Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful parishes in Jamaica is St Ann, which is also known as the “Garden Parish” because of its natural beauty (Senior, 2003). St Ann also holds significance as the parish in which certain historical events took place that eventually defined Jamaica’s development:
- It was in St Ann that Christopher Columbus first made landfall on Jamaican soil and began the Spanish capture of the island from the Tainos.
- It was in St Ann that the first capital of Jamaica was built, Sevilla la Nueva (New Seville).
- St Ann also became the first landing spot for Africans to Jamaica, who accompanied the Spanish as body servants.
- It was from St Ann that, upon the English capture of Jamaica in 1655, the last remnants of the Spanish left the island.
- By the 1950s, St Ann became one of the principal areas for bauxite mining in Jamaica.
- St Ann is home to one of the island’s major tourist destinations, Ocho Rios.
The Origins of the Town’s Name “Ocho Rios”
So what’s the story behind the town of Ocho Rios? This question popped up during a trip to St Ann’s Bay with my family in December 2013, when I went home for Christmas. As we drove through Ocho Rios, my youngest sister asked: Since Ocho Rios means eight rivers in Spanish, what are the names of those eight rivers? We ventured to name those rivers, of course failing miserably.
The truth is Ocho Rios, or even the parish of St Ann on a whole, is not home to eight rivers. Ocho Rios was originally called Cheireras by the Spanish, meaning “the bay of waterfalls” (Cundall 1915, pg. 281), and appropriately so. According to Senior (2003, pg. 358):
The character of the rivers flowing down from the hills would change on nearing the shoreline, where they suddenly left the limestone country and met other kinds of rocks. Beautiful falls and cascades resulted, as the White River, Roaring River, Dunn’s River and others bubbled down to the sea, giving to this area an overpowering beauty.
Dunn’s River Falls, a major destination for locals and tourists alike, attests to Ocho Rios’ original name, Cheireras. It is indeed a most beautiful sight to look at and quite an experience to climb, a total of 183m. I’ve climbed the Falls several times already. How about you?
Frank Cundall (1915) notes that the name Ocho Rios is most likely a corruption of the Spanish word chorreras, meaning waterfall or spout, of course in reference to the existence of waterfalls within the area such as the Dunn’s River and Roaring River falls. Unlike the Dunn’s River falls, however, the Roaring River falls are not easily accessible.
So what rivers exist in St Ann parish? They are the:
- Cave River
- Dunn’s River
- Great River
- Llandovery River
- Pedro River
- Roaring River
- White River
Hmm, almost eight then! Am I missing any? Let me know in the comments box below.
Until next time…
Cundall, Frank (1915). Historic Jamaica. London: The Institute of Jamaica
Delso, Diego. Photo of Dunns River Falls, Ocho Rios, Jamaica. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ocho_R%C3%ADos-Jamaica03.JPG
Senior, Olive (2003). Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage. St. Andrew: Twin Guinep Publishers Ltd.