The origin of the term “maroon” is two-fold, deriving from the French word “marron,” meaning feral, and the Spanish word “cimarrón,” meaning wild.
With that being said, it is hard to ignore the significant influence Europe has had on the Maroon people; free slaves whose geographical distribution includes that of Jamaica, Mexico, Brazil, Panama, Ecuador, and more.
Here are seven things you should know about the Maroons.
1) They’re are located all over the world
The Maroons, who are descendants of Africans, have multiple communities spanning the Caribbean, North, South, and Central America, and more.
2) Christopher Colombus plays a part in their history
Just as Christopher Colombus is known for “discovering” America, he also had a hand in discovering Jamaica in 1494. Columbus’ discovery was the catalyst for two centuries of Spanish rule and the enslavement of the native Arawak people (who the Europeans brought diseases upon, killing many), which eventually led to the slave revolts of 1530 and thus the Jamaican Maroons.
3) They speak their own language
According to Minority Rights, the six main groups of Maroons in Suriname (a country in South America) speak their own language.
“Maroons speak their own distinctive languages. Ndjuka, is spoken by the Djuka, Aluku, and Paramaka;. Saramaccan is spoken by the Saramaka and Matawai.”
4) The Garinagu people are their (possible) descendants
The Garinagu people, also known as the Garifuna (singular), are said to be descendants of both the Maroons and indigenous peoples.
“[A] shipwreck of a Spanish/Dutch vessel off the coast of St. Vincent in 1635/1675 [carrying] escaped captives, or “maroons,” from neighboring Lesser Antilles islands [caused] intermarrying with indigenous women in the 1700’s.”
5) An important member of the Jamaican Maroons is on the country’s $500 banknote
The “Nanny” of the Maroons was the leader of the Jamaican Maroons in the 18th century. Not much is known about her, including her name. However, she had a significant impact on the country and is their only national heroine.
“Nanny,” also called “Grandy Nanny,” was skilled in multiple ways, including in guerilla warfare, camouflage, etc. There is also a town named after her called “Nanny Town.”
6) Many Maroon communities are established in areas that might be considered unlivable such as swamps and rainforests.
In Suriname, Maroon villages and communities heavily depend upon water and are located along rivers and within rainforests.
“Most Maroon villages are located along the rivers of the interior of Surinam, and access is heavily dependent on canoes and other watercraft. Maroon populations average from one to two hundred residents.”
Additionally, the Surinamese rainforest is one of the “richest regions in the world” when it comes to natural resources like gold, minerals, timber, etc.
7) The Maroon people have been fighting for the rights to their land for many years
Despite the wealth of the Surinamese rainforest, living standards are somewhat poor, and groups are still fighting for the rights to their land. This is an issue seen in Maroon communities throughout history.
In 1739 the British and the Jamaican Maroons ended an ongoing war. This, in turn, freed the Maroons and gave them their land and the ability to govern themselves as the British had conquered the country in 1655.