Blue & John Crow Mountains

Cultural Heritage

The BJCMNP, Jamaica UNESCO WHS Nomination Dossier quotes Carey, 1997 statement that the word Maroon “has been adapted by academics as a generic term to apply to groups of persons resisting plantation slavery in the Caribbean and the American continent”. In fact the term is now being applied to groups all over the world who resisted enslavement by the Europeans, by fleeing to hard to access wilderness areas. The Maroons of eastern Jamaica (Windward Maroons) are however considered the classical representation and prototype, having been the first example of Grand Maroonage, the first free Maroon state in the post 1492 world, and still enduring today.

Brother Issac blows the abeng to call an Ancestral Whisperings festival to order
Brother Issac blows the abeng to call an Ancestral Whisperings festival to order

The Windward Maroon nation was the first Jamaican Maroon band and the first Maroon nation in the western hemisphere. It was created by Amerindians who fled into the hills around Nuevo Sevilla on Jamaica’s north coast and was strengthened with the integration of Amerindian and Africans in the Seville region who fled Spanish estates immediately after the arrival of the first Africans on Jamaican soil in 1513. This band eventually migrated to the north eastern section of the island establishing its capital at “the Great Negro Town”– later to become Nanny Town ‐ high in the Blue and John Crow Mountains, controlling all of what is today the parishes of St. Mary and Portland and much of what comprises the BJCM. Later known as the eastern or Windward Maroons to distinguish them from another powerful Maroon group – the Leeward Maroons which formed in the 1690’s and still exist today in the western end of Jamaica.

View from Nanny Town Oct 2014 small
View from Nanny Town (October, 2014)

The rugged topography, lush forests and numerous water sources were used by the Windward Maroons to wage their successful guerrilla warfare against the British. The signing of the Peace Treaty in 1739 gave the Maroons their sovereignty and brought the war to an end. The Maroons then moved from the highest parts of the mountains into the valleys.

There are three main Windward Maroon communities: Moore Town in the Rio Grande Valley, Charles Town in the Buff Bay Valley and Scotts Hall in the Wag Water River Valley. The two groups most closely associated with the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park are those at Moore Town and Charles Town. Many people from the Upper Rio Grande Valley are of Maroon ancestry.

The music of the Moore Town Maroons has been recognised by UNESCO as a "Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage". The Maroons still retain many traditions in their governance, music, dance, drumming, cuisine and use of herbal remedies amongst others.

Cultural and Natural Heritage are bound together – one impacting the other e.g. Janga in a stream would be considered Natural Heritage but cooked in soup, Cultural Heritage.

Janga in a stream
Janga in a stream

Janga in soup
Janga in soup

BJCMNP | The Blue Mountains Experience

The JCDT appreciates the involvement and support of our Partners, Donors and Sponsors

  • National Environment & Planning Agency
  • Forestry Department
  • Jamaica National Heritage Trust
  • Environmental Foundation of Jamaica
  • Forest Conservation Fund
  • Pear Tree Press
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