Monday, July 7, 2008
A few pictures from Jamaica. The first is the Eliot Church, up on top of a hill among mountains because I think the missionaries liked to be closer to God. It was one of the most stable missions because the long-time minister, Loren Thompson, was a good preacher and everyone appeared to like him. He came to Jamaica in the early 1840s (after a brief career as a traveling Bible salesman and a few years at Oberlin), and he died in New York, during a sabbatical, in the mid-1860s.
The second is a picture of a farmer, Robert, working the "family land" near what was once the Brandon Hill school, an out-station of the American mission in Jamaica. You can see, sort of, the mountains in the background. In spite of their appearance, it is all mostly cultivated land, planted with coffee bushes, banana, mango, yams, breadfruit, casava, etc.
After slavery, freed people took small plots of land and claimed them for their own. Many left the enormous sugar estates of the coastal plains and came up into the mountains where they could get land. Unlike the European way of doing things, a person's land was not left to an eldest son, but it passed on to all of the children in a family, and they cultivated it together to pass onto their children. This infuriated the missionaries who could never quite understand why husbands and wives worked on separate yards.
The fecundity of the island should be clear - my guide said that there's a Jamaican joke - if you plant a pencil you'll grow an eraser tree. The tiny plots of land are sufficient for growing a diversity of food, and people trade with their neighbors for whatever they don't have.