Do you visit parks and museums whenever you’re in a new country? How about in your own hometown?
I want to say that a visit to the National Heroes Park in Kingston, Jamaica is something most school-aged kids have experienced but to be honest, this was my first trip to the park and it was also the first for munchkin who had just completed grade 4.
In the early part of the summer, I found myself looking for free and cheap activities to take munchkin on since I had decided to forego summer camp and opt for a summer of mommy and me adventures. We were balling on a budget so not all adventures could involve tiki beach sails and plantation tours.
National Heroes Park
I remembered seeing somewhere that we had a changing of the guards at National Heroes Park and thought how cool! Must check out! So off we went one bright sunny day to the park where our national heroes along with other Jamaican leaders and cultural icons are either buried or memorialized.
Jamaica has seven national heroes, which meant seven glorious monuments to see. We started our visit in the center of the action as we got to the park just in time for the changing of the guards.
The park is free to enter and usually very scanty unless there’s some planned activity. A bunch of kids flocked in right at the moment the guards were performing their ceremony. We all enjoyed the display and they dispersed just after, leaving us to roam about without much distraction.
You can see video of the changing of the guards below.
Munchkin was apprehensive at first. The thought of exploring a park which is but a glorified graveyard wasn’t her idea of a fun time. This was her face as we started off.
Looking sheepishly like OK…I’ll smile…from here…I’m not going up there though.
She eventually warmed up to the point where she started to do the Orange Justice here in front of the Paul Bogle monument.
The park is fairly large which meant a little distance between each monument and we got there right at noon which meant the summer sun was high in the sky.
Despite this, the breeze and walking around was actually quite pleasant. We stopped under trees to rest and shoot boomerangs every now and then and we were well equipped with our insulated water bottles.
At the end of it all, we were only there for about an hour and left with a wonderful experience together. Having just left the Institute of Jamaica where we saw exhibitions of Jamaica’s history, this was the next level as we saw the burial grounds of some of those cultural icons we had just learned about.
It was wonderful to see munchkin’s face light up as she connected the dots of her Social Studies lessons from school to real-life artifacts and monuments.
We left and headed to Devon House to try and complete the house tour there, but that’s when we realized the effects of the sun. We were completely drained and could only barely manage to get ice-cream before heading home.
Here’s a tour of all the monuments we checked out.
Monuments at National Heros Circle
Paul Bogle led the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion. From Wikipedia:
Bogle led hundreds of followers, armed with sticks and machetes, on a protest march to the court house. The authorities had mustered a volunteer militia, who fired into the protesters after stones were thrown, killing seven men. The protesters set fire to the Court House and nearby buildings. When officials tried to leave, several were killed by the angry mob outside; a total of 25 on both sides died that day.
Black peasants rose up and took control of the parish for two days. The governor quickly retaliated, declaring martial law and ordering troops to capture the rebels and suppress the rebellion. The troops destroyed Stony Gut and Bogle’s chapel, killing more than 400 persons outright across the parish, including women and children. They arrested more than 300 persons, including Bogle.Read More
A memorial to 1865:
Sam Sharpe (above) was a slave who led a rebellion in 1831 in Montego Bay, St. James. This rebellion was largely impactful on the abolition of slavery in Jamaica. Read more about Sam Sharpe.
Alexander Bustamante was Jamaica’s first Prime Minister in 1962 when the nation gained independence. He was a champion of the working class, fighting for better working conditions for the poor. He is buried here with his wife.
The monument constructed for Nanny of the Maroons moves eerily in the wind as if reflecting the legend of her strong spiritual powers. Munchkin was a little creeped out by the sounds but it was a beautiful sight to behold.
The most well known of our national heroes, here lies the honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey.
In 1914 he started the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), in Jamaica. The UNIA, which grew into an international organisation, encouraged self-government for black people worldwide; self-help economic projects and protest against racial discrimination.
In 1916, Garvey went to the USA where he preached his doctrine of freedom to the oppressed blacks throughout the country.
However, USA officials disapproved of his activities and he was imprisoned, then deported.
The monument to Norman Washington Manley was under a bit of rehabilitation when we visited. He founded the People’s National Party, one of Jamaica’s two political leadership parties.
George William Gordon was also a part of the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion.
Born to a slave mother and a planter father who was attorney to several sugar estates in Jamaica, George William Gordon was self-educated and a landowner in the parish of St. Thomas.
He subdivided his own lands, selling farm lots to the people as cheaply as possible, and organised a marketing system, through which they could sell their produce at fair prices.read more
Just outside the main park area, several gravesites for other cultural icons and national leaders can be seen. We stopped by the site of Louise Bennet, poet and activist who performed in our cultural dialect, patois, and went on to lecture internationally about Jamaican music and folklore.
We ended our visit with a stop at the site of the freshly laid Edward Seaga, past Prime Minister of Jamaica.
Read more about our national heroes here.
National Heroes Day
National Heroes Day in Jamaica is celebrated on the third Monday of October each year. Schools close for mid-term break after much fanfare which usually includes class concerts, art projects and other fun activities reinforcing lessons about or national heroes.
The government of Jamaica awards national honours to outstanding Jamaicans on this day, on the lawns of King’s House, the Governor General’s home.
It’s also a flourishing party season here in Jamaica since it’s a long weekend, which makes it a great time to visit Jamaica. Hotels will be offering traditional Jamaican meals and cultural entertainment and the party scene is alive and buzzing. The weather is mild and the winter tourist season hasn’t begun in full force which makes it perfect for travel.
We hope you enjoyed our tour of the National Heroes Park, located in Kingston Jamaica. Check out lots of other fun things to do in Kingston if you visit our capital city and let me know in the comments if you’ve ever been here and what else you’d like to see from us.
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