Rio Bueno, a small seaside village on the border between the parishes of St Ann and Trelawny, owes its importance, history and livelihood to the magnificent Rio Bueno Harbour. The Rio Bueno Harbour is the deepest in Jamaica, perhaps one of the reasons why Columbus dropped anchor there on his first visit to Jamaica. The village sprung up during the early days of English Colonialism as a way stop for both maritime and overland visitors, and it traditionally housed highly acclaimed taverns, guesthouses and inns. By the late 1800s the town was almost deserted, a shadow of its former self, but was then resurrected by the construction of a bauxite-shipping wharf in the mid-1900s. Through it all, the village remains a picturesque gem steeped in history, with its old fort, warehouses and churches set against the water’s edge with the green hills of Trelawny as its backdrop.
Rio Bueno boasts many churches, two of which are of great historical importance to both Jamaica and the area. Baptist missionaries who broke away from the Church of England originally built the Rio Bueno Baptist church in 1829. The Rio Bueno Baptist church was, for a short while, the major place of worship and education for converted blacks living in the area. The humble meeting hall lasted only three short years before members of the Colonial Church Union, a band of vigilante white planters, merchants and estate workers intent on displacing the support base of the nonconformist missionaries, burnt it to the ground. The Baptists, however, were not to be underestimated, and by 1834 a new Baptist chapel was built. Both churches exist in harmony today, each relishing its colorful and longstanding history, both celebrating worship on Sunday mornings with their discrete congregations.
The Rio Bueno Harbour is spectacular from all angles, but especially so from on top of the hills that border the town. The various shades of blue are alluring, and set against the background of the endless sky, the portrait is simply breathtaking.
Rio Bueno has long been a center for the arts on the North Coast, and the village has been graced with the presence of many renowned painters, poets and musicians such as Joseph Kidd in the 1800s, and more recently, Alex Haley and James Morrison. Today the artistic tradition in Rio Bueno is supported mainly by Joe James, a world acclaimed visual artist and sculptor who operates Gallery Joe James and the adjoining Rio Bueno Hotel. Most of the gallery is housed in the former Harbour Master's Quarters, creating a historic atmosphere amidst contemporary art.
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Rio Bueno has been graced with the presence of many renowned painters, and Joe James, proprietor and operator of the Rio Bueno Hotel and Gallery, is the perfect example. Mr James has been resident in Rio Bueno for over 35 years, and has witnessed many changes to the village and surrounding areas. Adjoining the Gallery is his studio, and visitors are encouraged to stop in to create, chat or just experience it.