When I was about 14, 15 or 16 years old or thereabout, my father told my sister and me (my brother wasn’t born yet) that we were descendants of Arawaks. I remember exactly where I was. I was in my grandfather’s backyard near St. Ann’s Bay, and the information seemed to just come out of the clear blue sky, just so-so soh.
Although fascinated by my father’s revelation, I kept it secret because in school they’d taught us that all Arawaks died out because of the diseases or treatment from Europeans seeking to commandeer and exploit the island.
My father also told us that his mother was a ‘mosquito’ Indian. Again, while fascinated, I also kept that bit of information close to my bosom because in school they never taught us about any Indians called ‘mosquito’.
This was back in the 1970s and 80s when Columbus was credited for discovering Jamaica and it was said that Africans were sold into slavery by white people. We believed our educators. They were the repositories of knowledge. They knew everything–even more than my own father about his own family.
Without a doubt, my sister and I knew we were of African descent. It was evident in our hair texture and skin colour and in many of the traditions passed down through the generations, like our methods of food preparation and remedies for cold, flu, diarrhea, headache and worm. We knew the taste and/or feel of comfrey, leaf of life and tuna (not the fish).
From the oral histories of our mother’s and father’s side of family, we also found out about European ancestors from Ireland, Scotland and France.
As I entered my 30s, my curiosity about my heritage deepened, and in my 40s, this curiosity had not only bloomed in every cell of my being but generated sheer determination to unearth the roots of the family tree.
You see, I had questions, whole heap a questions. How on earth did mosquitoes, Arawaks, Scottish and all dat get together to produce my family tree?
I know all my questions will never be answered. BUT, as I research Jamaica’s history for a feel of the environment and happenings back in the day which may have resulted in the diversity of my family tree, I’m seeing that the information now available is way more than what we had in school. And, yes, it includes records on ‘mosquitos’ (i.e. Miskitos) who were brought to the island for slavery or to hunt down Maroons.
The older I get, the more sensitive I’ve become to the promptings of the ancestors. That’s how I’m choosing to explain the long, continuous urges to live in or visit certain places in and outside of this island.
One of those long, continuous urges resulted in my leap of faith to move to St. Ann, the birthplace of my father, grandfather and great grandfather.
Another of the long, continuous urges was the need to visit the Seville Great House. So, on the rainy eve of a new year, 2016, my mother, sister, brother and I drove a few minutes away from mi yard to finally set foot on this heritage site.
And what a sight it was!
From the moment we entered the gates and the winding road leading to the great house, I felt as if I was stepping back in time to hear what the ancestors were saying, to hear how di story really go. This was a significant place where the Spanish, the English and our indigenous Taino crossed paths.
If you are a history lover or a lover of Jamaican history or if you are in any way curious about the groups which invaded or inhabited Jamaica, bring your listening ears, your camera, your family or friend and be prepared to learn some things you probably didn’t learn in school and probably will not find in any one history book or on any one website.
Be prepared to walk on a sacred ground where a few ancestors are buried.
And be prepared to leave with a newfound appreciation for the tumult this nation was hauled through for hundreds of years, from the arrival of the Tainos of the Orinoco to the emancipation of the enslaved Africans from Ghana to the rise of Jamaican-born motivators like Marcus Garvey and a whole heap more in between.
If you think you’re already bored to tears with our history because it was forced down your throat as a child in this decade or a previous one, think again. You may find yourself picking your jaw up off the great house’s shiny, wooden floors several times during the tour.
Our tour guide, Anthony, spouted a wealth of information. And his vibrancy certainly didn’t hurt. At some points, I felt like I was listening to a Baptist preacher back in 18-something. The display of murals, replicas, relics and artifacts also kept our ears and eyes glued to the presentation from start to finish.
Visit the Seville Great House. Be in the moment. Take pictures. Take the tour. Then linger awhile by the front steps, look over the tree tops to the Caribbean Sea and inhale the atmosphere one last time before you leave. And when you reach home, whether that’s Jamaica or some place in foreign, drop me a line about your experience.
Tours of Seville Great House are currently available Monday to Friday, 9am to 4pm, except public holidays.
Entry fees vary according to whether you’re an adult, college student or school-age child. Jamaican children in school uniform pay the lowest fee.
Call the great house at (876) 972-2191 to find out more.
I hope this new year will bring you lots of love and joy, a fair share of challenges to make you grow in spirit and wisdom and a wealth of information about your roots and the world we live in.
Catch yuh next time!
Love and peace,