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The East Indians and Chinese arrived as indentured laborers. The official language is English, reflecting the British colonial heritage, but even in official contexts a number of creole dialects that reflect class, place, and social context are spoken. The national motto, which was adopted after independence from Great Britain in 1962, is "Out of many, one people." In the national flag, the two black triangles represent historical struggles and hardship, green triangles represent agricultural wealth and hope, and yellow cross-stripes represent sunshine and mineral resources. Jamaica was a Spanish colony from 1494 to 1655 and a British colony from 1655 to 1962.

The colonial period was marked by conflict between white absentee owners and local managers and merchants and African slave laborers.

As the plantations declined and as the population grew, urban centers grew faster than did job opportunities, leading to an expanding slum population and the growth of urban trading and other forms of "informal" economic activities.

Architecture reflects a synthesis of African, Spanish, and baroque British influences.

Traces of pre-Columbian can be seen in the use of palm fronds thatch and mud walls (daub).

Styles, materials, size, and furnishings differ more by class than by ethnicity.

This meal may consist of stewed or roasted beef, boiled yam or plantains, rice and peas, or rice with escoviched or fried fish. It also is served with curried goat meat as the main food at parties, dances, weddings, and funerals.

Lowland plantations, complemented by urban trade and administrative centers, ports, and domestic markets, were the hub of activity.This is followed by a light meal of bread, fried plantains, or fried dumplings and a hot drink early in the evening.A more rigid work schedule has forced changes, and now the main meal is taken in the evening. Along with "ground provisions" such as sweet potato, yam, and green plantains, it is used in African and East Indian ceremonies.Identity also is defined by a religious tradition in which there is minimal separation between the sacred and the secular, manipulable spiritual forces (as in obeah ), and ritual dance and drumming; an equalitarian spirit; an emphasis on self-reliance; and a drive to succeed economically that has perpetuated Eurocentric cultural ideals. The indigenous Taino natives of the region, also referred to as Arawaks, have left evidence of material and ideational cultural influence.Jews came as indentured servants to help establish the sugar industry and gradually became part of the merchant class.

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The struggle for sovereignty culminated with the gaining of independence on 6 August 1962. Class, color, and ethnicity are factors in the national identity.