Patria-Kaye Aarons | A Royal joke
Imagine watching all five instalments of Pirates of the Caribbean and conjuring up in your mind images of the Port Royal. The mysticism of buccaneers and sunken treasure and sin and sex are a magnet that draws you to that place.
You hear the fabled town still exists and is open to tourists. Without hesitation, you use your life savings and book a cruise to see in the flesh this place you've watched movies and TV shows about, read and dreamt about.
You sail halfway around the world, the ship anchors and you disembark to be underwhelmed by two rusty cannons and Giddy House. I'd be pissed.
Cabinet has approved US$7.4 million for the development of a cruise shipping terminal at Port Royal. I want to understand the plan beyond the pier. If you took me as a tourist to Port Royal as it is today, I would think piracy was alive and well in Jamaica. I would feel robbed.
When we decide to commit that much money on infrastructure, we must also plan to invest in the main attraction. Port Royal has a most colourful 500-year history. On top of the reputation of being the wickedest and most sinful city, add the drama of the 1692 earthquake. Lewis Galdy was swallowed by the earth and spat out, for heaven's sake. I don't just want to read about that on a plaque. We can do better than that.
There must be a plan for Port Royal, and that plan can't be, 'let's collect the tourists there and bus them to Trench Town'. For those who choose to stay where they land, the experience must live up to the expectation.
I can't buy the argument that so many other travel destinations boast about much less than we have and charge an arm and a leg for admission to see next to nothing. That cannot be the standard to which we hold ourselves. Show me magic! Bring it to life with reggae music and Jamaican flair. Heck, borrow a parrot from Kenny Benjamin and put him on DJ Delano's shoulder and entertain me. Show me loot. (By the way, where is all the Port Royal loot?)
Know what they do at the fort in Cuba? They fire real-life cannons. Now, that's excitement. The way Port Royal shows now has zero Jamaican energy, effort or spirit. It's just 'meh'. It needs work before we show it off. Give someone like Cathi Levy a budget, some Edna Manley students, and the freedom to create, and watch Port Royal come alive.
And don't sideline those who have made Port Royal their home for generations. Integrate them. Development need not be at the expense of natives.
The Jamaica National Heritage Trust describes modern-day Port Royal as a quiet fishing village. Who wants to come all the way to Jamaica to see that? Let's learn from the mistakes made at the Falmouth Pier where as soon as they land, people are off to Ocho Rios or Montego Bay, and Falmouth remains a ghost town.
I refuse to allow Disney and their big budget to tell our story better than we do. With a little creativity and will, we, too, can wow.
Port Royal has given us more than enough material to work with. Port Royal right now, as an attraction, looks and feels like it's been pillaged and plundered. Restore this national treasure.