the Governor's Speeches

Back to Speeches Indexjul 01, 2019

Preserving Culture A Unifying Force and Driver of Development by His Excellency drs. E.B. Holiday Governor of Sint Maarten Delivered on the Occasion of the Observance of the 156th anniversary of Emancipation Day

My Fellow Sint Maarteners,

Good afternoon,

Marie-Louise and I wish you a most Blessed Emancipation Day,

We bring you greetings in honor of the sacrifices and triumph of our forefathers.

Emancipation is one of the most significant events in Sint Maarten’s history. Emancipation marked the triumph of the indomitable will of the enslaved men and women of Sint Maarten to be free. A triumph, which redefined our collective destiny as a Sint Maarten people.

My fellow Sint Maarteners,

Emancipation had a profound impact on perceptions, notions, and traditions and helped to reshape the social, economic, political and cultural order of Sint Maarten. We the people of Sint Maarten, the sons and daughters of former slaves and slave-owners, have since realized major achievements, made possible by our collective efforts.

In doing so we created our Sint Maarten Culture. When we speak about culture, we are in fact speaking about identity. In speaking about identity, we are speaking about who we are as individuals and as a people. In speaking about identity, the best place to start is with our individual names. Our name is our identity, it is a window to our culture and to who we are as individuals and as a people. Our name connects us to our past and our past teaches us lessons for our future.

This fore day morning I mentioned the names of some of my pre emancipation ancestors, such as, Couba and Present, which seems to point to their West-African origin and heritage. These names, which refer to the day of birth and the circumstance of birth, suggest that our ancestors, in resistance to the renaming practices of slavery, tried to maintain their customs, traditions and culture of their forefathers. Other names of my pre emancipation ancestors include Francis and Madellaine, reflecting a break with their African naming traditions. That in keeping with the times they lived in. In recalling their names, I emphasized that we must identify, name, tell the stories of and as a result connect with the men and women of Sint Maarten’s Emancipation Movement.

In doing so I was guided by the belief that the common future of our country, of our people, is grounded in our connection, knowledge and understanding of our past. A glance into our past invariably reveals who we are today. How we got here, the land we live on, the structures that surround us, the foods we eat, the music we play, the way we speak and the very genes we carry have been inherited. In short, we are all carriers of the heritage and culture passed on to us by previous generations.

As carriers of the heritage of our ancestors, that is of their stories of struggle, sacrifice and emancipation, we are reminded that we have a collective obligation to our forefathers to protect and continue to build on their legacy. That is a legacy to stand for, protect and build a culture of freedom, equality, justice and brotherhood for the improvement of future generations. To fulfill our collective obligation, we must continue to build Sint Maarten based on the dignity and values of the individual, and on the entitlement of all individuals to fundamental rights and freedoms; that is we must continue to build our nation to secure jobs for our youth, eliminate poverty, and eradicate all forms of exploitation and oppression; that is we must focus on what we have in common as opposed to on our differences; that is we must work together if Sint Maarten is to prosper; that is we must unite as one people for our common cause: Sint Maarten.

Standing for and protecting Sint Maarten’s Cultural heritage is important. Important because our cultural legacy determines our destiny and our means to success. Important because the reason for Sint Maarten’s achievements over the years lies in its heritage, that is its natural beauty, our traditions, our history of courage, determination and resilience. A heritage that molded us into an island of resilient and friendly people.

Thanks to our heritage we have a rich Sint Maarten culture manifested in our food, drinks, music and dance. A cultural heritage preserved through the works of various cultural pioneers such as: Tanny and the Boys with String Music, the York Family with music through the steel pan, Lasana Sekou with National Symbols as well as with poetry about salt, Ruby Bute with her Market Paintings, Roland Richardson with his paintings of the flamboyant tree, Clara Reyes with the Ponam dance and others with our national drink, Guavaberry.

My fellow Sint Maarteners,

As I said, as carriers of the heritage of our ancestors, we have a collective obligation to our forefathers to protect and continue to build on their legacy.

I am in that regard encouraged by the efforts of government and various persons in our society to preserve, nurture and build on our cultural heritage. I therefore applaud the work of Voices and its leader Ms. N-ko-sa-sana Illis through the annual observance of Emancipation Day towards the preservation of our culture. I am particularly pleased, given the importance of national heritage as a unifying force and as a critical driver of the development of our nation.

I good Friendly Sint Maarten tradition I therefore close and hereby, also on behalf of Marie Louise, wish you a most wonderful and memorable 156th Emancipation Day celebration.

Thank you,
God Bless you, and
May God Bless Sint Maarten and Protect its coast.