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The History of Negril Jamaica

Seven Mile Beach in Negril Jamaica

Jamaica had been populated by the Arawak Indians at the time Christopher Columbus discovered it in 1494 and named it St. Lago. It remained under Spanish control until 1655, when it came to be a British possession. Buccaneers controlled Port Royal, also the capital city, until it fell into the sea in an earthquake in 1692. Disease decimated the Arawaks, so black slaves were brought in to work around the sugar plantations. Throughout the seventeenth and also eighteenth centuries soldiers from Britain had been under constant attack by the Maroones which were well equipped groups of escaped slaves living deep within the country side. When slavery was abolished in 1807 and following the slaves emancipation in 1833, and a significant decrease in sugarcane selling prices eventually triggered a depression which led to a rebel uprising in 1865. The next year Jamaica became a British colony, and life there became much better. The importation ofnew crops such as bananas helped to reduce their reliance upon sugar and commerce flourished once again.

The name Negril is actually a shortened version of Negrillo, which is translated as "small black ones" in Spanish, as it was first called by settlers in 1494. Negrillo is considered by some to refer to the darkened colored cliffs which are located to the south from the center of town. Another theory holds that because there had been a substantial population of black eels alongside Negril's seacoast, the Spaniards named the area Negro Eels which had been shortened to Negrillo followed later on by Negril. Despite the fact that Negril is established as having a long historical background, it did not become renowned prior to the 1950's. Negril's earlier history was fairly uneventful. It was an isolated area with heavily restricted access, as a result of marsh swamps which actually cut if off from the remaining inhabited regions of the country. Negril was largely a shipping community and served as a naval base in the Battle of New Orleans in 1814.

Negril did not develop into a vacation resort location until the later half of the 20th century, primarily because accessibility to the region proved complicated seeing that ferry boats were necessary to be able to deliver visitors in Negril Bay, making them to walk in the water for the short rip to the shoreline. Most travellers would lease rooms inside of the residences of Jamaican people, or perhaps would pitch tents inside their yards. Daniel Connell became the very first individual to produce more conventional holiday places to stay for these "flower children" as they were known when he established the first guest house in Negril Jamaica at Palm Grove. The area's standing grew over time and the first of many major resorts had been constructed in the middle to late 1960's. The first hotel around Negril was the Yacht Club by Mary's Bay located on the West End.

The Road to Negril

Not until 1959 was a road cut to Negril, launching the development of what was then a tiny fishing village. Electricity and telephones would not arrive until later. The sleepy beach front community quickly became a well-known vacation destination for Jamaicans. At around the same time, hippies and backpackers from abroad began to appear. These people boarded with locals or camped in tents on the beaches, smoked marijuana and ate psychedelic mushrooms while cementing the attitude and laid-back lifetyle that has become Negril.

Beginning in the 1970's, more and more hotels, holiday cottages and major resorts were built, and the town had exploded in popularity among tourists of all types. A road had then been built between Negril and Montego Bay, and also a local airport was also built, making for easier access to this otherwise out of the way vacation spot.

Once the road which traveled from Montego Bay to Negril was developed in the earlier '70s, it facilitated a boost in Negril's stature as being the hot new vacation resort area. The road was a two-lane highway made of pavement that was laid approximately one hundred yards (91 m) inland from the white sandy beaches at the southern end of this small fishing community. The long road through the community happened to run through Green Island which is also where a great number of the local workers from Negril actually live, and was also straight enough to be able to be used as a landing strip for small aircraft, which was the primary reason why one could find strips of rail tracks standing up on the edge of the road which were placed there in order to dissuade smugglers from landing on the road to pick up the pletiful loads of ganja.

After the infrastructure had been expanded in anticipation of the growth of vacation resorts in Negril as well as an expanding population, a small airport, the Negril Aerodrome, had been built in 1976 near Rutland Point, together with several small hotels mostly serving the North American winter travelers. Many Europeans also came to Negril, and several hotels were designed to appeal directly to those visitors.

Vacation Resorts in Negril Jamaica

View of Caribbean Sea from Negril Jamaica

In 1977 the very first major vacation resort, Negril Beach Village, opened its doors to some relatively affluent audiences looking for the uninhibited Club Med-style getaway. Negril Beach Village would later be renamed Hedonism II. Tales of Hedonism’s toga parties as well as unique activities such as night time nude volley ball games helped launch Negril to worldwide fame. By the mid-1980s Negril had been in the throes of a full-scale tourism boom which continues today. (The early days of tourism in Negril Jamaica are chronicled in Banana Shout, a popular book written by a local hotel owner depicting the adventures of an American draft dodger who escapes to Negril.)

The first to discover Negril's charms were the "Hippies and Flower Children" of the early seventies, who of course gravitated towards the laid-back life style and related to the warmth and gentleness of the sparse population. Their arrival resulted in the development of Negril's West End around the cliffs past the Negril Lighthouse.

Hippies ended up followed closely by the better-heeled visitor whose notion of paradise went over and above a simple hammock and palm-thatched bungaloo; so luxurious vacation resorts started to sprout up all over the area. The 1980's saw a lot more growth as Negril's popularity spread and those same hippies, now respected attornies, physicians and prominent business owners, started to come back to rekindle the lifestyle and culture for a few weeks every year. The hippies left their mark permanently upon Negril, and helped to produce its care free, relaxing atmosphere where friendships spring up between traveler and local, making Negril the optimal location to meet Jamaicans on their own environment.

These days the men and women of Negril appear to be mindful of their own originality and exhibit a pride in their territory which nearly is a nationalistic mindset. The Jamaican people get great delight from telling tales such as that of the business man who promoted Negril so skillfully that one arriving tourist was heard to exclaim: "But this is actually Jamaica, I believed we were heading to the island of Negril". The let it all hang out tradition of Negril still overflows during the March to April spring break vacation season when US university students swarm for wet T-shirt contests, drinking competitions and general party time.

Nonetheless, the place has created an energetic and environment friendly character underneath the guidance of expatriate residents, resulting in the development of the Negril Marine Park inside the Negril Environmental Protection Area. The park encompasses the coastline, mangroves, offshore marine environments and coral reefs, and it is split into 8 recreational specific zones. In 2001 the Chamber of Commerce adopted an environmental ‘green’ standard for lodgings to adhere to. More recent projects include a new recycling center which is considered a rarity in much of Jamaica.

Despite Negril's expanding popularity, development remains controlled based on the guideline that no building higher than the tallest palm tree can be constructed. Its natural charm remains preserved and its white sand beaches and clear sea waters are amongst the more pristine in the world.

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