Miss Sonia.

December 23, 2004

Miss Sonia is a renowned patty vendor in Negril.

We went to Sonia’s almost every day. Fantastic chicken patties, ackee, callaloo, lobster.
I’ve been going there since the second time I ever went to Negril, in 1994. At the time she had basically a lean-to and a fire on the beach, close to where I was staying at Roots Bamboo. Roots Bamboo is cut-rate assemblage of shacks, an institution down there. I wrote “Sleepless” on the porch of cabin E-5.
(I wouldn’t stay there today–the bar is full of beach hustlers and Rastitutes, or Rent-a-Dreads–the young gigolos who provide boyfriend services to middle-aged European women. What a haunting sight to see some plump German matron walking the beach, hand-in-hand with a scraggly, nineteen-year-old Jamaican guy. Roots Bamboo was the same way ten years ago, and indeed the first time I went to Negril and stayed there, in 1990, but now I’m fortunate to be able to lay out a little more dosh for my accomodations. Still–it’s not a bad place if you’re young and looking to get sunburnt and stoned.)
Anyway. Sonia, too, is a Negril institution–she moved from her lean-to to a shack across the road, and now, ten years on, she’s got an actual sort of restaurant, with tables. She’s a round, grey-haired lady, friendly and dignified. She runs the place herself, with help from a ten-year old grandchild and (one evening, when she was out at a funeral) her mustachioed cab-driver husband.
I’d never really spoken to her, on my numerous visits to Jamaica in the past 14 years. I was always too high. Wobbly, paranoid, and basically incapacitated. Another benefit of not being fucked up half the time.
“I’m the only one on the Tourist Board who wants to stay in Negril,” she told me. “Everyone else, they want to move to the States. A man came down here and told me he had to take me to the States, to cook in his restaurants. But I told him I couldn’t go. Because anyone who knows me, all those people around the world who know my patties, they know that they will find me here. If I’m alive, Sonia will be in Negril.”