Saint Catherine Parish
Saint Catherine is located in the southeast part of Jamaica and is bordered by Saint Andrew to the east, Clarendon to the west, and Saint Mary and Saint Ann to the north. Saint Catherine’s capital is also the very first capital of Jamaica, called Santiago de la Vega or San Jago de la Vega (St. James of the Plan), which is now known as Spanish Town.
Saint Catherine, originally spelled Saint Katherine, was formed in 1534 and was named after Queen Katherine of Portugal, the wife of King Charles II. The boundaries of the parish were established in 1867 when the number of parishes was reduced from 22 to 14. St Catherine was expanded to include the former parishes of St Thomas in the Vale, St John, and St Dorothy.
The parish covers about 460 square miles and is the fourth largest parish in Jamaica. It is one of the fastest growing areas in the nation and has the largest economy out of all 14 parishes because of its many resources. Saint Catherine has a population of about 412,000. Some of the major towns are Old Harbour, Bog Walk, Linstead, Ewarton and Portmore. The oldest man-made bridge in the western hemisphere is in Spanish Town. And the famous pirate, Calico Jack, and his crew were hanged in Santiago de la Vega in 1720 following a trial conducted by the governor, Sir Nicholas Lawes.
Except for the Hellshire Hills near the coast, the south of this parish is virtually flat. The central and northern sections are very mountainous - the northern border is on Mount Diablo, which crosses over into St Ann, with an altitude of 2,700 feet. A 57,000-acre plain occupies the southern part of the Rio Cobre basin where the Rio Cobre river runs. It provides water to irrigate over 18,000 acres on the plain. Mineral deposits found in the parish include bauxite, copper, limestone, commercial marble, clay, sand and gravel. Many types of limestone are found here. The parish has 44 caves; one of the longest penetrable caves in the island is St Clair near Polly Ground.
Saint Catherine is second only to Kingston as an industrial center. Alcan has a plant and offices close to Ewarton and is one of the biggest employers in the parish. The largest salt producing plant in the Caribbean is in Spanish Town. Jamaica Milk Products, an affiliate of the Nestlé Company, has a factory in Bog Walk. Old Harbour has the largest power plant in the island and several heavy industrial factories. Sulphuric acid used in the production of bauxite is also produced in the parish.
Sugar cultivation began by the Spanish about 1530. A silk spinning industry was also established and the Spaniards planted mulberry trees to support this. Two of Jamaica’s 8 remaining sugar factories, Worthy Park and Bernard Lodge, are located in Saint Catherine.
The main source of employment in the parish is agriculture. The chief crops are bananas, coconuts, pineapple, citrus, pumpkins, peppers, coffee and calaloo. Some large enterprises produce sugar cane, bananas and citrus mainly for export. Dairy farms are also found in the parish. The Salt Ponds District between Spanish Town, Port Henderson and Passage Fort is noted for fine fish and there are several fish sanctuaries in the parish.
Some notable people who were born in Saint Catherine are reggae artists Joseph Hill (1949-2006, lead singer for the group Culture), Diana King (from Spanish Town), I-Wayne (Portmore, 1975), Anthony "Lutan Fyah" Martin (from Thompson Pen), and Ventrice "Queen Ifrica" Morgan (from Spanish Town), singer Grace Jones (Spanish Town, 1948), and athletes Leslie Alphonso Laing (Linstead, 1925, sprinter who won gold at the 1952 Olympics), and sprinter Asafa Powell, who holds the record for the second-fastest 100 meters in history. He won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. As of July 16 2012, Powell has broken the 10-second barrier legally more times than anyone else – 80 times.