The Taíno and the Spanish

Montego Bay to the World! begins with the story of the Taíno, the Amerindian people who gave Jamaica its name. Sheltered by highlands and having several rivers emptying close by, Montego Bay was undoubtedly an excellent location, and several Taíno settlements existed in and near the bay area. The exhibit describes how the Taínos lived, their customs and religious beliefs and their livelyhoods, what they produced and how they traded between islands. On display are examples of their pottery, stone and bone tools, amulets and zemis (religious effigies). The Taíno were also skilled cultivators. Among other things, the exhibit discusses their legacies in language, place names and foods; the cultivation of ananas) the pineapple, papaya, maize; making cassava bread, (today’s bammy) and the use of the barbeque and pimento, the origin of Jamaica’s Jerk tradition.

The arrival of the Europeans resulted in the demise and disappearance of Taíno culture. On May 9, 1494 Columbus is recorded to have sailed into the Montego Bay Harbour, naming it ‘The Gulf of Fine Weather’. Use a show of force the Spanish subdued the Taíno who had initially resisted them landing. The island was eventually settled by the Spanish in 1509, but remained an insignificant colony mainly to service their conquests on mainland America. On exhibit are Spanish Pieces of Eight that became the regions common currency model ships and ceramic pieces of the period. Spain did little to develop Jamaica, but the introduction of sugar and arrival of Africans forever shaped Jamaica’s future. Livestock that multiplied in abundance and several other cash crops are among Spain’s legacies, as are many Spanish place names: Montego Bay derives from the Spanish Bahia de Manteca (Bay of Lard), so called for the abundant processing of pork and pig fat shipped from the port.

Our Sponsors:

  • Tourism Enhancement Fund

  • Institute of Jamaica

  • Montego Bay Cultural Centre

  • Chase Fund Jamaica