Have you ever heard about the “Shark Papers” and how these papers earned that name? This little event in Jamaica’s past, involving a ship called the “Nancy” from the United States, and the ship’s identifying papers (eventually called the Shark Papers) found in a shark, may sound like it came straight from the pages of a well-read collection of science fiction short stories, and not something that actually happened. But, my dear readers, this little story really did occur.
Aliens. Whenever this word pops up in popular culture our first imaginings are of green-skinned and bug-eyed beings, who took it upon themselves to travel millions of light years to our solar system, visit earth and frighten the bejesus out of us simple humans (or to eat, enslave, experiment, exterminate or impregnate us! Yikes!). Needless to say movies like Aliens and Predator (my absolutely favourite movie franchises of the genre!) perpetuates quite brilliantly this idea of human-hungry/xenophobic aliens we all love to watch on the big screen.
In the context of today’s tour though, I’m talking about the deliberate and not so deliberate introduction of earth-bound animal species from other geographic locations into Jamaica’s ecosystem and their consequences, if any. One or two might just surprise you.
Hol’ dawg! Every Jamaican should know what this phrase means: somebody at your gate is indicating that they have arrived so you need to put up your dogs. If you have a yard with a lot of dogs like mine then you must have heard hol’ dawg being shouted at your gate at one point or other. So why would every Jamaican know what this phrase means? Because the majority of Jamaican households – uptown, downtown, all-around-town households – have at least one dog in dem yard.
On the whole, though, Jamaicans have an ambivalent relationship with dogs: from our folklore, proverbs and everyday interactions with this animal described as man’s best friend. Why is that? Our history, of course!