Friday, November 29, 2013

Landing on Xaymaca

Christopher Columbus landed on May 14, 1494 on an island he named Santiago, after Saint James, but the island has always been known by its Taíno name Xaymaca (Ja-may-ca).  The Spanish first settled on the northern coast of Jamaica and later moved to the southern part of the island and built the town that is now called Spanish Town.  Because no gold, gems or other precious metals were found there, the Spanish colony on Jamaica was never very large and the English took over the island in 1645.  

The history of the English conquest of Jamaica is linked to the story of an ex-Dominican named Thomas Gage. Gage was born into a Catholic family in England.  Hoping he would become a Jesuit like his four brothers, his father sent him study at the Jesuit school in Spain, where political tensions between the Spanish and the English were rising.  Thomas became bitter and contemptuous of the Jesuits and chose to enter with the Spanish Dominicans. He volunteered for a mission to the Philippines in 1625, but he disembarked in Mexico and accompanied another group of bound for Guatemala City.  Once there he asked to return to England, but instead was sent back to Mexico to learn the language and ways of the Amerindians.  In 1637, still trying to get back to England he made his way through Nicaragua to Costa Rica and was captured by Dutch corsairs.