Cultural market opens at East End Blow Holes

A new market featuring local foods and East End crafts has opened across from the Blow Holes. A sign high on a pole on Sea View Road, opposite the popular attraction, points tourists to the shaded craft stands and picnic tables. 

Across from the stairway leading down to the rocks, the new venture hopes to pull in tourists who stop by the side of the road to watch the geyser-like displays. Tourists can now see artisans, all from East End, ply their craft, carving driftwood into statues and furniture, or weaving thatch palm into hats, baskets and fans. 

At the Blow Holes, plumes of seawater shoot 20 to 30 feet into the air from submerged caverns as wave after wave crashes ashore, an effect due to pressurized water and air being forced through the holes and caves carved into the rock over eons. 

“The popular landmark is often the first impression that visitors get of East End before they enter the district, but there is nothing else there for them to do,” said East Ender Edney McLean, now retired, who said he came up with the idea decades ago. 

For many years, Mr. McLean has wanted to develop the area around the popular site to offer more of a cultural experience to visitors. 

“By providing more cultural things for visitors to buy and see, visiting the Blow Holes will only further enhance their Cayman vacation experience and give them something to look forward to when they return,” he said. 

To kick-start the initiative on Saturday, Mr. McLean, along with other East End artisans and cooks, welcomed visitors to an open-air market. 

Visitors were treated to a wide sampling of local heritage and culture, including guided tours, arts and crafts, folk tales and music. Local cuisine is also on offer, including turtle stew, salt beef, fried fish and coconut water. 

“The attraction will help boost our economy and support our tourism industry by providing a high-quality welcome to East End for all visitors to enjoy,” said Mr. McLean. 

The idea to make the attraction into something broader was born 30 years ago, he said. 

“I’m keeping it Caymanian,” Mr. McLean said. “We’re losing too much of our culture. When I see people selling things with a tag made in Cayman but not from Cayman, it makes me want to offer a more genuine taste of not just East End, but Cayman on a whole.” 

The initiative also gives artists, cooks and farmers in East End an outlet to sell their goods. 

“A lot of tourists come to the Blow Holes … sometimes up to 200 tourists in one day,” he said. “They stop, take pictures and then what? They ask for something to drink after making the short hike and local things to buy, but there is nothing for them. By providing these things, the visitors will find the area more pleasing.” 

The market will be open throughout the week except for Sundays. 

Alan Ebanks is a tour guide at the Blow Holes in East End. - Photo: Jewel Levy

Alan Ebanks is a tour guide at the Blow Holes in East End. – Photo: Jewel Levy

Edney McLean shows off a stingray he carved from a single piece of driftwood found in East End. – Photos: Charles Duncan

Edney McLean shows off a stingray he carved from a single piece of driftwood found in East End. – Photos: Charles Duncan

Carmen Connolly and Eulene McLaughlin demonstrate thatching at the new market at the Blow Holes.

Carmen Connolly and Eulene McLaughlin demonstrate thatching at the new market at the Blow Holes.
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