The Cockpit Country is one of the most naturally pristine and culturally significant landscapes on the island of Jamaica. Steeped in five hundred years of history, the Cockpit region represents an essential portal into the roots of Jamaica’s earliest beginnings and future sustainability.
The stories of the Tainos, Spanish, Africans, British, and Maroons are all integral to the narrative of the Cockpit Country. Local legend recounts dramatic battles, mythical warriors, and an unprecedented history of conquest, land seizure, human enslavement, and liberation. The region’s cultural wealth is echoed by its exceedingly prosperous plant and animal life. In fact, the Cockpit Country is widely recognized as one of the most biologically diverse places on earth.
The history of the Cockpit Country begins with the native Tainos, Jamaica’s sole inhabitants prior to Christopher Columbus’s arrival in 1494. Due to the lack of gold in Jamaica, the Spanish invaders quickly developed an economy based on diversified agriculture, enslaving the indigenous Taino people to farm their own land. Within the next 100 years, nearly all of the Taino were exterminated from abuse, malnourishment, and introduced diseases, leading to the first importation of enslaved Africans in 1513.
The British capture of Jamaica in 1655 saw many Spanish settlers flee while a number of enslaved Africans escaped or were granted freedom in return for agreeing to wage war against the British. The Maroons, who originated as a small group of Spanish-owned slaves, turned the historical tide by engaging in guerrilla style harassment of the British troops that resulted in two major wars in 1734 and 1795, culminating in treaties, betrayals, and the allocation of 1500 acres of land. The Maroon chronicle of rebellion, resilience and progress is one of the most compelling tales of human dignity in Jamaican history.
The period from 1795 to 1962 saw the dominance of the plantation system, with sugar production being the primary crop. After emancipation in 1838, the intense struggle between the British and African segments of the population finally ceased. Jamaica gained its independence from Britain in 1962.
In addition to the self-regulated Maroon communities, the Cockpit Country reflects a mixture of all the early Jamaican settlers, including Tainos, Spanish, British, Chinese, Africans, and Indians. The history of the Cockpit Country is evident in the multi-dimensional culture of its present-day inhabitants.
The Cockpit Country is made up of several distinct communities, each of which offers a unique window onto Jamaican culture. Some of the main regions include, Accompong, Flagstaff, Windsor, Wait-A-Bit/Litchfield, and Sherwood Content. Many of these centers are located close to the Cockpit interior, while others can be reached via a 2-3 hour drive.
Ceramic potter Garfield Williams studied at West Humber Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Canada, before returning to Jamaica in early 2000. Originally from Balaclava, St. Elizabeth, Williams began making drawings and [...]