This year marks the 61 anniversary of Jamaican Independence Day. Every year since Aug. 6, 1962, Jamaicans honor this momentous occasion in many ways.

Here’s a few facts about Jamaica’s journey to independence.

Independence Came After Years of Colonization

There’s a saying in Jamaica: “we likkle, but weh tallawah!” which means “we are small, but mighty.” This speaks to the spirit of the Jamaican people. After years of being a Spanish and a British colony, Jamaicans were determined to turn a new page. To symbolize their new independence, Jamaican officials hoisted the green, black and gold flag, while lowering the British flag.

With Britain no longer overseeing Jamaican politics, the island elected its first Prime Minister Alexander Bustamante. In addition to building its own government, Jamaica created its own currency, emblems and a constitution.

Though Independent, Jamaica Isn’t A Republic

Jamaica’s ties to Britain aren’t completely severed, and it remains part of the Commonwealth.

However, interest in becoming a republic exists. It has been refueled by what happened in Barbados in 2021, and the September 2022 death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Until republic status is achieved, King Charles III is Jamaica’s head of state.

There Were Other Versions of the Flag

The flag is the island’s most important and widely recognized symbol. Prior to independence, Jamaica’s flag had a blue background with the coat of arms on the right, and the British flag on the left. In September 1961, officials held a competition for a new flag design, and there were nearly 400 entries.

“The flag was eventually designed by a bipartisan committee of the Jamaican House of Representatives,” according to The National Library of Jamaica.

Independence Celebrations Precede and Go Beyond Aug. 6

On the island, Independence Day events started July 30 and continue throughout August.

There are also events scheduled in New York, where there’s a sizable Jamaican population. For example, the Jamaica Independence Gala is on Aug. 19, and there’s an annual cruise on Aug. 6 departing Pier 40.