Two Jamaicas

Yes, Bourdain, there are two Jamaicas.

As I anticipated watching the CNN special as Anthony Bourdain highlighted Jamaica, I thought about what he may really point out.  Don’t get me wrong.  Although I am an American nurse, I have travelled throughout the different parishes of this beloved island for almost 25 years. I fell in love with the island in 1989, and have visited often ever since.  I have tried to vary my vacation spots, but I am drawn to Jamaica even more when I go elsewhere.  I was hoping Bourdain would hit the not so ‘touristy’ areas and feature some real people.

He started off by talking about the food during the past slavery days on the island, and how rice and peas, callaloo, breadfruit, and the like were filling and plentiful.  Did he have to mention slavery?  I was insulted.  Moving on, he features a dinner at Trident Villas and Trident Castle with owner Michael Lee Chin, along with Errol Flynn’s extremely handsome and charming grandson Luke, who was born on the island.  As I paraphrase Luke’s statement, ‘you have not seen Jamaica until you have seen Port Antonio”, I thought, “Wow, he’s charming!”  Then, I slapped myself.  I had seen and heard enough.  But wait… I had to listen to Chris Blackwell’s description of his Goldeneye resort and how much he loves the island, also.  By then I was boiling mad.  The only part that made me smile was the ridiculous American with the cowboy hat at Margaritaville. Typical. That, and the ladies at the beach who are fighting to keep their beaches public.

Image Source:
Image Source: CNN Youtube Channel

I am glad Mr. Bourdain featured this amazing island on his show.  It’s great that Mr. Chin is so wealthy and Errol’s grandson loves Port Antonio, and that Chris Blackwell wants to expand Goldeneye. I buy that.  But I say to Luke, YOU haven’t seen Jamaica until you see a Type C hospital scrambling for supplies, nurses, and doctors.  As a nurse, I participated in a mission trip to Jamaica two months ago, along with nine other nurses, nurse practitioners, and a physician.  The nurse who organizes this trip has been doing it once a year for many years. I had not really seen Jamaica until I saw hospital beds with no sheets; wrist restraints made out of old towels and sheets; and no water pitchers or urinals for patients.  Hospitals with only one X-ray machine and NO ultrasound machine for expectant mothers.  I asked one of the registered nurses on a medical unit, “what is it that you need the most?”  She almost cried when she said, “Everything. We have nothing, you can see that”.  The Matron (equivalent to our Director of Nursing) almost cried when she saw the supplies that we donated.  The patients needed so much, including service.  The waiting room for the emergency room was completely filled, perhaps 200 or more people, and some had been waiting over 36 hours to be seen.  I can continue about the lack of basic medical care available to the citizens of Jamaica, but I am saving that for another story.


Americans who visit Jamaica should think about the social injustices occurring prior to booking their luxurious vacations at one of the many all-inclusives.  They should actually research the property to find out who owns it.  Most hotel workers make the equivalent of $US 80-100 per week, and that may be on the generous side.   Is it nice to stay at a Goldeneye villa, where it costs $925 per night?  Sure, I bet it is.  That amount in one night is more than what the average working Jamaican makes in two or three months. When you stay at Goldeneye, you are contributing to Chris Blackwell’s $180 million fortune. When you stay at a smaller, Jamaican-owned hotel or cottage or bread and breakfast, you are supporting the people who have been struggling to survive.  The ones who cannot send their children to school because of the outrageous school fees, lack of transportation, or inability to buy school uniforms.  I realize Luke was born there and his family made their home there.  However, there are two Jamaicas.  I just prefer the other Jamaica.  I purchased some Marley coffee recently here in Cleveland, and the taste of the Blue Mountain coffee really hit me as extraordinary.  But when I learned that Rohan Marley’s coffee farm pays the employees almost double of what comparable workers make in similar jobs, I will only drink Marley coffee.  Amazing coffee and social justice go together.

I prefer the Jamaica where the everyday people greet you with a smile, where the little roadside food stands pile the most amazing food high on a plate for you and welcome you with open arms.  Where they struggle with high unemployment, high interest rates, high taxes, yet every day are giving thanks to be alive.  Where you can walk along the beach in Negril and the lady who did my hair over a year ago calls out to me by name, hugging me like she did my hair yesterday. Going to the grocery store really angered me when I had to pay 16% tax for food. How does a government do this?  How does this beautiful paradise island stand a fighting chance against all the opportunists and foreign investment companies who come in and buy or build massive hotels and resorts, yet their people are hungry, their children cannot attend school for lack of funds, and a college education is a far reach for almost everyone? 

