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Kingston Workshop

From September 23th to September 28th 2015 our Research Team met in Kingston, Jamaica, for the third site-specific workshop.

The guests who joined us from Mexico were Luis Arevalo Venegas and Jacobo Noe Loeza Amaro, who had taken us around Tepito the previous week. From Brazil we were joined by Barbara Nascimento and William De Paula, with who we had great conversations about gentrification in Vidigal, and Mauricio Hora, a photographer who had introduced us to Providencia.

We kicked off the workshop by meeting Mr James Samuels, Chairman of the Kingston Metropolitan Resort Board, who explained that Kingston is not perceived as a tourism destination, whether by tourists or the Jamaican private sector, who fail to develop and promote the city. Mr Samuels sees community based tourism as a great tool for development and an essential part of the burgeoning Kingston tourism product. After this discussion, the group embarked on a tour entitled “The Birth of the Tourism Industry” given by architect Evan Williams. Mr Williams took us by bus across Kingston on the trail of the 1891 Great Exhibition that sparked the beginning of the Jamaican hotel and hospitality industry. Interestingly, many of the buildings and old hotels on his tour no longer exist, or have been transformed into schools. This absence seemed to bear witness to the lack of investment in Kingston that Mr Samuels had deplored that very morning.

The following day, we went to the Institute of Jamaica’s Museum to learn more about Rastafari, ate Ital food and took a bus tour organized by the Jamaican Urban Transport Corporation. The bus took us to the Bob Marley museum, The Culture Yard in Trench Town and the Tuff Gong Recording Studio, on a musical heritage tour of Kingston. The Saturday morning, we attended a community stakeholder meeting in Trench Town, exchanging about tourism and addressing questions surrounding ownership, violence and development. We then returned to the Culture Yard where Sophia, the chief tour guide who had travelled with us to Rio, greeted us warmly. She later gave us an extensive walking tour of the community and we visited several craftsmen. The final day was spend in Port Royal – one of the region’s main heritage tourism destinations, visiting the old fort and the quaint fishing village.

As in Brazil and Mexico, this Jamaican leg of our tour based workshops allowed us to explore the similarities and differences between community tourism in Rio, Kingston and Mexico City. Here, we questioned the term ‘community’, interrogated the links between violence and tourism, and investigated the idea of tourism as a tool for development. We also observed the role of the guide in brokering the tourism product. William de Paula, capoeirista, cultural activist from Vidigal and guest researcher for the workshop, dew a list of key words that were inspired by our week in Kingston: “humanity, hope, history, conflict, politics, drugs, transformation, money, favela, dreams, exploitation of tourism, tourism”.

As we now finish our respective fieldwork research periods, we will have time to reflect on the material and experiences accumulated during these workshops, and look forward to further group discussions to come.