i nt ro d uc t ion
T R O P I C A L I Z AT I O N
The Aesthetics and Politics of Space in Jamaica and the Bahamas
Our landscape is its own monument: its meaning can
only be traced on the underside. It is all history.
Edouard Glissant, Caribbean Discourse, 1989
Clad in fearful and wonderful garments, which they fondly imagined to be ordinary tropical clothing, . . .
they came ashore in the spirit of explorers and seemed quite disappointed to find we wore clothes
and did not live in the jungle.
O who would be a tourist
And with the tourists stand,
A guide-book in his pocket,
A Kodak in his hand!
‘‘Our Friends the Tourists,’’ Daily Gleaner, Kingston, 18 January 1901
n a trip to Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, in the summer of 2000,
the hordes of tourists and locals alike who had flocked to the falls encoun-
tered an unusual sight. Half-clad bodies of every size and variety crowded
the scene. Gaggles of children and guide-led human chains of sun-reddened tourists
moved by in every direction. Out of this confusion of people, a single element stood
still in this heat, haze, and people-filled environment. Like a frozen film frame, against
a foreground filled with bodies swooshing by in blurred hurriedness, an older black
Jamaican man and his donkey appeared along the side of the walkway. The donkey was
no ordinary ass; it had hibiscus tucked behind its ears and sported sunglasses (figure 1).
Woven baskets brimming with flowers straddled the animal’s back. Its owner lingered
close by, with an enormous hat of his own, bellowing into the passing human tide that
a photograph with the donkey and/or himself could be bought for the minimal cost of