I have seen many churches there provide food, clothing, and transportation for their communities.  But yet their health care system and many hospitals lack the very basic necessary supplies and manpower needed for a healthy population.  ALL people should have access to medical care and medications, and not have to choose between A,B, and C hospitals or what they can afford.  Just two days ago my friend had a leg amputated in Jamaica and has to find his own wheelchair!  Yet the island collects arrival and departure taxes on each tourist in the amount of almost $50 USD. With the latest estimates at 3 million visitors per year, that tax alone nets $150 million per year.  Yet many of the patients we saw on our mission trip (almost 700) cannot afford their basic hypertension and diabetes medications. They split them in half, or take them every other day, to make them last; this also makes them totally ineffective.

If you want to stay at the Trident Castle or at Goldeneye, hey, that’s great and I promise you that you will have the vacation of a lifetime, most likely a few lifetimes.  I just prefer to direct my hard-earned money towards the ones who are struggling, who don’t know how they will survive from day to day.  Anthony Bourdain spoke about the days of slavery as if they were in the past.  Unfortunately for this amazing island and its’ wonderful citizens, those days are not in the past. And it doesn’t appear they will disappear anytime soon.

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Geoffrey Marshall
8 years ago

Good article, but don’t be insulted when slavery is mentioned. It’s a key part of the country’s history and a key reason why the other Jamaica exists. Denying it serves no good purpose.

Paul Tomlinson
8 years ago

The Bourdain piece is working for the people it serves, the powerful food industry, nothing else, no one else. Don’t think the intension was to highlight the ‘Other Jamaica’, that is not his problem or his interest reality. Surely the writer speaks the truth, but getting this message out above the noise of CNN is like David against Goliath, except in this case Goliath has won the first round. I hope the writer takes up her sling and write about the Other Jamaica, hopefully it will reach the same audience already brainwashed by CNN.

Kimberly Butler-Beckford

Excellent article.

Neika White
8 years ago

This is an absolutely amazing article. Thank u for living our little island so much that you can c past all that touristy bs and tell the truth.

James Theodore Francis

get over it…if u watched the man show on a regular u wolud have known his niche is food

Karen Rose Allen
8 years ago

This is not the first piece he has done on Jamaica and the first piece was as real as it got! Trench Town, Hellshire, Irish Town etc, he touched on poverty, crime , spoke with Muta, so what if he wants to now show another side of Jamaica. Should he consistently show the same things. Not because you work in nice luxury resort means the smiles are not genuine! There is more to Jamaica than our failing health sector, the fact that some people cannot send their kids to school and did he come down here and do a second… Read more »

Michael Officer
8 years ago

The show was fair and balanced, like all of his previous shows. The referenced to slavery was correct, and no Jamaican would find the comment to insulting in any way. I should know. I am a Jamaican. .

Wendell O. Richards
8 years ago

Good article. Funny you mentioned Negril though. One of the most contrived tourist driven town in Jamaica. Followed, by Mo Bay, Trelawny, Ocho Rios and Upper St. Mary . In Portland, that lady who did your hair wouldn’t only call you by your name, you’d know hers as well. But, your points are beyond valid.

Tracey-Ann Pinnock-Green

i think this article should be in the Sunday Jamaica Gleaner

Tracey-Ann Pinnock-Green

Love this

Diamondintheruff Davis

This extra stuff is not nessary right now CNN was mostly talking about food why over shadow his message with all the negative stuff .

Sophia Williams-Holness

true words

Michael Watson
8 years ago

No mentioned how Carl Bradshaw was allowed to curse using Jamaican badword on big CNN, i was shocked it was not censored knowing that it would be viewed by a large Jamaican audience.

Andrea StBernardmitchell

quite a familiar story throughout the Caribbean islands..sad but true

Clairmont Chung
8 years ago

A little condescending. It not 2 Jamaica: its two planet earth’s. That 16% sales tax was on the advice of the IMF to raise money to pay of the countries debt. A Debt owed to and owned by wall st banks and other vultures in the developed. In short, the one part of jamaica supports the other part of Jamaica but wall st. Too. The supplies you took to Jamaica could easily have been bought except we owe the corporations that run the politics of your developed country. So dont feel sorry for us change where you are.

Dan Kainula
8 years ago

Great article. Great people.

