The Mystique of Jamaica
by Linda Martinez
Getting up close and personal with a crocodile
Jamaica Independence Article/ Story Contest - Entry #12 - The Mystique of Jamaica
Jamaica holds a special place in my heart for many reasons, but as I reflect back when I really began to have a fascination with Jamaica, it was many years ago as a teenager.
I was really in love with Harry Belafonte and although he was not born in Jamaica, he represented Jamaica to me. As the years marched on, I read everything I could about Jamaica and the history of the country.
My fascination was further fueled by my favorite movie, Cool Runnings. I had my first opportunity to visit Jamaica while I was in graduate school.
I was sent to Montego Bay to present a paper. Jamaica was everything I knew it would be. The people are beautiful, welcoming, and caring. I knew then it would always be the place I would choose when picking a destination.
The next year, I had the opportunity to co-develop Harry Belafonte's website and was thrilled when I actually got to sit beside him on a train. He told me all about his years of growing up in Jamaica and painted a picture no artist could duplicate.
He drew me a map of where he grew up and told me I must go visit his village. Coincidentally, I was heading to Jamaica for my 2nd time at the end of that week.
When I landed in Jamaica, I found a driver willing to take me to the area, where I got to visit with some of the people who were still around that remembered Harry. It was such a joy to get to experience the real Jamaica.
No other place on earth can lay claim to artists like Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Sly and Robbie, and Bunny Wailer, just to name a few.
Although it is more difficult in today's world to find reggae everywhere you turn, as you could a few years ago, it is still the birthplace of so many great artists who have shaped so much of today's music. All my music devices are set to reggae because it always takes me to a peaceful place and makes me smile.
Jamaica offers so many opportunities to not only do the tourist “thing,” but to seek out hidden gems that you will find nowhere else in the world. My boyfriend and I stay at the all-inclusive resorts, but we only lay our heads to rest there. We always hit the road with our long time driver, who has become a dear friend over the years. We go where the locals eat, play, and live.
We marveled at the blue water in the Blue Lagoon and I swam under the moonlight, which was an incredible experience. We have eaten at the Zimbali Culinary retreat which was truly an extraordinary culinary experience that I can still taste today.
We toured the Green Grotto Caves and ate a meal prepared under a canopy and served in a coconut shell by a Rasta. We saw cashews growing on a tree for the first time and got to try one fresh off the tree.
We visited the Rastafarian Village and got to play the Djembe drums and meet the grand master. We ate the best land crabs ever off the streets of Kingston and the best shrimp ever at the Black River, where we came face to face with huge and baby crocodiles. We visited Peter Tosh’s museum and had a personal tour of Bunny Wailer’s home/museum.
We went to Tuff Gong Studio where my boyfriend had fun in the recording studio with the tour guide and local artist.
In November of 2017, we flew to Kingston to attend the Caribbean Now Jamathon Hurricane Benefit concert and were thrilled with all the stars we got see – truly a once in a lifetime experience.
On several of our trips, we went to Rick’s Café in Negril where we went parasailing and walked the beautiful 7-mile beach at sunset. But, of the most outstanding memories for me was when the house band let my boyfriend, who is an accomplished drummer, sit in with them and play “Pass the Dutchie” and “Night Nurse.” One of the the most memorable experiences for my boyfriend was catching a 190lb Marlin after just an hour on the water and it took him a good hour to reel it in! These are just a few of the precious memories we have collected over the years.
We have been back many times since my first visit to Jamaica. My driver says we are unlike any tourists he has driven over the years, we truly want to experience the real Jamaica and get to know the people and the culture that encompasses this wonderful country, both in the city and in the rural areas. We had been to all the parishes except 2 - then COVID hit. So, as soon as we travel again, we will be visiting those 2 parishes and revisiting the other ones we especially love.
To try to sum up one special memory of Jamaica would be impossible. There are truly no words to describe my affinity for Jamaica!
Jamaica is truly love - from the meaningful and soul searching reggae music lyrics and rhythms to the gorgeous shores to the breathtaking mountains - there is simply no place like Jamaica!
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