This lucky reporter got to go to Jamaica this week to cover a travel and tourism trade show. I had a blast, learned a lot about the industry, and got to see a little bit of Montego Bay and the nearby town of Falmouth.
By far, my favorite thing was getting to talk to the people who live and work in Montego Bay. I’ll grant that most of them work in an industry with a vested interest in promoting the positive aspects of their little corner of paradise, but even with my professional bullshit-detecting skills working, I came away with an overwhelming sense of how Jamaica’s reputation is worse than it deserves.
For your consideration, I present a few of the most glaring examples of how MoBay, at least, is not what you might expect from Jamaica.
1. Queer-friendly: As a region, the Caribbean may be behind in terms of acceptance of openly lesbian, gay, trans and other queer folk, but from what I saw, MoBay was pretty — well — fabulous. They may not have been wearing gay pride T-shirts, but neither were the guys and gals I met sporting coded hankies. In short, LGBT people weren’t making a secret of who they were, which I (perhaps optimistically) believe means they feel safe enough to be out of the closet.
2. Pot… not: Lots of folks associate Jamaica with weed-smoking, but I didn’t see — or smell — any marijuana the few days I was there. (This includes work time, sightseeing time, around town time and party time). I saw quite a few dread-sporting Rastafarians, but not a bit of pot.
3. Following the rules: The Jamaican equivalent of the TSA was way more strict and thorough than any I’ve encountered in the US. Just sayin’.
4. Crime: I’m pretty careful. I keep an eye on my stuff, don’t travel with too many valuables if I can help it, and just generally try to stay safe. At the same time, I didn’t experience or witness any crime on this trip, and neither did the busload of other journalists on this particular trip.
So maybe the next time you hear a broad and possibly offensive generalization about the home of the Honorable Robert Nesta Marley, think twice about whether to believe it!