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Jamaica was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1494 and was settledby the Spanish early in the 16th century The native Arawak Indians weregradually wiped out and replaced by African slaves England seized theisland in 1655 and established a plantation economy based on sugarcocoa and coffee The abolition of slavery in 1834 freed a quarter of amillion slaves with most becoming small farmers Jamaica graduallyobtained independence from Britain In 1958 it joined other BritishCaribbean colonies in forming the Federation of the West Indies Jamaicagained full independence when it withdrew from the Federation in 1962Nearly half of Jamaicas surface is over 1000 feet above sea level Thehighest mountain range is the Blue Mountains which reach 7402 feet Cockpit Country is formed from limestone and features thousands of deepvalleys and cone shaped hills There are many sinkholes undergroundstreams and caves due to the fact that limestone cannot retain water onits surface The rivers of Jamaica begin in the mountains The Rio Minhoin Clarendon is the longest at 575 miles although much of it is dry atcertain times of yearThe census of 2008 estimated the population to be 2689000 people Theethnic groups are broken down into many groups including African 763Afro-European 151 East Indian and Afro-East Indian 3 white 32Chinese and Afro-Chinese 12 other 12 The average life expectancyfor a male is 72 years and 77 years for a female The population growthrate is 07 The death rate is 655 per 1000 individuals The primarylanguage for all is EnglishThe Government of Jamaica generally respects religious freedom inobserve The most recent census in 2001 breaks down the populationsreligious membership as follows Church of God 24 Seventh-dayAdventist 11 Pentecostal 10 Baptist 7 Anglican 4 RomanCatholic 2 United Church 2 Methodist 2 Jehovahs Witnesses 2Moravian 1 Brethren 1 unstated 3 and other 10 The categoryother includes 24020 Rastafarians an estimated 5000 Muslims 1453Hindus approximately 350 Jews and 279 Bahais Twenty-One percent ofthe population claimed no religious connection Rastafarians in Jamaicaclaim
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