“Let’s go to Jamaica,” My Colombian husband proclaimed. In his mind, he could see Bob Marley singing in the jungle to his Rastafarian friends changing the world with “One Love”. Other visions popping in his mind were other black Caribbeans moving with the brilliant sounds and colors of the Island. Then, I took the reality needle and popped his balloon.
“Baby, it sounds nice but, Jamaica is a lot of hotels and they own all of the beaches and most people work for the hotels…” On and on I uttered my warnings. His eyes were still glassy with his vision. “It’s a bunch of tourists who come and…” Nope, he wasn’t hearing a word.
This was going to be one of those cases that he would have to experience himself to believe.
I booked a typical hotel though, that’s not true because when looking at hotels, I found that they seems to be either around $800 per night as a luxury room in a luxury hotel or $70 per night in a scary looking hotel. Maybe that would have been the way to go actually. Our hotel was on sale for $280 per night, still more than I like to spend. Book an Airbbnb you say? Sure, but then what about getting to the beach that’s owned by the big hotels?
Shame on me. This is where I totally blundered. Should have picked something local.
We had left the travel zone and entered the tourist zone. Tourists muddled left and right shuffling idly to and from the barn sized buffet to the giant pools like zombies. I saw the look of horror on John’s face. Before he said anything, I pipped in, “This is Jamaica. It’s big hotels, tourists from big countries who want to eat and go to the pool and drink.” My past warnings, I think, we’re now coming back to him.
My altruistic and perhaps naive side is screaming. This is the side of me that wants to see everyone have equal access to beaches, jobs, healthcare, etc. This is the side of me that would love to support local food and culture. This is the side of me that wants to tear off wrist bands and off limit elitist ropes for the luxury pool and off-limit beaches.
And to continue, surely I’m not the only person who sees similarities between the Caribbean tourist industry and the transatlantic slave era of the 17 and 18th centuries? I know this may sound a bit dramatic at first but, hold this idea for a minute and review – I see scores of tourists, mostly from 1st world countries, people settling on this island in the “big house” aka the giant hotel lobby which, often times resembles a plantation.
Jamaicans serve the overfed priviliged few who can afford to travel their breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These meals are served on fine linens and tables perfectly set. I almost fell on the pool deck when I saw waiters serving people on barcaloungers. The waiters were wearing white gloves during this heat! For real? And God forbid that you do anything for yourself because then, the workers will get in trouble for not attending properly to your every need. Meanwhile, the maids clean and restock your room.
And, then my personal battle rages further because the argument can easily be made that without the tourist industry, Jamaica would be less economically healthy. The image of the Celtic snake eating itself comes to mind.
We did escape the resort and explored Ocho Rios on our own for the more real Jamaican experience. This, I am happy to report, was entirely refreshing. I suppose it is what it is and I’m going to count m y blessings as one of the privileged few right?