Jamaican Culture Alive: The Accompong Maroon Festival

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In a unique display of Jamaican culture, the Accompong Maroon Festival is one of the most celebrated events in the western Jamaica village of Accompong. The January festival, which honors victory in the First Maroon War against the British, opens a window into the history of the Maroon people, who live today in peace and sovereignty among Jamaica’s verdant mountains.

Far from the island’s white, sandy beaches and brilliant blue waters, the Accompong Maroon Festival offers a decidedly different view on Jamaican culture than the typical jerk chicken and Bob Marley-infused experience many envision when planning their vacation. Your day begins with the blowing of the abeng, a war horn made from cow horn that has been used in Jamaica for more than three centuries to communicate with other Maroon communities.

The staccato beat of traditional drumming skips through the warm air as you’re handed a portion of unseasoned pork served from a large communal pot on a banana leaf. A bottle of rum finds its way into your hands, and you take a sip before you pass it onto the person next to you. Make new friends as you hum along with the Maroon songs that float through the air and get your feet tapping and your body moving. The same pork and rum you enjoyed are later delivered to Peace Cave—which only Maroons are allowed to enter—for their ancestral spirits to feast upon. True to Jamaican culture, the party continues well into the night, with vendors selling food, drinks, crafts, and locally made souvenirs for you to bring home to remind you of your time spent among the Maroon people.

The spirit of this town infuses your soul as you take part in the singing, dancing, and storytelling that are the hallmarks of this event. This vibrant display of Jamaican culture, which was closed off to visitors until the 1980s, is so rich and steeped in tradition that to witness it fills you with a feeling of intense privilege. These types of events are a great way to experience local culture and the heritage of Jamaica while enjoying yourself among fellow revelers taking part in the joyful celebration.

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