island nation of the West Indies. It is the third largest island in the Caribbean Sea after Cuba and Hispaniola. With an area of 4,244 square miles (10,991 square kilometres), Jamaica is about 146 miles (235 kilometres) long and varies between 22 and 51 miles wide. It is situated some 100 miles due west of Haiti, 90 miles south of Cuba, and 390 miles northeast of Cape Gracias a Dios, Nicaragua, the nearest point on the American continent. The national capital is Kingston
Christopher Columbus, who first sighted the island in 1494, called it Santiago, but the original Amerindian name of Jamaica, or Xaymaca, has persisted. Columbus considered it to be 'the fairest isle that eyes have beheld,' and many travelers still regard it as one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean.
Agriculture, the largest single employer of labour, is a principal contributor to the national income, together with industry--notably bauxite mining--and tourism. Jamaica has made great strides in economic development since its independence in 1962. The national motto, 'Out of many, one people,' describes a multiracial society whose integration can be described as both profound and enviable.