I spent a few hours today in Mandeville with one of Jamaica’s Chinese population, as he put it, “Chinese, Chinese.” He’d come to Jamaica in the mid-1980s–oddly, about the time my father had returned to Jamaica.
His line of business was supermarkets. In that sense, he was like many Jamaican Chinese. I didn’t get to ask him why he’d come to Jamaica. I was more intrigued by how he spoke. He had all the Jamaican idioms, but in an accent so thick it was hard not to parody it. He also spoke a lot in Chinese language, on the phone or to another Chinese man nearby.
Jamaica is no stranger to a population of native Chinese, most of which are part of our ethnic mix of ‘real’ Jamaicans, having merged with the other ethnic groups since the influx of indentured workers in the mid-19th century. But, this man is part of a newer wave of Chinese migrants.
I’m not thinking of those who get bright in on engineering projects and tend to live in enclaves by their work sites. I’m focusing on a group who’ve decided that Jamaica holds an economic future for them.
Many of these new Chinese are business people, in grocery or food trades. They are integral parts of communities. The man I met was a key sponsor for an event, and ended up as a tournament winner for the second straight year.
I’ve no idea how many such entrepreneurs are in Jamaica, but they make one think about a country where often people say doing business is very difficult.