Thousands of Jamaicans and visitors to the island descended on Accompong, St. Elizabeth on Thursday (January 6) for the annual Maroon Festival.
The event marked the 273rd anniversary of the signing of the historic Peace Treaty between the Maroons and the British authorities, which ended more than 80 years of hostility between the two sides.
The celebration got underway with a ceremony at the Peace Cave, thought to be the site of the signing, followed by feasting, dancing and traditional Myal drumming. The day culminated with a parade and street dance that continued throughout the night.
United States Ambassador to Jamaica, Pamela Bridgewater, who delivered the keynote address, said that her government fully respects the human rights of all citizens, including indigenous and minority populations and others with diverse lifestyles.
She commended the Maroon community for maintaining their traditions over the years, noting that they have a legacy of which they can be proud.
Head of the Accompong Maroons, Colonel Ferron Williams, called for unity among members of the maroon community. “Let us put aside our differences and let us unite to ensure that the legacies that our ancestors fought so hard for are preserved and protected,” he said.
Meanwhile, Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Tom Tavares Finson, urged the Maroon Council to add their voices to the ongoing Constitutional debates, so that their rights can be protected.
Senator Basil Waite, in noting the significance of the maroon history, said that the annual celebration must become part of the United Nations Heritage Calendar.
It was in 1738 that the maroons of St. Elizabeth, led by Cudjoe, signed a peace treaty with the then governor of the day, which guaranteed them among other things, significant land holdings as well as personal freedom.
Also included in the very historic treaty are the founding principles that to this very day govern the day-to-day activities of the people of Accompong.
Many social as well as other political institutions such as the very powerful Executive Maroon Council all derive their just powers from this important document.