A simple tweet on Saturday morning opened a complex can of worms on social media as the upcoming Miss Universe beauty pageant collided with a sordid chapter of Jamaican history.
It all started when the Twitter account for a popular tourist destination in Jamaica posted three images of Iana Tickle Garcia, the reigning Miss Universe Jamaica, wearing a costume. But it wasn’t the elaborate design of the costume posted by Rose Hall Jamaica that caught the attention of Twitter users as much as it was the costume’s name: “Annie Palmer – Legend of Rose Hall.”
To the uninitiated, the Rose Hall name may be reminiscent of an area near Montego Bay populated by a handful of resorts. But for others — namely Jamaicans — the name of Annie Palmer evokes a painful chapter of the Caribbean island nation’s history. According to tourism website Jamaica Travel And Culture, Palmer was a white woman known as the “White Witch of Rose Hall” who “was an accomplished practitioner of Haitian Voodoo and during her reign at Rose Hall murdered three husbands and countless slave lovers. Her reign of terror was ended when she was murdered by one of her slaves and a ritual was carried out to banish her spirit from earth. However, it is rumoured that the ritual was not carried out correctly and that Annie still haunts the Rose Hall estate.”
Twitter users seemingly sounded off in unison after the tweet by Rose Hall Jamaica.
One tweet wondered: “…did anyone consider this idea properly because…we have sent our representative to an international competition as a slave owning terrorist that sexually abused enslaved Africans and murdered them. Not sure how anyone thought this was a good idea.”
Another tweet asked why Rose Hall Jamaica didn’t “add a slave for a little pizzaz.”
Yet another tweet reminded others that “WHITE PEOPLE OWN ROSEHALL WHITE HOUSE,” a nod to the family of American businessman John Rollins, who bought the estate in the 1960s. Rollins’ family continues to own and operate the tourist attraction. Multiple tweets mentioned how Rose Hall was capitalizing off of Black people by using imagery associated with white supremacy.
Others wondered why there was so much outrage now for a story that isn’t even remotely new.
According to the Jamaica Observer, the national costume for this year’s Miss Universe pageant was unveiled on Friday “during the pageant’s preliminary national costume competition round.” Tickle Garcia, a 19-year-old college student, was crowned Miss Universe Jamaica 2019 in September and likely had no say in the naming of the costume.
The 2019 Miss Universe pageant is scheduled to take place Sunday and will be held in Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. Fox will be airing it on TV.
In the meantime, scroll down to see some of the more animated responses to finding out about the planned apparent glorification of an unfortunate figure in Jamaican history.