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History of Jamaica


Here is a map of Jamaica

Jamaica, located in the southeastern sector of the borough of Queens, was originally inhabited by a group of Native Americans known by two names: the Jameco or Yamecah tribe. They belonged to the Algonquin nation. (Aside: Jameco is the Algonquin word for “beaver.”) In the mid-17th century, Jamaica was ruled by Dutch colonists and then immediately rendered subject to the English (CCJ).

The oldest Presbyterian Church in the country was built in Jamaica in 1622. When Queens was still considered a county in 1863, Jamaica became the county seat and a courthouse/house of worship was built. The British claimed that Jamaica was the capital of Queens (CCJ).

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, Jamaica had a predominately white population, which included immigrants from Ireland. The 60’s however, began to alter the complexion of Jamaica’s demographics as the “white flight” phenomena took effect- a result of a dramatic rise of middle-income African-Americans settling in Jamaica. Not until the 90’s and 2000’s were migrant patterns displaying an influx of foreigners whose national origins ranged from Latin America to the Indian sub-continent (Reference).

Currently, there are at least 650,000 people living in the downtown area of Jamaica alone. Approximately 73% of the current residents are “nonwhite.” Jamaica has a heavy concentration of ethnic minorities, most notably Asian, Hispanic, and African-Americans. One fifth of the nonwhite residents are Guyanese. The rest of the nonwhite minorities belong to Haiti, China, India, Colombia, the island of Jamaica, the Philippines, Dominican Republic, and Pakistan. Interestingly enough, neighborhood analysts claim that Bangladeshis are the single-most rapid growing minority in Jamaica, Queens today (CCJ).

Jamaica has an extensive network of transportation. It is the central transfer point of the LIRR and MTA’s Long Island busing system. It also includes the E and F subway lines and MTA buses whose destinations range from western and eastern Queens to the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn and Nassau County (Reference).

Jamaica Avenue and Hillside Avenue are Jamaica’s benchmarks in characterizing the town’s cultural landscape. Hillside Avenue delineates Jamaica’s northern boundary. Both Hillside and Jamaica avenues function as a spectrum to the many ethnic enclaves that reside in Jamaica. For example, starting from 148th Street to 150th Street on Hillside Avenue merchandise shops and restaurants are of Hispanic descent, while from 151st Street onwards to 164th Street conglomerates of West Indian grocery stores and restaurants are found. Similarly, Jamaica Avenue has its share of multi-culturally commercial establishments (Reference).

The ride on the Q17 bus was interesting due to the fact that its route spanned from Flushing directly to Jamaica. On the way to Jamaica Ave., the Q17’s route blended with a portion of Hillside Ave. The bus route covered a dozen blocks or so from 188th street to 167th street on Hillside. That small strip of Hillside truly displayed the multicultural aspect of Jamaica. The establishments on Hillside Avenue ranged from Colombian and Mexican restaurants to Indian delicatessens and West Indian cuisines. Hillside Ave. has cross sections of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia. Upon arriving on Jamaica Ave. the commercial facet of Jamaica became evident. Despite the fact that Jamaica Ave. has more consumer-driven stores selling clothes, jewelry, sneakers, and electronics, consumers that go to Jamaica Ave. are predominantly black or of ethnic groups that usually end up under the “black” racial category.

For the most part, Jamaica Ave. is more homogeneous in its demographic when compared to Hillside’s heterogeneous makeup of inhabitants. The various buses and transit lines that intersect on Jamaica Ave. buttresses the notion of its cultural and commercial importance.

The relatively easy transit access, steadily burgeoning commerce, and diverse clusters of communities have attracted immigrants to Jamaica, Queens and fomented multiculturalism.


"CCJ - ABOUT JAMAICA, QUEENS." Cultural Collaborative Jamaica. Web. 23 Feb. 2010. <>.

"Reference for Jamaica, Queens -" Metasearch Search Engine - Web. 23 Feb. 2010. <,_Queens>.

To continue learning about the history of neighborhoods in Queens, click next. To move on to the next topic, click on How is Queens Branded?

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