The Interesting Relationship Between Germans and Jamaicans: Resolving an Energy Crisis by Shedding Light on it.

What Do Jamaicans and Germans Have in Common? History, Tourism, Sports, and Clean Energy: Jamaica is on its way to resolving its own energy crisis.

“Out of Many, One People” – motto of Jamaica

The economic powerhouse that is the Federal Republic of Germany has an interesting relationship with the small island nation of Jamaica. The relationship is mutual in that Jamaicans and Germans have been working together on a few projects that involve government institutions, tourism and non-governmental organizations. From a historical point of view, there have been communities of ethnic Germans in Jamaica for more than 150 years. Where is the real connection between the two distinct countries?

Jamaica was inhabited by what anthropologists and historians refer to as Arawak or Taíno peoples, who settled the islands in the Caribbean, sailing from the South American mainland, since before the common era.  In 1494, during the second voyage of Christopher Columbus to the Caribbean, the island was then known as Xaymaca by the native Taínos. At first, the island was claimed by Spain until English privateers, corsairs, and pirates attacked Spanish vessels that circulated the Caribbean. In 1655, the Spanish lost the island to the English and until this day remains part of the British Commonwealth of Nations (hence Jamaica is an Anglophonic nation).

When the English took over the island they continued – as the Spanish did – to exploit the land, and the people, to the point where they engaged in the use of imported slave labor of African peoples. Jamaica became one the largest exporters of sugar, rum and molasses (many indigenous Taínos were killed or died of disease as a result of the Spanish and English occupations).

During the 1830s, after slavery was abolished in the British colonies, 19th-century scientific racism fueled racial bitterness that Europeans had after losing a virtually free source of labor. The British-Jamaicans therefore looked to Europe for cheap labor. Indentured servants from Europe essentially paid their way to the New World by agreeing to work in the British colonies for a number of years – among this group of indentured servants came a group of about 350 Germans to a Jamaican plantation.

Since the 1830s, there have been Germans or “Germaicans” living in Jamaica. After a few generations of living in Jamaica, almost all of them have lost their German language and completely integrated as Jamaican people by culture, but their physical attributes look very much German (i.e., blond hair, fair skin, and freckles).

For almost half a century, Jamaica has become a popular tourist destination for Americans, Britons, and Europeans. Jamaica has been popular with Germans from the spread of Reggae music and Rastafari, which was made popular by the likes of Bob Marley & The Wailers, Burning Spear and Peter Tosh. It is not uncommon to see Germans who have an affinity for deadlocks, ganja, and eating I-tal food.

The exchange of cultural icons and interests are mutual in recent days as Jamaicans are surprisingly interested in the Germany national football team. Jamaicans love football(soccer), and support a variety of national teams, but one thing is for sure: Germany is a favorite. It is not uncommon to see that during the world Cup, Jamaicans are flying the flags of countries like Germany, Argentina and Brazil in support.

The most important relationship Germans and Jamaicans have nowadays has to do with clean energy. Jamaica has been importing costly and highly-contaminating diesel fuel in order to generate electricity. There is a new initiative to ween Jamaica off petroleum by installing solar panels and wind turbines. The German Ministry of the Environment has been working with a few countries in the Caribbean to outline a plan to make sustainable or green energy more available.

The Tourism industry, which has seen a lack of visitors to Jamaica in recent years, might get an upswing from new developments in clean energy cooperation from other countries besides Germany such as Spain and Cuba. The Grand Palladium Resort & Spa in Hanover, Jamaica is the largest photovoltaic (solar) plant on the island. This Spanish hotel boasts a capacity of 1.6MW from a solar roof-top system that uses photovoltaic cells manufactured by a German company called IBC solar, but installed by a local company called Sofos Jamaica based out of Kingston, Jamaica. The hotel expects to save about $730,000 each year in energy cost (not to mention the barrels of petroleum that will be saved). At a rate of 2.2 million kWh per year electricity production and 17,000 square meters of photovoltaic solar panels, Jamaica could essentially be petroleum free after building only about 1,000 of these facilities.

Jamaica’s neighbor Cuba has also been trying to cooperate in the fabrication and installation of solar panels in their respective island-nations (instead of buying them from Germany or China). Not only will it reduce their dependence on fossil fuels for energy, but also create job opportunities in fabricating, installing and maintaining photovoltaic cells all over the Caribbean.

Last but not least, the German Embassy of Jamaica has been making an effort to bring about self sufficiency for an educational center – an NGO in Cassava Piece, Kingston – with a donation of JM$2.1 million for the installation of German-made solar panels. A Jamaican-based company installed the German-made solar panels for HELP Jamaica! Educational Center. This system was installed in late 2012, and is probably the only NGO on the island that is powered with 100% clean energy.

With the realization of a market open to innovation to solve its energy problems, it is interesting to see how Germans and Jamaicans have at least a few things in common. Cooperation in clean energy tend to bring countries together, unlike their rivals in the petroleum industry, which tends to drive a firm wedge between them.

By. Opton A. Martin




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