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Jamaica

Bourdain’s Field Notes

PORT ANTONIO, November 2014—The show concerns itself with who “owns” paradise. Everywhere—whether New York City, Venice, the Jersey shore, or Jamaica—people who grow up adjacent to water, to idyllic views, lovely beaches, traditional architecture can no longer afford to live there. Their homes, their neighborhoods are in the modern economy, in the harsh reality of the present day, undervalued. Traditional ways of life, like fishing, seem quaint anachronisms when the simple fact is that you can make a lot more money carrying a golf bag for a tourist or making blender drinks at Margaritaville.

Is that a bad thing? So many places I look, even in America, we see a transition to a service economy. Like the Jamaican fishermen we talked to, we’re moving away from the things we once did. We are increasingly a nation in the business (in someone else’s words) of “selling each other cheeseburgers.”

Are there any bad guys in this equation?

I don’t know.

Jamaica has a harsh past and an uncomfortable present, in spite of its spectacular and captivating beauty. It is a place that’s easy to romanticize. But one shouldn’t do that. Like a lot of our shows, we come to no neat conclusions, only more questions. Which is, I suppose, conclusion enough.

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“Who owns paradise after all? Who in the end gets to own paradise, use paradise, or even visit it? That’s a question that’s probably worth paying attention to before there’s none left at all.”

Know Before You Go

Overfishing is a problem here. All over the island fish stocks are in decline, and making a living from the waters that surround Jamaica is becoming less possible.

The traditional way of catching crab in Port Antonio is to get all liquored up, go out to the beach with friends toting some makeshift bottle lamps, stick your hand into the little holes that the crabs call home, and grab them at your peril.

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