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Altar. Image by Joshua Cogan. Jamaica, 2008.

There are two Jamaicas.

Tourists see the north coast country—its all-inclusive hotels, sunny beaches, and high-end restaurants—and a few fleeting glimpses of what most believe is the worst privation they have ever witnessed. They see half-naked children, zinc-roofed homes, hustled trinkets, and they think poverty. They think they are seeing the other Jamaica, but they are not.

The other Jamaica, where I am from, lies hidden on the far side of the island, on the south coast. This Jamaica, this Kingston, is a rollicking and complicated place, a genuine city with all the pressures of city life. The industry and business are here, the commercial centers are here, and here people do not define themselves by the presence of tourists. There are almost no tourists. The few white people on the streets are either white Jamaicans going about their daily business or a few adventurous tourists making a hasty pilgrimage to the Bob Marley Museum before getting out of Kingston as fast as they can. But Kingstonians have a great deal more to worry about than tourists.

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Project

Poet and writer Kwame Dawes travels to Jamaica to explore the experience of people living with HIV/AIDS and to examine the ways in which the disease has shaped their lives. The journey brings him in touch with people who tell their stories, share their lives and teach him about resilience, hope and possibility in the face of despair.

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