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A day after Jamaican sprinters Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake pleased their homeland by winning the gold and silver medals in the 100-meter dash at the London Olympics, telephone poles and streetlights across the island of Jamaica were wrapped in the island’s flag colors in celebration of its 50th year of independence. A showcasing of the country’s history, food, and culture took place in the capital of Kingston.
Prominent natives like black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey and reggae legend Bob Marley were recognized on the grounds of the national stadium. Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who aspires for her Commonwealth country to sever some ties with the British monarchy, made a special point to thank the nation’s athletes. “My fellow Jamaicans, across the city of London, with every stride that they made, our Jamaican spirits soared. With every jump high or long, we heard a proud Jamaican roar,” said Simpson Miller, the country’s first female leader.
Not everyone on the island is as jubilant about the country’s independence as others. Some islanders, especially older Jamaicans who still long for the days of stability under British rule, argue that Jamaica has fallen behind since it achieved independence, primarily due to political mismanagement by the two primary political parties. “Without all the `politricks’ from the parties we’d be a lot better off in this country,” said Fitzroy Reid, a clothes vendor. One leader named Andrew Holness stated: “We must accept that the quality of life of many Jamaicans remains at unacceptable levels. The images of poverty are very disturbing. Corruption and inefficiency are almost institutionalized in the society.”
Jamaica came under British control in 1655 when Oliver Cromwell’s army captured it from the Spanish. Relying heavily on the work of African slaves until emancipation in 1838, the colony was primarily used to produce sugar. Over the next century, although they invested in infrastructure, Britain was criticized for repression of black activists who rebelled over high food prices and poor treatment. In the 1940’s, when Britain enacted policies to give its Caribbean colonies greater economic and political autonomy, Jamaica moved toward independence. At midnight on Aug. 6, 1962, in the national stadium, the flag of the British empire was lowered for the final time and replaced by the Jamaican flag that that still flies to date.