Parish Name: St. Catherine
Capital: Spanish Town
Land Area: 1,190.6 sq km (459.7 sq mi)
St. Catherine was created in 1867 when four smaller parishes were joined together, and is named for Katherine (Catherine) Queen of Charles II.
The parish has long been a site of human settlement. The pre-Columbian Taino lived there followed by the Spanish, who made their capital at St. Jago de la Vega (present day Spanish Town). Today, St. Catherine is the second most populous and the most rapidly growing parish, with large manufacturing and agriculture industries. The Office of the Registrar General is still located in Spanish Town, as is the historic Emancipation Square.
The capital town, Spanish Town once the capital city of Jamaica in the parish of St. Catherine has the finest collection of historical buildings, and the country’s archives. As a site of historical importance, its history was shaped by its experiences within two significant colonial periods. These periods are: the Spanish from 1534 -1655 and the English from 1655 -1782.
The Mandela Highway, a four-lane roadway connects Spanish Town with the country’s capital, Kingston. Portmore is connected to Kingston by a section of Highway 2000, a 23-kilometre tolled motorway which connects Kingston and Ocho Rios to Montego Bay, sections of Hanover, Westmoreland, Manchester and St. Elizabeth.
The parish of St. Catherine is located on the south coast between the parishes of St. Andrew to the east, Clarendon to the west, and St. Ann and St. Mary to the north.
Except for the Hellshire Hills near the coast, the south of the parish is virtually flat. The central and northern sections are very mountainous, however with the northern border on Mount Diablo, which crosses over into St. Ann, the highest point being 686 metres (2,700 ft).
Portmore became a municipality by an Act of Parliament on June 19, 2003, before which the area was administered by the St. Catherine Parish Council. Municipal status allows for the mayor to be directly elected by the people.
Spanish Town connects with Bog Walk via the picturesque Bog Walk Gorge. North of Bog Walk the towns of Linstead and Ewarton and the towering Mount Diablo can be found.
East of Spanish Town is the town of Old Harbour.
Important Jamaicans from the Parish
The Most Honourable Portia Simpson-Miller, ON, M.P., Jamaica’s first female Prime Minister, was born on December 12, 1945 in the rural community of Wood Hall, St. Catherine.
Former Prime Minister Orette Bruce Golding, although born in Clarendon, has been mostly associated with the parish of St. Catherine as he spent his earlier years in Ginger Ridge and St. Faith’s District in the parish.
Mallica Kapo Reynolds, Jamaican Intuitive master, was born on February 10, 1911 in Byndloss, St. Catherine. A highly celebrated self-taught artist, Kapo began his prolific career in art by scraping on a stone with homemade tools.
Leonard Percival Howell also known as Gong is most associated with St. Catherine although he was born in Clarendon. He was a mystic and has been credited with founding the Rastafarian Movement in Jamaica during the 1930s. He and his followers, known as Howellites, lived in Pinnacle, Sligoville and later Simon, St. Catherine.
Asafa Powell, Jamaican sprinter, was born on November 23, 1982 in Spanish Town, St. Catherine. He has run the 100m in under 10 seconds more times than any other athlete in the world.