St. Ann's rich diversity and proud independence resonates in Jamaica's national motto: Out of Many, One People.
Visitors to the region are treated to a historical cocktail of plantation society, cheeky pirates, British conventions and "soul rebels" like Bob Marley and his Rasta disciples.
Jamaica is an English-speaking Commonwealth country, with the British custom of driving on the left-hand side of the road. Yet its distinct music, language and piquant cuisine is more akin to New Orleans than it is to other Caribbean islands. The pulse of upbeat reggae, lilting Jamaican Patois and smoke from pimento-fired jerk barbecues fills the air in St. Ann Parish.
Island traditions were born in St. Ann when Christopher Columbus first tried to land here on May 5, 1494, meeting resistance from the Taino (Arawak) Indians. But the natives soon fell to the conquistadors who established some of the first Spanish settlements and cathedrals in the Americas. By the 17th century, sugar plantations flourished on the island under British rule.
In 1655, the Spanish were evicted at Ocho Rios by British forces. To help get rid of them for good, the Crown gave rogue buccaneers free reign as official privateers. Chief among them was the notorious Henry Morgan, who later became Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica (and the trademark of a popular brand of rum).
Over the next 175 years, indentured African and Asian servants vastly outnumbered the governing class. Uprisings culminated in 1831 with the Christmas Rebellion. Within seven years, slavery was abolished, plantation estates were deserted, “free villages” flourished and religion grew.
Today, Jamaica is a church country. Upwards of 90 per cent of the population is Christian, representing all denominations. Many Rastas (or Rastafari), a spiritual fraternity adhering to the common good of "one love," also attend church.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the parish capital of St. Ann's Bay is a spectacular Catholic church with 16th-century Spanish origins. En route to the cut-stone cathedral covered in vines, you'll pass a towering monument to Columbus. The statue typifies Jamaica's grudging acceptance of its origins by way of Spanish and British occupation.
Visitors are invited to attend island-wide Sunday church services and most businesses are closed on this traditional family day. It starts with mass, followed by an early dinner and community parties, often at the beach.
Drax Hall Point is a beautiful location at sunset overlooking the beach at St. Ann's Bay. Here, kids fly homemade kites, while others kick around in spirited soccer games.