Jamaica is a colourful island nation of 2.8 million people in the Caribbean Sea, east of Mexico. The people living there, when it was discovered, called it 'the land of wood and water' and 'the land of springs'. It is the home of reggae, ska, mento and rocksteady music. The island's history When Christopher Columbus, the European explorer and discoverer of North America, arrived in Jamaica in 1494, he found people who called themselves Arawak and Taino. They had been there since about 4,000BC. Columbus decided that Spain would rule the island, but in 1655, British forces took over the country for the next 300 years. Under British rule, it became one of the world's leading exporters of sugar, sending the sticky, sweet substance all over the world. Independence By 1958, Jamaica was no longer under British rule. It was called a province in the West Indies Federation. It then left the federation and became an independent country on August 6, 1962. The new Jamaican flag was first raised on Independence Day (August 6, 1962). It is a beautiful flag that has a cross with four triangles placed side by side. The cross is gold, the top and bottom triangles are green and the other triangles are black. The colour black on the flag represents the strength and creativity of the people; gold symbolises sunshine and the country's natural resources; green means hope and the nation's dependence on agriculture. A colourful parade is held in the capital, Kingston, on Independence Day. On that day, people - dressed in special costumes - celebrate the country's culture and history. Music and dancing lasts the whole day, and during the celebrations, the Jamaicans remember all those who helped them to become independent again. Famous fruit Ackee is the national fruit of Jamaica, even though it comes from West Africa. It is related to lychee and longan and is used in the national dish of ackee and salt fish. Quick Facts Full name: Commonwealth of Jamaica Capital: Kingston Currency: Jamaican dollar Queen: Elizabeth II of Britain Governor-General: Patrick Allen Exports: Reggae music, rum, ackee, sugar Language: English and English dialects Famous Jamaicans: Bob Marley, Usain Bolt (pictured), national bobsled team 'I'm just a buffalo soldier in the heart of America' Those are the words of international superstar Bob Marley (left), the most famous musical artist from Jamaica. He symbolises the soul of Jamaica's biggest cultural asset - its music. It's not surprising that many international music stars were born in Jamaica. Some names that come to mind are Grace Jones, Millie Small, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown and Desmond Dekker. Jamaica has also created popular music around the world. For example, hip hop music, born in New York City, was first created by Jamaicans there. Ian Fleming, the author of the best-selling James Bond novels, lived in Jamaica. He used the island as a setting for several Bond novels, including The Man with the Golden Gun and Dr No.