When most people hear St. James, they have no clue what you’re talking about… unless you’re Jamaican or a frequent visitor. Utter the words “Montego Bay” and familiarity hits home. Montego Bay is the capital of the parish of St. James. The parish is relatively small, 11th in size at just 595 sq. km. St. James lies in northwestern Jamaica and Montego Bay lies on the northernmost part of the parish. This is also where one would find the Donald Sangster International Airport. St. James was named for King James II around 1655.
Historically, the parish was still inhabited by Tainos upon Columbus’ arrival and he gave the area it’s own name, “El Cabo de Buen Tiempo” which translates to “Fairweather Gulf.” St. James was one of the larger areas for the slave trade and was therefore inhabited by Maroons. Cudjoe, a Maroon leader, and Sam Sharpe, one of Jamaica’s national heroes are notable people from the parish. Cudjoe for signing a peace treaty with the British and Sam Sharpe for his contribution to the Montego Bay Rebellion which helped to propel the abolition of slavery on the island. This was also the same rebellion that led to the destruction of the Rose Hall Great House.
Montego Bay has also been popular with its status as a city due to its location (close to sea) and the administrative activities that take place since the 17th Century. However, its status of prestige has fluctuated with the many uprisings against plantation owners, not unlike the infamous Annie Palmer of the Rose Hall Great House, who have been irrational, cruel and inhumane.
Today, St. James has regained its momentum and has inherited the title of “Second City” and is a popular tourist destination. St. James has also adopted the Bogue Islands as part of the physical infrastructure and is used as part of the Montego Bay Freeport. Tourism is the major economic activity in the parish of St. James and accounts for 80% of the revenue in the parish.
Outside of the typical hotels and beautiful resorts that one could lodge while visiting the island, there are several other places of interest for the more adventurous tourist.
Rose Hall Great House is a definite once you visit the parish of St. James. The legend tells of a woman who is said to have supernatural powers and was powerful enough to rid herself of three husbands and made herself very wealthy. Her “spirit” is still “haunting” the mansion to this day. Other places include Doctor’s Cave, the Old Fort, Greenwood Great House (for persons who enjoy collectibles and antiquities), Rockland Bird Sanctuary and the various craft shops and shopping areas within the city.
St. James is full of surprises and every visitor to the island should take a break from the hotel walls and explore the city and learn more about the country they are visiting.
Side Note: Jamaica also has the SECOND FASTEST man on earth, Yohan Blake, and he is from the parish of St. James.
Later this week: Hanover
***Photos and information derived from Wikipedia and JIS Websites