Saturday is one of my favorite days inna Jam Rock…Market Day! All one sees is culture and tradition in every town when it comes to Market Day. A busy shopping day usually set aside for stocking up on a week’s worth of groceries. This is a day filled with people interacting; folks taking part in a dance that started years ago, a mix of Old English and African traditions blended and refined to tell a story. A story of how a nation developed, how our foreparents did business, and how it is passed on from generation to generation. So, let us listen to the deep rumble of raw emotions and watch closely as higglers and buyers dance, intertwining their movements, to demonstrate the story of Market Day.
On Market Day hard-working small farmers set up their stalls from the day before or early in the morning, while some rarely leave the Market. Never mind all that setting up business, because when it is time to buy, there will be a large array of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables displayed on stalls, in baskets, and in the beds of pick-up trucks. Depending on the season, there are all types of mangoes along with apple, ackee, breadfruit, sour sop, guinep, and a lot more. Some vegetables and roots include: tomatoes, onion, sweet pepper, bananas, yam, and dasheen. There is a small amount of fresh produce available at certain supermarkets, but I believe it is best to buy from the Market, there you will find the produce is fresher, less expensive, and it has a larger selection.
Be prepared for higglers, they are not shy about calling out what they are selling or asking shoppers to buy something from them. It is all about the squeaky wheel gets the most attention concept, so do not get caught up with the first higgler that gets your attention. Keep going further into the noisy, zigzag maze, packed full of people and colourful produce, there are more treasures to discover. One treasure to be found is fresh fish. Grouper, red snapper, and doctor fish are displayed on ice, sometimes sandwiched betwixt a woman’s legs ready to be scaled and gutted right before your very eyes…upon ordering of course.
For that matter, pretty much everything can be found at the Market. I grew up using Spanish Town Market; now, this Market is huge and has different areas depending on what is being sold. It was fascinating to me as a little girl because it had different departments; clothing, school supplies, health and beauty, dry goods, fresh produce, a butcher shop, fish vendors, and restaurants. This type of lay out reminds me of a supermarket except unlike a supermarket, Markets are outside and each stall is owned by an individual higgler. They compete amongst each other in a civilized manner to get their product sold; hence the calling out of goods and services, back to the squeaky wheel concept. Another thing to remember is the best referral always comes from one higgler to the next.
Another ingredient that adds to the flavor of Market Day is music. Jamaicans love music, it is rooted in our backbone and cannot be removed. Therefore on every corner, stall, and store music is playing and no one cares if their neighbor is blasting their sound system, because they are blasting their music too. Even a car passing by is jamming. I cannot help but wonder, “How do they keep their sanity and do business in all this noise?” Truly it is really not all that confusing. It is business, fun, vibes, struggles, life…it is culture in its richest and sweetest form. Music is calming and for some reason the sounds of all the different music playing in separate spots just flows to create a melody instead of noise.
My point is, check it out for yourself. I believe it is much more entertaining for visitors to explore the real Jamaica, instead of always sitting on the beach locked away in the all-inclusive resorts, not truly experiencing the island’s rich culture…the people. People create cultures and traditions and Market Day is one of them. We sometimes forget about the people who live, work, love, and raise a family on these ‘paradise’ islands we visit, because we choose to lock ourselves away on buses when we go through town heading to attractions.
Market Day is a fascinating experience: the people, the vibe, the food, and let us not forget about the music. I sometimes have to ask to speak to one person at a time, and normally I can knock out ten tasks in five minutes. It is merely the way business is done and there are times as a Jamaican, I have to step back and look at the happenings with a “third eye”, sort of like lifting a thin veil off my eyes to reveal what is truly taking place…culcha. Cultures are fun to observe if one can burst out of their comfortable-easy-to-offend-bubble and emerge into something new and adventurous. Our culture is rich, thick, sweet, and runs through our veins like molasses and we are aching to share it with you.
Markets in Jamaica are traditions passed down from our foreparents to us, especially the big ones like Coronation Market. This is where farmers who till the land come to boast their produce and let the best farmer win. The best pork, goat, and beef get sold. Markets are where an entire family of higlars gather with their products, families who make the long trip from home into town just to sell what we need…food and clothing. This is where hard-working farmers, higlars, and buyers gather to bond with each other; to share, laugh, cry, and build lasting friendships. This is one of Jamaica’s richest and most overlooked traditions…Market Day.These are some of the sounds of Market Day: “Hundred and twenty dolla a dozen fi Ackee” “Greens” “Guinep, sweet like sugar…fifty dolla a bundle” “Roast breadfruit, roast breadfruit” “Stamina, gud fi the body, roots…mek the pencil stand up!” “Mango, number eleven, stringy, and blackie” And sometimes you get a helping hand if you drive: “Beeeeep, gwaan through, yu gud man” says a man directing traffic “Hey move outta the way nuh” Laughing and cussing: which makes me laugh, because most of the time it is done to make people laugh. Genre of Music: Reggae Reggae Dancehall Oldies Country…yep Gospel