(This blog in not reflective of the experiences of all Jamaicans abroad, and no Jamaican national should be insulted by its content. The narrative is based on personal observations and experiences. The intent is for readers to read, then use the information to engage in conversations with others, especially during this Caribbean-American Heritage Month.)
The migration of Jamaicans to countries like the Canada, England, or the United States, is a romantic notion to many. The anticipation that everything good is about to happen is foremost in most minds. Having all the things one never had is the dream. Most people left on the island often think so. They see those who migrate to a foreign land as people living a great life. The new “foreigners” are often perceived as being rich, having an easy or better life, and not wanting for anything. Did life in their new homeland allow them to become what was perceived?
The reality however, is that the majority of those arriving in their new country, failed to see their lives in that way. As they learned, traveling “abroad” did not always translate to the dreams everyone had. While many did see some of their dreams realized, many of the population arriving in new lands found themselves challenged on a daily basis to “make life” for themselves.
Most of those who arrived to their new destination before the age of eighteen, found that they were able to make a comfortable life for themselves. Their access to the school system played a critical roll in helping them to navigate many facets of their life in their new homeland. The adjustment to life in general, were often less challenging as it pertains to assimilation/adaption.
This group unlike some of their parents who didn’t have, or couldn’t access schools in their new country, were able to set themselves on a pathway to create “the good life.” Most were able to emerge from that system, functioning as well paid professionals to include teachers, doctors, lawyer, and business owners. The lifestyle they lived as a result of that achievement made them the envy of the struggling masses at home, who saw their lives as being “easy,” and “effortless.”
Then there are those who had no access to the school system, and have done well by sheer grit. Most of this group arrived after age eighteen, found it difficult to navigate the educational system, and immediately found work in jobs that paid minimum wages. This group however, decided that they were not going to let the challenges of daily life prevent them from “making a life” in their new country. They struggled in many areas, to have the quality life they wished for themselves and their families.