Gareth Davis Sr, Gleaner Writer
PORT ANTONIO, Portland:
FOR THE better part of 30 years, Joan Shaw has plied her trade as a craft vendor at the Musgrave Market, a livelihood which has allowed her to provide for family members.
Shaw, who started out as a craft vendor in 1982, still remembers the best years of business in the 1980s when the Ken Wright shipping pier in Port Antonio hosted as many as five cruise ships per week and when the resort town was booming with activities involving tourists.
"There were times when up to three cruise ships would dock in Port Antonio," she recounted, "one at the Ken Wright Pier, another at the Boundbrook banana wharf, and the other just outside Navy Island. We would make enough daily to provide food for our families, send the children to school, pay our bills, and still managed to put some away for a rainy day."
According to the veteran craft vendor, a variety of craft items, including beads, necklaces, conch shells, Rasta belts, Jamaican T-shirts, drums, bamboo cups, and carvings, were easily sold to tourists. She added that even the pimps, some of whom dived at shipside for money, had a field day during the cruise ships' stay, which sometimes included overnight.
But with the sudden pull-out of Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise vessels from Port Antonio, the craft vendor noted that earnings from such a livelihood were almost nil as her location at the rear of the Musgrave Market was a huge deterrent to tourists and other visitors to Port Antonio, who have to encounter vendors displaying farm produce along the corridor leading to the craft section of the market, which is overpopulated and disorganised.
Manage to survive
"The truth is that we have been abandoned by the powers that be," remarked Shaw. "The only thing that they want from us is to collect their vending fees, and sometimes for months, some of sell us nothing. I manage to survive as a result of support from my spouse and other family members.
"We are a decent bunch, and we respect the law, therefore, we have stayed away from every form of protest."
Shaw admitted that she had considered throwing in the towel many times; however, the passion for what she does best is what keeps her going.