Minister Jacobs Speech: Launch of Cultural Calendar and Launch of Decade of Cultural Revitalization

That was a very honorable introduction, one I hope I can live up to in
the eyes of the people of St. Maarten. Thank you Mr. York.

Yes, I have a vision of St. Maarten, a vision rooted in my childhood, listening to stories told by "Mom" Mrs. Elfrieda Peters, wife of the late Milton Peters in Cole Bay, stories told by Mr. Peters himself – a strict educator and pioneer, the stories of Miss Nini, Bongo, my father and all the other misses and misters, including my principal at the time, the late Mr. Camille Baly who we honored just last year before his passing. I thirsted for knowledge of our people.

Later in highschool I was disappointed in what we were taught in our history and social studies lessons, but appreciative of the many excursions we took with Mr. van de Hoeven and Miss. Van Enckevort, I recognized the work of Mrs. Elsje Bosch, Cees van Dolderen and other Dutch persons who saw the saving of our monuments as very important and fought to have them preserved.

But it was only when I went to the university of the Virgin Islands at 19 that I started to learn about our Caribbean History and went deeper into St. Maarten’s history.
It was upon my return as a teacher that I made it my business to research and visit as many sights as possible with my students.

I didn’t want my students to have the same ignorance that I had. Visits to the Forts, old buildings and plantations, museums, library proved fruitful and awakened a desire in many.

Strides have been made, St. Maarten’s history and social studies now forms part of the elementary curriculum – a social studies book is being developed at this time by the Dept. of Innovations. There is a social studies workbook series for VSBO schools in place for a few years already, penned by Mrs. Van Enckevoort et al.

However, this does not guarantee that the actual learning about our history and culture takes place in our schools. Today, Many students still know more about the topography, history and culture of the United states and Europe than they do about St. Maarten’s many hills, valleys, districts, water masses and the history of the development of
our tiny nation.

Every child and citizen on St. Maarten or anywhere in the world will have access to information about our historical and cultural heritage. That schools, library, museums and theaters promote the education of the populace to meet our needs in the 21st century.

Each child with interest in performing arts and cultural artistic development will be given the opportunity to excel to his or her highest potential.

Each citizen will feel a sense of pride and love in building this nation.

It is for this reason that 2013-2023 has been designated as the Decade of Revitalization of our Natural and Cultural Heritage – the people of our country are crying out for its identity, its norms and values, culture, foods, and history to be written, sung, danced and recorded so that generations to come will be able to experience, research and
understand the roads we’ve traveled.

Mr. York has mentioned the tangible sites, but besides these the intangible must also be preserved and recorded for history to prevail.

It is my intention that we address the following in 2013:


These and many other topics will be discussed with you, our
stakeholders. Government recognizes that our culture has been preserved to a great extent due to the passion, diligence and dedication of several organizations and individuals. Government could have forged ahead with its current policy, formed its foundations and councils and proceeded to put much needed structure in place.

However, I believe that no progress can be sustainable without the input of the soldiers.

Therefore, Step 1 is this launch today of our Cultural Calendar and Cultural Website

Step 2 is the much awaited Cultural Conference where all stakeholders will come together to dialogue and give their input on the projects that government would like to realize in this decade which include:

1. Defining the St. Maartener in our constitution
2. Legislation for required cultural education at all levels of education
3. Promote the creation of St. Maarten Literature and Art
4. Cultural celebrations and commemorations – which we will continue to celebrate
5. Introduction and Execution of the Oral History Project
6. Establish the School of Traditional Arts
7. Include cultural and performance arts in all community school programs
8. The Plan for the development of Fort Amsterdam and other associated sites in historic Philipsburg
9. Identifying our Cultural Ambassadors and launching the Cultural Ambassador Awards
10. Expansion of the John Larmonie Center
11. Approve the plan and design of the National Theater for the Performance and Cultural Arts
12. Identification and training of the artists, performers, artisans to perform in our National Theater
13. Building, preserving and digitalizing of the National Cultural Archives

Step 3: Present a SMART action plan for "2013-2023 The decade of Revitalization of our Natural and Cultural Heritage"

Step 4: Execute the Plan

Step 5: Evaluate the Plan periodically and adjust when necessary

All of you who have been contributing will receive your invitation to this very important conference which will be held in the first week of April. You are welcome to visit our website, and submit topics that you may notice are not on our agenda.

Silveria E. Jacobs
Minister of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs and Sports