BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-large, South/Central bureau email@example.com
SANTA Cruz, St Elizabeth — Hundreds of Maroons and curious outsiders will converge on the Maroon village of Accompong Town, in the Cockpit Country of northern St Elizabeth today for the annual January 6th celebrations.
The celebrations mark the anniversary of a peace treaty between British colonisers and the Leeward Maroons, also called the Trelawny Maroons, of western Jamaica on January 6, 1738. Accompong Town, close to the border of northern St Elizabeth and southern Trelawny, is the most populous and easily recognised Maroon settlement in western Jamaica.
Prior to the 1738 peace treaty, the Maroons — ex-slaves freed by Spanish colonisers when the latter were expelled by the British in 1655 as well as runaway slaves — had fought the British from mountain enclaves over a period of several decades.
The Windward Maroons who had conducted guerrilla warfare from the Blue Mountains and related highlands of eastern Jamaica subsequently made peace with the British as well, historians say.
Yesterday, head of the Accompong Maroons, Col Ferron Williams said today's ceremony will as usual include traditional ceremonial rites centred around the Kindah Tree — an ancient mango tree which village historians claim provided shade as Maroon leaders including the legendary Captain Cudjoe consulted with their people.
In line with custom, Williams said, non-Maroons will not be allowed to visit Maroon sites and sacred ground "beyond the Kindah Tree" during today's activities.
A civic ceremony and cultural concert will follow the ceremonial rites. Nigeria's High Commissioner to Jamaica, Ambassador Olatokunboh Kamson will be the main speaker at the civic function.
Williams said Maroon leaders will speak of plans for the development of a viable community tourism project in and around Accompong. A highlight of the tourism project is the reopening of an age-old, seven-mile trail from Accompong to Quick Step.
In recent years, the ceremonial aspect of the January 6th celebrations has been diluted by the vending of articles of every description — scores of vendors taking over the narrow roadways in some cases.
Williams said that starting with today's events, Maroon elders will be moving to restrict the vending of items "that are of no value in terms of our heritage".
'We are tired of seeing things from China and Korea... we want to see our vendors promoting items that reflect Maroon and Jamaican heritage and culture," he said.
Williams said vendors would be restricted to designated booths and would not be allowed to infringe the roadway.