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What did the Spanish bring to Jamaica?

what did the Spanish bring to jamaica

Answered by Aneisha Dobson, Associate Writer

Inspired by the prospect of finding vast wealth and riches in the New World, the Spanish sailed from Europe to the Caribbean and colonized many of the islands, including Jamaica. They were the first European nation to sail to the western hemisphere.

It was once believed that the world was completely flat and if a person continued sailing west then he will fall off the Earth. However, this mythology was shattered when Christopher Columbus’ expedition to the west was successful.

This was definitely an eye-opener! Not only did it reveal that there was actually a whole other world beyond the horizon, it also led to a major clash between race and culture that last for more than 100 years and is arguable still evident now.

In order to cement themselves as superiors to the slaves, the Spanish, it is said, brought many aspects of their culture from their homeland, Spain.

But before we jump into that list, I'll share a brief history on how the Spanish came here.

How Did The Spanish Arrive In Jamaica?

During the fifteenth century it was common practice for Europeans to purchase items from Asia. Precious goods such as silk, pearls, spices and other precious commodity were transported over lands by caravans from Asia to the ports at the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

It was at these ports that the Europeans traders would collect the merchandise and sailed back to Europe.

However, by the time these goods reached Europe they were expensive and due to the long journey, some were lost. This prompted them to search for a better route to Asia.

Back then there was no navigational equipment, and, like I mentioned, many people were of the assumption that the world was flat. However, some believed that the world was round and if one were to try the western route they could reach Asia.

Christopher Columbus, an Italian mariner, was one who believed that route was possible. He committed his time and energy into what he referred to as “The Enterprise of the Indies”.

He need a monarch who was willing to risk men and money to embark on this expedition. It took him seven years but, in January 1492 the Spanish Monarch accepted Columbus’ request and he commenced with his journey on August 3, 1492. They equipped him with 3 Ships- the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria; men and food.

His journey was considered a success when he approached the shores of Cuba on October 11, 1492. However, it was not until 1494 that he came across and set foot on this beautiful island, Jamaica.

What Did The Spanish Contribute To Jamaica?

The coming of the Spanish brought about an introduction of new crops, animals and even a new religion to Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean.

  1. Plants

    Many of Jamaica’s most common plants were brought here by the Spanish. Most of the crops brought by the Spanish were originally from the Mediterranean. From tangy citrus fruit to tasty starches, we really do owe the Spanish a big thank you for bringing these crops to our island.

    These include:

    • Tamarind
    • Sweet Oranges
    • Sour Oranges
    • Lemons
    • Lime
    • Sugarcane
    • Plantain
    • Bananas
    • Ginger
    • Avocado
    • Chocho

    The Spanish also carried various farming equipment to assist them with cultivation.

  2. Animals

    Other than farming, rearing livestock was an important occupation in Spanish colonies. Many local animals that we see today were brought here by the Spaniards. These include:

    • Pigs
    • Horses
    • Sheep
    • Cows
    • Goats
    • Cats
    • Dogs
    • Chickens

    Other than consumption, animals also served other purposes. For instance, leather was in great demand in Europe, as it was used by tailors, bookbinders and furniture makers. As such, the skin of cows was often sought after. In addition, the Spaniards used dogs to hunt down the Tainos.

  3. Culinary Skills

    Our Jamaican cuisines are heavily influenced by those who came before us. The Spanish also had their fair share of contributing to Jamaica’s unique cuisines. One of the most popular is escovietch fish. Most of us indulge in this dish during the Easter season. But did you know that it was brought here by the Spaniards? Yes, the Spanish Jews who settled in Jamaica brought the Escovietch style of cooking to Jamaica.

    It’s a popular dish and a definite must have when coming to Jamaica. For those who have never eaten it before, imagine a fried red snapper marinated with vinegar and covered with Scotch bonnet peppers, carrots, sweet peppers, onions and Jamaican all spices.
    Hungry yet? :-)

  4. Religion

    The religion of Christianity has been a strong pillar here in Jamaica which tenure has spanned for 500 years.
    Among the many Christian denominations that exist here in Jamaica, the Roman Catholic denomination was the first to be introduced.

    Did you know that the Spaniards were the one to brought the Roman Catholic religion to Jamaica and the Caribbean at large?
    Yes, it’s true!

    Although Jamaica was discovered in 1494, the first set of Spanish settlers came to Jamaica in 1509. The Spaniards who came were baptised Roman Catholics. Their arrival bought about the introduction of the Roman Catholic faith to the Caribbean and indoctrination of all those who were under their rule.

    In fact, it has been often stated that spreading Christianity has always been a priority from the day Columbus set foot in the Caribbean. In addition, due to the peaceful nature of the Tainos, Columbus thought they would be easily converted to Christianity. As a result, when the encomienda system was introduced, the teaching of Christianity (namely the Roman Catholic faith) was a rule.

    However, in 1655 when the British defeated the Spaniards and captured Jamaica they banned the Catholic religion. As a result, today less than three percent of Jamaica practices the Catholic religion.

  5. Diseases

    Unfortunately so, diseases , such as smallpox, measles, influenza and syphilis, rapidly spread throughout the island causing the death of hundreds of Tainos. Theses disease came about due to the introduction of domestic livestock. The Tainos did not rear livestock and as such they lacked the immunity against these diseases.

In a nutshell, it can be concluded that the Spanish brought a combination of life and death to the island. Nevertheless, the impact of their existence here in Jamaica is profound will continue to be so for years to come.

By the way, did you know that we have several Spanish Place Names In Jamaica today? Be sure to read more on these Spanish place names in Jamaica here.

And don't forget to learn more on what the different ethnic groups brought to Jamaica here.

spanish place names

spanish place names in jamaica


  • Honychurch, L. (1995). The Caribbean People Book 2. United Kingdom: Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd.

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