Monday, July 9, 2007

Post-Colonialism on Vacation

I've traveled relatively extensively, because my mother is in the travel business and travel is valued in our family. I've been to several countries around the world, but I have never been to a country quite like Jamaica. Jamaica's history is very interesting. They were colonized by both Spain and England and used as a significant port in the slave trade. In addition to the African, indigenous, and European people who have made homes in Jamaica, Chinese and Indian people have also immigrated there.

Jamaica has only recently emerged from colonial rule, having achieved their independence from England in the 1960s. Once independent, the country struggled with violence and poverty. Now, they have emerged as a developing nation, connected to their history and their many cultures.

When I arrived in Montego Bay, the resort arranged a transfer to the small village of Whitehouse, 90 minutes away. As we drove through Montego Bay, I was immediately struck by the level of poverty in the city. We drove by tin shanties and, to me the most heartbreaking, dilapidated schools. However, as we started driving through the mountains outside of Montego Bay, I noticed that there were more comfortable buildings and structures.

This drive reminded me of how fortunate I am. I realized, in a way that I had not before, what it means to be a colonized country. The more I learned about Jamaica and their culture, the more this realization hit home. This poverty and struggle is a direct result of their centuries-long colonization by England. Even their unofficial language, patois, is a direct result of colonization and slavery. Slaves created a language that is combination of Swahili, English, Spanish, and French as a way to communicate with each other in a way that the plantation owners could not understand. After this trip, I understood post-colonial theory in a new way, having seen the results of colonialism.

I would strongly recommend a trip to Jamaica. I think it is so important to support developing countries with tourism, which is often the main industry in countries like Jamaica. Also, the country is beautiful, verdant mountains and plains, surrounded by miles of coast line and the turquoise blue sea. Finally, the people are kind, friendly, and joyful in contrast to our harried American personality.