Jamaicans are a group of people with a strong sense of independence. World famous for its reggae music, jerk chicken, and producing some of the world’s fastest sprinters, Jamaica is challenged in integrating tourism with the local culture. Jamaica’s large beach resorts employ large numbers of people, but also create an environment of the “have's” vs. the “have not's.” Some areas (west and south coasts) are working to make tourism, the largest industry, a more corporate effort. To the short-term mission participant, Jamaica will appear very developed in some areas (mostly coastal), but it also has many rural areas in addition to grinding poverty in urban areas.
Jamaica is adorned with beautiful sandy beaches on its north and west coasts, while the south and east coasts tumble down from the mountains to the water in the form of marshes and mangroves as well as a few dark-colored sand beaches. Peaking at 7,402 feet, the Blue Mountains are famous for rich coffee beans. The mountains dominate any view of the eastern side of the island. The rest of Jamaica consists of rolling hills and flat beaches.
Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, is one of the Caribbean’s largest cities. Perched on the edge of the world’s seventh largest natural harbor, Kingston’s population comprises nearly 1 million people (approximately one third of Jamaica’s 3 million inhabitants). Other famous cities and locales include Montego Bay, Negril, and Ocho Rios, which are the “picture postcards” of Jamaica. While these tourist locations are beautiful, romantic, and tropical, they do not accurately represent everyday life for the vast majority of Jamaicans. The struggle to make a living and create a better tomorrow dominates day-to-day life for most natives.