Last week, Patricia de Lille, mayor of Cape Town, South Africa, renamed the city's Eastern Boulevard for Nelson Mandela, the nation's former president. The renaming came five days ahead of Nelson Mandela International Day, and just about 20 years after Jamaica named one of its major roadways in honour of the esteemed South African.
When Kingston was founded in 1692 a road was built to link it with the capital, Spanish Town. The section of the road from Six Miles to Spanish Town was first named Ferry, because there was once a ferry service offered through the nearby swamps. It was later renamed Nelson Mandela Highway in celebration of the man who has dedicated his life to public service.
Today, 'Mandela Highway', as it is most commonly called, is a heavily trafficked four-lane stretch that is often the scene of road rage-induced quarrels, flooding, crashes and near misses. Vendors have commandeered different sections, offering calaloo, snacks and juices and police often man soft shoulders, keeping a watchful eye on goings-on.
The highway often gets thrust into the spotlight for the most dubious reasons; whether as a sticking point in a debate on 'alternative routes' or when it's flooded after a storm and talk of its vulnerability increases.
Provides freedom of movement
Nevertheless, 'Mandela Highway' continues to serve thousands of Jamaicans in different ways. Silently, it provides freedom of movement and facilitates that innate human pursuit of happiness.
As Jamaicans travel along Mandela Highway on Nelson Mandela International Day, it might be wise to consider the words of the Cape Town mayor, delivered at the opening of the newly renamed roadway in South Africa:
"Let us not just think of this road as something physical that we can see and touch. Let us think of this road as the one upon which we travel as a city to achieve Mandela's vision," she said.