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Spanish Town, St. Catherine Parish
Spanish Town is the former capital of Jamaica and makes for a well off the beaten track destination to explore. The town was established by the Spanish in 1534 and fell in to the hands on the British in 1655. The British kept the capital in Spanish Town before moving it to Kingston in 1872. The Spanish influence is still present in the city, particularly in the layout and architecture of the main square which is flanked by the Rodney Memorial, the House of Assembly, the Court House and King's House.
The town has had one of the longest periods of continual occupation in the western hemisphere and is the third largest population centre in Jamaica (after Kingston and Montego Bay). However, the town's prosperous days are long gone and there are very visible signs of poverty. Spanish Town has a big problem with violent crime with prolonged outbursts when tensions are high. You should not visit Spanish Town without an experienced local guide who knows the town well and knows where and when to visit safely.
Places of interest in Spanish Town
Rodney Memorial Kings House Court House
House of Assembly
The St. Catherine Parish Church
History of Spanish Town
Spanish Town under the Spanish
Spanish Town was officially founded by Francisco de Garay (the Spanish governor of Jamaica) in 1534. The site had previously been a Taino settlement since around 500AD. The Spanish had previously occupied Sevilla la Nueva (now called St. Ann's Bay) for some 30 years, however, finding life difficult there they decided to establish a more suitable settlement in the southern part of the Island. The site was chosen for its proximity to fresh water (the Rio Cobre), its fertile farming land and proximity to the harbour area at Kingston. The southern location of the city also provided a useful base and supply depot for Spanish fleets exploring and conquering Latin America. The city became the Spanish capital of Jamaica in 1538.
Spanish town was originally named "Villa de la Vega" meaning Town on the Plain. The name was subsequently changed to "Santiago de la Vega" (St. James on the Plain) and then "St. Jago de la Vega".
It is said that the Spanish, not appreciating the strategic value of the city was badly governed and badly defended and was attacked by pirates many times. However, Oliver Cromwell recognised the strategic potential of the Island and described Jamaica as "A dagger pointed at Spain's soft underbelly".
Spanish Town under the British
The British launched a massive attack on Jamaica on 10 May 1655. The number of troops deployed by the British is said to exceed the number of Spanish inhabitants of the island at the time. The British took control of St Jago de la Vega in a matter of days with many Spanish settlers fleeing to Cuba, taking most of their valuable possessions with them. Spain officially gave Jamaica to the British through the Treaty of Madrid in 1670.
The British renamed the capital "Spanish Town" and used it as the capital of Jamaica. However, because the city was badly damaged during the invasion, many important administrative functions took place in Port Royal. Spanish Town was rebuilt by the British and by the time Port Royal was destroyed by the earthquake of 1692, the city was ready to fully take on the role of the capital of Jamaica. However, Port Royal and Kingston always overshadowed Spanish Town in terms of commercial importance.
Spanish town was the location of many important events in Jamaica's early history. The infamous pirate Calico Jack Rackham was tried, convicted and hanged in Spanish Town in 1720. In 1865, Paul Bogle met with Governor Eyre to explain the plight of the peasants Iin St. Thomas.
The transfer of the capital to Kingston
With its large harbor, the city of Kingston flourished and in 1755 the capital was transferred to Kingston. However, after much legal wrangling, Spanish Town was restored as the capital three years later.
By the middle of the 19th century, Spanish Town had continued its decline and in 1872 Sir John Peter Grant ordered the capital to be moved to Kingston. Due to the important trade links established in the city, many already considered Kingston to be the capital of Jamaica anyway. The importance of Spanish Town and the city's level of activity declined rapidly following the removal of the capital to Kingston© 2008 Jamaica Travel and Culture .com