Jamaica, we love you? Really?

Jamaicans tend to think people in Brazil love them. It may not be that strong, but let’s say the feeling is more positive than neutral than negative. With the Olympic Games coming in Rio in 2016, more Jamaicans may want to venture to Brazil and expect a warm embrace. We have a shared slave history with Brazil. We have a strong African heritage, which displays itself in music, religious expression (eg, through voodoo). We are also becoming revered for sporting prowess: Brazil are kings of world football; Jamaica is the new royalty of international sprinting. On another level, a Brazilian coach guided the island’s national team to its only World Cup finals appearance, in 1998.

One fellow blogger, Emma Lewis, commented: ‘When I was in Rio and told (young) people I lived in JA their faces lit up and they said “Bob Marley!” Apart from that…’ That is also my sense. One of Bob’s sons, Rohan, was engaged to a Brazilian ‘supermodel’ for about a year, but they split early last year.

My wife, our daughter, and I took a stroll to Copacabana beach this afternoon. All we got was smiles and warm greetings. Once we mentioned Jamaica, we noticed a little extra warmth.

She later went to the supermarket and met a lady who built affinity by mentioning that she knew a Jamaican librarian, and they got into a love-fest conversation. But, was the lady just being like many Jamaicans–ready to strike up a conversation? It turned out that the lady was Russian-Ukrainian…Maybe, if my wife had told her that her husband spoke Russian, the lady would be sharing our apartment already.

Travelers are often given a more welcoming reaction when visiting foreign places, for several reasons. Most people are just decent and treat strangers with politeness and tolerance. For example, in Rio today, my daughter asked a store assistant for coconut oil, in English. The assistant did not understand, but still tried to help the child. I intervened with a smile and pointed to a coconut. We all smiled and went our separate ways. Our impression? We did not meet hostility, so feel positive about our meeting. We might think back to treatment at home, which may be brusque, as can often be the case in a Jamaican store.

We met some American men in the foodstore, who told us how expensive were tickets to matches. One told us that he’d visited Jamaica eight times. One degree of separation?

Caribbean people are often outgoing, and may generate a positive reaction. When my daughter and I arrived in London a couple of weeks ago, our taxi driver latched onto our coming from Jamaica. “It’s dangerous, right?” I gave an overview of crime in the island. I know London well, so compared our situation to things he could visualize in the English setting. His feelings about us, if any, were likely to be positive. He may go on to tell his friends that he met some nice Jamaicans. Positive reinforcement.

So, do Brazilians have extra love for Yardies? I’m going to check over the next few days. I’ll wear my colours, sometimes, or not.

Watch this space.


Author: Dennis G Jones (aka 'The Grasshopper')

Retired International Monetary Fund economist. My blog is for organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, but spent 30 years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for two decades, and worked and travelled abroad, extensively, throughout my careers and for pleasure. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of 3 girls. Also, married to an economist. :)

2 thoughts on “Jamaica, we love you? Really?”

    1. Well, it was a good spur to check the love. For sure, Brazilians are being good hosts to the many visitors, who are bringing extra business, at least. Most of those visitors are not trouble makers and want to have a good time. Happiness is on both sides and that generates good points of contact. I’m sure that visitors from neighbouring countries who have tense rivalries are seeing some of those surface. I’ll enjoy as much as possible.

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