World markets hold an intense fascination for me. One of the first things I set out to explore when I arrive in a new city is the local market. Many times there is one central market that houses everything from produce to meat to handicrafts. But the markets of Negril, Jamaica, were separate.
I arranged for Allen, my local guide, to drive me into the downtown area of Negril and show me where each of the markets was located. (You may remember Allen as my escort to the Bob Marley 70th Birthday Bash.) Luckily, the distance between them was easily walkable so Allen dropped me off at an ATM to restock my coffers and then I was off for a few hours of exploration on my own.
The Produce Market in Negril, Jamaica
My first stop was the produce market. It was much smaller than I had imagined it would be, only having four stalls. And from what I could tell, they all pretty much sold the same things … tropical fruits, yams, beans and callaloo. (If you ask a Jamaican about callaloo, they’re likely to tell you it is “Jamaican spinach.” But I found the taste and texture to be more like collard greens.)
As I watched a few customers come and go it appeared as though they each had their favorite vendor. I stopped at the first one I came across and quickly chatted up the proprietor. She was a beautiful, gracious woman more than happy to give me a crash course in the tropical fruits of Jamaica.
I walked away with four interesting specimens to sample later: soursop, sweetsop, custard apple and Jamaican apple. My newfound friend washed and cut up one extra Jamaican apple and insisted I take it with me to eat while I walked. So with Jamaican fruit in tow, I headed off to the craft market.
The Craft Market in Negril, Jamaica
I wish I could say that the craft market in Negril was different than all the other craft markets I have visited in developing nations. But for the most part … it was the same. I was struck, however, by a couple of woodcarvers who did actually appear to make the things they sold. Their craftsmanship was impressive but their prices were beyond what I had in mind for the few souvenirs I had come to buy.
The market was composed of dozens of stalls housed inside a labyrinth of ramshackle buildings. Each one had a proprietor competing for my business, making me promise to “come see me next.” It was depressingly slow the day I was there, making it even more difficult to ignore their bids. One woman even followed me around her store fanning me as I pretended to browse.
I bought more than I needed and paid more than I should have. But I left feeling good about the experience and the hospitality of the Jamaican people.
The Fish Market in Negril, Jamaica
Like the produce market, the fish market in Negril was much smaller than I had imagined. I found it to be quite interesting, though. Smalltime local fishermen were the suppliers as opposed to large fishing vessels. The market was located right on the water, and as the fishermen came in with their catch, they would spill them out onto one of only a few concrete surfaces. The fish would be sorted, weighed and sold, and customers would then wait in their vehicles (or on their scooters) while workers cleaned and scaled their purchases for a small fee.
The entire market area was no more than about 30 feet long. The only fish I saw were small, and it appeared they were being sold just about as quickly as they were coming in. Allen put in a request for an octopus for me when we stopped by earlier, but in two days’ time, one was not caught.
Interestingly enough, one of my best bites of this trip was from the fish market. A worker was selling homemade crayfish fritters for about 50 cents apiece, and they were absolutely wonderful. I highly recommend them, as well as a visit to each of these markets of Negril. It’s a great way to get a feel for the true culture of the people and hopefully spread a little love along the way.