The Jamaican Diaspora
Updated: Jul 30, 2022
The term “diaspora” refers to the dispersal of a group of people from their original homeland. This term has been used to refer to the Jewish dispersal from Israel but also describes other groups such as Jamaicans, that have built communities in new lands away from their island.
A Little History: Jamaica was a British colony from 1655 when the English wrested the island from the Spanish to 1962 when Jamaica was granted independence. There is a complicated legacy as the English were oppressors of the Jamaican people, but British culture and traditions have become an essential part of the island's culture. As of this date, Jamaica remains a part of the British Commonwealth.
The Windrush Generation: After WWII, Great Britain experienced a shortage of workers, and people from their colonies, including Jamaica, were encouraged to go to England. Men, women, and even children took advantage of this opportunity and traveled to England to create new lives for themselves. When their original homelands became independent, this complicated their status in England. You can learn more about this “Windrush Scandal” from the BBC News Blog created in November 2021 and accessible here.
The Silent Immigrants: During the late 1970s, many Jamaicans left the island and migrated to Miami, Florida. This was because of major political uprisings in Jamaica that caused members of the middle class to fear that then Prime Minister Michael Manley would, in his quest to make things better for the poor, target their own well-being. On their arrival in Miami, this community fell somewhere between the “louder”* Cuban and Haitian communities and were sometimes referred to as the “Silent Immigrants”.
Jamaican Wanderlust: This Jamaican dispersal was not always a result of fleeing bad conditions. Jamaicans have a sense of adventure and they can be found in the most remote and unexpected areas of the world. This is why I have cousins in Denmark, Germany, Scotland, and all throughout Canada. There is even a Youtube channel created by a Jamaican named Xavier Murphy that shares interviews with Jamaicans living in unexpected places. Check out Murphy’s interview with a Jamaican living in Iceland.
* I use the term “louder” to indicate that there was a lot of coverage in the news about Cuban and Haitian immigration to Miami, but not as much about Jamaicans.