Benefits of Cultural Resource Management in Bluefields Bay, Jamaica

By Deseray Helton, graduate student at Missouri State University

This past winter break I attended the archaeological fieldschool in Bluefields Jamaica hosted by Dr. Scott Worman and Dr. Bill Wedenoja. This fieldschool was part of the Bluefields Archaeology Project (BAP), a long-term community-supported investigation of a multi-component site located on Bluefields Bay. A large part of the project depended upon the great relationships formed between MSU and the Bluefields community. This blog strives to showcase how archaeology, in particular cultural resource management, can help the community of Bluefields continue to prosper.

Like many undertakings in life, cultural resource management can have retroactive effects on the area in which they are a part of. Many times these effects are positive. For the community of Bluefields, cultural resources can have many benefits, including economic and educational. In particular, the community already has a sustainable tourism industry, of which cultural resources could help to grow. What better for the environment than using what you already have at hand to bring people into the community to share in their heritage?

A view of Bluefields Bay
A view of Bluefields Bay
Front view of now derelict Bluefields Bay Tavern.  Fun Fact: the building's initial use was as a police station.
Front view of now derelict Bluefields Bay Tavern. Fun Fact: the building’s initial use was as a police station.

First, there are a number of economic benefits to incorporating cultural heritage. A museum or a restored tavern would provide a large number of jobs for the community. Money could be gained from opening a café or restaurant in the museum. The individuals who operate these facilities could charge an entrance fee. There are two building in particular that could be used for the museum/café, the tavern and the other half of the post office. From these central locations workers from the community could create tours of the great houses nearby. Different types of adventurers would love to hike up to Shafton Estate to see the breath-taking views.

Sustainable tourism would build on this concept. Townspeople along with archaeologists could create an interactive section of the blacksmith site where people can stop in and see how archaeology is conducted. The entire route through the town could be marked with cultural heritage markers. The route could be turned into a driving tour of sorts. This would bring more business to vendors along the streets like Jah Cahlo and Gerry, two amazing wood carvers who sell their wares in Bluefields. People coming to the Bluefield’s Peoples Community Association could also go on other sustainable tours offered Raj Tours, owned and operated by Wolde Kristos.

Jah Calo, a local artist, along with myself and a group of fellow students.
Jah Calo, a local artist, along with myself and a group of fellow students.
Bluefields Greathouse, a short walk from the archaeological site.
Bluefields Greathouse, a short walk from the archaeological site.

Education is another area that can benefit from cultural resources management. The people who obtain jobs in the museum, in the café or as tour guides will need to be trained. They will gain more knowledge of their heritage and be able to spread this knowledge into the community. To reach a larger audience, a traveling trunk of artifacts collected could be created and taken to schools in Bluefield’s and surrounding communities. I have also seen a generic archaeology CD given out at the Society for American Archaeology. A CD like this could be adapted for the Bluefield’s site into a PowerPoint or small booklet to give to students, too.

I have seen both sides of tourism in Jamaica and am a firm believer that eco-tourism is the way to go. The Bluefield’s community, I feel, should remain a quiet fishing village. Keeping tourism focused on cultural heritage and sustainability will help prevent big business from coming in and altering the community’s way of life. Cultural resources are a perfect addition to the sustainable tours that are already under way in the community.

 

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