Gareth Dougal
8 years ago


Hugh M. Dunbar
8 years ago

I had mixed emotions watching the piece myself. The Jamaican problem started a long time ago, without any input from the majority of the people who were the slaves. The problem Jamaica has today is called lack of leadership. Strange, it seems clear to me that the British ruled till they had enough, then passed to the plantocrats, whose descendants are still in charge today. Now why would they want to give up a good thing. The best Jamaican for the plantocracy is uneducated, poor and ignorant. Those of us not from that group really need to know why the… Read more »

Janet Stiles
8 years ago

Fantastic and true article!! I have been going to Jamaica since 1980…six months after I opened my dental practice and felt that I needed a break! I fell in love with the country and have been returning a few times a year ever since. It is a beautiful island, yet wages are deplorable (if you can even land a job) and the average Jamaican struggles on a daily basis. Modern slavery definitely goes on, so keep on drinking that Marley coffee! I salute you!

Jamaica Mi Happy
8 years ago

Great Article. My sentiments exactly as I watched the showed. I anticipated seeing this episode from the day I heard of it and was extremely disappointed in what was portrayed!

Renae Williams
8 years ago

The truth and nothing but the truth

Monica Pawlowski
8 years ago

Watched it and felt …yes the good is fabulous and the people second to none and the location off the beaten track, but mr bourdain….. Call me. I will take you into the true ja feeling,exposé you to the best bumpin feeling and intro you to the reall Jamaican rasta world!!!! The food wil overwhelm you, YES YOU, and the location will give you cause to wonder

Aldane Brown
8 years ago

you hit the nail on the head

Aldane Brown
8 years ago

im feeling the effect of all that pain n trust me ima smart guy buy im out of ideas

Lavern McDonald
8 years ago

High five, Ms. P! More like you every time!

Janice Ingram
8 years ago

I enjoyed your article! I went to Negrill a few yrs back and just love the place. I did stay at a high end resort. But a shopped at the local beach and a great man by the Name of Winston (he sold conk shells off his boat) took me and my partner into town to shop some more. I met a lot of great local people. From my observation there where either rich people or poor people. And yes it sadden me. I want to go back to this beautiful country and would love to stay at a locally… Read more »

Dane Thompsons
8 years ago

Why was the idiot who wrote this document felt insulted because the guy mentioned slavery? B**** please, that was how many years ago?

Zadie Neufville
8 years ago

Exactly right Geoffery and Paul. By an large we are not insulted by the mention of slavery. I don’t think most of us living here are are that offended by mentions of the slavery past. In fact the foods we eat all of it, are a throwback, to that cruel period of the islands history…salted fish, pig tail and corned beef all feature prominently in the delicious foods we make eat and share. I dare say, if Anthony had gone to some of the places alluded to in this piece, I am sure many, many of us would have cussed… Read more »

Bianca Bianca
8 years ago

Thank you so much. It full time it takes people from abroad to enlightened our facts; weather its good or bad. Sadly they are usually not Jamaicans. From a child growing up Jamaica gas serious class system. Its a chronic issue as it is formulated in our homes. You have not said anything wronwrong as some of these same bloggers are guilty of disregarding their own. Being a registered nurse who have been involved in giving back. I hurts so much to see charity workers from abroad covering their own expenses yet we have people right there would not make… Read more »

Robin Baston
8 years ago

Its an opinion. But consider the lee chins and blackwells who are jamaican, the amount employment the do create with their developments and in the running of their hotels. And those jobs are highly sought. Put the blame on so much of the poverty and lack of supplies like in the hospital where it squarely lies. The succesive governments of Jamaica with their cheonic mismanagement and corruption. And regarding slavery, jamicans are proud of and celebrate our “slave” food which are now world known delicacies. In many ways colonialism and that legacy long after emancipation has done way more damage… Read more »

Gerald Stephenson
8 years ago

Watched the show, hated it, Michael Chin was so arrogant & rude, Karl Bradshaw was so HIGH & talking rubbish & swearing & the rest just showed local men smoking WEED as if that’s all they do.l was so embarrassed. Anthony Bourdain himself looked disappointed.

Patrick G. Perrin
8 years ago

Thanks for sharing this. Certainly written by someone with both a social conscience and a high level of social consciousness.

Christopher Senior
8 years ago

There’s a lot of people biting at you Marie but that’s just because they don’t want the reality of the true Jamaica to surface. You didn’t just highlighted the issue but you also provided solutions, in other words you gave of yourself and that is what real people will always appreciate. Don’t ever be discouraged and thank you from those of us who recognizes the need. As my mother would say ” may God always keep your basket full”.

