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Letter of the Day | The value of Taino culture

Published:Friday | August 9, 2019 | 12:00 AM


The editorial of August 8, 2019, titled ‘Expand Taino search at Hellshire quarry’, is a most welcome reminder that Jamaica has hitherto largely undervalued its Taino culture, the centre of which appears to have been in and around what is now Spanish Town/White Marl.

This area, adjacent to Taino agricultural plains, was served by rivers that were probably navigable to Taino dugout seagoing canoes from both of the major south coast inshore basins of Kingston and Old Harbour. Hellshire lies between these waterways, so it is hardly surprising to find evidence of Taino culture in this region. UWI researchers have recorded such before this recent find and the Two Sisters Cave Taino petroglyphs were developed for tourism many years ago.

Indeed, Columbus is recorded as having spent a night hosting an opulently wealthy cacique in Old Harbour Bay while restocking his near-starving flotilla with cassava bread and other victuals, and this Taino settlement was, again probably, on Braziletto Mountain, which has been proposed as a good source of marl to be hacked down and shipped to Florida as construction material.

Much more archaeological research is needed of this entire area if Jamaica is to capitalise on this potential resource in a sustainable way.

It may be recalled that part of this area was proposed to be transformed into a vast logistics hub with access to both sea-borne freight and an international airport at a greatly expanded Vernamfield. While opposition to this development came from the vocal biodiversity lobby, this was shouted down by interests championed by the member of parliament of the constituency that would have largely benefited from a few temporary, unskilled labour and service-provision contracts.

One hopes that the Government of Jamaica took these voices into account when deciding not to proceed at present, but that greater financial, and perhaps security, considerations most likely indicated that the conditions were not favourable.

Current proposals to develop tourism in the area based on cruise ship passengers from Port Royal could easily embrace guided tours around the Hellshire Hills/Goat Islands/Galleon Harbour route. Cultural tourism is a sustainable source of income which, unlike the logistics hub plan, would emphasise and support the fish nurseries in Old Harbour Bay, which themselves are required to sustain south coast fisherfolk.


Stony Hill, Kingston 9