Thursday 9 July 2015


Jamaica’s Blue and John Crow Mountains - which provided refuge for the island’s indigenous people and later for Africans fleeing slavery - are among 24 new sites incribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List, a first for the Caribbean island.

Nanny Falls in the Blue & John Crow Mountains (JCDT)
The UN's cultural agency said the mountains were selected for their universal significance, their relationship with unique traditions and their position as the natural habitat of biologically diverse plant and animal life. These criteria are part of the requirements that all World Heritage List “candidates” must meet.

The mountains are designated as a "mixed, cultural and natural site", while the 23 other sites are "cultural" entities in countries such as China, Mexico, Singapore, Uruguay, France and Turkey.

The List now comprises 1,031 sites in 163 countries, with Italy, China and Spain leading the pack. UNESCO extended the boundaries of three existing sites as well, including the Routes of Santiago de Compostela, while three sites in the Middle East were added to the "in-danger" list.

Meeting in Bonn, Germany, from June 28 to July 8, the agency’s World Heritage Committee also adopted the so-called Bonn Declaration. This recommends that heritage protection be included in the mandate of peacekeeping missions "where appropriate".

UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova additionally launched a “Unite for Heritage Coalition”, whose aim is to strengthen mobilization in the face of deliberate damage to cultural heritage, according to the UN.

Jamaican Tody, a mountain native. (Photo: R. Miller)
In the view of the World Heritage Committee, the Blue and John Crow Mountains in Jamaica have special significance not only for the island's residents but for the rest of the world.

“The site encompasses a rugged and extensively forested mountainous region in the south-east of Jamaica, which provided refuge first for the indigenous Tainos fleeing slavery and then for Maroons (escaped African slaves),” UNESCO says in its description.

The Maroons “resisted the European colonial system in this isolated region by establishing a network of trails, hiding places and settlements, which form the Nanny Town Heritage Route,” it continues.

“The forests offered the Maroons everything they needed for their survival. They developed strong spiritual connections with the mountains, still manifest through the intangible cultural legacy of, for example, religious rites, traditional medicine and dances. The site is also a biodiversity hotspot for the Caribbean Islands with a high proportion of endemic plant species, especially lichens, mosses and certain flowering plants.”

The mountains have been represented in many Jamaican literary and historical texts, including the prize-winning novel Sweetheart. But mining operations have recently marred other areas of the region's beauty, so this inscription on the World Heritage List may give a boost to environmentalists.

For more information on the inscribed sites, go to: