Monday, March 14, 2011

My Favourite Parish: Portland

Born and bred in Kingston and St. Andrew, that is the place I call home but it is the rural parish of Portland with its capital Port Antonio that I hope will be my final resting place. This is where I have instructed my family to spread my ashes. If Portland was a woman she would be my first and only love, it is the place where I am at peace as the stress of everyday life melts away. Nothing matters when I am in Portland, the world takes a back seat when I am in Portland.

My love for Portie started at a very young age back in the 70’s. At that time my aunt was the general manager for a couple of Portland’s finest hotels and I would spend almost every school holidays with her. Port Antonio was freedom to me as our aunt had no idea where we were or what we were doing. Well until she get the bills we ran up on our exploration, it seems we could go from property to property order things and tell them to put it on our dear aunts bill. Over the years we amassed a legion of friends both local and foreign as we conquer and colonized Portie. Once we set out, we had no idea what was going to happen or how the day will end.  From Goblin Hill to Dragons Bay climbing trees and picking apples, to the Blue Lagoon for lunch, a ride on the glass bottom boat then to San San and maybe hitch a ride to the town and back. Bedtime did not exist for us, we stayed up listening to duppy stories told to us by the night watchman, then raided the hotel kitchen, that was how we roll. I remember my aunt sending us to catch soldier crabs for the Hotel’s crab race, going into the dark bushes to find these crabs and off course someone would shout duppy a come and everyone would tek-off light a light. The smell of the property, or Portland and the night noises will always be with me.

There are certain experiences in life that you lock away for a rainy miserable day, experiences you will never forget and never want to forget because it warms your heart and take you to that happy place. Well my entire experience in Portland is filled with nothing but happy memories. 

I remember our laughter and screams as we played in the hotel pool, jumping in and out, diving from the diving board and pushing each other in. I remember we played Marco Polo and treasure hunt as we retrieved various items from the bottom of the pool placed there while we closed our eyes.  I remember seeing our parents relaxing near the tennis court with drinks in hand, having various conversations as they kept a watchful eye on us.

Fast forward 3 decades when I had the pleasure of being their with my entire family, to this very same Hotel, all the family and friends with another generation of kids doing exactly what we use to do. The laughter, the screams and playing of games as they jump in and out of the pool while we stand aside engaged in conversations with a rum in hand. The diving board is gone now, so is the hotel kitchen but very little had changed about the place, still full of charm, still my beloved Portie. It was then that my Aunt came over and said “does this remind you of anything?” and I had to laugh because the sound of laughter at the Goblin Hill pool will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Historically Portland has not been an easy place to get to, it is rumored that this was by design. It was said that Portland’s other lovers did not want to share her with the outside world and I fully understand why. Portland's natural beauty is second to none, stunningly inviting, green, lush and so very fertile, she warms by heart and calls out to me when I am away from her.

The economic state of Portland has been in decline for some time now caused mainly by her isolation and the transformation of tourism, from community base to the dreaded Negril style all-Inclusive, bland, generic tourism with tenement yard looking gated compounds that we see today. Over the past decade several prominent Jamaicans have set their sights on the Parish, buying up real estate as soon as it goes on the market and in most cases they have done nothing with the properties bought. First we heard they were waiting for a new Highway into the parish, when that was given, we then heard that nothing will happen until the new airport in St. Mary comes online, that airport is now online and so I am very afraid for the future of my beloved Parish, what will she become? Will they transform/Pimp out my Portland from a Beautiful, Reclusive, Innocent shy little girl, to a harden money making Negril like "Drunken Crack Whore" turning tricks nightly for vomiting, half naked spring breakers or will she evolve into something that is pure, natural, holistic and beautiful.

I have long since abandoned places like Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios to the Rent-A-Dreads, crack whores and the tourist that loves them. They are all peas in a pod and deserve each other, I laugh every time a tourist complains that they were being harassed in those areas. I too was harassed in Negril but it was not from a fellow Jamaican but from a pack of drunk, crack and weed hungry tourist. Having to explain to one tourist after another that I don’t do drugs, don’t have any drugs and don’t know where to get drugs became too much for me and so I declared never to return, a shelf impose exile is in place. Anyway I prefer nice, quiet, mature, scenic part of my island for rest and relaxation. 

Spring Break Negril

I have no faith is the people driving Portland’s redevelopment, they are pimps. I have seen their handy work, their concept of progress and I do not like it one bit. There was a time when you could drive from Montego Bay to Negril and enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the Jamaican coastline but not anymore. It has been transformed into something hideous, tacky, monolithic and generic because ugly all-inclusive resorts litter the landscape, blocking your every view and destroying the once beautiful, natural Jamaican countryside. This is an environmental disaster, no different than the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico with the same effects on the ecosystem and should never have been allowed. Which goes to show that no amount of money can buy class.

