


      • #4
        Re: Spotlight on Historic Spanish Town

        Good ole Spain Town. This post brings back so many warm memories. I can picture the old court house with the jalousie windows, bordering the quaint little streets. I hope that they renovate and refurbish these places of national significance. The last time mi pass there, they were badly in need of repairs.

        Thanks for the pics.
        <span style="font-style: italic">If it must choose who is to be crucified, the crowd will always save Barabbas</span>..John Cocteau.

        <span style="font-weight: bold">all the lonely people, where do they all come from?</span>

        <span style="font-style: italic">IGNORE A TROLL, di TROLL LOSES</span>


        • #5
          Re: Spotlight on Historic Spanish Town

          Sad to say the place is a shell of neglect.
          Empty and wasted.
          Maybe because of the colonial factor.
          Let freedom and peace abide, the sun shine, and your love beside me with you everytime.


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