In 1700, masses of slaves sailed into the inlet of Montego Bay—the coast on either side of them serving as sandy prison doors—rowing themselves into their own prison. What an image, one that a slave, rowing beneath the deck of the ship, never would have even seen.
Today, masses of tourists come into Montego Bay by passenger jet, yet most come without ever visiting Jamaica. They visit private beaches and resorts which could be mistaken for any Sandals resort across the Caribbean. The only way they know they’re in Jamaica is by the stamp on their passports.
By the hand of God, Jamaica’s a land of natural beauty with lush, tropical flora in which one is never far from water, whether by the shore or a river bank.
By the hand of man, Jamaica’s a land covered in remnants of grand Georgian and Spanish plantations and houses, beautiful on the outside, many of which are in disrepair on the inside. It is a country with both wealth and ghettos. It’s an island where resorts for tourists at times seem to take up more land than houses for locals.
The majority of resorts are Jamaican owned and operated, and many are staffed by Jamaicans working 70 hours a week, hosting Western tourists, many with the false mindset that “we no longer colonize your people, but we still colonize your land. Jamaica, show us your beaches, your coasts, your beautiful land, but not your ugly, scary people.” Tourists are advised not to leave the resorts, lest they encounter one of these ugly, scary Jamaican people.
“Vendors and peddlers will hustle tourists out of their money,” one tourist told me. “Prostitutes are easier to find in the water than jellyfish, and girls aren’t the least bit shameful to ask you to ‘be their friend,’ or ‘hang out.’”
Peddlers and prostitutes do exist (where don’t they?). So do friendliness and modesty—women dressed in long skirts and headscarves and men who happily talk to me in English with no intention or expectation of anything more than conversation. So do culture and normal daily life, an image that most visitors, locking themselves within the confines of their resort, will never see.