Address of the Minister Dr. Rhoda Arrindell at the Opening of Semana Dominicana

Address of the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs, Dr. Rhoda Arrindell at the Opening of Semana Dominicana, Philipsburg Jubilee Library, February 20, 2012.


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Distinguished Consul of the Dominican Republic in St. Martin,

President of the Fundacion Semana Dominicana,

Invited Guests,

Brothers and sisters, particularly those of you of our Dominican Community,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Buenas noches.


I am addressing you in English this evening because I believe it is important for all who have made St. Martin their home, whether temporarily or permanently, to speak the language of the St. Martin people.

The start of La Semana Dominicana today, which will culminate in the celebration of your Independence Day, exactly a week from today, offers an opportunity for us to renew the ties of family, friendship and fraternity that exist between our people.

For a dozen years consecutively at least, the Semana Dominicana has become a time of coming together of our people joined by bonds of history, culture, and shared values. Let me point out here that not only sweat and blood unite us, but also a common destiny as Caribbean people.

According to conservative figures from very reliable sources, there are some 50,000 people of St. Martin origin living in the Dominican Republic. Conversely, there are an estimated 10,000 dominicanos living on our island, both with or without the necessary legal documents. Your Voter Registration List for the forthcoming presidential elections in the Dominican Republic shows that there are more than 3,000 of you who can actually vote in those elections. The number that can vote in elections on St. Martin may not be too far apart from that, either.

The significance of this statistical data cannot be overemphasized. Politicians in St. Martin have regularly seen the dominicano vote as an important part of their quest for electoral victory. Now, presidential candidates in the Dominican Republic have also become aware of the importance of this vote and have added St. Martin as an important stop in their campaign trail.

But there is a strong and natural relationship between dominicanos and St. Martiners that goes deeper than politics. It permeates our economy, runs through our music, dance, and culinary arts, and gives texture to our common aspirations and ideals.

I explained at the beginning why I chose to address you in English. As you probably know, Spanish is the second most spoken language on St. Martin. This is no coincidence. In fact, it has as much to do with the historical ties that have bound us for more than a century as with the attractiveness of the dominicana for the St. Martin man. The linguistic versatility of the St. Martiner is now evidently being acquired by a new generation of dominicanos who were either born here or have grown up and gone to school here. This generation can move effortlessly from speaking Spanish to their parents at home to sharing a joke with their peers on the playground in English, or answering a question in Dutch posed by their teacher at school. They are as St. Martiner as they come.

This is, in my humble view, the future we are called to celebrate together. Your glorious history and traditions have not only enriched us here, but in return our own culture and versatility have also enriched you. This mutual enrichment is at the heart of what makes us one Caribbean family. Imagine what it would be like if we were to build on this together.

From the point of view of my ministry, I want to restate here that compulsory education is the law and every child of school going age, regardless of his or her immigration status should be in school, not packing groceries or loitering around during school hours. Truancy officers of my ministry will soon be deployed to ensure that this law is implemented to the letter, and parents found wanting in this regard, will be fined.

In the area of language, it is my goal to ensure that every child that finishes secondary school in St. Martin is proficient in at least three to four languages: English, Spanish, French and Dutch, not necessarily in that order. As a linguist myself, I know the role language plays in bridging the gap among our Caribbean people, and bringing us closer together.

Also, you may wish to take note that it is my policy as Minister of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs, to encourage studying in the Caribbean region. For this year, there is one student who has applied for study financing to study in the Dominican Republic. I am sure the numbers will only increase in the future.

Ladies and gentlemen, hermanos y hermanas,

We owe it to our children and our children’s children to give concrete expression to our dreams of Caribbean unity. La Semana Dominicana is not only for dominicanos living on St. Martin, it is for all of us as St. Martin Day is not only for St. Martiners but for all those who reside and make their living on this beautiful island.

I wish you a very happy Semana Dominicana. Viva la Republica Dominicana! Viva St. Martin!

I thank you. Muchas gracias.