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‘Mi Nuh Chat English’ – Jamaican Roots Strong In Costa Rican Town
Published: Thursday | March 28, 2013 2 Comments
Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor – Sports

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica:

SPANISH is the native language here in Costa Rica. But if you speak the good, raw, born Jamaican Patois, you will find that you are not out of place here – even among those who don’t speak English.

As a matter of fact, there are people in Costa Rica who talk Jamaican Patois better than Jamaicans. And they have never been to the country.

They number far less than the majority of the country’s nearly 4.6 million inhabitants, but many are located in a town called Limon, with Jamaican descendants spanning at least three generations.

“That is our town,” José Laird Johnson declared.

The 47-year-old Johnson has lived all his life in Costa Rica, but you could never tell, given his strong Jamaican accent and knowledge of the Caribbean country. He says he has been there once, and attended Reggae Sumfest at Jam World in Portmore, St Catherine.

Johnson tells much about Jamaica, but the knowledge wasn’t garnered on his visit when he went in search of relatives. He did not find them.

“Our foreparents came over from the railway and banana plantation days and remained here,” he explains of the emigration. “We hold on to our Jamaican roots and keep di strong customs and tradition.


“So in Limon, our children grow up learning to talk Patois,” he said. “You see, my first name is Spanish because it is a Spanish country, but mi other names in Jamaican.”

Limon is some ways off the Costa Rican capital, nearly two hours in the direction towards Panama, which borders the nation to the north.

To its south is Nicaragua, closer to where Joan Campbell-Daly lives. She, too, had lived in Limon, and was actually returning home from Limon, where she had spent the weekend with relatives.

“Nowadays, mi go there once every month because mi have work and school and haffi travel by bus. It far,” said Campbell-Daly.

Unlike Johnson, Campbell-Daly was born in Costa Rica, but moved with her parents to live in Jamaica until she was five years before returning to the Central American country. Most of the Patois she speaks was learnt growing up in Limon.

We saw a group of youngsters walking the streets of San José and stopped them to ask for directions.

“Mi nuh chat English,” responded one with a quizzical expression on his face, as everybody ‘buss out a laugh’.

In Costa Rica, even the natives without Jamaican ancestry make you feel very much at home by talking the raw, born Jamaican Patois.

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