Tropical Paradise In a quaint little village tucked away on a beautiful Caribbean island, lays the seaside town of Runaway bay. A town filled with deep rooted culture on an island filled with welcoming natives. The pleasant vibes of reggae music and Rastafarian culture flow from the hills to the sandy shores. This island rich with tropical fruits and spices is located in the heart of the Greater Antilles. History tells that the enslaved island once known to its natives as "Xaymeca", has come a long way in becoming the independent nation known today as Jamaica. In the Sea of many islands known as the West Indies, Jamaica stands peaceful, welcoming tourist and expanding rapidly.

From an early age my passion for the island and its culture has grown strong. From a brief history, through a look into the present day culture and society of Jamaica, my fascination with the island will bares true meaning. Between the broken land barrier of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea span a great region of tropical islands. These islands once dominated by Taino, Arawak, and Carib Indians were over come by Spanish settlers in the early sixteenth century. Columbus and the Conquistadors brought disease, death and enslavement to the native tribes. In the year 1655 the English were forced to settle for the island of Jamaica after a failed attempt to conquer His panola over the ruling Spaniards.

With the English came African slaves, these descendants spawned their offspring into slavery for years to come. The Jamaican people come for a broad background of mixed cultures. The majority are descendants of slaves who faced years of oppression. With in the large population of slaves in Jamaican history were a group of rebels known as the "Maroons." This courageous group escaped into the mountains of Jamaica isolating tribe gaining freedom on an enslaved island. Through hardships and in due time slavery was abolished. On August 6 th, 1962 Jamaica gained its freedom and became the independent nation it is today.

From the hardships of slavery and the ongoing struggle to become an independent nation a movement arose through stories and songs that sang of oppression. This movement became the spirit and culture of Jamaica. On February 6 th, 1945 the legendary king of reggae was born in the mountains of St. Ann, Jamaica, in the town called nine mile. Marley sang with a powerful passion, he created a reggae style that mesmerized the relating Jamaican public. His growing style encompassed every aspect in the rise of Jamaican music, from ska to contemporary reggae.

Marley's lyrics lifted spirits and united nations. Robert Nesta Marley is put on a higher thresh hold that any before him, he stands on the podium as the greatest musician in this century. Through reggae Marley lives on influencing many well known bands today. Marley sang of love and above all else "Jah" a god in one of the many religions worshiped in Jamaica.

The religion most commonly associated with Jamaican culture is Rastafarianism. This group of free spirited natives known as the Rastafarian's be live in the spiritual use of marijuana, known to this island as "Ganja." They speak Patios, pronounced (pa-twa a), an extreme Jamaican slang of the English language. Rastafarians live off the land and worship freely in the green mountains of the inner island. From an economic stand point Jamaica is generally a poor country with an average family income of 2, 000 dollars a year. As a result Jamaican people rely heavily on the precious U. S.

dollar brought in through tourism. Jamaica's number one source for trade is Bauxite. The mineral rock Bauxite is rich within the rocky coast of the island. Although the overall status of Jamaican society remains poor, the abundant source of fish, fruits, and spices keep the natives well fed.

Curry goat and Akai (saltfish / eggs ) fill the bellies of Jamaicans everyday. Among my favorites are jerk pork and chicken. A dish marinated in spices and fried served with sliced fruit bread and rice. On occasion an ice cold Red Stripe, Jamaica's smooth authentic beer, is a unique blend to wash down the spicy island foods. My unforgettable experiences with Jamaican foods and culture have been authentic and memorable. Since my first visit to Jamaica at the tender age of four, I've been fascinated with the history and everyday life of Jamaica and its people.

I've enjoyed the sweet sounds of reggae jams and rhythmic passions since I was in diapers. In the Early 1970's during a hard economic struggle in Jamaican history, my grandparents on my mother's side purchased a seaside cottage in Runaway Bay. After recently separating early last year, my grandmother moved to Florida while my grandfather claimed his permanent residence in Jamaica. Perhaps the most memorable of my four visits to the island, was this past winter break. During week six of Basic Combat Training for the United States Army I received a letter that lifted my spirits for the duration of my training. In this unforgettable letter, my mother wrote to tell me about an early Christmas present that my family and I would receive.

She had purchased six tickets for my father, my sister, my sister's boyfriend, my girlfriend, her self and I to Jamaica for a week. We left the day after Christmas only to return the day after New Years. We ate like kings and queens, flocking to the table after every sound of the meal bell. My grandfather hired two girls that live in one of the guest quarters. They cook authentic Jamaican meals, help with the upkeep of the cottage and hung out with the family braiding my girlfriend's hair. In return Miss Ann Marie and Betty receive lodging, food and by Jamaican standards excellent pay.

We experienced the pleasures of climbing Dunn River Falls and witnessed the resting place of the reggae legend Bob Marley at Nine Mile. This was the first time I got to spend more than three day with my girlfriend in six months! Lying in bed we enjoyed the mystic sounds of the ocean wave's crashing into the rocky shores below. The constant chirp of night crickets along with the enchanting scent of the seaside air is unexplainable. Sharing this unforgettable experience with the people I loved and missed the most was amazing. Through a brief history, to a look into the present day culture and society of Jamaica my fascination with the island bares true meaning.

I proudly support American tourism through Jamaica in hopes of fueling the struggling economy. Speaking form experience Jamaica is an island filled with deep cultural roots in a growing society of unique natives. Reggae music proudly defines its people, culture and tropical land. In time my plans to return to the tropical paradise stand strong. Whether you " re a rigid woodsman or the delicate resort type Jamaica will enlighten your mind and sooth your vacationing needs. "One love, one heart, come to Jamaica and feel alright", is a quote that displays the easy going free spirits of Jamaican people.

One cant help to leave the island without saying "yeah mon", while feeling the Jamaican's " don't worry, be happy" attitude towards life. -The End-.