Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, 234 kilometres (145 mi) in length, up to 80 kilometres (50 mi) in width, and 10,990 square kilometres (4,240 sq mi) in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about 145 kilometres (90 mi) south of Cuba, and 191 kilometres (119 mi) west of Hispaniola.
Tropical climatic conditions prevail in the coastal lowlands of Jamaica. The mean annual temperature in this region is about 26.7° C (about 80° F), but Northeast trade winds frequently moderate the extremes of heat and humidity. Mean annual temperatures in the plateau and mountain areas average about 22.2° C (about 72° F) at elevations of 900 m (about 2950 ft), and are considerably less at higher levels.
Major tourist areas are the resort centers of Montego Bay and Ocho Rios. Cricket is the national sport, and excellent golf and water-sports facilities are available.
The military service age and obligation is 18 for voluntary military service. Younger recruits may be conscripted with parental consent.
The United States maintains close and productive relations with the Government of Jamaica. In April 2009, President Barack Obama attended the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, along with the 33 other democratically elected heads of state and government of the Western Hemisphere, including Jamaica. Secretary Clinton reaffirmed the U.S.’s commitment to the region and joint partnerships.
The central government provides most medical services in Jamaica through the Ministry of Health. In 1996, the island had 364 government-operated primary health centers offering five levels of service. Life expectancy averaged 74.7 years for both men and women in 1998.
Education through the six years of primary school is compulsory and is free in government-sponsored schools. The age of entry into primary school is six years, and children generally complete primary school at age twelve. The academic year runs from September to July (with some local variation), and the Education Regulations prescribe a minimum of 195 days of instruction in the school year.
Agriculture employs about 20% of the workforce. Cement, chemicals, cigars, clothing and textiles, fertilizers, aluminum, machinery, molasses and petroleum products are produced (Jamaica is one of the top producers of aluminum in the world). Service industries account for 60% of the gross domestic product.
The Anglican church is regarded as the church of the elite, but the middle class in all ethnic groups is distributed over several non-African-derived religions. All the established denominations have been creolized; African-Caribbean religious practices such as Puk-kumina, revivalism, Kumina, Myalism, and Rastafarianism have especially significant African influences.
English is the official language of Jamaica. However, Patois (Creole), a combination of English and some African languages, is spoken in rural areas and is used increasingly in urban areas. Most Jamaicans can speak or understand Patois, but it is not a written language.
The Spanish were the first of settle in the island but were driven away by the English that came later (bringing along with them African slaves). Today the population consists predominantly of the black and mulatto descendants of those slaves, with small groups who trace their ancestry to the United Kingdom, India, China, Syria, Portugal, and Germany.