Monday, June 12, 2006

Jamaican Migration

After talking to a few Jamaican acquaintances, I learned some interesting facts and stories about how they split their time between Jamaica and the United States. For half of the year, they live in Jamaica, where they own a home and consider it their permanent residence. For the other six months or so, they live in New York City with relatives, working there to earn money to bring back to Jamaica. This lifestyle allows them to work very little or just do odd jobs while they are in Jamaica, since they already own their home. The amount of money they get paid in New York is also much greater than they could earn for equivalent work in Jamaica.

There is also an interesting gender division in their women. The men do construction or painting, while the women work as nannies or live-in household help. The male work is seasonal, since most construction is carried out during the summer months. One couple I talked to even goes at opposite times of the year, so that someone is living in their house throughout the year.

The funny thing is that many Jamaicans can relate stories to me about New York City, like how they were up there during the blackout in the summer of 2003. One of them had to walk all night to get back to his apartment because the buses were not running when there was no transportation. Since I have only been there a few times, the Jamaicans know a lot more about NYC than I ever could, and it is their main image of the United States. I try to describe the Midwest, and how it is quite different from New York, but it is hard to explain.

An interesting example of migrant labor, but one that does not fit the common stereotype of people coming from Mexico to do farm work.


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