The Windward Maroon Environment in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Blue & John Crow Mountains National Park
The Windward Maroons, who are considered Grandy Nanny’s “Yo-Yo” (children) still inhabit their ancestral region that is now mainly located in the tropical, montane rainforest of the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2015. The region, which forms the most remote parts of Jamaica, is inhabited by a few thousand Maroons scattered throughout several communities. These Maroon villages are connected by difficult to navigate parochial roads and waterways, such as the mighty and mystical Rio Grande River and the Stony River – the site of Old Nanny Town – Grandy Nanny’s headquarters from where she devised her military strategies against the British forces. These sites now form part of the Nanny Town Heritage Route. This geographic isolation has contributed to the Maroons’ maintenance of strong African-derived oral traditions, language, music, political organization and spiritual practices, which can be largely traced back to the Akan peoples of modern-day Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.
The Maroons utilize the renewable and other resources of the forest, such as seeds, bamboo, plants, rocks and other material to create herbal medicine and also traditional arts and craft items that they use not only as a means of generating income, but also as a way of preserving and connecting with the cultural practices of their ancestors.
Historically, this mountainous forest had provided a place of refuge and sustenance for the indigenous Tainos of Jamaica fleeing Spanish enslavement, and later the Africans who had arrived on the island as slaves, and who escaped to the mountains to become Maroons. Within the Caribbean region, the site has a unique and varied biodiversity, which includes an exceptionally high proportion of plant and animal species that are endemic to the island. The endemic plant species include lichens, mosses and a variety of flowering plants. The faunal environment also includes several globally endangered species, including several species of frogs and birds.