Just recently one of these classless yobs with money devised a plan to build villas on Pellew Island also know as Monkey Island off the coast of San San Beach in Port Antonio. Environmentalist both local and abroad decided that this was not going to happen without a fight and fight they did. In the end the parish council did not approve the plan and the island was saved (for now). To me Pellew Island is The Symbol of Portland recognized worldwide. If Portland had a flag, then a picture of this island should be on that Flag. In any case that island should never have been in private hands but instead protected and owned by the people of Jamaica. Greed will be the death of us!

So now some idiot with more money than sense decided to create an artificial beach at the Blue Lagoon, I am sure the various ministers and some parish council members was properly compensated for this nasty disgusting act, they all got their palms greased while allowing this crime against the environment. As per the Jamaica Environment Trust  “the clearing and removal of vegetation from the lagoon's steep sides could result in silt running off into the sea”. Now Portland is NOT short of beaches, they are everywhere naturally accruing for all to enjoy. So I fail to see the need why this person thinks it was okay build one and I am sure this involved extracting sand from a natural beach thus a double destruction of our environment. We cannot allow these wealthy low class idiots to do what they want, when they want to, at our expense but Greed will be the death of us!

"One of the Caribbean’s most spectacular and tranquil natural sites, Jamaica’s Blue Lagoon has long been abandoned to touts, illegal activity and decay, but is now being developed (most recent being a large artificial beach on its shores, the site of events/parties such as one shown in the video whose address is below) – facilitated, amazingly, by the country’s environmental agencies.
Please write, fax or call the authorities using the contact info shown near the end of this video, to demand that all development be reversed, and the Lagoon restored to a natural state, protected forever as parkland, with all necessary facilities and regulations.

(I’ve been informed that email is not effective, as it’s read by staff and not by the addressee; if a letter comes it must be logged and taken more seriously, and I imagine the same goes for faxes and phone calls.)
Please pass it on."  --Mr. Marc Goodman (via Yard Edge)

I am not against Portland’s redevelopment, the parish is in a state of disrepair because of neglect and the people of Portland deserve a chance to have a decent standard of living. However I am concern with the nature of any redevelopment and the negative impacts it will have on Portland’s environment and society. Developers need to take the time to understand the brand that is Portland, understand her unique history and why this parish means so much, to so many and build upon that.

The Government should declare Portland a Green eco-Parish and developers forced to follow an environmental framework with sustainability in mind. A limit should be placed on coastline development, I say ban completely the building of Hotels/houses on our coastlines. I am sick and tired of seeing what was once a public beach with a diverse ecosystem turned to a private property overnight with wall that block all views of the coastline. 

To the Portland Parish Council there is a very thin line between rustic, old world charm and dilapidated and the Town of Port Antonio is dilapidated. I don’t care how the parish council and the tourist board tries to spin this, the town is rundown and in need of proper planning and restoration, at least fix the market for god-sake.

Port Antonio Market
Until the developers publish their plans for Portland, I have suspended all plans to spread my ashes there. If I die before this development starts I have instructed all to disperse my ashes on top of Jacks Hill, so I can survey my Kingdom Of Kingston and St. Andrew, better the devil I know than the devil I don’t know.

** Blue Lagoon to be declared a National Monument **

Tue. Dec.06,2011

Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture, has signed a Preservation Notice regarding the Blue Lagoon in Portland.

Miss Grange made a submission to Cabinet and received approval.
The Notice, which was signed by the Minister as a matter of urgency, went into effect on Monday for an initial period of six months.

It gives the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, which falls under the Ministry, the power to carry out the work that needs to be done for the Blue Lagoon site to be declared a National Monument.
The Notice, which will be posted at the site of the Blue Lagoon, bars a number of activities from being conducted in the general area.

They include certain construction activities.

The notice also forbids the use of power-driven craft at speeds in excess of three miles an hour, dredging, or interference with the foreshore or sea floor.

A statement from the Culture Ministry says the National Environment and Planning Agency and the Portland Parish Council will be working with the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.

Poolside Goblin Hill Hotel 

 The Blue Lagoon

 Goblin Hill Hotel 
 Goblin Hill Hotel

 Goblin Hill Hotel - Lookout Point

 Frenchman's Cove

 The Blue Lagoon

San San Beach -  Pellew Island


  1. I will never forget my first trip to Portland (this was 2 years ago), of how beautiful and lush the parish was. It still is today. Immediately, I thought, those Jamaicans that treat this place like garbage should all visit the parish and their actions would be changed. However, you don't have to look far to notice that the parish is grossly neglected and underdeveloped. I hope the right decisions will be made and I do agree with you on making the parish a 'green parish' would be a huge selling point. Celebs know its a secret, it's time we take Portland seriously.

    Don't 'Negril' it!

  2. Don't 'Negril' it! should really have been the title.. thank you...

  3. Ive always been a big lover of Portland from my first visit there when I was a young teen back in 91...and to this day I swear to listening ears that is the most prettiest parish in sweet sweet Jamaica!!