When Jamaica became independent of Great Britain on August 6, 1962, it was the result of several factors that led the Caribbean island to break ties with the remnants of the rapidly disappearing British Empire. In the decades prior, inequality had eaten away at the Jamaican's loyalty to London. In the 1930s, the Great Depression had dealt a serious blow to colonial rule, affecting the island's middle class, not just its workers, and led to revolts.
The 1930s uprisings brought about several changes, many of which are still being enjoyed today: an organized labor movement, for example, and a party system that remains competitive.
Jamaica celebrates 50 years of independence Monday. But while it enjoys a stable, democratic political system it's still battling serious economic problems that's leading to many social woes. Its national debt is growing.
Unemployment is estimated at 12 percent. There's widespread underemployment and a high rate of violent crime.
"Jamaica is a stable democratic country. People have their rights protected," said Robert Bryan, project director for Jamaica 50 Secretariat, a body from the Ministry of Youth and Culture overseeing this year's celebration. "Of course, as any developing country, we have our own challenges.
"The dream is to have a good economy" to go along with political independence, he added. "We have had our challenges in making that transition. We have been able to maintain rights that many people would like to have. We of course have challenges with crime. But there is far more that unites us than divides us and we need to focus on what unites us."
Crime Delays Growth
Jamaica has a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 130 percent, U.S. State Department data show. The island's high debt burden has also resulted in underinvestment in its public infrastructure, education, and methods for crime reduction. The cost of energy is also high and there is decreasing confidence in the nation's productive sector, according to State Department information.
Despite all that, Jamaica Information Service earlier this year, told the local media that Jamaica's murder rate dropped from 3.1 murders per day to two. The country's Minister of National Security Peter Bunting has also said that for more than 40 years, Jamaica's murder rate has been delaying its growth.
Though the problems have persisted for years, there is serious talk underway now about solutions to putting the island on the right path for the next 50 years.
The grounds of the national stadium in Kingston have been transformed into a Jubilee Village, displaying the island's arts and crafts while facilitating panel discussions on the way forward. The panel includes people in governance, academia, senior journalists and industry professionals. They have been discussing the island's economy and the impact of politics.
"It is a significant moment to reflect on the mission of the country and to celebrate our achievement," Bryan said of the 50th jubilee. "It is also a time to understand what we need for mission 2062. The conversation is alive and well."
For Sasha Lewis, 27, from St. Catherine, the 50 years of independence is a milestone that should be celebrated. However, Lewis, said while the island remains jubilant, Jamaica must also face the obstacles that prevented it from further progressing.
"We have to analyze if we are indeed truly independent and if not, moving forward, what are the things we need to do," she said. "It cannot just be a reflection, but active action. We are more industrialized, more modernized but what was the cost? We need to figure out what will get our people to believe again in country and self."
Long Live The Queen -- Just Not As Jamaica's Head Of State
As part of its self-determination, Jamaica is looking to do away with Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state. She is represented by a governor general on island who mainly plays a ceremonial role.
The island's Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has long mentioned plans to have Jamaica become a republic, but is yet to give a time frame. She believes removing the Queen is one way the people can fully take charge of their destiny.
But some Jamaican argue that had the island stayed closer to Britain, there could have been more insight on leadership and fiscal responsibility.
"I think we should have because we would have a watch dog and even a guide," Lewis said. "Watch dog in the sense that I don't think we could be so willy nilly with our money and our economic situation would have been different. ... I think we took the reigns but we weren't ready and instead of saying that, we pretended we were and this is where our pretense has gotten us."
Still, Lewis said there are Jamaicans with the potential to lead -- just not the ones being chosen.
When arguing about Jamaica's progress, a keen eye must be given to the situations the island have emerged from, former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson recently told the Jamaica Observer.
"I must tell you, when I hear some of this talk about whether we are better off in Independence, I find it very jolting," Patterson said. "Not because we have reached a state of perfection, but how far we have come along the journey. ... There have been failures, there have been problems, there have been disappointments, there have been setbacks, and there have been areas of underachievement."
However, Patterson also told the local paper that spending time on the negative is "self-flagellation." Instead, he said improved standard of living, access to running water and quality health care, as well as having more than 70,000 getting access to tertiary education are significant achievements.
"I remember the time when it was only the pastor and the head teacher and the sanitary inspector who could own a motor car," the Observer quoted Patterson, "that reality has changed dramatically."
Still Time To Improve
Regardless of what side of the debate the people are on, they all agree that 50 years is a long time and should be celebrated.
"I think we do have much to celebrate, given how far we have come -- particularly as it relates to identifying ourselves as a people through our culture," said Deleen Powell, a 27 year old from Mandeville. "There are so many aspects of our culture that are uniquely Jamaican, and for that we should be proud. We still have a far way to go as it relates to health care, education and financial independence, but we're still relatively young. We have time to improve."