In the capital of Jamaica, ties with the monarchy deepened.
The markets in downtown Kingston are known as Coronation, Jubilee and Queen’s and many of their merchants remember Queen Elizabeth II with fondness.
Steve Pryce said: ‘I loved her so much, slicing watermelons on my fruit and vegetable stand. “When I heard the news of her passing, I was the first to cry in Jamaica.”
But this is an island divided over its future, with recent polls showing more than 50% of people would support Jamaica becoming a republic and breaking away from the monarchy. The Queen’s death has spurred a debate that, broadly speaking, carries a generational divide.
Older Jamaicans tend to stick to tradition, with some wistfully recalling times when relations with the UK were even closer.
“I have family members living in the UK, going to school in the UK and married to a British woman or British man,” said Alexis McDavid, an outreach worker at the National Museum of Jamaica. “That connection is still very much there.
“But I personally believe that the younger generation going up in politics should really push for the referendum [on Jamaica becoming a republic] to happen, because that process will take time, maybe even years. I think the days of monarchy in the Caribbean are numbered. “
A new generation
At Kingston College, some of the country’s best young sprinters are training after school. Jamaica’s dominance on the world stage is a source of national pride, its medals seen as a symbol of independence.
For teenage boys practicing sprinting, who they see as Kings and Queens compete on the track, but the future of the British monarchy here is more uncertain.
Nicholas Francis, who runs the 100m and 200m, said: “I don’t know what the royal family does for Jamaica. “I wish King Charles the best, but I don’t know what he’s doing in the community I come from.”
Antwon Walkin, a discus thrower from Turks and Caicos, said Jamaica was ready for a referendum on becoming a republic. “I think there is a trend with the larger Caribbean states, Barbados and Trinidad, both becoming republics.
“I think Jamaica is behind that movement and for their own elected head of state.”
Apologies for Slavery
Jamaica gained political independence from Britain in 1962 but the Queen remains head of state and has visited six times during her reign. Royal visits over the decades have been marked by calls to apologize for the monarchy’s role in supporting the slave trade during the colonial era.
Alexis McDavid said: “There was never an apology. “There have been round-the-clock apologies, but not a genuine apology for the atrocities committed against our African enslaved ancestors. That apology needs to be.” coming from the royal family and the British government, both hopefully at the same time.”
Then The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived in Jamaica earlier this yearPrince William expressed his “deep sadness” over slavery. But their trip was beset by poor optics, especially when Catherine was photographed holding hands with black children through a wire fence.
Jamaican politician Lisa Hanna said that the Queen’s death had “solidified” Jamaica towards becoming a republic.
“I think Gen Zs and Millennials, even Boomers, say ‘this is the time now for us to chart our own destiny’,” says Hanna.
“We don’t want those generations or future generations to have to deal with some of the same systemic problems we dealt with about classism, about lack of education, about life. We want our people to lead us.”
Jamaica has many changes from the country where Queen Elizabeth II became head of state in 1952.
It has evolved socially, culturally and economically and its view of monarchy means that King Charles III faces complex challenges here and across the commonwealth.
This is an island that may soon choose to separate itself from the old institutions.