Spanish Town to be restored
Janet Silvera, Hospitality Jamaica Coordinator
On the heels of the success of restoring the old colonial city,
Santo Domingo, Cuba and Panama City, Panama, a master plan is being
developed by the Spanish Government to restore Jamaica's first capital
city, Spanish Town.
In an interview with Hospitality Jamaica recently, Spanish Ambassador
Jesus Silva said his Government would be bringing in an expert who
will work with the citizens of the old city on a restoration strategy.
In a town where artisans are hard to find, the Ambassador said
plans were afoot to open a workshop school in the town square to
teach young men and persons unemployed in restoration skills. "This
will include forging, masonry and the intricacies involved in restoration
of historic monuments and structures."
first of its kind
The project, which is estimated to cost US$75,000 initially, is
the first of its kind to be embarked upon in the English-speaking
Caribbean, the Ambassador said Spanish Town's rich history allowed
it an automatic entry into a venture of this magnitude.
Not only is the project expected to bring economic activity to
the city, but the Ambassador noted that in other areas where this
type of venture has been initiated, 90 per cent of the young men
usually find jobs after their training is completed.
"What they will be exposed to are skills that are loss, that
are no longer being utilised by people."
History of Spanish Town
The Spanish settlement of Villa de la Vega was founded by Governor
Francisco de Garay in 1534 as the capital of the colony. Later,
it was also called Santiago de la Vega or St. Jago de la Vega. Indigenous
Tiano had been living in the area for approximately a millennium
before this, but this was the first European habitation on the south
of the island.
When the English conquered Jamaica in 1655, they renamed the capital
Spanish Town. Since the town was badly damaged during the conquest,
Port Royal took on many administrative roles and functioned as an
unofficial capital during the beginning of the English reign. By
the time Port Royal was decimated by an earthquake in 1692, Spanish
Town had been rebuilt and was again functioning as the capital.
Spanish Town remained as the capital until 1872, when the seat
of the colony was moved to Kingston. Kingston had been founded in
the aftermath of the earthquake of Port Royal.
The centre of the town boasts a few Regency buildings, including
the Rodney Memorial and the façade of Old King's House, the
residence of the governors until 1872.
Today, Spanish Town is sometimes referred to colloquially as "Spain
Town" or "Prison Oval" within the confines of Jamaica.
The latter nickname is a reference to the cricket pitch or oval
located just outside the St. Catherine District Prison where some
inmates can get a limited view of the sport through their cell windows.
Football is also played at the Prison Oval.
The history of Spanish Town lives on in the remains of the old
buildings and in its street names that mark it as the start of Jamaica's
overall history. Reminders of Spanish Jamaica include Red Church
and White Church Streets, symbolic of the Spanish chapels of the
red and white cross, as well as Monk Street, in reference to the
monastery that once stood nearby. Nugent Street and Manchester Street
were named for British Colonial Governors, George Nugent and William
Montagu, fifth Duke of Manchester. King Street received its name
because it runs past King's House and Constitution Street, near
to the square, it also refers to the fact that the island's administrative
centre used to be located there.
The population of present day Spanish Town is 148,845 (2006 population
Source: Wikipedia - the free encyclopedia.