‘I will be celebrating at home’
Just like the euphoria that gripped the newly born Jamaica on August 6, 1962, when the country became independent from colonial rule, similar excitement will once again engulf the country this year. Considering the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of excitement to the build-up to this year’s Independence commemorations.
But will the atmosphere of jubilation be reminiscent of the euphoria that marked this occasion 59 years ago? With curfew orders issued by the Government to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, many persons will be spending their time at home, or in their communities.
Marcus Lewis, a resident of Lowe River in Trelawny, said he will watch all the activities online or on his television. “I am not going outside to mix and mingle with anyone. Even though I am in the country, I still have to ensure that I follow all protocols. The virus is no joke and I want to live to see another Independence Day,” Lewis said.
Prior to Independence Day, Jamaicans would take part in huge street parades, don clothing coloured like the Jamaican flag, and put on all manner of cultural displays. Jamaica Festival would also include agricultural exhibitions, parades, climaxing with a grand gala at the National Stadium.The Grand Gala celebrations are known to bring with it unbelievable scenes of triumph and jubilation.
“I am going to wear my Jamaican colours, and cook some nice food. You know how long I don’t cook a good pot of curry goat. Listen, I dig the sweet potato for the pudding already, and I am going to bake it and eat my belly full. My children and my husband are here, so I can’t allow this pandemic to break my spirits,” said Tamara Linton, of Guys Hill, St Catherine.
On August 6, 1962, Jamaica became independent with full dominion status within the Commonwealth, under a constitution that retained the British monarch as head of state.
Jamaica was one of the first colonies in the so-called new world. Spanish rule began in 1509. Nearly 150 years later, the island was taken by the British on May 11, 1655 during the Anglo-Spanish War.
With the break-up of the British Empire in the 1950s, Jamaica had several amendments to its Constitution to allow for a greater level of self-governance and a prime minister. In 1958, Jamaica became a founding member of the West Indies Federation, a political union of various islands in the Caribbean that were colonies of the United Kingdom.
In September 1961, Jamaica’s dissatisfaction with the federation and the slow pace of moves to independence led to a referendum in Jamaica that resulted in 54 per cent of voters wanting to leave. The elections of 1962 were won by the Jamaica Labour Party under the leadership of Alexander Bustamante.
This led to the Jamaica Independence Act being passed by the United Kingdom Parliament on July 19, 1962, granting Independence on August 6, 1962 when the Jamaican flag was flown for the first time. Bustamante became Jamaica’s first prime minister and Jamaica joined the Commonwealth of Nations.
“You know we as Jamaican’s love music, and trust me I am going to put on some old-time reggae, ska and rock steady, and me and my family going to enjoy ourselves. Is breadfruit season now, and we are going to roast some on the coal stove and cook up some ackee and saltfish. The beers and drinks already in the refrigerator. We are not going to have a party, just those of us at home. What else are we going to do. Just build a vibe and take it easy,” said Damian Barrow, a Manchester resident.