Dias

The quiet village of Dias is located north-west of the parish of Hanover.  Its history is closely associated with the early Sephardic Jews – who were known as the “Portugals” – that settled in western Jamaica.  In fact, Dias is believed to have been named after the Dias Fernandez family that once owned lands where the village is now situated. The Dias-Fernandez family had a knack for penning their grievances.  In fact, at least two members of the family famously wrote petitions to British monarchs.  On August 30, 1692 Isaque Fernandez Diaz and other Jewish merchants wrote to monarchs, William and Mary, petitioning that they be made “free denizens” of Jamaica following the great earthquake that destroyed most of Port Royal.

 The Petition read as follows: “To the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty/ The humble petitions of Isaque Fernandez Diaz…Jews merchants of Jamaica humbly showeth / That whereas your petitioners having inhabited for several years in your Majesties Island of Jamaica, and by the most terrible earthquake which happened there on ye 7th of June, have lost all they had in the world humbly beg Your Majesties favour to be made free denizens”.

The petition was referred to the Council of Trade and Foreign Plantations for their review.

In 1739 Daniel Fernandez and other Jews petitioned King George II against the unjust taxation borne by them.  Years later, Moses Dias Fernandez became a landed proprietor who owned the 355 ¼ acre freehold land near Lucea called Dias.  By 1840 the Jamaica Almanac for Hanover lists a Samuel Dias as proprietor of 42 acres of land.  Unfortunately, the name of his property was not mentioned.  Other Dias relatives continued to be landholders: Joseph Dias owned 16 acres of land and Hetty Dias owned a property called Tobolskil which consisted of 74 acres.

 village of Dias is also associated with Walter Jekyll (1849 – 1929), an Englishman who lived in “Bower Hill”, near Dias.  He was a musician but is most remembered for his 1904 book of Anancy folklore and songs compiled by him and entitled, ‘Jamaican Song and Story’.  During his residence in Jamaica, Jekyll became friend and mentor to the young Jamaican poet and writer, Claude McKay (1889 – 1948).

Importantly, the district of Dias is loosely associated with the Ettu people, a traditional group that embraces various West-African retentions, especially as they pertain to the use of herbs, food, dance, music, and life cycle rituals where the use of the kola nut (“bizzy”) is especially important for purification.  Their primary focus is to invoke ancestral and other spirits for help in day-to-day matters.  The members are also very sensitive to signs and symbols within their group.  The Ettu is native to the parish of Hanover, and like the Nago of Westmoreland, they are a small collective of Jamaicans that claims direct descent from Nigerians brought to Jamaica as slaves in the 19th century.

Overtime, however, the Dias village became a strongly associated with the Presbyterian Church, which began its witness in the district during the late 19th century.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

XHTML: You can use these tags <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>