Jamaicans on island are calling all Caymanian “bredren” to come on down to George Town and help them “big up” Jamaica Independence Day.
On Thursday, Aug. 6, Jamaica will celebrate 53 years of independence from England. The celebration on Friday, Aug. 7 will provide entertainment for all ages and showcase Jamaican culture through traditional dance, music, speech, crafts and food on Cardinall Avenue downtown.
Over the years, the links between Cayman and Jamaica have remained strong, with many local families counting Jamaicans among their relatives, and many Jamaicans opting to live and work in Cayman. According to Immigration Department records, as of this summer, 9,000 Jamaicans hold work permits in the Cayman Islands.
England took formal control of the Cayman Islands, along with Jamaica, as a result of the Treaty of Madrid of 1670. Following several unsuccessful attempts at settlement, a permanent English-speaking population in the islands dates from the 1730s.
In 1863, the Cayman Islands was declared a dependency of Jamaica, a relationship which lasted 99 years until 1962, when Jamaica became independent and the Cayman Islands chose to remain a Crown colony.
In many ways, Jamaica is somewhat of an older sibling to Cayman.
When Hubert Reid was getting ready to leave Jamaica to live in Cayman 62 years ago, a friend in Jamaica asked him to pick up some turtle meat from the waterfront that her brother was sending to her from Cayman. When he saw the people coming off the boat from Cayman, he decided he wanted to learn more about the country, so he asked a woman about it. He was warned: “If you ever go over there, mosquitoes will kill you.”
The warning did not deter Mr. Reid, who is now 80, who secured his ticket on the Caribe Queen vessel bound for Cayman. In those days, there were no flights from Jamaica to Cayman. His ticket cost him 40 pounds.
“When the ship came to George Town, it was so rough it had to anchor off the West Bay graveyard,” Mr. Reid said. He recalled how he walked from West Bay to George Town with his briefcase in hand.
“There was very little transportation in Cayman in those days and very little accommodations. I found a place to live at Mr. Morrison’s on Shedden Road,” he said.
He remembers borrowing a bike to look for work in West Bay. “I asked a lady in West Bay if she wanted me to wire her house, [and] she asked me if I had carried the current on my bicycle because most people were using lamp light.
“In the ‘50s there was nothing here to do,” Mr. Reid said. “Many residents got up early to do chores, cooking and do housekeeping. The men went to sea and women stayed home.” Slowly over the years, Jamaicans trickled into the country as it started to develop.
“When Jamaicans really started coming to Cayman, plenty of them behaved themselves and gave no trouble and I gave them plenty of work,” Mr. Reid recalls. “One thing I can say is, Cayman improved more than 100 percent more than Jamaica in the years coming forward, although [it] started late and depended on Jamaica for its existence.”
Mr. Reid said that “to celebrate Independence Day with Jamaica in Cayman is just like celebrating it at home with family and friends – that is how close the Jamaican people and the Caymanians are.
He added he would like to see Caymanians and Jamaicans keep the same close relationship they have had in the past, helping each other out.
“Caymanians and Jamaicans should celebrate Independence Day by closing down the work, hauling out the cook pans and have a big party when the day rolls around,” said Mr. Reid.
Raseen Baily, 35, a Jamaican who works on island, made his first trip to Cayman a year ago, and he says it was such a pleasant experience he had to come back.
When Mr. Bailey first arrived in Cayman, he went to live in North Side with his sister. He borrowed her car and drove to George Town to check it out.
“Getting there was pretty OK, getting back to North Side was the problem,” he said. After losing his way and ending up in North Sound Estates, he stopped to ask a Caymanian to give him directions.
“I said ‘good evening ma’am, could you give me directions to North Side,’ [and] she took one look at me and said, ‘Cayman is too small for you … goodbye.’”
Mr. Bailey soon found his way around.
“Cayman’s rich car culture, a tropical country like back home and less violence was what drew me back to Cayman to work for Cayman Auto Diagnostic,” Mr. Bailey said.
He said the Caymanians speak proper English, are very loving and calm, and the island has nice quiet bars and beautiful seafront views.
“It is similar to Jamaica, but my people are more aggressive where Caymanians are more passive,” Mr. Bailey said. “Coming to Cayman taught me to be less aggressive both at work and in everyday living.”
He celebrated Jamaica’s Independence Day last year in Cayman, and says Caymanians showed Jamaicans lots of appreciation, and he found lots of Jamaican food in Cayman to enjoy.
This year, though, Mr. Bailey will head back home to celebrate Independence Day with his family.
Independence Day activities Aug. 7.
In George Town, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., there will be food stalls featuring traditional Jamaican dishes set up along Cardinall Avenue where residents and visitors can partake in breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu will include roast yam and salt fish, rundown, jerk chicken and pork, mannish water, ackee and salt fish, chocolate tea, salt-fish fritters, rice and peas, blue drawers and potato and cornmeal pudding.
The food stalls will be given names of places in Jamaica famous for their food, such as Faith’s Pen, Little Ochi, Devon House and Hellshire.
There will be a lunch-hour cultural presentation with performing artists.
From 6 p.m. until late, at the Jacques Scott Compound on Shedden Road, the evening’s activities will begin with gospel music followed by the prime minister of Jamaica’s independence message, presented by Dr. Joe Marzouca, honorary Jamaican consul.
Food stalls will be set up and there will be a song competition and a dance competition. Two Jamaican international reggae artists, Anthony Cruz and George Nook, will be part of the celebrations. Michelle T and friends will kick-start the performances.
Cayman Brac celebration Aug. 8.
Jamaican Culture-Conscious Committee will present “One-Love Independence, Emancipation Showdown” at Scott’s Dock on Cayman Brac at 7 p.m.