“Shop,” Jamaica’s “bodegas” and “the fabric of our lives.”COVID-19 revealed that there are 10,000 registered bars in Jamaica. The keyword here is “registered” because there is not a single Jamaican who is not related to someone who owns a shop (source: Me, myself and I — prove us otherwise). The term “bar” is also used loosely as it is considered an establishment with a liquor license. However, unless it is designated as a dine-in with entertainment, most bars sell other goods and facilitate functions aimed at the community’s needs. Thus, the terms “shop” and “bar” are sometimes used interchangeably and its use is often determined by the consumer’s intended use or purpose.
There is a shop, or two, or three, or more for every community — on our block alone, we had four. As saturated as we are, the shop or bar is also symbolic of a proud act of defiance and the resilience of Jamaican culture. We’re entrepreneurs and owners before the need presents itself. Much can be said about Jamaica and Jamaican culture and I’m not shy to say that at times I’ve been a leader in the criticisms, but one thing that encompasses us all is the spirit of doing. We’re taught that when we put one foot before the other, we’ll get there, even if we cannot see where there is.
My dad has a shop and it is as old as I am. I liked eating any and everything I wanted to because I thought that was the reason to own a shop. It was in itself my state of privilege, however small it may have been. One of my favorite memories of our time spent in the shop was a couple years ago when I helped my dad audit the unsold goods that were returned from a Set (Dance) the night before. As we restocked the drink products I asked, “How do you know they haven’t been chilled and left out at room temp prior to returning?” (24 hrs unused goods return policy) If you don’t already know, multiple extreme temps change the quality and integrity of taste in most alcohol products. He simply said, “Look, they still have dust on them,” and I just laughed. I thought he was a genius. It wasn’t money, fancy degrees, a home or car that impressed me; what impressed me was a simple skill and his engaging me with the life lessons he had learned. He gave me what he had — that is to entrust beyond the technical to get the job done, the spirit of doing. May we not wait for our lives to be perfect, but show up just as we are, and with what we already have, gifts of our hearts. True love loves you just where you are.
Happy Father’s Day!