HOW CUBA MAY AFFECT JAMAICA’S TOURISM – by Marlene Daley

"The Mutant Body" by Mugler, Fall/Winter 1997/98 Haute Couture Show

 

Just the thought of Cuba opening up made me tremble, as I sat at The Tropicana cabaret club in Santiago in 1997, watching their tourist presentation. The costumes were the finest, most fabulous…… what I relate to as French couture. I was having visions of tourists flooding the island and thought, “When they do, Jamaica is going to suck salt through a wooden spoon.” I was seeing the richest culture I had ever experienced on display. The support of The Soviet Union and Germany was evident in many areas but so too was the great importance placed on development of a tourist nature. I didn’t see how we could compete for scarce revenue generated through this sector.

Those fears have now become a reality and those thoughts, I might add, have been echoed by friends that I regard highly. There is going to be a massive reduction of tourists, and consequently, the laying off of too many people whose lifeblood is dependent on this if we do not act fast. The four ladies at the airport singing Three Little Birds is not going to be enough.

I have given much thought to how we as a country could touch the soul of our visitors in terms of having them experience the richness of our culture, and the only thought I have come up with is  creating an experience unique to us and expressed by our congo drummers pulled from across the island. This would be a concert of sorts, presented in a well-organized and beautiful way. The “roots” of our country, is where hope lies for us now, I think.

It was always a beauty to behold the uniformed lineup of men dressed in white on the Red Hills strip as they stood ready to serve up their drum chicken. Hopefully, that has already been replicated in areas on the North Coast. We have to go back to our roots which hold the most authentic, indigenous and unique experience of being Jamaican and we have to use scores of these congo drummers to tell the story of our history through chanting or the cultural representation which forms the basis of our orientation, to borrow from Edward Said. A particular evening/night of the week should be for just this experience on the beach, lit by huge bonfires. Tourists could be shuttled in by bus. Junkanoos could be used along with fife players at intervals, and of course with respect to this rich cultural experience one must be very particular about the kind of food that should be sold.  Corn pone, roast corn and coconut with a dash of sugar, drops, sugar cane, blue drawz(?), toe-toh, escoveitched fish and bammy or festival and maybe even stagga back. It cannot be chaka-chaka and there would be no need for stalls. It has to be well organized and well presented. It would be an unforgettable experience of pure rhythmical drumming that one would be tempted to walk across the water to have.

It would be wonderful to hear some more ideas.

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