Mia Will
8 years ago

I thought the show was fairly good, minus the excessive weed smoking and drinking. You can’t possibly cover all the beauty of this amazing island in the time allotted for his show. I thought Port Antonio was a great place to cover since it is the least touristy place of them all. The show made me proud of my people and the struggles they, in Jamaica, continue to withstand, we are a strong people and we are survivors in a world that is so unfair and unjust. The show and your article makes me want to give back even more… Read more »

Judine Goodasfidem
8 years ago

Wow This article highlights the plight of the poor that never makes it to mainstream media….. that’s the real Jamaica , it’s either you are rich or poor. Hardly any in between.

Elton Brown
8 years ago

Why be mad at Bourdain – he did no injustice. Jamaica and it’s problems are created by its corrupt govt and inept people – trust me I know. Slavery is a part of our history that helped shale our culture. Good read though

Rok Nuzi
8 years ago

The “slavery” that exists in Jamaica today has more to do with IMF WTO policies. As a result of IMF policies the JA Government has to reduce expenditure on education and health (non-earning industries). It does this while turning a blind eye to the taxation on food items (which raises revenue) and at the same time the WTO insists Jamaica not subsidize its farmers while turning a bling/blind eye to chinese currency manipulation (aka subsidization) and US supplements to its own farmers. The net effect is impoverishment (aka slavery) of Jamaican farmers and migration (aka middle passage) of workers to… Read more »

Phillip Williams
8 years ago

nice article marie, very well written and very accurate. a lot of us jamaicans would prefer that the problems u highlighted not be spoken about but they need to be put on the front burner in the hope that they may shame the powers that be into doing something about the deplorable conditions that exist on the island so thank u and keep the ink flowing.

Natesha Jameison
8 years ago

Great article. It’s an eye opener! Jamaicans settle for too much mediocre!

Shoba Chopra
8 years ago

Good article.

Dorothy Miller
8 years ago

I am proud of my country and what we do with the limited resources available. However let us not pretend as if it is all honky dory in the great USA. People have had long waits in ERs and some have even died on the floor. You should also get your facts about our education system. No child is denied an education at the primary nor secondary level because of the inability to pay the usual reasonable auxiliary fees. The only exorbitant fees are for those who choose to send their children to expensive private schools like Hillel or The… Read more »

Mosiah Wilson
8 years ago

I am so happy you wrote this. I was reading it and almost cried because every word of it is true . I am from that other Jamaica, now living in America and attending nursing school. People always want me to tell them about my wonderful island. I always ask then which one they want to hear about . Thank you so much for writing

Franklyn Jaghroo
8 years ago

Let’s not forget the other Jamaica who are the heart and soul of Jamaica. Those who are persevering amid the struggle they face daily. We need to tell their success.

Elon Wilson
8 years ago

i agree with you 200%

R-Lloyd Samuels
8 years ago

Very good article Marie. I too share Geoffrey ‘ s view on not being insulted by slavery, as it is true that it’s a part of our past. These magazine programmes only in their own way attempt to promote the food industry, and by extension the hotels that hosted him on the island. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t stay at the properties. I’m quite sure, and I may be mistaken, that they had some part to play in his being on the island. What we, especially us Jamaicans who live and work on the island, need to keep… Read more »

Claudia Baker-Rijker
8 years ago

I read this and realized she was echoing my frustrations about the two Jamaica’s, of course the ones entrusted with the task of improving our health care(politicians) dont care or have any interest in improving our hospitals,as they and their families all fly to Miami for hospital care!

Ruth Taylor-Hamilton
8 years ago

Anthony Bourdain’s goal was to get us all to do what we are doing now i.e. raise awareness, publicize it and get us all involved. He pulled a Oprah on us the audience, he posed the question/presented the situation and let the participants – the two sides of JA answer it, which really puts the spotlight on the guilty ones regardless of how they pretty up their answers and he really highlight the exploited’s plights.

Anthony Chambers
8 years ago

Marie, I have no criticisms of your article. What is wonderful is that you wrote it “from your heart”. That is where lasting decisions are made, the type of decisions that change destinies! Thank you for your care of, and concerns with the people of Jamaica. Everyone will not share your sentiments, but I for one appreciate you for sharing yours.

“Walk good”,

Jeremy Francis
8 years ago

Very thought provoking article, written with passion. I enjoyed reading it.

Howard Bogle
8 years ago

Great article, you touched some excellent solid points. the country is in a deplorable state management could never give you a solid reason to explain same, but I believe if you should observe the handling of a some what simple incident such as the chickengunua out break, with government denying it even when its standing on its nose bridge looking them into the eye, they will tell you “nothing nuh go suh” how do you expect them to acknowledge issues affect wide spanning areas of the island, its not like they are going there for any form of treatment they… Read more »